The biggest story of the finals for Vancouver doesn’t have anything to do with biting, hitting guys late, or taunting but rather with how they’re finding ways to win games. The Canucks are just one win away from the Stanley Cup and if you look at how many goals they’ve scored through five games (they have six) and who’s scoring them, you’ll wonder just how in the world this team is so close to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
Ready for this who’s who of goal scorers in Vancouver? Raffi Torres, Alex Burrows (twice), Daniel Sedin, Jannik Hansen, Maxim Lapierre. That’s it. This is a virtual hit list of players that the Bruins and their fans should all despise. Torres with his high flying hits, Burrows and his biting shenanigans, Daniel Sedin for merely existing, and Maxim Lapierre for finding ways to always get under someone’s skin through taunting or theatrics. The way the Canucks are getting things done offensively is rather offensive to Boston.
The absence of scoring from just about everyone is stunning, but even more so from their superstars. Henrik Sedin doesn’t have a point in the finals, Ryan Kesler has just one assist (a big one on Torres’ Game 1 winner), and Daniel Sedin has a goal and an assist (same as Lapierre). The work Daniel and Alex Burrows did all came in a pivotal Game 2 win, but everywhere else in this series they’ve been invisible from the score sheet.
Seeing big stars get shutdown in the finals is nothing new. Pavel Datsyuk was invisible in 2008 against Pittsburgh. In 2009, Sidney Crosby had Henrik Zetterberg draped all over him holding him to a goal and two assists in seven games, and it happened to Jonathan Toews last year earning just three assists against Philadelphia. If you’re a big star in the finals, your opponent is going to go out of their way to make sure you don’t beat them.
With the way the Canucks have been shut down offensively, however, it’s mind-boggling and is a credit to the work Boston’s done defensively. Having a defensive pairing like Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg sure helps take care of business. In the finals it almost always boils down to the production you get from your secondary and tertiary scoring. Depth is the key and depth usually wins. The combination of great defensive play at home and getting goals from guys like Lapierre and Torres shows what makes the Canucks a dangerous team. If they can figure out what it takes to win in Boston, they’ll get the chance to lift the Stanley Cup for the first time as Canucks in Boston Monday night.
For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.
Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.
But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.
Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.
When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.
Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.
The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.
Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.
This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.
In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.
Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.
Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.
Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.
Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?
Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.
Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.
Official update on the really important story of the evening:
The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.
Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.
As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.
The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.
Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.
Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.
Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.