Bruins strike first, take 1-0 lead through tight first period

Going into Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, history seemed to be on the Vancouver Canucks’ side. The vast majority of home teams have won Game 7’s in the final round and they’ve been a much better team in Rogers Arena than in Boston during this series.

After one period of play, the numbers are leaning every so slightly toward the Boston Bruins instead. They scored the first (and only) goal of the first period, which some might look at as a prerequisite to victory since the team who scored the first goal won every game of this series. Of course, the home team also won every game of the Stanley Cup finals so far, so one trend will be erased by the time the silver chalice is raised in the air.

Boston 1, Vancouver 0 (end of first period)

The Bruins’ depth forwards were creating some of their team’s best chances (Shawn Thorton, Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell put a shot on goal apiece), but it was a usual suspect who set up Boston’s goal. The Canucks’ top line won the faceoff but Brad Marchand managed to get the puck, create some space and then send a nice pass into the pile. Patrice Bergeron then sent a shot that Roberto Luongo had no chance of seeing into the net to make it 1-0. As I said in the chat, Marchand has been just effective in his pest-scorer role for Boston as Alex Burrows has been for the Canucks (if not more).

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While the Canucks tested Tim Thomas plenty of times, the all-world goalie was up to the task by making all eight saves. Vancouver remains very much in this game right now, but they probably don’t feel great about spotting Thomas a 1-0 lead, especially considering the fact that the Claude Julien is just as eager to go into “trap mode” as Alain Vigneault can be.

In case you’re wondering about the officiating angle, neither team drew a penalty in the first period. It didn’t seem like anything egregious went by the officials’ whistles, but we’ll wait and see if there are any controversial calls as this tight game goes along.

The Canucks have traditionally been stronger as the games go along, but aside from an early meltdown in Game 6, the Bruins also did their greatest damage to Luongo in second periods. We’ll keep you updated as this game continues on NBC.

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Personal reasons: No Ovechkin for Caps tonight

Alex Ovechkin
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Alex Ovechkin won’t play for the Washington Capitals on Tuesday because of personal reasons, the team confirmed.

He entered the building considerably later than usual, but his presence at least opened the door for the possibility of No. 8 suiting up against the San Jose Sharks.

Instead, the Capitals will face the hot-starting Sharks without Ovechkin (personal reasons) and Nicklas Backstrom (injury).

That’s a tall order, yet it’s also an opportunity for Barry Trotz to prove his system is a difference-maker … and that the Capitals have the young players to take up the mantle when the big stars are out

This is how Washington’s forward lines may look tonight:

No, the Capitals have not shared details regarding what his “personal reasons” might be, by the way.

Bruins put Morrow on IR, bring up Cross

Brady Skjei, Joe Morrow
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Lower-level defense is not the biggest of many worries for the Boston Bruins, yet it might be another in a series of headaches.’s Joe Haggerty points out that Joe Morrow has been placed on IR while AHL stalwart Tommy Cross was called up.

With a -3 rating and negligible offensive impact so far, few will really be missing Morrow (pictured). From the way Haggerty describes Cross, it’s a pretty cool story if he gets into the lineup:

Cross was named captain of the Providence Bruins this season, and actually had a strong training camp as the hard-hitting, tough stay-at-home defenseman he’s developed into during his five years in the B’s minor league system. The 2007 second round pick was a highly regarded potential puck-moving defenseman when he was drafted prior to his Boston College career, but a series of knee injuries negated some of his speed and puck-moving capabilities.

Granted, the Bruins would prefer a sure-thing improvement over a feel-good story right now, as this 0-3-0 start marks their worst beginning in some time.

Injuries have been an issue in general, too, with Zdeno Chara‘s slow start mixed with Dennis Seidenberg on the mend and Brad Marchand in limbo.

The Bruins’ next game comes against the Avalanche in Colorado. Maybe they’ll start to mend things on the ice?