Wins and losses tend to amplify or diminish each game’s biggest mistakes. If you take a bad penalty and your team allows a deciding goal on the ensuing power play, you might be fitted with goat horns. Yet time often washes away the mistakes of the lucky when the scoreboard favors their teams.
Vancouver Canucks power forward Alex Burrows could have been the goat of Game 1. At this point you probably already know that he engaged in that dopey biting sequence with Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron after the horn sounded on the first period. That transgression gave the Bruins a power play after Burrows received a double-minor while Bergeron was whistled for one roughing penalty.
That wasn’t the only mistake Burrows made, though. He took a holding penalty midway through the first period and a tripping infraction during a similar point in the middle frame, giving him eight penalty minutes overall. Burrows was credited with two giveaways and zero takeaways as well, according to Game 1’s box score.
In other words, Burrows took a lot away from his team without bringing much to the table in Game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. He ultimately benefited from a lackluster Bruins power play and a tightly-fought 1-0 win, but the Canucks will need better things from their high-scoring agitator as the series continues.
Burrows acknowledged that he must make more intelligent decisions going forward, especially after avoiding a possible fine or suspension for that biting incident. He admitted as much to Eric Duhatschek of The Globe & Mail.
“It’s the Stanley Cup finals and I’ve been working all my life to be in this position. Obviously, with the last incident, the league’s made a decision and I’ve moved on. Now, I’m focusing on a big game tomorrow.”
Burrows took four penalties in the series opener and head coach Alain Vigneault suggested one – a goalie interference call – was largely unwarranted. The contact, in that case, did appear to be incidental and the Canucks have said they reached out to the NHL to get a clarification about why those calls are made if Tim Thomas is always leaving the crease to stop the puck.
Thomas’s counterpart, Roberto Luongo, changed his style this season, to play deeper in the net, and Vigneault implied it had to do with avoiding incidental contact.
According to Burrows, the answers were expected to come late Friday.
“At the same, I’ve got to be aware, around the net, to make sure I can’t bump the goalie,” he said. “That’s his ice if he’s already there. I have to be smarter and make sure I don’t put my team down a man.”
As much as the Bruins’ power play is struggling, it’s dangerous to give any NHL team six man advantages through two periods of play like Vancouver did. The Canucks and Bruins’ physical styles can blur the line between what is legal and illegal, but Burrows must realize that he dragged mud all over the proceedings in Game 1.
When he’s at his best, Burrows balances grit and mean-spirited play with finesse and timing. It’s not often that he hurts his team significantly, but sometimes he echoes those “die by the sword” moments less useful pests such as Sean Avery experience by going too far. We’ll see if he can approach his best level on Saturday after being far off the mark on Wednesday.