Posted on: June 2, 2011 12:22 am
Edited on: June 2, 2011 1:19 am

Boston gets chances, falters on power play again

The Boston Bruins were scoreless on their six power-play chances in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Canucks, including 1 minute, 32 seconds on the two-man advantage.

Boston did get 12 shots in their eight-plus minutes on the power play. When you're grading on the curve that is the Bruins' lowly play with the extra attacker, you call that progress.

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"I think our power play was better tonight than it had been in a while," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "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."

The Canucks' best penalty killer in their Game 1 victory at Rogers Arena on Wednesday night stood between the pipes as Roberto Luongo made 36 saves. The game's lone goal, scored by Raffi Torres with 18.5 seconds left in regulation, came on even strength as neither team took advantage of their respective man-advantage situations.

The Canucks also had six power-play chances, spanning 9:31.

"As long as we're able to stay on even terms with them when it comes to special teams, we're OK with that," Julien said.

The Bruins have had to explain away their lackluster power play all postseason. Boston went scoreless in their first 30 trips to the power play in the playoffs and are only 5 for 67 (7.5 percent) overall.

But getting four minutes of uninterrupted power play time after Daniel Sedin took a high-sticking double minor in the first period when the Bruins could have set the tone went for naught. The Bruins also started the second period on the power play after Vancouver’s Alex Burrows was tagged with an extra roughing minor for biting Boston's Patrice Bergeron, which became a two-man advantage after Kevin Bieksa was called for a high stick.

Boston -- which again put 6-foot-9 defenseman Zdeno Chara in front of the opposition net -- won most of the faceoffs during the two-man advantage and put four shots on net, but the game remained scoreless.

"That's a very good hockey team over there," Canucks forward Ryan Kesler said. "When they're on the power play, yeah, obviously they don't have that great a percentage, but they're a very good power play and they get a lot of chances. 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 and we tried to stop it the best we could."

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images

Posted on: June 1, 2011 10:51 pm
Edited on: June 2, 2011 5:21 am

Alex Burrows bites Patrice Bergeron

Alex Burrows channeled his inner pitbull at the end of the first period as the Vancouver Canucks forward bit Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron after a short scuffle.

Replays showed Burrows chomp down on one of Bergeron's fingers. Fortunately for Bergeron, his hand was still ensconced in his glove.

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"Oh yeah, he did. He cut me a little bit on my finger," Bergeron said. "But I'm not going to be here complaining about it. I'll let the league do their job, but he sure did."

Bergeron showed the referees his right index finger after the incident and the referees conferred between periods. Burrows was eventually given two roughing minors.

"They didn't see it," Bergeron said. "We were speaking French, me and [Burrows], and I told him, 'Why did you do that?' That linesmen speaks French, and his explanation was he said that I put my finger in his mouth and he had to do it. I'll leave it at that, but I'm sure the league is going to look at it."

Burrows refused to answer questions about the incident after the Canucks' 1-0 victory, reports the CBC's Elliotte Friedman.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said he hadn't seen the replay himself, but the incident was described to him.

"If that's the case, it's a classless move," he said.

The league will likely review the incident and Burrows could be suspended. The league certainly took action for another dangerous move earlier in the playoffs when Anaheim Ducks forward Bobby Ryan was given a two-game ban for stomping on the foot of Nashville’s Jonathon Blum.

Anaheim Ducks forward Jarkko Ruutu was given a one-game suspension for biting Buffalo's Andrew Peters in January 2009. Bruins forward Marc Savard, who has been out since January with a concussion, also received a one-game ban for biting Toronto forward Darcy Tucker in 2003.

Mike Murphy, NHL's vice president of hockey operations, would be the one making the final call since this series involves Gregory Campbell, a forward on the Bruins who also happens to be the son of league disciplinarian Colin Campbell.

-- A.J. Perez

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Posted on: June 1, 2011 4:44 pm
Edited on: June 2, 2011 12:36 am

Q&A: Ed Olczyk talks who needs the Cup more

NBC and Versus have seen steady -- sometimes extreme -- ratings improvements in recent Stanley Cup Finals. That was, at least partially, the product of having American teams with massive fanbases -- the Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks -- involved over the last three Finals. Hockey analyst Ed Olczyk spoke with CBSSports.com’s A.J. Perez about whether the trend will continue with a Canadian team in the mix, the future of hockey in Winnipeg and who needs the Cup more: the Vancouver Canucks or the Boston Bruins.

CBSSports.com: The Montreal Canadiens were the last Canadian team to win the Cup in 1993. How big of a deal is it up there in Vancouver?

Olczyk: Yeah, it’s a topic of conversation, but I don’t think it’s a dominating factor. There is always great pride in it regardless of the market or the country you’re playing in. When it hasn’t happened for a long time, you need to get a crack at winning -- no matter the Canadian city. Vancouver has that chance to win it and you do hear about it.

CBSSports.com: While a Canadian team hasn’t won a Cup for a while and the Canucks have never won it, Boston fans have waited for title since 1972. Which team winning would be a bigger deal?

Olczyk: You hit it on the head. Vancouver is looking for their first time. For the Bruins it’s been a long, long time. These are two franchises who have had their roller-coaster rides and great expectations over the last little while. So, the impact will be great either way. There’s no doubt about it. Either way, it’s a win-win for everybody. If you are a die-hard fan of the National Hockey League or even a sports fan in general, you will see a storied franchised in Boston win or Vancouver, who has waited for years to win the Cup.

CBSSports.com: Following the lockout, the Edmonton Oilers (2006) and Ottawa Senators (2007) played for the Cup. Then we had Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, Original Six franchises in the Red Wings and Blackhawks and Philadelphia, another major-market U.S. team with a strong following. How will having a Canadian team back in the mix affect things?

Olczyk: I get the sense from talking to a lot of people that the excitement of the Stanley Cup Final and the excitement of seeing the greatest trophy in all of sports being presented is there. The impact is always greater in certain markets and certain areas you are going to see a bigger surge. We live in a fast food society, meaning we see it, we want it and we want to try it. Hopefully, we can build momentum with stories and Stars. This isn’t something that the teams are just playing for in June. This has been a process going on for years when you talk about how these teams are built.

CBSSports.com: You spent a good part of your career in Winnipeg. What are your thoughts on the NHL returning to Manitoba?

Olczyk: I was there for almost six years as a player. I have good memories of Winnipeg and the way they treated me and my family. I always felt it was a National Hockey League city. Things have changed. There’s a salary cap in place. You have stable ownership with Mark Chipman and David Thompson. There’s more of an even playing field in the NHL. I don’t like to see any city or town to lose a professional sports team, but at the end of the day it is a business. The new building (in Winnipeg) may not be as big as some would like, but I think the support is there. The question is whether the corporate support will be there for the long-term. They’ll have a good base of players, like Andrew Ladd who has won a Stanley Cup a couple of times in his young career. Off the ice, I think there will be a lot of good things moving forward. Whether they will be called the Winnipeg Jets or Manitoba Moose, all I know is that I’m one proud alum of the National Hockey League in Winnipeg and I’m happy to see the best league in the world return to a great hockey city.

CBSSports.com: There’s hockey in Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton. Then there’s hockey in Vancouver, which doesn’t play so well across Canada. Why haven’t the Canucks been embraced better in Canada?

Olczyk: I think it’s similar to West Coast teams in the States. There’s always that respect factor, but those in Central and Eastern time zones don’t see them play as much as you do the other markets. I was in Vancouver for 17 days and they did an incredible job with the Olympics. It was A-plus all the way. That’s the way the Canucks are as well. They have great ownership and a great coach in Alain Vigneault. I just think it is that aspect of playing on the West Coast. I don’t think there’s any way around it. Hockey people respect and know how good Vancouver, San Jose, L.A. and Anaheim are. There’s no doubt about that. It just doesn’t get the vibe or the push of Toronto or Montreal. Those are Original Six franchises and that’s kind of the real world. Is it ever going to change? If you win a couple of Stanley Cups and keep being No. 1 in the National Hockey League, at some point maybe.

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: May 31, 2011 3:40 pm
Edited on: June 2, 2011 12:34 am

Stanley Cup Final Preview: Bruins vs. Canucks

Both of these franchises have been waiting for Lord Stanley for about four decades. This is the third Stanley Cup Final for the Vancouver Canucks -- a team that joined the NHL in 1970 -- and the Boston Bruins haven’t won since Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito led Beantown to a title in 1972.

For sheer firepower, the Canucks get the edge. Defensively, the nod goes to the Bruins – albeit slightly since the goalies have nearly identical stats. It may just come down to special teams and that’s no forte of Boston, at least when it comes to its power play.

“They have a lot of depth,” Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron said. “They are good on all positions and it’s going to be a tough series and we are aware of that.”

Bergeron, who missed the first two games of the Eastern Conference final with a concussion, gave the Bruins a huge boost offensively and will be leaned upon heavily by the Bruins. The Canucks will get three players -- defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Aaron Rome, along with center Manny Malhotra -- back for the final. The return of Malhotra from a scary eye injury, one of the best defensive forwards in the game, should not be glossed over. Role players like Malhotra can often be the difference in these types of series.

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Here’s the breakdown:

Forwards: Not much separates the top lines of either team. Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin, the reigning Hart Trophy winner, centers a line with twin brother, Daniel, and Alex Burrows. The trio, however, accounted for only six of the Canucks’ 20 goals in the conference finals against the San Jose Sharks -- three of which came on the power play. The Bruins counter with a No. 1 line that features Milan Lucic, Dave Krejci and Nathan Horton, who combined for nine of the Bruins’ 21 goals against the Tampa Bay Lightning last round.

"I think we all know they have a lot of skill," Horton said. "We're going to have to stay out of the box, be disciplined and play the way we've been playing. I think if we don't play hard every night, if we don't play our A game. It's definitely going to be tough."

Those two lines may end up canceling each other out, so it will come down to secondary scoring. That’s where the Canucks have an edge. Ryan Kesler has 18 points in the playoffs (seven goals, 11 assists) and is one of the game’s top clutch performers. Bruins have had solid production from Bergeron, who centers the second line along with rookie Brad Marchand and veteran Mark Recchi. Boston, which lacks the speed of Vancouver, was bolstered by the play of rookie Tyler Seguin, who had six points in the first two games of the conference finals, although his production went to nil after that. Both team’s final two lines are as defensively solid as any in the game, but Malhotra will give the Canucks an edge whenever he's allowed to return.

"Manny is going to be huge," Kesler said. "It helps when you have two righties and two lefties. If he's going, then it's going to be good for us."

Edge: Canucks

Defensemen: Boston’s Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg are going to be busy. They are both already atop the charts for total time on ice per game, at more than 28 minutes each, and will get plenty of action against Vancouver’s top two lines. Chara is over a virus that caused him to miss a first-round game due to dehydration, but he admits he lost a lot of weight.

"It's going to be challenging," Chara said. We know they're good players, very skilled players. You just have to be  aware of them, where they are on the ice, and play them very tight (and) try to take as much as we can away from them."

The Canucks counter with the top defensive pairing of Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis, who combined for nine points and a plus-9 last round. The Canucks are deeper on defense, evidenced by the fact they were able to win the final two games against San Jose minus Ehrhoff (shoulder) and Rome (likely concussion).

The Canucks have become accustomed to shuffling defensemen after a season full of injuries on the blue line that forced Salo, Hamhuis and Edler out for stints. This will be another test of Tomas Kaberle, a deadline acquisition by the Bruins. He’s been shaky at times, even on the power play where he’s supposed to be one of the league’s top threats from the blue line. He’s still searching for his first goal of the playoffs.

Edge: Bruins, by the thinnest of margins

Goaltenders: This is easily the best goaltender matchup since the lockout. Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo and Boston’s Tim Thomas are both finalists for the Vezina Trophy, the award that goes to the league’s top goaltender of the regular season, and both enter the final at (or near the top) of their game.

"Obviously we have different styles," Luongo said. "Tim has had an unbelievable season, probably the best in the league. He's given his team a chance to win every night. It's a good challenge for me, a good battle. There's different battles. I focus more on their opposition players and what I have to do to be ready against them, but at the same time you want to look at the guy on the other side and try to go save for save."

Thomas had two shutouts last round, including in Boston’s 1-0 victory in Game 7. Luongo, who was pulled twice and even sat in place of backup Cory Schneider earlier in the playoffs, has gotten better as the playoffs have progressed. There isn’t much of a difference between the two statistically. Thomas has a 2.29 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage in the playoffs; Luongo possesses the same GAA and a .922 save percentage. The difference, especially as traffic increases as the teams search for the garbage in front of the net, comes down to size. The 6-foot-3 Luongo has the edge there, even though the 5-11 Thomas is more athletic.

Edge: Canucks, also not by much.

Special teams: The Canucks’ production on the power play has remained fairly constant throughout the playoffs. They have converted on 28.3 percent of their chances, led by Daniel Sedin (five goals) and Kesler (four). The Bruins began the playoffs with one of the worst power play slumps in league history as they failed to score on their first 30 opportunities. They have tried to mix it up by putting the 6-foot-9 Chara in front of the opposition net, but the Bruins have been unable to reliably put the puck on goal from the point. The Bruins have converted on only five of their 61 power-play opportunities (8.2 percent). 

"I think at the beginning of the playoffs, we felt like if we couldn't get our power play going," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We were in big trouble. But here we are in the finals, so we've managed to survive. We understand if your power play doesn't get going, you're certainly playing with fire."

Both teams, however, are about equal on the kill. The Bruins have successfully thwarted 79.4 percent of the power plays they’ve faced; Vancouver has a penalty kill success rate of 80.6 percent.

-- A.J. Perez

Prediction: While rest (the Canucks will have had a week between games) and travel (the Bruins covered 3,000-plus miles by plane after a long series) are factors, Vancouver really has the edge is on special teams. Unless the Bruins miraculously take no penalties (like neither team did in Game 7 of the East final), the Canucks are going to win this series --- likely in six games.  -- A.J. Perez

I will continue to stick by the Bruins this postseason. There is no doubt this is their toughest challenge yet, but I think the B's are up to it. People talk about the offensive firepower being in the Canucks' favor, and that's certainly true. But I'd just like to point out the Bruins have scored eight more goals than the Canucks this postseason in the same amount of games.  I've got the B's winning a Game 7 on the road. -- Brian Stubits

Stanley Cup Finals
No. 3 Boston vs. No. 1 Vancouver - Canucks lead, 1-0
Date Site Time/TV
June 1 at VAN Canucks 1, Bruins 0  
June 4 at VAN 8 p.m./NBC  
June 6 at BOS 8 p.m./Versus  
June 8 at BOS 8 p.m./Versus  
June 10 at VAN 8 p.m./NBC  
June 13 at BOS 8 p.m./NBC  
June 15 at VAN 8 p.m./NBC  

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