Tag: game previews

Boston Bruins v Vancouver Canucks

Your primer for Game 1 of 2011 Stanley Cup finals between Bruins, Canucks

The wait for any Stanley Cup finals contest can be unbearable, but fans of the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks must be on the edges of their seats even more than most would be right now.

In the bigger picture, the Canucks have been waiting for 17 years while the Bruins haven’t gotten this far in 21 years. Yet even the recent versions of the two teams have been waiting for quite some time. Boston received a hearty break for a team that just finished a seven-game series on Friday while Vancouver’s most recent game began on Tuesday, May 24. No doubt about it, these teams are anxious to drop the puck.

Boston @ Vancouver (NBC) – 8 p.m. ET; Game 1

The Canucks go into this game as heavy favorites, earning the PHT staff’s unanimous selection and the votes of many others. This team is well-rested, rugged and deep in just about every area. On the other hand, they also must deal with the pressure of delivering the first Stanley Cup in franchise history and Vancouver’s first Cup since 1915.

Meanwhile, the Bruins could be a very dangerous team in the underdog role. Few should be surprised if Boston’s all-world goalie Tim Thomas steals some victories – maybe even four – in this series. There’s also reason to believe that Zdeno Chara could give the Sedin twins some serious headaches, as well. The B’s have their flaws in some areas, but their overall talent level should not be underestimated.

If you’re still waiting on pins and needles, check out the plethora of PHT posts leading in to Game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.

Your Tampa Bay Lightning-Boston Bruins Game 7 primer

Ryan Malone, Zdeno Chara

With the NBA finals matchup determined last night, much of the sports world will get the chance to witness some of the finest competition possible in sports in tonight’s hockey game. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins traveled bumpy roads to get to this point, but whoever wins tonight’s Game 7 gets to face the Vancouver Canucks juggernaut in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.

Tampa Bay @ Boston (Versus) – 8 p.m. ET; Series tied at 3-3

The Lightning carried the play for much of this series and would not be denied during Game 6 at home. The Bruins have been surprisingly lax defensively during much of this series, often appearing flat-footed against a faster Tampa Bay team. The often superlative play of goalie Tim Thomas has been the ace up their sleeve during their three wins (and occasionally in defeat), though. He gives the Bruins an advantage over a suddenly shaky Dwayne Roloson, although Roloson’s 7-0 record in elimination games cannot be denied.

We’re hard-pressed to pick a favorite going into this one and so were PHT readers, as you can see from the Game 7 poll results.

The Bruins go into Game 7 as light favorites among readers, but they obviously didn’t run away with the poll results.

Do you want more material as you wait to find out which team will represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup finals? Here are all the game recaps:

Game 1
Game 2
Game 3
Game 4
Game 5
Game 6

If you want a little more depth, though, here are some of PHT’s best stories going into Game 7.

Your San Jose Sharks-Vancouver Canucks Game 5 primer

Henrik Sedin, Kent Huskins, Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Kevin Bieksa

After winning on special teams and on the scoreboard in Game 3, the San Jose Sharks experienced a disturbing role reversal in their 4-2 Game 4 loss. The only way they can make their first Stanley Cup finals appearance in franchise history is to beat the Presidents Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks three times in a row. The Sharks hope to begin that journey in Vancouver tonight.

San Jose @ Vancouver (Versus) – 9 p.m. ET; Canucks lead series 3-1

Of all the Sharks worries, something tells me that they’re not too concerned about their “playoff demons.” Instead, they’ll hope that their team will rally around their injured star Joe Thornton, who will fight through a shoulder injury in Game 5. Simply put, the Sharks need more from forwards such as Dany Heatley and Joe Pavelski if they hope to bring the series back to the Shark Tank.

Meanwhile, the Canucks hope to put away an opponent on their first chance for once. It took them four tries to finish off the Chicago Blackhawks in Round 1 and two tries to end the Nashville Predators’ season in the semifinals. It’s not a do-or-die game for them, but they don’t want to be weary in their first Stanley Cup finals appearance since 1994. (If they make it, obviously.)

With the Joe Thornton question out of the way, the biggest lineup questions revolve around the teams’ defenses. Hip check virtuoso Keith Ballard is expected to play again in Game 5 for the Canucks, but Christian Ehrhoff seems like a toss-up after missing Game 4. The Sharks face a question about their blueline as well since it sounds like young offensive defenseman Jason Demers is ready to go. Will Todd McLellan decide to put him back in the lineup? It sounds like both teams won’t tip their hands until game time.

If the Sharks lose tonight, they’ll face another year’s worth of inane questions about demons and choking. On the other hand, if the Canucks lose, people will wonder about their killer instinct and energy going forward. For more on Game 5, let’s take a look at the additional PHT content.

San Jose Sharks deny playoff demons heading into Game 5

Vancouver Canucks v San Jose Sharks - Game Four

When you put some of the San Jose Sharks’ playoff disappointments in context, it makes them a little easier to understand. As Tim Panaccio pointed out, the Sharks lost to the eventual Western Conference champion in five of their last seven postseason exits.

There’s no doubt that it is embarrassing to get swept, but the Sharks suffered that fate thanks to the Chicago Blackhawks, the eventual Stanley Cup champions in 2010. Sure, they lost a first round series when they were the first seed and the Anaheim Ducks were the eighth seed in 2009, but let’s not forget that the Ducks still had many of the pieces of a Stanley Cup championship team. (Not to mention Jonas Hiller’s sterling play in his breakout playoffs.) Really, the strongest argument for “choking” might have been the Sharks losing to the Edmonton Oilers in 2006 after building a 2-0 series lead. Even in that case, they lost to a team that fell one win short of winning a Cup during that year.

Yes, the Sharks have had some disappointments, but they seem to be the victim of other people’s expectations and tough playoff matchups more than anything else. Critics dismiss the jarring difficulty of getting through the Western Conference playoffs too easily. After all, only the Detroit Red Wings and Ducks made two or more Stanley Cup finals appearances since 2000.

With these factors in mind, it’s understandable that players and coaches might get a bit annoyed by the stream of questions about “demons” and “curses.” As usual, head coach Todd McLellan had something interesting to say about all the demon talk.

“You guys think we have demons,” McLellan responded. “They don’t exist in our world. We’ve had a lot of success as an organization and as a franchise. We can keep referring back to the Conference Finals in 2004, say that we had an eight-game losing streak. I think some of you wrote that. I don’t know what the hell 2004 has to do with 2011.

“I don’t think we have demons. We have a team that’s worked extremely hard to get to the Conference Finals. We’ve had a team that’s faced a lot of adversity, external adversity.

“The only people we answer to are ourselves in that locker room. We don’t answer to the media. We answer to our fans somewhat here at home. We owe them an effort. We owe them a commitment level second to none. But that’s it.”

Deep down, the Sharks’ biggest demons are the Vancouver Canucks. The Sharks must find a way to beat the best team from the 2010-11 season three times in a row or they’ll open themselves up to another round of the same line of questions next year. Regardless of how well Joe Thornton and other often-criticized members of the team play, they probably won’t hear the end of those jabs unless they win a Stanley Cup.

That would be a devil of a challenge this time around.

Bruins, Lightning try to gain control of the series in Game 5

Vincent Lecavalier, Andrew Ference

While Game 5 contests like tonight’s don’t always decide a series, teams who take 3-2 series leads move onto the next round almost 80 percent of the time. Sure, both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins have fought off series deficits in the first round, but each squad would love a little breathing room.

Tampa Bay @ Boston (Versus) – 8 p.m. ET; Series tied 2-2

Generally speaking, the Lightning have been the steadier of the two squads, with only Game 3’s effort being a bit disappointing. On the other hand, Boston has been borderline schizophrenic in this series. They flopped badly in Game 1, won a wild Game 2, played their typical defensively suffocating style in Game 3 and then went from way up to way down in game 4. No doubt about it, the Bruins will kick themselves even harder for squandering a 3-0 first period in Game 4 if they lose again in Game 5.

The biggest question for Tampa Bay is net. Will they go with the guy who brought them to the Eastern Conference finals yet finds himself faltering a bit at the moment (Dwayne Roloson) or the backup who didn’t allow a goal in relief duty in Game 4 (Mike Smith)? Lightning coach Guy Boucher is being coy about which goalie will start, but if I had to guess, I’d say he picks Roloson. We’ll find out soon enough, though.

Here are a few more stories to chew on as Game 5 approaches: