Tag:2011 NHL Playoffs
Posted on: June 1, 2011 2:06 pm
Edited on: June 2, 2011 12:36 am

Malhotra misses another skate, out for Game 1

Vancouver Canucks forward Manny Malhotra missed his second consecutive practice and appears doubtful for tonight’s Stanley Cup Final opener.

“Manny is the same as he was yesterday,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “He's day to day.”

While Vigneault refused to discuss the lineup with reporters at Rogers Arena before Game 1, Canucks GM Mike Gillis told The Globe and Mail Malhotra hadn’t been cleared by doctors for game action. That characterization of Malhotra’s injury contradicts what Vigneault said previously.

“I think Alain meant that he was cleared for full practice and contact,” Gillis told the newspaper. “It usually means the same thing [as cleared to play games], but this injury is different.”

Malhotra was thought to be done for the season after a puck deflected off his left eye in March. He underwent two surgeries and Gillis said his vision surpasses the league-mandated 20/400 requirement to return.

Malhotra, one of the top defensive centers in the league, returned to practice two weeks ago with a full face shield. While he will apparently be on the sidelines for Game 1, the Canucks sound like they expect him to play at some point in the final.

“He's a guy that can help us no matter how many minutes he plays,” Canucks forward Henrik Sedin said. “He's been so key to our faceoffs and PKs. We'll see what happens. Again, he's day to day, as he's been the last week or so, so we'll see what happens.”

-- A.J. Perez
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.

Stanley Cup Finals
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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  

Posted on: May 28, 2011 10:40 pm
Edited on: May 28, 2011 10:43 pm

Bruins' Horton fined over water bottle incident

BOSTON --- Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton was fined an undisclosed amount for squirting water then throwing the bottle at a fan after Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, general manager Peter Chiarelli told reporters on Saturday.

“You know that’s an unfortunate incident,” Chiarelli said. “I didn’t really focus on it and I didn’t talk to Nathan Horton about it. He has been fined. So that issue has been resolved.”

CBSSports.com learned on Thursday, a day after the incident at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Horton would not be suspended. The league, however, doesn’t announce fines, leaving the clubs to disclose such discipline.

Horton scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning as the Bruins advanced to the Stanley Cup Final where they will face the Vancouver Canucks.

It’s likely Horton was fined the maximum under the collective bargaining agreement ($2,500), the same amount teammate Andrew Ference was slapped with after an obscene gesture directed to Montreal Canadiens fans earlier in the playoffs.

Horton's incident, which followed the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 victory in Game 6, was caught on video. A TV replay also showed Bruins forward David Krejci get hit in the head with one of the plastic noisemakers handed out to fans as they entered the arena.

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 28, 2011 1:16 am
Edited on: May 28, 2011 3:44 am

Roloson's streak ends by narrowest of margins

BOSTON --- Tampa Bay Lightning forward Martin St. Louis didn't provide any goals during Game 7, but he offered up something else to goalie Dwayne Roloson afterward.

A hug.

The silent gesture after a 1-0 loss to the Boston Bruins said plenty about how much his effort was appreciated.

"I thought he played tremendous," St. Louis said. "He gave us a chance. We just couldn’t get one."

Roloson made 37 saves, the lone goal coming with eight minutes left in regulation by Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton. As stellar of a game that it was, Roloson thought about that one he couldn’t get a glove, pad, stick or blocker on in the decisive game of the Eastern Conference finals at TD Garden on Friday night.

“It’s playoff hockey” Roloson said. “There is always the one play. That’s the way it is. They had some chances and we had some chances. Unfortunately, they were able to capitalize on one and we weren’t able to.”

Roloson’s elimination streak ended at seven wins in a row, matching only one other goalie in NHL history (Chico Resch). That run, however, didn't conclude due to a lack of effort as Roloson was tested from the opening minutes of the game  -- including on a Milan Lucic breakaway. 

“I just tried to stay with him,” Roloson said. “I was able to stay with him, get a piece of it and it went to the corner.”

Lightning coach Guy Boucher, who sat Roloson in Game 5 in favor of Mike Smith, didn’t have to second-guess his decision as the Bolts were outshot for the first time in the series. 

“You know, a lot of the guys have been drained from the previous series and Roli really stood the fort there,” Boucher said. “He was outstanding tonight. It was a competitive game, just one goal takes you to the Stanley Cup Finals so, I don’t think he could have stopped that puck. I don’t think he could have done better than what he did tonight. I mean, 41-years-old, you can’t do more than that.”

Instead, it was 37-year-old Tim Thomas who was the winning goalie on Friday. He made 24 saves for his second shutout of the series.

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images 
Posted on: May 27, 2011 10:08 pm
Edited on: May 28, 2011 1:55 am

Stamkos returns minutes after slap shot to face

BOSTON --- As blood seeped from the gash along the bridge of his nose, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos was still a gamer even after the contest ended.

“I have broken my nose before,” said Stamkos, one of the first player to talk to reporters. “It was just a weird play. The guy cut in front of me right before and I didn’t see the puck coming. It just hit me square on.”

Stamkos lay on the ice only briefly after he absorbed the slap shot off the stick of Boston Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk in the second period. He hopped up as blood poured from his nose, he slammed his helmet onto the ice in anger and he went to the dressing room.

“Who knows?” Stamkos said when asked what the trainers did to stem the bleeding. “I just wanted to get back as fast as I could. This obivoulsy was the biggest game of my life.”

He only missed only about five minutes of game time as he got patched up and the equipment manager attached a cage to his helment.

"That is what it is all about," Lightning forward Ryan Malone said. "We mentioned it before the game. The team wanted to pay a price. It is stick on puck and you take one in the face and that could be the difference. Stammer is a warrior. He got his first taste of the playoffs this year, obviously, but for him to come back in and play solid and generate offense of that, it shows the person he is."

In fact, it sounded like the loss was much more crushing than what Boychuk unintentionally inflicted.

“It was a little breakdown in our system,” said Stamkos, who was on the ice when Nathan Horton scored the game’s lone goal. “It is tough. It is over with now and it was a good effort.”

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: May 27, 2011 12:49 pm
Edited on: May 27, 2011 8:04 pm

Sean Bergenheim scratched for Game 7

BOSTON --- Tampa Bay Lightning forward Sean Bergenheim took part in warm-ups, but was a last-minute scratch for Game 7. 

“We’ll see,” Bergenheim told CBSSports.com when asked after the morning skate if he'd be an option for the Lightning.

Lightning coach Guy Boucher said that "there's been some improvement” in Bergenheim's undisclosed injury. 

"So to what extent, we'll have to wait and see,” Boucher said.

Bergenheim --- who scored the lone goal as Tampa advanced with a Game 7 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round --- was forced out early in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals and missed Game 6. This morning, he moved around much more easily than he did before Game 6, when he skated briefly on his own. He was also one of the last players off the ice for warm-ups.

“He’s scored a lot of big goals,” Lightning forward Steven Stamkos said. “It was tough without him last game, but we once again proved that even without a great player that we can step up. We’ve done it all year. Other guys rise to the occasion.”

Dana Tyrell played in place of Bergenheim in Game 6, a game the Bolts won, 5-4. 

While the Lightning have not said what Bergenheim injured, it’s thought to a groin or some sort of leg injury.

Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, who spoke to reporters a couple hours before Game 7, said the Bruins were prepared regardless of Bergenheim's status.

"He’s a very good player, without a doubt," Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference said. "I think he’s left no doubt about that throughout these playoffs. But I think any team that gets to this point has fairly good depth and also, like they’ve shown firepower that doesn’t just kind of rely on one guy.  I’m sure they’ve moved on and accept that fact that if he’s in he’s a great threat for them, if not they miss him but no big deal.:"

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: May 26, 2011 10:22 pm
Edited on: May 27, 2011 11:17 am

Game 7 breakdown: Bruins vs. Lightning

Time: 8 p.m. ET

TV: Versus

Road to Game 7

If you look back to the first round, the paths of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins have been similar. Both needed seven games to win in the first round then swept through Round 2. Maybe it’s not much of a surprise we’re in a win-and-you’re in situation at TD Garden on Friday night.

The Bruins, just like the first three rounds, remain horrid on the power play. They have converted on only three of 24 chances in this series (12.5 percent). One of the tallies came in Game 6 as David Krejci scored one of his three goals on the night with the extra man. Moving 6-foot-9 defenseman Zdeno Chara to the front of the opposition net with the extra man isn’t a bad idea, but the Bruins have had a hard time finding him from the point.

“We have to get our shots through and that’s one thing that has to happen,” Bruins coach Claude Julien told reporters on Thursday. “We’ve had decent puck movement and then it goes stale and our power play takes momentum away.”

Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay power play --- which entered Game 6 with about as much success as the Bruins with the man-advantage --- converted on three of their four opportunities. That puts them 5-for-22 (22.7percent) on the power play in this series.

There have been some notable entrances (Bruins center Patrice Bergeron’s return in Game 3) and some exits, like Tampa’s Sean Bergenheim --- the top goal scorer in the playoffs early in the series --- was lost to an undisclosed injury in Game 5. Then you have Boston rookie Tyler Seguin who has done both over the course of this series. He had three goals and three assists in his first two career playoffs contest (Games 1-2), but hasn’t been heard from since. The speed he put on display on two breakaway goals has been bottled up by the Lightning, who quickly began to keep tabs on the 19-year-old when he hit the ice. It’s not just the youth that has struggled for the Bruins. Mark Recchi, 43, hasn’t scored in nine games and is a minus-3 over that span.

The Lightning’s “Big Three” haven’t disappointed. Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier each have seven points through the first six games. But let’s not forget Teddy Purcell’s contributions. He has five goals (including two in game 6) and an assist in the series. Simon Gagne, one of the league’s most clutch players, also lurks on this roster.

“We’ve earned everything,” Lecavalier said. “That’s why we’re here. We have played some great hockey. We’ve played some determined hockey. Now we are in a situation to get to the Stanley Cup Final. We want to keep it going.”

A Bruins victory will return them to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1990. The Lightning, playing in their first postseason since 2007 and under rookie head coach Guy Boucher, played for the Cup in 2004, beating the Calgary Flames in seven games.

In Net

Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, has yet to be yanked by Julien for backup Tuukka Rask this entire postseason. And he’s been the better goalie this season, allowing just one goal in Game 3 and a shutout in Game 4. Boston has also been outshot in every game this series, so Thomas has been forced to be sharp. There have been some times when he wasn’t too thrilled with himself, like when he wasn’t able to stop Purcell with his blocker and he slammed his stick --- somehow without breaking it – to the ice in Game 6.

Dwayne Roloson will get the start, but that doesn’t mean Boucher will necessarily stick with him if a few more routine shots zoom past him. His numbers are below average to say the least in the series: a 4.33 goals-against average and a .851 save percentage. Backup Mike Smith hasn’t allowed a goal in relief of Roloson this series, stopping all 29 shots he’s faced.

Injury report

There are no longer any concerns over Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron, one of Boston’s most explosive scorers, missed the first two games of the series as he recovered from a concussion. The Bruins, minus Marc Savard (out indefinitely with a concussion), appear to be otherwise healthy.

Bergenheim appears doubtful for Game 7 with some type of lower-body injury. He skated on his own briefly on Wednesday, but Boucher said his situation, “doesn't necessarily look like something positive for us.” Defenseman Pavel Kubina, one of three players on the Bolts’ 2004 title team (along with St. Louis and Lecavalier) has been ruled out due to a concussion. He hasn’t played since Game 1 of the second-round series against Washington on April 29.

Our picks

A.J. Perez: I took the Lightning in seven games before the series and I’m not about to change. If the Lightning’s power play carries any momentum from Game 6, the Bruins will likely disappoint their home fans. The Lightning are getting frequent contributions from their usual standouts and some role players, like Purcell, have also contributed. Still, Thomas remains the X-factor. If this is a low-scoring affair --- and only a couple games have gone that direction in the series --- the Bruins will prove me wrong. I’m not sold on Roloson at this point to go save for save with Thomas. Let’s say Bolts, 4-3.

Brian Stubits: Don't you just love Game 7s? With the way this series has gone, I fully expect an unruly and action-packed game in Boston. The question that has lingered every game in this series is how will the Bruins defense and Tim Thomas play? The last two games in Tampa, both were abused. But in Games 3 and 5, they were stellar. You can figure out who won each game. Right now, I just don't trust Dwayne Roloson in net. He hasn't been sharp in this series. If Boston can just stay out of the penalty box, I think the B's move on. I'll look for a 4-2 Boston win with an empty-netter the final tally.

Photo: Getty Images

Posted on: May 26, 2011 8:25 pm

Roloson back in Lightning net for Game 7

BOSTON --- Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher was concise when asked if we’d see Dwayne Roloson back in net for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals on Friday night.

“Yep,” smirked Boucher in a chat with reports on Thursday.

Roloson, a game after his string of 15 consecutive playoff starts was snapped as he sat in favor of Mike Smith, wasn’t sharp early in Game 6 in his return. He allowed two of the first eight Bruins shots into the net in the first period, including one off the stick of Boston’s Milan Lucic he’d probably like to have back.

“I don't really look (back) at my performance,” Roloson said. “For me it's about team. It's always been about team, and we won, and that's for us all that matters.”

Roloson finished with 16 saves on 20 shots. That’s as many saves as the Bolts players in front of him had blocks. But Boucher said he was more focused on the closing moment sof the game as the Lighting held on for a 5-4 victory in Game 6.

“If you look at the last six minutes of the game, he was right there and holding the fort,” Boucher said. “ That's what he's done since he's been with us. So whether it's during the season or in the playoffs, he's held the fort in those times. So I know him. He's a competitor. And tomorrow's a great day to compete. So he'll be competing.”

Roloson improved to 7-0 in elimination games, a mark that has been reached by only one other goalie in NHL history (Chico Resch).

“Those numbers are not about me,” Roloson said. “It's about my teammates that have I played with and that I'm playing with now. So realistically has zero to do with me. It's about what they've done in front of me to allow our teams to win.”

-- 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