Shame on any of us who started doing mental math after Game 2.
When Andrew Ference, Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara, among others, took the ice in overtime for an 11-second game of “What the hell are they doing?” Saturday, it was hard to look at the Stanley Cup finals optimistically for the B’s. After all, they would have to win all three of their home games and a road game in order to take the series. Either that or they’d have to win two home games and two road games. All of those simple calculations seemed easy enough to make it look like the Bruins were in big trouble, but that was until they found a way to beat Roberto Luongo.
Now, 12 goals later, the Bruins are suddenly the ones threatening the Canucks despite it being a tied series. They’ve used their speed more, gotten more bodies in front of the net and have taken advantage of how weak Vancouver’s blue line has been.
Now, it’s gone from the Bruins being in position to lose a short series to everyone wondering what’s going on in the mind of Luongo. Alain Vigneault would be crazy not to start him in Game 5, but the team did win Game 7 against the Blackhawks after Luongo spent the beginning of the previous game on the bench.
Speaking of that series, the biggest question is whether this is a case of the Canucks reverting to their Games 4-6 ways in the first round, or whether people are witnessing a collapse from being this deep in the postseason. Whatever it is, they'll have to flip a switch on home ice Friday to avoid suddenly having thier backs against the wall.
Would anything come as a surprise at this point? The home team has won each game this series, yet the Bruins have not faced elimination in a non-Game 7 scenario this postseason. Something has to give, but at this point the guess here is that it goes from it being a six-game series (our prediction before the finals started) to someone taking it in seven.
This Bruins team should have taught Boston by now that they shouldn’t be counted out. Now everybody knows. Here are four other things learned from the B’s 4-0 win:
THE CANUCKS ARE MAKING THIS SERIES ABOUT TIM THOMAS, AND SHOULDN'T
File under "probably not a great move." Since the night of the series' first game, when they jumped out to a 1-0 series lead, the Canucks have persistently invited Thomas to get in their heads. It's becoming pretty clear that regardless of what the intended effect was, the result at this point is that the very man they won't stop gabbing about is the biggest reason they have been miserable the last two games.
Wednesday was the latest example. Vigneault takes a loaded question from a reporter and fires away, saying Thomas is not playing by the rules and that he had talked to the league about Thomas. Hours later, Peter Chiarelli said he asked the league about it and was told it was "a non-issue."
So, with the Canucks up in arms about where Thomas plays and how he makes contact with them, they tried pushing his buttons. Thomas said after the game that by the time he took a whack at Alexandre Burrows (the same man who tripped him in Game 1), the Canucks had hit the butt end of his stick a number of times. When Thomas responded in the third period with a heavy slash, Burrows went after Thomas, who didn’t back down. After a heated exchange between the two teams, the end result was as predictable as it gets: more complaining.
“I’m sure the referees are going to take a look at that and look for it next game,” Henrik Sedin said after the game. “It’s not the first time it happened and it’s not going to be the last time. I think the referees are looking at the same tape that we are.
“They’re going to do that for sure. They’re going to look at those tapes and they’re going to see what goes on with [Zdeno] Chara and Thomas in front, and they’re going to have to call those. It’s not going to continue.”
As the Canucks continue to complain about Thomas, the time continues to wind down on the season. The idea of "the league will look at this" should not be a priority for a team that is now in a three-game series for a Stanley Cup. Yet for some reason, it's still about Thomas with Canucks. That may not be the smartest way to go about it.
JULIEN GETS IT RIGHT AGAIN
When it came to the first line's right wing, people figured it would be Michael Ryder, Rich Peverley or Tyler Seguin who took Nathan Horton's place. Claude Julien decided instead to stick Seguin on the third line and figure the rest out from there. It worked.
Peverley got the initial nod with David Krejci and Milan Lucic, but throughout the game, he and Ryder switched off on that wing, with the other skating on the third line.
For a guy who continues to be labeled as a defense-only guy, Julien once again got it right when it came to making a decision on an offensive tweak. This is the same guy who used the Peverley/Mark Recchi tandem on the second line's right wing in Game 7 vs. the Lightning, and once again he probably won't get any credit.
BRUINS CAN WIN WITHOUT HORTON, CAN VANCOUVER WITHOUT SEDINS?
Everyone knew the loss of Horton would be a tough one on the ice and an emotional one off the ice for the Bruins. As Shawn Thornton said after Game 4, Horton is one of the most upbeat and positive guys in the Bruins' room, not to mention his talents and growing reputation as a clutch player.
But the Bruins showed they can win without him. Somehow, the Bruins have outscored the Canucks, 12-1, the last two games without their second-leading goal-scorer from the regular season. Peverley can only hope he continues to add to that number.
While everybody knows why Horton will not be in any more games, people are still waiting for an explanation as to why the Sedin brothers have gone missing of late. Daniel and Henrik Sedin figured to be public enemy Nos. 1 and 2 in this series based on their skill, resumes, and twin telepathy, but they have been nowhere to be seen since Daniel’s two-point performance in Game 2.
Both Henrik and Daniel played nearly 22 minutes and, in addition to seeing no success in either 5-on-5 play or on the power play, had a minus-1 rating. They each had just two shots on goal apiece.
Sooner or later, these guys have to get going for the Canucks. In addition to being the team’s two most skilled players, Henrik is the captain and Daniel wears an “A.” It’s safe to say this series has featured very little leading by example from the Sedin brothers.
VANCOUVER'S ANTICS ARE GETTING OUT OF HAND
Kevin Bieksa had a rough enough night Wednesday. While fans at the Garden held "Win it for Horty" signs, Bieksa continued to skate around like a human "I miss Dan Hamhuis" sign. He was a minus-2 for the second game straight game and was humiliated by Milan Lucic on Peverley's second goal, but the shortcomings of his game weren't what stood out most Wednesday.
When Brad Marchand got called for a very iffy cross-check on a play in which Bieksa had already lost an edge, the onus was on the officiating far more than it was on the Vancouver defenseman. Yet later in the game, Bieksa had a display of embellishment so bad that it could only be rivaled by P.K. Subban's trust fall in Game 7 of the quarterfinals.
With Recchi carelessly leaving his stick up as he went in for a hit in the third period, Bieksa grabbed his face in apparent pain. Recchi was sent off for high-sticking, and replays confirmed that Recchi's stick was never anywhere near Bieksa. The ensuing power play didn't yield anything for the Canucks (there's another theme), but Bieksa's act was one that people probably didn't think the Bruins would have to see again after they moved past the Canadiens.
But such is the case, and the Bruins just have to hope that any embellishments don't end up burning them. Through it all, though, this Vancouver squad reeks of hypocrisy. For a team that's done an awful lot of whining, their on-ice etiquette has provided everyone else plenty to complain about.