Posted on: June 13, 2011 1:28 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 1:29 pm

Canucks try to keep Cup thoughts in check

BOSTON --- The Stanley Cup lurked somewhere Monday afternoon, likely at one of city’s swankier hotels.

If trophies could sleep, it’d get a better rest than the Vancouver Canucks.

“Usually, when I take a nap that’s when you lay in bed and start thinking about things,” Canucks forward Henrik Sedin said. “That’s why you want to prepare the same way as you do during the regular season. You try to do the same things over and over again. You don’t want to change anything when it matters most.”

As much as the pressure will be on the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final to extend the series, the Canucks would rather not waste their 3-2 series lead in the best-of-7 series. The Canucks have never won a Cup and this will the second time the franchise will have the chance to win an NHL title. The only other chance Vancouver had to clinch a Cup came in 1994, where the Canucks fell to the New York Rangers in Game 7.

When you get this close, the cliché factor rises along with the intensity.

“We see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Canucks forward Manny Malhotra said. “We realize what type of effort will have to go into the night, the execution and focus we’re going to have to have. We’re playing against a Boston team that plays well at home.”

Boston won their first two home contests of the series (Games 3-4) by an aggregate of 12-1. Five minutes into Game 3, both teams may have been taken out of the routine on the collision that left Boston’s Nathan Horton with a severe concussion and the ejection --- and eventual suspension --- of Vancouver’s Aaron Rome. While the Bruins failed to score on the e five-minute power play that resulted, Boston dominated on home ice the rest of the way.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said despite how well his team played in this building, he doubts are looking past tonight.

“I think it's clear to our players that all the focus should be about tonight,” Julien said. “If you want to create a Game 7, you have to focus on tonight's game, not on Game 7. So, we're going to be ready, I think our guys understand that.”
The a home team won each game in a best-of-7 Final three times, the last in 2003 when the New Jersey Devils defeated the Anaheim Ducks. The last time a home team won the first six games was in 2009 before Pittsburgh beat Detroit in Game 7 at Joe Louis Arena..

You’d think that might give Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault some ammo for his pre-game speech, but he said the word “Cup” won’t come out of his mouth.

“We're going to talk about the process and what we need to do on the ice to put our best game there,” he said. “If we do that then usually the results take care of themselves.”

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: June 11, 2011 4:25 pm
Edited on: June 11, 2011 4:49 pm

Luongo's Thomas comments drawing undue criticism

It's not quite the NBA's cough controversy, but it doesn't mean it's not as overblown.

Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo is facing some criticism for his comments after Game 5 about Maxim Lapierre's goal and a comparison he made between himself and Bruins goalie Tim Thomas.

Luongo was asked how difficult it is to play a shot off the endboard, the way Thomas surrendered the only goal of the game. Here's his response that is drawing a stink.

"It's not hard if you're playing in the paint. It's an easy save for me, but if you're wandering out and aggressive like he does, that's going to happen. He might make some saves that I won't, but in a case like that, we want to take advantage of a bounce like that and make sure we're in a good position to bury those."

The comment drew a somewhat strong reaction from the Bruins on Saturday. 

"Yeah I am surprised," Boston captain Zdeno Chara said. "Obviously it’s something he said, you would have to talk to him about it. But we all know the qualities Timmy Tim Thomas has. We all know he’s one of the best goalies in the league so."

Adds Bruins forward Chris Kelly: "Obviously, he is good goalie, we all know that. It’s unfortunate that he is commenting on another good goalie's performance. I don’t think Timmy has commented on his style. So obviously Timmy has been unbelievable for us. So you know, we wouldn’t be where we are if it wasn’t for him so that’s really all you can say about that."

A lot of people are taking that first part as a shot against Thomas from Lu. Those that see that are looking too hard for dirt, if you ask me. Luongo admits that because of their respective styles of play, one can make saves more easily than the other and vice versa.

Much has been made in these Finals about Thomas' aggressive approach to the game, especially after he was caught being too aggressive on Alex Burrows' game-winning goal in Game 2. We all know the guy is unconventional, but it's worked out pretty well for him.

Not much to see here.

-- Brian Stubits

Photo: Getty Images

Posted on: June 11, 2011 12:20 am
Edited on: June 11, 2011 8:10 pm

Bruins waste early chances on power play

The Boston Bruins couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to further rattle Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, chased a game prior after another lackluster effort.

Boston had three first-period power plays as Raffi Torres (tripping), Henrik Sedin (interference) and Andrew Alberts (roughing) went to the penalty box in the first 14:13 of regulation. The Bruins put six shots on net on those three changes on the extra man, just three more than the Canucks had shorthanded.

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“Tonight was certainly not a good night for a power play,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the Canucks’ 1-0 victory in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Friday night. “It wasn't a good night for our whole team, as far as creating good, quality scoring chances. We had some [chances], but . . . we need to do a lot better [getting] to the front of the net. We had guys, again, there, but on the side. We need to be a little more aggressive in that area than we were tonight.”

Julien further tweaked his power play --- something he’s done throughout both the regular season and playoffs --- to try to create a spark. He previously put 6-foot-9 defenseman Zdeno Chara in front of the Canucks, which failed to yield much success. In Game 5, he used rookie defenseman Steven Kampfer in attempt to be pest in front of Luongo.

“He’s done a pretty good job in front of the net and he certainly is good at tipping and, obviously, screening,” Julien said. “But, you know, I don't think we're capable of doing much with him in front because we weren't getting the set that we wanted to get in the offensive zone.”

Yes, the Bruins' entries into the zone with the extra man weren’t pretty. The Canucks stacked the blue line and the Bruins often never had a chance to set up and if they did, a hurried shot that was easily swallowed up by Luongo followed. Luongo, who had given up 12 goals in 58 shots in Games 3-4, hasn’t had a bad first period in the Finals and the Bruins – despite their power-play chances --- didn’t change that.

Seems to be a theme lately,” said Luongo, who finished with 31 saves for his second shutout of the Finals. “We have to have some big kills in the first period. “ I think it was four straight today or something like that. It was huge. Guys [were] blocking shots and everybody was on the same page. When we do that, it's easier for me to do my job.”

While the Canucks failed to produce on their three power-play chances on Friday to fall 1-for-25 in the series, the Bruins aren’t much better at 3-for-21. There doesn’t seem like there’s much else for the Julien to try, but at some point the Canucks seem to be the more likely team to break out of the slump and that could mean trouble in Game 6.

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: June 10, 2011 11:42 pm
Edited on: June 11, 2011 8:10 pm

Game 5: Canucks in trouble? Not with home ice

It's a truism in any playoff series, from baseball to hockey. You aren't in trouble until you lose a game at home.

After two embarrassing showings in Boston, a lot of people thought Vancouver was in serious jeopardy. It's easy to see why. The Bruins throttled the Canucks 12-1 in the two games, taking a massive helping of momentum with them back to the West Coast.

But something funny happened when they returned home -- the Canucks remembered how to play defense. They were stingy, didn't give too many scoring chances to the Bruins and were as physical as they have been at any point in this series.

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This is nothing unusual; it's why you fight all season long for home-ice advantage. Since 2009, home teams are nearly invincible in the Stanley Cup Finals, going 16-2 with Friday's 1-0 Canucks win in Game 5 the latest example.

It's hard to pinpoint the exact reason home teams are doing so well in the final round. Before the Finals, the home/road numbers were close to even, with host teams going just 46-40, a .535 winning percentage. But in the Finals ...

Maybe Vancouver's Maxim Lapierre has an explanation.

"First of all, we were playing with more confidence," Lapierre said.

After those games in Boston? Yea, about the only reason for confidence I can find is playing in their arena. If it helps the players get more right between the ears, then so be it.

The crowd certainly helps. From the opening faceoff -- no surprise -- the Canucks nuts were in full throat, roaring to each and every Canucks hit, takeaway, shot and save. I'm not one much into intangibles, but it is hard to deny the role a juiced up crowd can play. Sometimes it just helps the adrenaline flow a little freer. Whatever works.

"The two teams that are here are good team and they don't give home-ice advantage away that easily," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "I think we've been a decent road team for most of the season, and right now, what we have to do is go back home and create a Game 7 so we get another shot at 'em here."

So while home ice cured the defensive woes and Roberto Luongo -- who saved all 31 shots he faced -- it's still no fix for the offense. Vancouver, and the Sedin twins in particular, are still being stymied by Boston and Tim Thomas. The twins and the Canucks had more opportunities -- some turned away by Thomas, others flat out missed -- but they need to find a way to get more biscuits into the basket. Again, it was improved, but there's still work to be done.

Lapierre scored the only goal of the game midway through the third period. It was a pass -- or shot? -- from Kevin Bieksa that sailed way right of Thomas in the cage and ricocheted right to Lapierre sitting on the other side of the net unmanned. From there he skipped the puck off Thomas from a sharp angle and we had the game's lone score. Lapierre admitted to the good fortune on the play.

"We got lucky, good bounce. It was challenging there for us, right spot at the right time."

When your defense is playing so well and Luongo is back on his game after being pulled in Game 4, Vancouver will take that. Luongo was great once anew, pitching a 1-0 shutout for the second time in this series.

"Everybody in our dressing room and around our organization knows Roberto's character and his competitiveness and how he prepares himself," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "He went out tonight and he played a great game for us. The games in Boston, a lot of attention was put on Luongo but it was the whole team."

Nothing like home to get it right.

Now Vancouver is one win from hoisting that Stanley Cup. And they have one more game at home, if needed. Considering how things have been going, I'm sure they'll need it.

-- Brian Stubits

Posted on: June 10, 2011 7:47 pm
Edited on: June 10, 2011 7:54 pm

Canucks rookie Tanev replaces Ballard

Vancouver Canucks defenseman Keith Ballard sat out Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final in favor of rookie Chris Tanev.

The move comes after Ballard, who played in only three games over the last two rounds, was a minus-2 with two penalty minutes in Wednesday’s 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins.

“When we've used Chris this year he's real steady [and] can make a first pass at the forecheck,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said before Friday's game. “He's a kid that is playing in Manitoba, and we got in injury trouble and he came up and did a real solid job for us.”

Tanev, 21, played in 29 regular-season games and five postseason games with the Canucks. He played in the final two games of the Western Conference Finals after defensemen Aaron Rome and Christian Ehrhoff went down with injuries.

The Canucks are now without Rome for the duration of the playoffs after he was suspended earlier this week for a check that left Boston’s Nathan Horton with a concussion. Vancouver is also without Dan Hamhuis, who went down with an undisclosed injury in Game 1 if the Finals and hasn’t played since.

Hamhuis didn’t take part on Friday’s pre-game skate, but Vigneault said he would make the trip as the series shifts back to Boston for Monday’s Game 6.

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: June 9, 2011 1:25 am
Edited on: June 9, 2011 1:35 am

Horton returns to arena, hands out jacket

BOSTON --- Nathan Horton, forced out of the Stanley Cup Final due to a concussion, returned to TD Garden for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

He met with the team after the Bruins’ 4-0 victory to present the throwback jacket --- which goes to the game’s MVP voted on by the players --- to Rich Peverley, who took Horton’s spot in the first line.

“He came in the room and everyone’s pretty emotional to just be able to see him,” said Peverley, who had two goals in Game 4. “No one has seen him since everything happened so he wanted to give it out tonight.”

Horton was removed from the ice on a stretcher early in Game 3 and transported to an area hospital, where he stayed overnight. The team announced that he was out for the duration of the playoffs on Tuesday, the same day the league suspended Vancouver’s Aaron Rome for four games for initiating the collision that led to the injury.

“I was very, very happy to see Nathan up and around in the locker room,” Boston goalie Tim Thomas said. “I wasn't exactly sure of his status. You know, I'd heard that he was OK, but then I heard it was a severe concussion. When I personally got to see him in the locker room, I was incredibly happy and it gave me a big boost.”

The jacket hung in Horton’s locker following Game 3.

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: June 8, 2011 1:20 pm
Edited on: June 8, 2011 8:19 pm

Replacing Horton's production no easy task

BOSTON --- Rookie Tyler Seguin replaced injured Nathan Horton in the lineup for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night, but Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien said it’s not easy to supplant the lost production

“It's going to take everybody to play well again, not just because Nathan is out of our lineup,” Julien said. ‘That's what it's going to take to beat this team. We've known that from the start.”

Seven different Bruins scored in Monday’s 8-1 victory and all the goals were tallied after Horton was knocked from the game --- and the series --- with a severe concussion early in the first period after a check from Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome. Horton is tied for the second-most playoff points (17) among the Bruins.

“Obviously, you can’t replace a guy like Horts,” Seguin said “Everyone just has to step up, just like when Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] was out. All the guys had to step up even more and that’s just what everyone is going to ask out of each other for tonight’s game.”

Seguin, 19, first cracked the Bruins' postseason lineup in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning as Bergeron recovered from a concussion. Seguin scored six points (three goals, three assists) in the first two games of that series, but has failed to net a point since. Shawn Thornton replaced Seguin in the lineup for Monday’s game.

Seguin said he tried to absorb as much from coaches and others as he sat for Game 3.

“I think you kind of can figure it out and know what you are doing wrong, what you are doing right and what you need to stay consistent,” Seguin said.

The Canucks inserted Keith Ballard in place of Rome, who was suspended for the duration of the Finals by the league on Tuesday for the hit on Horton.

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: June 7, 2011 6:09 pm

Answering questions in Rome suspension

Vancouver Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome was suspended four games for his collision with Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday. CBSSports.com’s A.J. Perez runs down exactly why the league decided to impose the record punishment announced on Tuesday.

Q: How close was Rome’s hit to being legal?

A: A few fractions of a second. The suspension was for interference, not the rule that was adopted last season to punish blindside hits to the head. “If it was immediate after he released the puck, it would be a legal hit,” Mike Murphy, the NHL’s senior VP of hockey operations, told reporters. 

Q: Did the fact that Horton had a severe concussion and is lost for the rest of the playoffs enter into the decision?

A: Murphy said that the fact that Horotn was injured did play a role. “We review the medical report,” Murphy said. “I spoke with the medical people in Boston this morning. It doesn't look good for Nathan right now to come back and play in this series. The play speaks for itself.”

Q: How many games would Rome get if this occurred in the regular season?

A: Murphy said there’s not set formula, but it would certainly be more. Even though Rome is considered a first-time offender under league rules, he may have seen double the ban in the regular season.

Q: Who did Murphy consult with before making the decision?

Murphy said he spoke with numerous people, including Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke. Burke was in charge of supplemental discipline from 1993 to 1998 before Colin Campbell took over. Brendan Shanahan, who will be in charge of league discipline next season, was also consulted. The one person that Murphy said he couldn’t talk to was Campbell, who has recused himself since his son, Gregory, plays for the Bruins.

What was Rome’s defense in Tuesday’s hearing?

A: Murphy refused to go into much details, but he said Rome felt it was “a hockey play that went bad.” He added that Rome was “apologetic and contrite.”

Q: What happens if the series is wrapped up in less than seven games?

A: The remaining games will be tacked onto the beginning of the 2011-12 season.

Q: Will Rome be allowed on the ice to celebrate with his teammates if the Canucks win the Cup?

A: Yes. He will be allowed to dress and join the on-ice festivities if Vancouver claims its first title.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com