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VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Here are five things that will be on our radar for tonight's Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks:
Each team had six power plays in Game 1, and the Canucks were guilty of taking a double minor for high sticking and giving the Bruins a lengthy 5-on-3 early in the second period. No power-play goals were scored, so the penalties didn't end up being a factor in the Canucks' 1-0 victory. Still, the number of minor penalties certainly didn't make either coach happy. Part of the reason might have been the emotion of the first game, but don't look for a similar parade to the penalty box in Game 2.
"I think going into our first game, it's pretty tough to keep your emotions in check," Vancouver defenseman Christian Ehrhoff said Saturday. "Obviously, for most players, it was the first game on that stage, so you probably saw that a little bit on all the penalties that were taken. Now that we got the first game out of the way, I think everybody is going to be a little more comfortable in Game 2."
The fewer the penalties, the better it is for the Boston Bruins, whose penalty kill has been terrific this spring, while their power play has been, well, dirt.
We know Boston coach Claude Julien has repeatedly pointed the Bruins' ability to hold the Canucks in check on the special-teams battle in Game 1 (both teams went 0-for-6). Fair enough. But the Bruins' chances of winning this series without getting any meaningful production from their power-play unit are slim at best.
Before the start of the playoffs, GM Peter Chiarelli said Tyler Seguin's skill set put him in the top 5 percent of the league. Hyperbole? Maybe. But if it's so, why did Seguin see just 1:20 of power-play time in Game 1 while Mark Recchi, the NHL's oldest player, was allotted 3:34 of time?
When your team has scored just one road power-play goal throughout the playoffs, isn't it time to think outside the box a little? For the record, Seguin had zero shots on goal in Game 1.
The Bruins will be playing with fire if they give the Canucks six more power-play opportunities. As recently as the Western Conference finals against San Jose, Vancouver has shown it can bury you if you are going to give it chances with the man advantage. We're guessing Game 2 features the first power-play goal(s) of the series.
Boston captain Zdeno Chara (28:09) and his defensive partner Dennis Seidenberg (27:13 combined) played more minutes than any other skaters in Game 1. They will likely do so again in Game 2. A lot of those minutes were logged skating against Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who were held off the score sheet in Game 1.
Watch for that battle to intensify in Game 2. If the Bruins can continue to hold the Canucks' top forward unit at bay, it bodes well for gaining a split in the series.
"I've said all along he's one of the top defensemen in this league," Daniel Sedin said of Chara. "He's got a long stick, so I think you've got to get close to him and try to use that to your advantage, move the puck quick and move your feet. That's the only way you can beat him."
The Canucks played for most of the last two periods of the Cup finals opener without Dan Hamhuis, one of their top defensive defensemen and a player who regularly logs big minutes against opposing teams' top forward units.
The Canucks prevailed, but if Hamhuis cannot play in Game 2 (he is a game-time decision, according to coach Alain Vigneault), it will once again test the Canucks' formidable defensive depth. We're guessing Keith Ballard would draw back into the lineup, as he did in the Western Conference finals when Ehrhoff was sidelined.
"Our team was built on a strong and deep defense, and we've used it all year long with different guys being out at different times," Ehrhoff said. "Everybody can play with everybody, so it's not a big adjustment we have to make. Obviously, whoever comes in has to step up and play some big minutes and that's what we've done all year."
With the big guns on both sides held in check in Game 1, it was checking winger Raffi Torres who seized the moment with 18.5 seconds left (converting a terrific pass from equally low-profile forward Jannik Hansen) for the game winner.
The Bruins are looking to find their own hero as they hope to knot this series up before returning to Boston for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Wednesday. Based on their level of play in Game 1, look for Brad Marchand and Chris Kelly to factor into a Boston victory. Both were terrific in the opener.
As for Vancouver, the team's third line has come in for much-deserved praise throughout the playoffs, but Maxim Lapierre was especially dynamic with six shots on goal. Only Daniel Sedin (eight shots) had more for either team.