To some, calling a third seed and strong division winner an underdog might seem a bit absurd. Yet when you get right down to it, that’s the most accurate way to describe the Boston Bruins as they head into the 2011 Stanley Cup finals against the Vancouver Canucks.
While many pundits will try to isolate their sporadic struggles as signs of weaknesses, the 2010-11 Canucks have been one of the most dominant teams in recent memory. They ran away with the Presidents Trophy and have taken less games to advance in each successive round (7 against Chicago; 6 against Nashville; 5 against San Jose.) It could be some time before we see a more complete team in the salary cap era. The Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler trigger an attacking offense, Kevin Bieksa and Alex Edler power a deep defense and Roberto Luongo remains a truly elite netminder.
Speaking of elite netminders, Tim Thomas is the first goalie to be arguably the league’s best in both the regular season and postseason in quite some time. After breaking Domink Hasek’s single season save percentage, he hasn’t dropped off much with a 92.9 save percentage in the playoffs.
Thomas ranks as a big, flopping, unorthodox hurdle to the Canucks’ first ever Stanley Cup victory, but Zdeno Chara is an imposing obstacle in his own right. Chara and Dennis Seidenberg have been a strong top duo for Boston, but their defensive depth will come into question against a deep Canucks attack. The Bruins will need continued brilliance from their top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton along with steady contributions from Patrice Bergeron and other offensive players if they hope to make this a close series.
The preceding paragraphs capture our expectations for the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, but what do you think will happen? Could the Bruins pull off a significant upset or will the Canucks finally raise the Cup for the first time in franchise history? Let us know by voting in the poll.
But the chance for at least a single point slipped at the worst possible time, as Jonathan Toews scored with 1:18 left in regulation and then set up an empty net goal from Marian Hossa just a few seconds later to secure the 4-2 win.
The Canucks remain stuck at five wins — just five wins — on the road. They have the 29th-ranked road record in the entire NHL. Only the Arizona Coyotes have been worse away from home ice. So, that’s a problem that needs to be fixed down the stretch.
Vancouver had a chance to move into a wild card spot. Instead, they let the Blackhawks regain momentum as the period went on, and as a result, they remain on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture for right now.
Corey Crawford earned his 200th career win, making 26 saves. That’s a milestone night for him. For Toews, that’s his most productive night of the season, as he factored into all four Chicago goals, which, of course, included the winner.
So overtime against the New York Islanders seemed like a perfect time for captain Claude Giroux to bust his scoring slump.
Without a goal in his last 12 games, or since Dec. 21 before the holiday break, Giroux finished the Flyers comeback with an overtime goal to give Philly a 3-2 victory on Sunday. Jakub Voracek did great work along the boards to force a turnover from John Tavares, and Shayne Gostisbehere followed up his chance with a quick pass to a wide-open Giroux at the top of the crease.
That comeback win — Philly trailed by two goals early in the second period — bumps the Flyers back into a wild card spot.
Steve Mason had a big game in net for Philly, with 36 saves, while the Flyers fired 47 shots on goal toward Thomas Greiss, although it’s a difficult task trying to re-set and stop Giroux — an accomplished scorer in the NHL — on the doorstep.
Goals, goals and more goals! Blue Jackets outlast Senators for overtime win
Plenty of goals. A little three-on-three overtime. Seemed like an enjoyable afternoon of hockey between the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Well, maybe the goalies, Mike Condon and Joonas Korpisalo, didn’t enjoy it as much.
The Blue Jackets prevailed for a 7-6 overtime win, with Cam Atkinson scoring just 1:09 into the extra period. That’s his 23rd goal of the season. Only two players — Jeff Carter (24) and Sidney Crosby (28) — have scored more goals than Atkinson this season.
With the win, and the Capitals sitting idle today, the Blue Jackets move back into a tie with Washington at 68 points in the fight for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
There were some anxious moments for Columbus.
Rookie defenseman Zach Werenski was hurt blocking a shot in the third period. He briefly left the game, unable to put any pressure on his right leg as he was helped off.
The good news: He only missed a few minutes, returning late in regulation and for the overtime as well, which is important for the Blue Jackets.
#CBJ Zach Werenski said on @FOXSportsOH post-game he "thought it was broken" and "long term" injury when he blocked the shot.
“He’s made a couple of huge mistakes in a game and he comes to the bench, shakes it off and then goes out and makes a great play. For a 19-year-old playing that position and the amount of time he’s getting in key situations with this organization, it’s pretty impressive.”