Haggerty: Canucks can match Bruins' strength


Haggerty: Canucks can match Bruins' strength

By JoeHaggerty

VANCOUVER One thought must have become quite apparent to the Bruins amid the final 20 minutes of Game 1 against the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final:

They arent in the Eastern Conference anymore.

That much was clear to coach Claude Julien once the ice chips settled and his Black and Gold skaters had been worn down in three periods of hustling, dead-even hockey that ended with one ill-timed Johnny Boychuk gaffe of aggression late in the third period.

The Bruins have met their five-on-five match in a Vancouver team that seems to do everything well.

It was pretty simple, said Julien. I think they beat us at the five-on-five game last night. I think our special teams were good if not better than theirs, to be honest with you. We had more scoring chances on our power play. Our penalty kill did a great job against a pretty potent power play. Special teams was not an issue, but five-on-five they were no doubt a better team.

The Bruins had battled, muscled and simply overpowered their way to the Cup final by bludgeoning finesse teams from the East with their 5-on-5 might.

The Game 7 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning serves as perhaps the best example.

It was scoreless heading into the third period, but the Bs were imposing their will and physical style from the moment the referees swallowed their whistles for the night.

That was the inherent advantage the Black and Gold lorded over every team in the East after leading the conference with a plus-51 goal differential in the regular season. It came to the forefront as they romped through a series of flawed teams in the playoffs.

The Flyers were clearly hurting, but the Habs and Lightning were both finesse teams that couldnt match the Bruins once it came down to muscle, might, and bodies mashing together in fits of playoff brutality.

Those teams couldnt hang with the Bruins despite pushing them to seven games on both occasions.

The Canucks? They can certainly hang.

There was a perception Vancouver was cut from the same dainty cloth as the Habs and Bolts, and was just another skilled, finesse team the Bruins would drive through with their Black and Gold bulldozer.

But thats far from the five-on-five truth. Ryan Kesler gives Vancouver plenty of fighting spirit on the ice, and energy players like Raffi Torres, Kevin Bieksa and Alex Burrows bring a little snarl to go with Vancouvers obvious skill.

"Both power plays kind of wiped each other out in Game 1. Five-on-five there were spurts I thought we played well and spurts where they took the play to us, said Chris Kelly. Obviously they were the best in the league during the regular season for a reason. Most of the game is five-on-five, and if we think its going to be a cakewalk five-on-five against them then wed be fooling ourselves. We definitely dont think that.

The Canucks are a team built on speed and skill with the Sedin twins bringing their special brand of playmaking to the mix. But they were also a plus-71 goal differential during the regular season, and every bit Bostons match when it comes to five-on-five play and heaviness on the puck.

There are no 6-foot-9 behemoths on skates on the Vancouver roster, but they wont be overwhelmed by the Bruins as many other teams have this postseason. The Canucks matched every punishing lick thrown by the Bruins in Game 1, and even gnawed on the fingers of the Big Bad Bruins when opportunity presented itself.

It was even-handed hockey game in many ways, but with the possibility looms that Vancouvers high-wattage power play could explode at any time.

It was kind of a back-and-forth game, said Andrew Ference. We had sections where we had decent pressure and chances. They obviously had the same thing where they had blocks of time with great pressure against us. It was obviously a give and take game and the closeness of the score said that.

If you go into a series expecting that youre going to have great control of all the games then youre kidding yourselves. Its how you weather it and minimize teams having that advantage. I dont think there were huge blocks of game where they controlled it.

The Bruins know they played a good game against the Canucks in Game 1, but thats not nearly good enough to beat a hockey club without any discernible weakness to exploit.

There were a lot of good things, said Mark Recchi. Number one: the way that the guys just handled the big stage. For most of the guys it was their first game in the Stanley Cup Final. I think our special teams were good. We handled that well. But five-on-five weve got to be a lot better.

Usually, the Bruins are the better team five-on-five, but when it comes to their matchup with the Canucks, even strength looks to be just that. Even.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Julien thankful for B's video tribute, 'happy he can move on'

Julien thankful for B's video tribute, 'happy he can move on'

BOSTON – It was the final piece of closure for former Bruins coach Claude Julien when he made his return to TD Garden for the first time as the bench boss for the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night. Julien stood on the visiting bench, watched a first period video tribute of appreciation for his 10 years guiding the Bruins and then received the warm, thankful ovation from the B’s fans that still very much appreciate his efforts that resulted in a 2011 Stanley Cup title. 

Unfortunately for him and the Canadiens he also presided over a lifeless, limp effort from his Montreal club in a 4-1 loss to the Bruins where his team simply couldn’t derive any emotion or juice from his return to Boston. Julien said in both French and English that that his Habs simply “laid an egg” on the road, and that was disappointing for him given that Montreal already has its back against the wall for a possible playoff spot. 

Instead Julien’s biggest bright spot in the game turned out to be the video tribute from the Bruins midway through the first period, for which he was greatly appreciative. 

“It’s always something that you kind of dread a little bit because it’s a little emotional, and at the same time [you’re] trying to keep your emotions intact there so you can coach a game and stuff like that. But, you know, I appreciate what they did for me,” said Julien following his second loss to the Bruins in five days. “As I said, I’ve got nothing but good things to say about this organization that gave me the opportunity to spend 10 years here. At the same time I’m kind of happy it’s over so we can move on now, but that doesn’t mean you forget what’s happened here. It’s always going to be with you. But now I’m in another chapter of my coaching career, and I’ve got to think about that.”

Julien’s counterpart, Bruce Cassidy, called the video tribute a “classy move” by the Bruins organization after the game had been settled, and there’s no doubting it was the right move for a coach that won over 400 games during his 10 years leading the Bruins. It was also the final chapter in his Bruins book as Julien now has completely moved on to his new gig guiding the Canadiens where it seems like his work is most definitely cut out for him. 

Spooner's strong play continues as B's dominate Habs

Spooner's strong play continues as B's dominate Habs

GOLD STAR: It had to feel good for Ryan Spooner. The speedy forward played a great game, finished with the game-winning goal in Claude Julien’s return to Boston and had both four shots on net and four registered hits in 16:07 of ice time. His goal was a level of grit and buy-in that he didn’t always have when Julien was the coach, but it’s one that he’s found more and more since Bruce Cassidy took over behind the B’s bench. Spooner drove the puck straight toward the net, and attempted to throw a pass backdoor to Matt Grzelcyk. But instead the puck bounced off Jonathan Drouin’s skate and ended up in the back of the net to make it a 2-1 game in the second period. For a player that long struggled under the watchful eye of Julien, Spooner’s night continued a stretch of very strong play since coming back from injury. 

BLACK EYE: Jonathan Drouin was supposed to be a game-changing center for the Canadiens after being moved from Tampa Bay, but he hasn’t even been close to that, or actually being a center, for the Habs this year. Drouin really didn’t bring much of anything on Wednesday night with a couple of shots on net, a giveaway and a 1-for-9 on the draw in his 17:04 of ice time. He was like so many of the other players on the Montreal roster that didn’t show up with their best in a rivalry game between the Bruins and the Habs. Even worse than that they didn’t show up in a game they desperately needed to win if they wanted to stay relevant in the playoff race. With the minus game again on Wednesday, Drouin is also now a minus-20 on the season in what’s been a truly disappointing year. 

TURNING POINT: The Bruins bounced back strongly after giving up a goal on the first shift of the game, and really took things over after the fortunate bounce for Jakub Jerabek got the Habs on the board early. The Bruins outshot the Canadiens by a 25-13 margin in the first two periods, dominated play and posted a goal in each of the first two periods to get the B’s on the board. From that point on it was smooth sailing and Boston only needed to collect a couple of insurance goals in the third period to truly seal Montreal’s fate. What was surprising was that the Habs showed little fight or pride while slowly sinking into the mud during the game, and never ever provided any real challenge to the Bruins in a game that was still separated by just a single goal until later in the third period. 

HONORABLE MENTION: David Krejci had one of his better games for the Bruins with a goal, two points and a plus-2 rating in 15:58 of ice time. It was an empty net goal that rounded out the scoring in the third period, and he finished with four shot attempts, a takeaway and 16-of-20 face-off wins in 15:58 of ice time. In general the Bruins frontline centers absolutely and thoroughly dominated Montreal’s poor excuse for players down the middle of their lineup, and Krejci was a big part of that in helping set up Spooner’s game-winner as well. Krejci was also a player that had his differences of opinion with Julien when he was coaching the Bruins, so the big game for him on Wednesday night also must have felt pretty cathartic when it was all said and done.   

BY THE NUMBERS: 15 – the number of games for Tuukka Rask’s current point streak where he’s put together a 13-0-2 record that dates back to his four game benching in the middle of November. He finished with a solid night’s work of 21 saves in the win over the Habs.  

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We laid an egg.” –Claude Julien said that phrase in both French and English to discuss a truly pathetic performance for his Canadiens team in what should have been an intense Bruins/Habs rivalry game on national television.