FIve Thoughts: Alex Burrows’ Game 2 heroics a very bad sign for Boston

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Just as it goes with virtually every Stanley Cup finals game there are tons of thoughts that pop up in the aftermath of the game. Game 2 between Boston and Vancouver is no different and with the Canucks winning the game 3-2 in overtime. Storylines abound after such a turn of events.

1. There’s obviously a lot of outrage in Boston today after seeing Alex Burrows play perhaps his best game of the playoffs scoring two goals and adding an assist. It’s very clear to us that the NHL erred in not suspending Burrows for one game and while Bruins coach Claude Julien said the right things after the game there’s no doubt they and the rest of the Bruins have to be furious about it. They must put it out of their heads and then focus that anger into making sure Burrows doesn’t beat them on the ice again.

Allowing Burrows to essentially have his way with them the Bruins looked sadder than anything else. Think of it like seeing the movie “The Karate Kid” and instead of Daniel LaRusso crane kicking Cobra Kai into defeat, Johnny sweeps the leg and ends his miraculous run. If the Canucks continue to outwork, outhustle, and outplay the Bruins and take Game 3 the fans in Vancouver can start calling for that body bag for the Bruins as well as calling for the Stanley Cup.

2. One thing that’s been a severe disappointment for the Bruins is the play of their defense. Last night’s overtime goal came thanks to a bad play from Andrew Ference followed by Zdeno Chara’s inability to cover ground fast enough to catch up with Burrows. The kind of speed that Vancouver has is a major issue for a lot of players the Bruins have and while we’ve seen this be a problem for them in past seasons (think back to Boston getting bounced out by Carolina in 2009) what the Canucks do with their speed and their physicality is something Boston didn’t really deal with too often during the regular season.

The Bruins are used to wearing down teams by roughing them up. Vancouver enjoys that part of the game and even feeds off it at times. That kind of stubborn resilience can be mentally defeating to deal with. Guys like Chara, Ference, Milan Lucic, and Nathan Horton are delivering physically but the hits aren’t enough to get Vancouver to slow down and fall more in line with Boston’s strengths to grind the game out. Vancouver fights through the checks and keeps on motoring. Since there’s nothing legally the Bruins can do to stop them, every game turns into a war of attrition for them. That’s hard to deal with.

3. One thing the Canucks did right last night was get under Tim Thomas’ skin. While Thomas plays great when he’s fired up for a game and playing aggressive, he’s seen moments in the past where his fiery nature got the best of him and caused him to give up a bad goal. While that didn’t happen last night, Thomas got a bit more jumpy and agitated with the way the Canucks buzzed the net and found ways to make contact with him.

Late in the game, Thomas was even complaining at one point about Henrik Sedin’s presence in front of the net while other times the Bruins defense helps shove Canucks forwards into Thomas. The Bruins defense has to do a better job of putting up the wall to protect Thomas. They want him locked into the game but not to the degree where he’s looking to get his own shots in on opponents to avenge previous misgivings. Intensity is good but not when it turns into reckless play.

4. The Bruins’ top line will need to have more of a presence if they’re going to come back in this series. David Krejci, Nathan Horton, and Milan Lucic combined for seven shots on goal in Game 2 after piling up 13 all together in Game 1. While Lucic was able to get a goal thanks to their work in front of the net, seeing Krejci come away with four shots while Horton had just one is disappointing. When you’re the top line you have to do more, always. Vancouver’s top line was lights out in Game 2 in leading the way to victory. That sort of effort and skill is what it takes to win. While Roberto Luongo is having a lot to say about that line’s lack of success for Boston, they’ll need to do more of what they started in Game 2 from here on out. Scoring a grimy goal on a rebound by holding your ground looks just as good on the scoreboard as the highlight reel one does.

5. Vancouver’s work in the third period is becoming the thing of legend for them. Their depth and the way their lineup has been juggled this year have provided them with many challenges this year but they’ve been resilient all year long and their stamina late in games is astounding. Vancouver continues to find ways to battle hard to the end and pull games out late. Coming back to beat Boston in overtime is something no team had done to them yet in the playoffs. Boston was 4-0 in overtime games in the playoffs before last night. That’s a rough time to take your first defeat.

Vancouver, however, has been doing this sort of thing all playoffs long in either finding ways to comeback late in games or finishing teams off. That sort of toughness is what makes them so hard to beat and Boston is now finding this out the hard way. Giving up the game-winning goal with 18 seconds left to play in Game 1 and now Game 2’s overtime winner coming just 11 seconds in are excruciating ways to lose.

Busy Blackhawks bring back Pokka, reportedly let Rasmussen walk

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A busy off-season for the Chicago Blackhawks continued with some smaller moves that may still surprise some.

The eyebrow-raiser, at least in some quarters, came when the Blackhawks decided not to hand Dennis Rasmussen a qualifying offer, thus allowing the 26-year-old forward to hit free agency. That news comes from The Athletic’s Scott Powers.

Rasmussen played in 68 games last season (along with three playoff contests), receiving almost 12 minutes of ice time per night. Both were examples of him seeing more of a role in his second year with Chicago.

Still, he didn’t put up big numbers at either the AHL or NHL level, so apparently the Blackhawks decided to spring him free. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports that the team might have soured on Rasmussen after he rejected an offer for a contract extension back in March.

Powers also notes that Ville Pokka was signed to a one-year deal, opening the door for him to possibly make Chicago’s roster.

These developments aren’t likely to add to what’s already been a frustrating off-season for Joel Quenneville in particular, but this still lines up with a pattern of changes. In the latest edition of “30 Thoughts,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman shares some details of Coach Q’s irritation:

21. Joel Quenneville was at the draft Saturday after not appearing on Friday. He stormed out of a coach’s meeting — in full view of reporters — as news broke of the Chicago trades. It would have been very tough for him to lose Hjalmarsson, one of the NHL’s underappreciated great players.

Quenneville’s cage was already rattled by the firing of assistant Mike Kitchen, so here’s hoping he at least signed off on these latest moves.

Report: Red Wings grant Coyotes permission to interview Todd Nelson

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There’s some activity as far as the Arizona Coyotes’ coaching situation goes, and soon there may be some answers.

As noted during the weekend, the Coyotes were interested in speaking with Todd Nelson, who most recently coached the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings’ AHL affiliate) to a Calder Cup victory. The Red Wings granted Arizona permission to interview Nelson, according to the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James.

(Red Wings fans are greeting this news with despair.)

It’s not the only noteworthy development, either, as the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan reports that the Coyotes parted ways with associate coach Jim Playfair today. (The Coyotes confirmed the news moments after this post went up.)

This is a time of change for this organization, and some are bristling at the way they’re handling things. Still, there’s also an argument that the team is ultimately making wise choices, and Nelson could end up being a big part of that.

Assuming they convince him to come on board, of course.

Gryba sticks with Edmonton on two-year, $1.8 million deal

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After spending the last two seasons with the Oilers, Eric Gryba has signed on for two more.

Gryba, the veteran blueliner that was set to go unrestricted on Saturday, has signed a two-year, $1.8 million extension with Edmonton, per TSN. The deal comes after the 29-year-old appeared in 40 games for the Oilers last year, and three during the club’s playoff run.

Gryba is the second UFA blueliner Edmonton has re-upped with, having previously inked Kris Russell to a four-year, $16 million pact. It’s the byproduct of available cap space GM Peter Chiarelli created by shipping out Jordan Eberle to the Islanders in exchange for Ryan Strome.

It’s likely Gryba will continue to play his existing role in Edmonton — a physical, hard-nosed depth defenseman that won’t play every night, but can jump into the lineup in case of injury or when the Oilers face a particular matchup.

This move also gives the Oilers seven defensemen under contract for next season: Gryba, Russell, Andrej Sekera (who could miss extensive time with a torn ACL), Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Matthew Benning and Darnell Nurse.

So, perhaps Chiarelli isn’t done signing blueliners.

 

 

Report: Kings in contact with Joe Thornton

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Yesterday, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported 12 teams were in contact with San Jose’s Joe Thorton who, on Saturday, will become an unrestricted free agent.

Now, it’s been revealed that one of those teams is also one of San Jose’s biggest rivals — the Los Angeles Kings.

Per LA Kings Insider, the Kings have “been in contact” with Thornton, who just wrapped the last of a three-year, $20.25 million deal with a $6.75M average annual cap hit.

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On top of Thornton’s abilities are his relationships with key figures in Los Angeles’ front office. He played with Kings General Manager Rob Blake in San Jose, while Senior Advisor to the General Manager/Development Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager when he played in Boston.

On top of these relationships, Thornton also remains very close with Glen Murray, a figure in Los Angeles’ player development, and I’m told the two, who played together with the Bruins for three and a half seasons, regularly communicate.

LeBrun reported that staying with the Sharks remains Thornton’s No. 1 option, but it’s pretty clear interest in him is sky-high — and coming from a number of different places.

Los Angeles has been making moves to clear cap space, recently buying out the remainder of defenseman Matt Greene’s contract. The Kings also lost blueliner Brayden McNabb to Vegas at the expansion draft.

What happens with Marian Gaborik‘s $4.875M cap hit remains to be seen. The veteran winger underwent an offseason procedure for a “chronic” knee issue and, depending on his recovery, could open the year on long-term injured reserve.

Thornton would give L.A. a formidable one-two punch at center along with Anze Kopitar (and a truly formidable 1-2-3 punch with Kopitar and Jeff Carter, for that matter). It’s also worth noting that as he’s gotten longer in the tooth, Thornton has successfully platooned as a winger — most notably during San Jose’s Stanley Cup run in 2016.