Derrick Leger

Boston Bruins hope to retain momentum, tie series with villainous Vancouver Canucks


If unbiased fans were sitting on the fence going into Game 3, it’s likely that the Aaron Rome late hit on Nathan Horton might have pushed them in one direction. Forgive the generalization, but it might be safe to say that the Vancouver Canucks will be seen as the villains while the Boston Bruins are likely the heroes by default going forward.

Of course, Game 4 could bring about all kinds of ugly situations from both teams that might swing things the other way. The word is that Canucks fans might be advised not to wear their team colors in Boston, although Milan Lucic thinks that ugly fan backlash is a two-way street. This series started off pretty rough for two teams that didn’t know each other particularly well, but the vitriol level is rising with each game.

Vancouver @ Boston (Versus) – 8 p.m. ET; Canucks lead series 2-1

It’s a good thing for Vancouver that cumulative scoring means nothing in the NHL playoffs. After winning two heart-stopping one-goal games at home, they were unceremoniously throttled 8-1 in Boston on Monday. Maybe it’s merely circumstantial, but it seems like the Canucks don’t play as well when the stakes are much lower for them than their opponents. (They were pretty lucky to beat San Jose in Game 5, too.)

With all the positive momentum for Boston, the brutal truth is that they still need to win Game 4 to really be “in” this series. They’ve been a scrappy bunch all playoffs long, but winning three out of four games against Vancouver might be their biggest test yet.

Let’s take a look at some of the best PHT content going into tonight’s game, then.

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado