Now that’s the way to start a Championship series. If you wondered just how much the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins wanted the Stanley Cup then last night’s super competitive game 1 provided one hell of an answer.
Both teams and cities are absolutely starving for a cup. Last night’s classic was a match of physicality, defense and a showcase of goaltending as Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo turned in legendary performances.
At every turn Thomas and Luongo stonewalled every attempt from Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Mark Recchi, Nathan Horton, Ryan Kesler and any other player that was knocking on opportunities door and were turned away. It’s not really like they had a choice to deal with so many chances early on however. In the first two periods there were 12 power plays and two five on threes, which had each goaltender on their toes from the get go.
They can thank some over aggression for that.
For all of the clean hitting and great play along the boards there was a lot of extra-curricular activities and Alex Burrows and Patrice Bergeron were knee deep in it at the end of the first period and it carried over into the second as well. Those penalties as well as some others including poor high stick minors against Daniel Sedin and Chris Kelly put both goaltenders at a disadvantage early. Fortunately for each side Thomas and Luongo were on top of their game and their defensive lines helped out to keep the game scoreless.
Once the game carried into the period it turned into a free-flowing match of skill and the rough stuff faded away as game took control of itself. The third period was filled with uninterrupted action, scoring chances and great saves. You couldn’t look away from the tube or you’d feel like you were going to miss something important even though the score was still 0-0. You were proven right when Thomas stopped Jannik Hansen’s breakaway and kept the puck over the goal line as he was sliding into the net and his momentum almost carried the puck in.
(Side note: with five minutes to go I was hoping for overtime. This was on of those playoff games that you didn’t want to see end before it should’ve. This was worthy of another 20 or 40 minutes and it would’ve added to how absolutely amazing the game was and how it kept you on the edge of your seat for all two and a half hours that it was on the air.)
With less than 30 seconds left after a missed opportunity by David Krejci the Vancouver defense cleared the puck all the way to the opposing blue line when Kesler made a great play to dodge Zdeno Chara, play the puck off of the boards, stay on side (or not depending on you view) throw it across to Hansen who then found a streaking Raffi Torres who tipped the puck past Thomas for the only goal of the game.
It was heartbreaking for Boston, but Thomas had no chance to stop it. It was just a great play by Kesler and it caught the Boston defense by surprise.
1-0 Vancouver, both the game and the series.
How should Boston feel after game 1? Their power play looked great, the penalty kill was phenomenal and they kept the two hottest lines on the planet scoreless… and still lost.
There are no such things as moral victories but Claude Julien has something to build on. The Bruins out played the Canucks by far and should’ve won the game if anyone could’ve gotten the puck by Luongo. If this is the way that the series is going to go then Boston should be able to win it provided if there offense can get some added pressure around the net and rattle the Vancouver defense.
For Vancouver you have to say that they got lucky in this one. Their offense had chances early on in the first two minutes and could’ve put Boston to sleep early on but they couldn’t capitalize. The Sedin Twins have to have a better game two and their offense needs to match their defensive intensity throughout the rest of the series if the Canucks want to raise the Stanley Cup.
One thing that I hope doesn’t change is the stellar goaltending of game 1. Thomas and Luongo looked like MVP’s after the first 60 minutes of the series and were certainly game 1’s number 1 stars. I don’t care how many goals aren’t scored in this series, as long as they play like this then it wont matter because each game will be entertaining as hell.
We have to wait until Saturday night for game 2 to commence. It’s a weird two-day layoff that should give each team time to heal after a rough first game, and the Bruins time to stew over the late goal, and Burrows biting incident.
If game 1 is a preview of how this series will play out then there’s no question that we have a classic on our hands. One city that hasn’t raised the cup in 40 years and another that hasn’t raised it at all. Both teams playing like it and not giving an inch. You don’t want to miss any of this.