Speed Kills

After all the rough stuff, stick-work, jawing and gnawing was over with, Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals really took off – and it was the Vancouver Canucks that skated away with a 1-0 win over the visiting Boston Bruins.

Five-on-five play was a rarity for the first two periods, with each team going 0-for-6 on the power play and setting up shop in the opposition’s end for large stretches.

A third period with no penalties saw the Canucks get some flow to their even-strength game and stretch the ice out the way they have done all season.

“We had our best period in the third,” said Vancouver Head Coach Alain Vigneault Friday. “We had been off for eight days. I thought in the third period we were playing faster. We showed more speed on the ice. I expect that to continue here in Game 2.”

The Bruins had more shots in the game at 36-34, but were outshot 14-10 in the third period and seemed to lose their legs – culminating in a Raffi Torres goal with less than 19 seconds remaining in regulation.

But with all the talk about keeping up the heat, Vigneault threw a curveball during practice on Friday. Andrew Alberts appears to be in for Game 2 instead of the more fleet-of-foot Keith Ballard.

Alberts was put in a top-six pairing that would have been occupied by Dan Hamhuis – out day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. Hamhuis left Game 1 after throwing a hip-check on Bruins forward Milan Lucic.

Ballard, the king of hip-checks, may be watching Game 2 from the sidelines again – this time with a teammate in Hamhuis whose puck-moving game resembles his own, and will be missed in the lineup.

Their numbers are pretty even so far. Ballard is a minus-2 in nine playoff games, while Alberts is a minus-2 in three. If placed in the line-up, Alberts can provide the team with some strong, physical play. The problem is, the Bruins will be looking to play faster Saturday night – which could cause problems for a defenseman without the best wheels.

Bruins head coach Claude Julien was happy with his team’s overall effort Wednesday, but emphasized generating in the neutral zone to his team at practice Friday.

“I think we’ve reviewed (neutral zone speed) at different times of the year just to bring the focus back in that area,” he said. “I thought that’s what we did today. We thought it was a good time to review that.”


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