It is safe to say the Vancouver Canucks were in full control when Alexandre Burrows edged the puck home in overtime in Game Two of the Stanley Cup finals. But since that moment, the Canucks have looked a shadow of themselves and are in danger of jeopardizing their best chance of a Stanley Cup in their 40-year history.
Aaron Rome’s hit
Since Aaron Rome’s late and dangerous hit on Nathan Horton early in Game Three, Vancouver has appeared uneasy about playing physically against the Bruins. The hit which put Horton out for the rest of the series with concussion also seems to have understandably fired up the Bruins.
However, the most severe consequence for the Canucks following the hit is the loss of Rome for the rest of the series through suspension. Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault made his feeling clear after Game Three that he thought the suspension was wrong.
“In my opinion, it’s not the right call,” he said. Vigneault explained how his team had been on the receiving end of similar hits in their series with San Jose, and that Rome’s hit was slightly late and “ended badly.”
Rome is vital to Vancouver’s defence. Without him and the injured Dan Hamhuis, the Canucks have really struggled to contain a burgeoning Boston offense. Roberto Luongo endured a torrid time in Boston. Not only has he conceded 11 goals in 100 minutes of hockey, but he was pulled after surrendering his fourth goal early in the third period of Game Four. Luongo is almost certain to start Game Five, but a player who thrives on confidence needs a big boost or it could get even worse for the stopper. One thing is for sure, though: Luongo is not to blame.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin have not worried the Bruins throughout the series. In game two, Daniel grabbed a goal and an assist – but much credit was due to Burrows for his part in everything good produced by the Canucks. Henrik has yet to register a single point in the series. In fact, he hasn’t scored since Game One of his team’s series against the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference finals. Despite only finding the net twice during the playoffs, Henrik has an impressive 19 assists – but nothing against the Bruins.
Speaking after Game Four, Henrik said: “I think we’re doing a good job physically. We have to solve Thomas, that’s the main thing. Our power play has to get going and we have to do a better job of scoring when we get the chances.”
The Canucks have only scored one power play goal during the series, Burrows struck in Game Two to open the scoring. As for solving Tim Thomas, Henrik doesn’t have an answer.
“We need to go back home and recharge and get better,” added the Canucks’ captain.
Tactics Not Working
During the regular season, Vancouver scored more goals than any other team. Their precise passing style opened up defenses on a regular basis. However, against the Bruins, this approach appears not to be working. The Canucks may adopt a different approach in Game Five, but it would be taking a huge risk to go against the style that saw Vancouver top the league during the regular season and storm through to the Stanley Cup Finals.
If Boston goes on to lift the Stanley Cup, Tim Thomas would be a shoe-in for the Conn Smythe Trophy. Although the Canucks have struggled offensively, it hasn’t deterred them from shooting at Thomas. In the first four games of the series, Thomas has made 141 saves, an average of 35 per game.
Game Four saw Thomas register his third shutout of the playoffs, and he seems to get better every game. If Vancouver are to win Game Five and get back into the series, they need to find a way past Thomas. If they can’t then the Bruins will be confident of claiming their first Stanley Cup since 1972.