Friday, June 03, 2011

Solving Thomas in the dying seconds, Canucks take game one

Vancouver's dreams of a Stanley Cup parade took one step forward on Wednesday night as the hometown side grabbed a 1-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals, thanks to a dying second goal from Raffi Torres.

Game One which provided more than enough talking points to cover off the two day gap between games one and two started out with a flurry in the Boston end of the rink, a span of five minutes or so that seemed to foreshadow what was to come over the next 55 minutes.

The Bruins were quickly put on their heels as the game got underway, the Canucks clearly seeking to make a  knockout blow early on in the action peppered goaltender Tim Thomas with a variety of shots from any  number of angles and positions, putting the Bruins goaltender to the test in quick order.

It was a test that the veteran Bruin tender passed with flying colours, setting the stage for the goal tending duel that followed as he and the Canucks Roberto Luongo put on a goal tending clinic that bodes well for entertainment in this years Stanley Cup final.

If not for Thomas holding the fort in that early first period and again throughout the third when the Canucks truly caught fire, the Bruins could possibly have suffered a loss of epic proportions.

Once the Bruins weathered that early storm, the play settled down to a more familiar pattern, a fair amount of clutching and grabbing after the whistle, as well as a parade to the penalty box. There were heavy hits and some controversial plays (hello Mr. Burrows and a wandering Tim Thomas) which provided the underlying themes for a good portion of the game.

In fact, the latter stages of the first and most of the second period never really seemed to pick up a cadence, the penalties interrupting any sense of flow and offering up more opportunities to examine the teams power play troubles while showcasing the penalty kills, which as events proved out were quite effective.

With Thomas and Luongo matching the shots save for save and time moving into the latter stages of the third period the prospect of an Overtime session (or maybe two or three) seemed to be more than likely. Luongo showcasing the kind of play that has propelled the Canucks towards the Stanley Cup since the Chicago series, while Thomas once again provided evidence of his importance to this years Bruins collective, keeping his team in the game as the Canuck pressure began to mount.

While the first two periods seemed to suggest stalemate, the third seemed to offer up the thought that it was only a matter of time before the Canucks solved the riddle of Thomas.  Vancouver had any number of great opportunities through that third period taking control of the play, while the Bruins suddenly prone to making mistakes in their own end seemed to be just trying to hold on for the OT option, the Canucks more than anxious to try and take advantage of the changing slant of the ice.

A sure fire goal from Alex Edler rattled off the cross bar, Jannik Hansen on a breakaway surely thought he was going to be the hero of the night, those two highlight reel efforts and a handful of other opportunities increasing the pressure, but each time it was Thomas that stemmed the rising tide of attack from the Canucks.

As the game moved towards the last thirty seconds play in regulation, the Canucks launched one final push, Ryan Kesler, author of many a big play this playoff year once again was central to a key moment.

Taking a Kevin Bieksa pass at the blue line, while managing to stay onside with a nifty straddle (we're thinking his groin injury is fine now judging by the acrobatics at the blue line) he shuffled the puck over to Jannik Hansen, who then pushed it under a sprawling Zdeno Chara, finding the stick of Raffi Torres who quickly rifled the puck past Tim Thomas as the clock registered 18.5 seconds, securing victory for the Canucks and launching street parties across the province..

It was a sudden change of fortune for the Bruins that may be hard to shake off in this final, the key to victory in a seven game series such as the Stanley Cup is the ability to take advantage of opportunity, the Bruins had the chance to steal a game and couldn't, while the Canucks voided an outstanding performance from Thomas, a confidence building experience that could very well pay dividends within a short number of days.

As Stanley Cup battles go Game 1 had a number of highlights, a few sideshows and the promise of more  drama to come, not a bad way to kick off the championship round.

You can track the latest news from the Stanley Cup final from our series archive page, we update it daily with observations from around the hockey world.

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