Friday, June 10, 2011

Stanley Cup Finals - Game Five

Up until tonight, I did not really believe in the "home ice advantage" that exists in hockey. However, playing at home will allow you to make the last change in order to get the right match-ups to help your team win. In the playoffs that is a huge thing to have on your side. The Vancouver Canucks are now just one win away from winning the Stanley Cup Finals as they defeated the Boston Bruins tonight by a score of 1-0. What played to the Canucks advantage was the home ice.

As expected, Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo got the start after being pulled in game four. The first 10 minutes of the game consisted of fast-paced play and a plethora of hits. The Canucks were using the crowd as motivation to unleash the physical play on the Bruins. Even though Vancouver seemed to control the physical play early on, Boston had more shots and better scoring chances. The Bruins went on the power play on three separate occasions in the first period but they did not capitalize. They were not able to settle the puck down long enough to get some chances.

For most of the first two periods, Bruins head coach Claude Julien seemed to mix up the lines a little bit, on the power play in particular. These two teams are the two best 5-on-5 teams in the league as far as goals scored, so any change was smart just to throw off the opposing coach. The Canucks had four power play opportunities in this game. The Bruins held their zone and goaltender Tim Thomas made some great saves once again to keep the score close.

The only goal of the game came just under the five minute mark in the third period. The first line for the Bruins (David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Rich Peverley) turned the puck over and forced a two-on-one going back the other way for Vancouver. Kevin Bieksa (VAN) shot the puck intentionally wide and that allowed Maxim Lapierre to bounce the puck off of Thomas into the goal. Lapierre is one of those arrogant players who loves to get under your skin. In fact, he tried to sell a call to the referees when Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara jabbed him in the stomach with a stick. Players like Lapierre and Alexandre Burrows, who was also up to his usual diving antics tonight, do not need to play that way because they are great players when they play the right way.

Tim Thomas only had 24 saves tonight on 25 shots. The defense played well even when the top pair of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg were not on the ice to match up with the Canucks top line of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, and Alexandre Burrows. The offense got 31 shots on Luongo. Once again, they were just missing that key goal scorer to come up big in a game at Vancouver. Honestly, the best pure goal scorer in the lineup was Tyler Seguin and he was only seen for four minutes in the first two periods. He finished with nine minutes of ice time, one shot on goal, and three hits. Julien should look to play Seguin more in game six even if it is only on the power play. His goal scoring ability will shine if he is giving the opportunity. Game six will be Monday night back in Boston.

Gold Star: Gregory Campbell (2 shots on goal, 2 hits, 13 minutes of ice time)...he is one of those players who plays a hard game and it never gets acknowledged. This is because he does the dirty work and it never shows up on the stat sheet. He was solid on the penalty kill tonight. He was also moved from the fourth line to the third line to create offense and he had minutes on the power play.

Black Star: David Krejci...he was averaging a little more than a point per game in this Stanley Cup Finals. As a top line center, you are expected to produce at least a point per game. Tonight he finished with only one shot on goal and 2 giveaways. He was a -1 rating and won 60 percent of the face-offs he took. He needs to return to his old form for game six and show why he is the top goal scorer remaining in the playoffs.

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