Posted on: June 5, 2011 8:00 pm
Edited on: June 5, 2011 9:37 pm

Canucks look to improve 'terrible' power play

BOSTON --- The Vancouver Canucks have gotten a little bit of a pass on their power play as much of the focus has gone to the Boston Bruins’ tough luck on the man-advantage.

But Canucks forward Henrik Sedin gave his frank assessment on Sunday.

“It’s terrible,” Sedin told reporters. “I mean, we scored [in Game 2], but we’re losing pucks in the wrong areas and we’re not as strong as we want do be. . . . We know we have to do better.”

The Canucks are 1-for-8 on the power play so far in the Stanley Cup Final, the lone goal coming on an Alex Burrows marker in the first period of Game 2. Vancouver has scored at more than twice the rate overall in the playoffs, converting on 26.5 percent of their chances with the extra man.

“We know we are better than that,” Sedin said.

The Bruins are 1-for-9 on the power play in this series. That success rate in the final (11.1 percent) is actually an improvement of their rating overall in the playoffs (8.6 percent).

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: June 4, 2011 11:53 pm
Edited on: June 5, 2011 12:19 am

Decision not to suspend Burrows bites Bruins

That bites.

Perhaps louder than the celebration in Vancouver of the overtime win in Game 2 was the cursing and outcry coming from Boston. That's because of Alex Burrows -- who plenty of people felt should have been suspended for his (alleged) bite of Patrice Bergeron's finger in Game 1.

Not only did Burrows net the winner just 11 seconds into overtime -- the second fasted overtime goal in Stanley Cup Finals history -- he was crucial to Vancouver's first two goals, including netting the first and assisting on the second goal. There was no doubt he was the star on Saturday night and it's safe to say the Canucks don't win Game 2 without him.

"Well, I mean, anybody that follows our team knows he's a really important part of our team. He plays five-on-five, he plays power-play, and he kills penalties," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "So, you know, he's overall one of our go-to guys. Again tonight he came up big in key moments."

The decision to not suspend Burrows was questioned plenty in the off days between Game 1 and Game 2. You better believe it will be questioned even more now. Not that it matters. But good luck convincing Bruins fans of that. This will sting.

Bruins coach Claude Julien wasn't interested in talking about the controversy and how it impacted Game 2.

"If we start using that as an excuse, we're a lame team," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "It's not even a consideration."

He might not want to second-guess the decision nor will he blame the non-punishment, which is understandable, but it has to burn him and the Bruins a little, even if they won't let it on.

We know the Canucks were aware of the controversy surrounding the Game 1 play. That's because Maxim Lapierre was taunting Bergeron in Game 2 by sticking his finger up to Bergeron's mouth.

You will remember that Colin Campbell, the man who would usually be in charge of handing out disciplinary measures in such cases, is now out as dean of discipline. This was to be his last series in the role, but because his son Gregory plays for the Bruins, he recused himself. So the decision was made by Mike Murphy, who cited the lack of evidence in not suspending Burrows for Game 2. In case you somehow missed it, here it is again. And his worst nightmare just came true. This will no doubt be his defining moment of his very short time as interim dean.

It's funny how it works this way sometimes. The worst-case scenario for NHL executives happened. Perhaps the controversy would have gone away, never to be heard from again, if Burrows had a quiet game. Not now. Instead it will remain at the forefront of the off day discussion.

Now Vancouver heads to Boston up 2-0. Just to put that into proper context, teams up 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals win 95 percent of the time.

In Boston they cursed Bill Buckner and Aaron F***** Boone until the Red Sox ended their massive World Series drought. Now there's a new goat for them to bite into.

-- Brian Stubits

Photo: US Presswire
Posted on: June 4, 2011 11:40 pm
Edited on: June 5, 2011 12:27 am

Thomas doesn't get much help in Game 2

Tim Thomas can challenge. He can stray from his crease. He can rely on his athleticism.

That’s how the Boston Bruins goalie played all season and it worked well for him. He posted league lows in save percentage and goals-against average en route to what will likely be his second Vezina Trophy that goes to the league’s top goalie in the regular season.

But as the game-winner 11 seconds into overtime showed, Thomas needs some help to play so aggressive in net. Thomas came well out of the net as Canucks forward Alex Burrows skated in from the blue line, which was all well and good until Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara lost track of Burrows behind the net. Burrows, who was never knocked from the puck, tapped in the wraparound for a 3-2 victory at Rogers Arena in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night.

“At the stage we’re at right now, if I ask to change his style I’m not sure that’s real good advice," Bruins coach Claude Julien said.

It's hard to fault Thomas as the Bruins dropped the first two games of the best-of-7 series. He made the first 33 saves in Game 1 before Raffi Torres scored in the closing seconds. In Game 2, he turned in a 30-save effort and there were plenty of chances that were hardly routine.

The Bruins' failures in Games 1 and 2 are more about what's happening -- or not happening -- in front of him.

Chara, a finalist for the Norris Trophy, has been asked to do more this postseason as the Bruins power play has floundered and the extra work may be catching up to him. He was again put in front of the Canucks net as the Bruins went on the man-advantage early in Game 2 before he was moved back to the point later in the contest. His volley on net during a second-period power play was deflected in by Mark Recchi, the Bruins' first power-play goal of the series and only sixth goal in 70 chances this postseason.

Chara played 28 minutes, 12 seconds -- the most by any player in Game 2 -- and was a minus-1. He was also on the ice in Game 1 when Vancouver's Raffi Torres scored the game's lone goal in the closing seconds. Let's also not forget he missed a game in the first round due to dehydration and has told reporters he's lost weight as the postseason has progressed.

“All of a sudden you lose a game and you start worrying about a couple players,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “I think it’s really about the whole team. It’s not about Zdeno. Zdeno didn’t lose the game for us tonight, the whole team did. I don’t think we played real well [and] up to what our standards are all about. I think the decision-making and puck management is what’s costing us games.”

Thomas certainly wasn’t done any favors by his defense when it came to puck possession. Defenseman Andrew Ference turned the puck over after the Bruins won the opening faceoff of the OT, setting up Burrows’ scoring chance. Ference also turned the puck over in the first period, which led to the Cancucks' first goal of the game.

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images 

Posted on: June 4, 2011 11:03 pm

Lapierre taunts Bergeron in middle of Game 2

Nothing like a little gamesmanship in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Midway through the third period, the Canucks' Maxim Lapierre found himself right by the Bruins' Patrice Bergeron in a scrum, as in the guy who had his finger bit -- I mean, possibly bit, sorry NHL -- in the first game by Alex Burrows.

So what does Lapierre do? He put his finger right up to Bergeron's mouth, of course. Not that Bergeron took the bait, but it was still pretty funny to see.

-- Brian Stubits

Posted on: June 4, 2011 8:08 pm
Edited on: June 4, 2011 8:11 pm

Malhotra in for Canucks in Game 2, Hamhuis out

The Canucks have center Manny Malhotra back for Game 2 but won't have defenseman Dan Hamhuis.

It's Malhotra's first action this postseason, sitting out since taking a near-career-ending puck to the eye on March 16. It's a big lift for the Canucks, more emotionally than anything else. Coach Alain Vigneault has said that if/when Malhotra returned to the ice for a game, he'd be eased back into action.

The loss of Dan Hamhuis is tough. He is a key component to the Vancouver defense that held the Bruins scoreless in Game 1, averaging 22:03 minutes per game this season.

Check out the full Game 2 lineups here.

-- Brian Stubits

Posted on: June 3, 2011 4:39 pm
Edited on: June 5, 2011 9:00 pm

Would you dress like Gaga for tix? This guy did

Surely you've seen those commercials that have been running for years: What would you do-ooo-oooo, for a Klondike bar?

The Vancouver Canucks recently ran a promotion asking that very question. But instead of a Klondike bar that you buy in a six pack for a couple bucks at the grocery store, they were giving away nigh-impossible-to-attain tickets to Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, not to mention a new Canucks jersey and a $500 gift certificate from Best Buy.

Of all the submissions in the contest, there were three winners. One pair of tickets goes to a couple that scrapped their wedding plans to get hitched between periods in a suite inside Rogers Arena. Second was a 15-year-old girl who swam across a notorious waterway in Vancouver then ran to the arena from there.

Then there was Colin Alexander. His great idea to snag some seats? Dress up like Lady Gaga for a full day's work at Country Lumber as a forklift operator. High heels and all.

Just take a look at this video.

It's good to see that, just as any self-respecting hockey fan would, Alexander refused to part with his playoff beard. But wow, that's one hideous look. Although if you ask me, he looks more like he belongs in Michael Jackson's Thriller video.

As you can imagine, no matter how outrageous the day at work might have been, it was well worth it for Alexander.

“I still haven’t heard the end of it yet, but it was very well worth it, very very well worth it.”

-- Brian Stubits

Photo: canucks.nhl.com

Posted on: June 2, 2011 3:54 pm
Edited on: June 2, 2011 7:13 pm

Bruins need to revisit Chara's power-play role

A while back, Boston coach Claude Julien decided to take a new approach to solving his team's power-play woes. The plan seemed to make sense: Take the biggest player in hockey, Zdeno Chara, and park him right in the crease. Who better to screen the goalie than the 6'9 (off skates) defenseman?

Well, it's not working. A.J. Perez documented how ineffective the Bruins' power play has been this postseason and how it wasn't any better in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, so it's time to go back to the drawing board. Not every idea is a winner.

Just listen to Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo comparing the tactic to what he faced in year's past with Dustin Byfuglien while with the Blackhawks:

"It's not the same. Obviously Zdeno is a bit bigger," Luongo said after Game 1. "On the first power play it was a bit tough to find the puck. But once they got another one, I was able to make a few adjustments, able to see the puck better.

"I think he's a big body, but at the same time we decided that it's best if we just leave him alone and let me take care of him."

Kind of defeats the point of the man advantage, now doesn't it? If Luongo is able to handle Chara on his own, then we are talking about a five-on-five situation as Luongo gets to act as a defenseman in addition to a goalie.

Now, it's certainly possible that Luongo is saying this now to try and nip it in the bud because he really is bothered by Chara. But even if he is, it still stands that it hasn't led to more success for the B's.

"When they're on the power play, yeah, they don't have that great a percentage, but they're a very good power play and they get a lot of chances," Canucks center Ryan Kesler said. "Lou had to make some pretty good saves. After the first couple power plays, we kind of figured out what they were trying to do."

What better reason than that for Boston to try something different?

Quite frankly, Chara's best attribute is his slapshot. With as devastating as it can be, he should be sitting at the point with the man advantage, not right in front of the goalie. Making deflections is not his strength. And if he's not screening the goalie to the extent of being a true hindrance, then what's the point?

"I mean, typically I like to look over the guy's shoulder," Luongo said. "In this case it's going to be impossible to do that obviously. I have to change that a little bit.

"I thought as we moved along in the game, we made some good adjustments as far as making sure that the shots come from the side and not from the middle so I can see better."

Setting up shop in the crease is a learned skill, so throwing Chara in that role hoping things will click isn't likely to happen. It has to be back to the drawing board.

"I think our power play was better tonight than it had been in a while," Bruins coach Claude Julien said after Game 1. "We spent a lot of time [in Vancouver's zone], we had some shots, had some opportunities [and] had some chances. We didn't score. Obviously, when your power play isn't doing well, people are going to criticize because you didn't score."

You could say that.

Boston needs to try and space out the offense more, hopefully creating holes in the Canucks' defense with good puck movement in an attempt to open passing lanes. If the B's want to continue to employ the strategy of putting a man in the crease, then they might want to look at somebody else on the roster. It isn't necessary to abandon the idea, just the execution.

However Julien seems to have no such designs.

"They were pretty hard on him yesterday at times. He just got back upand did his job. I anticipate he'll only get better at that position as we use him there," Julien said Thursday.

I understand the previous attack method wasn't working much better for Boston -- it was a season-long struggle with a man up -- but the Bruins were able to find some occasional success. Not in Game 1. They were 0 for 6 that included four minutes straight in the first period as well as a 5 on 3 later.

Chara had eight goals and seven assists on the power play this season. Boston would be better off putting him back at the point and moving the puck more to the center of the ice and teeing off from back there. Nobody in the game has a better slapper, so it's time to let it fly.

-- Brian Stubits

Photo: Getty Images

Posted on: June 2, 2011 3:26 am
Edited on: June 2, 2011 3:27 am

Was Kesler offside before game-winning goal?

The first goal of the Stanley Cup Final came 59 minutes, 41 seconds into Game 1 – and even then there seems to be some dispute as to whether it should have counted.

Replays and photos show that forward Ryan Kesler, who set up the winning goal by beating Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuck to the puck, may have crossed the blue line before the puck. That would have made him offside, negating the game-winner by Raffi Torres scored a couple seconds later in the Canucks' 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins at the Rogers Center on Wednesday night.

“Even if it was or wasn't, it wouldn't change the outcome right now,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said.

There are eight situations that can be reviewed via replay, from judging whether the puck was illegally kicked in to determining if the puck actually crossed the line. Offsides isn’t on that list. It’s a moot point anyway since the call stood and there’s no going back at this point.

-- A.J. Perez
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com