Tag: game previews

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.

Beware the hip check: Keith Ballard looks to make Stanley Cup finals debut tonight


It’s not every day that an NHL team can call upon a guy who makes $4.25 million as a seventh defenseman. That’s the life of Keith Ballard as a member of the Vancouver Canucks, though. In an injury and turnover-plagued 2010-11 season, he just cannot seem to earn head coach Alain Vigneault’s trust.

That being said, the Canucks keep suffering from losses on their blueline. Dan Hamhuis went down with what an unknown injury early in the series while Aaron Rome won’t play another game in the Stanley Cup finals thanks to his late hit on Nathan Horton.

Those two conundrums finally open the door for Ballard to make his way back into the lineup again, an opportunity he hopes to capitalize upon in Game 4 tonight. Ballard seems like he’s getting used to the roller coaster ride of getting minutes in big playoff games one night and sitting in the press box on other ones. He discussed the experience while fellow defenseman Kevin Bieksa spoke about what Ballard brings to the table.

“I think it’s a situation quite a few of us have been in, especially during this playoff run,” Ballard said of playing nearly as much as he’s been watching. “One of the things you can control is the attitude around the guys, how hard you work. You have to be able to be there to support your teammates.”

While Ballard never said he was definitely playing, Kevin Bieksa discussed what to expect with Ballard as his defensive partner Wednesday night.

“He’s a very good player. He’s helped us all year,” Bieksa said. “He’s a great skater and moves the puck well. He’s one of the best shot blockers in the League. He’s been known to throw a hip into a few guys. We just need him to play his game and not do anything special.”

Bieksa’s second-to-last sentence is one many of us will focus on: “He’s been known to throw a hip into a few guys.” His most recent epic hip check happened during the San Jose Sharks series when Ballard nailed Tyler McGinn with a brutal one that might just be the best hit of this year’s playoffs.

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Will we see another big hip check from Ballard tonight or will he be the kind of error-prone player who regularly finds himself in Vigneault’s doghouse? Perhaps he’ll be both? We’ll find out tonight (on Versus at 8 p.m. ET).

Tyler Seguin will play in Game 4; How will Bruins replace Nathan Horton?

Sergei Bobrovsky, Tyler Seguin, Michael Ryder

Whichever way you look at Aaron Rome’s late hit on Nathan Horton in Game 3, the bottom line is that Horton won’t play another game in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.

That means that the Boston Bruins will need to find a way to win three out of four games against the Vancouver Canucks without their first-line forward with a rifle of a right-handed shot. He might not be the most consistent performer, but when his line combo with David Krejci and Milan Lucic gets hot, they’ve been among the NHL’s most dangerous trios in the 2011 playoffs.

So how are they going to do it? It looks like they’re going to shuffle their lines a bit while Tyler Seguin will return to the Bruins’ lineup after watching another game in street clothes on Monday. Here are the expected forward lines with Horton out and Seguin in, according to Joe Haggerty.

Lucic – Krejci – Ryder

Marchand – Bergeron – Recchi

Peverley – Kelly – Seguin

Paille – Campbell – Thornton

While it looks like mercurial sniper Michael Ryder will get the nod on the first line, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Bruins experiment with versatile new addition Rich Peverley in that spot as well. Ryder has the deadly shot, but Peverley might be a more reliable player in many ways. If Ryder gets hot, he could be a nice weapon for that first line, though.

It’s probably not fair to ask Ryder or Peverley to shoulder the burden of replacing Horton’s production on their own, though. One player who could generate more offense is Lucic, who discussed the situation with Haggerty.

“It’s an opportunity for someone to step up and we need someone to step up. Nathan has been one of our best players and we still have to go out there and focus on what we need to do to have some success,” said Lucic. “It’s tough. It’s a big loss. He’s been a huge contributor to us getting to this point. He was a big reason I was able to take my game to another level and now I’m going to have to step up without him.

“[Ryder and Peverley] are both great players. Peverley last year had 55 points, so he’s shown that he can produce in this league. Ryder has scored 30 goals a couple of times and he’s scored almost 150 goals in this league, so he’s proven that he can score. They both have good shots and know how to compete and play. We have to count on them to step it up and fill in for what we’re missing with Nathan.”

The Bruins have overcome plenty of setbacks in the past – especially when it comes to key offensive players suffering from concussions – so they should be familiar with dealing with challenges like these. They seem to be at their best when their backs are up against the wall, so we might see another rousing fight from a team that perseveres over and over again.