Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Boston went up 3-0 on the road and crumbled. Vancouver went up 3-0 on the road and steeled itself.
And therein lies the difference between the two favorites in their respective conference finals.
For the Bruins, going up 3-0 in the first period should have been the dagger they needed to take the game back to Boston. They'd chased Dwayne Roloson, arguably the best goaltender of these playoffs, and seen him relieved by Mike Smith, who ever so barely beat out Dan Ellis of all people for the backup role. Usually, a two-goal lead is the most dangerous in hockey, and when you can demoralize a team and a crowd with two goals, one of them shorthanded, inside the final five minutes of a period, you're giving yourself an unbelievable chance to win.
But instead, the Bruins frittered the lead, and now possibly the series, away. Critical mistakes by guys who are supposed to be the team's best players led to Tampa's first, third and fourth goals (miscommunication between Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara, Tomas Kaberle putting up a bullfighter's defense behind the net and a brutal neutral zone giveaway by Milan Lucic, respectively). Simply put: You can't let a guy like Teddy Purcell pull a team back into a game.
The lethal and uncontrollable Bruins of the first period had been replaced by docile cubs who didn't want any part of Tampa's attack and had minimal interest in attempting to craft one of their own. Entire lines disappeared for periods at a time and Claude Julien didn't know what to do, either. The second-guessing of his decisions has been limitless all year, but this was one situation where it's easy to say, "Yup, he should've called a timeout after that second goal." Because he should have. That he didn't was pure lunacy.
(Coming Up: Big hit in Memorial Cup; Thrashers fans rally; a Stahl on the Hurricanes; Mike Keenan in Dallas?; Oilers getting a new rink; Isles coach goes golfing; more young defensemen in Nashville; Dany Heatley; no charges against Mike Komisarek; and Sami Salo bombs.)
Tampa, on the other hand, is nothing if not a well-coached and efficient machine, even if it is still relying more than a bit on bounces and the 1-3-1 than the overwhelming skill of its top players. Any weaknesses shown will be exploited to the fullest. Look at their two losses in the series: When Boston goes hard, the Bolts have gotten beaten on the details. When Tampa goes hard, they kill it at the dots and along the boards. On Saturday, they won 60 percent of the draws and didn't see a scrum along the dashers they didn't want to enter and win.
The Canucks, meanwhile, showed fans across the continent why they're the Presidents' Trophy winners, and should have been Stanley Cup favorites from the outset. Due to a slew of calls ranging from soft to blatant in the first period, they weathered five San Jose power plays — which had been positively ruinous in the series — and emerged none the worse for wear. And when the officials returned the favor in the second period, they did not see fit to let the chance lazily pass them by as they had in Game 3. Three times they got 5-on-3 power plays, and three times the puck got one-timed into the back of the net at the speed of sound in short order. Just like that, the game was over. (Though to be fair the Canucks had to lock down the home team for just 20 minutes, as opposed to the Bruins' 40.)
Except, of course, that this hasn't been that kind of year. Too many teams had blown too many multiple-goal leads for anyone to feel especially comfortable with just a three-goal deficit. Not on the road, and not in a building where Roberto Luongo hadn't picked up a win since before the recession hit.
But the Canucks, even short two of their regular defensemen, took the opposite tack from their Eastern Conference counterparts. If anything, the three-goal lead galvanized the team, erasing whatever problems they had that forced them to take 40 penalty minutes in the previous four periods. The undisciplined and uninspired play was replaced by supreme confidence and the killer instinct that was abundant in the regular season, but which had eluded them at times in the playoffs.
The difference between these two performances cannot be understated. The better one all but assures the Canucks a Stanley Cup Finals appearance. The worse one means more uncertainty from a team that has faced too much of it already this postseason.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks signed 2010 first-round pick Emerson Etem late last week, so expect to be assaulted with talk about how he plays for the Ducks and grew up in Southern California for the rest of his stupid career.
Atlanta Thrashers: From the Too Little Too Late Dept. comes news that Thrashers fans held a rally in an effort to … I dunno, do something, I guess. They also burned a Winnipeg Jets banner because they don't care enough about hockey to have heard the 2 million news stories about how they're not going to be called the Jets. No sympathy for 'em.
Boston Bruins: Biggest problem in Saturday's game apart from Claude Julien not using his timeout after Teddy Purcell scored his second goal in 1:03? The top line did nothing. Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton combined for a minus-4, just two shots and three giveaways (Lucic's leading to Tampa's dagger fourth goal). Krejci was just 3 for 12 at the dot. A brutal day.
Buffalo Sabres: On May 18, the Sabres signed prospect Brayden McNabb to a big entry-level contract. On May 21, he tried to take Joey Hishon's head off with an ugly, ugly elbow in the Memorial Cup and caught a one-game suspension.
Calgary Flames: Brent Sutter thinks moving the Thrashers to Winnipeg is a great idea, and probably not just because that's six easy in-division Ws.
Carolina Hurricanes: Hurricanes prospect Tyler Stahl wants to have a good summer in terms of developing his game and getting stronger, because he says when you're a late-round pick, you usually either earn a contract at 19 or you don't at all. However, he might earn a contract just based on his last name, and the team's penchant for giving huge contracts to guys whose names sound like his.
Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks have their backup for next year: Alexander Salak. The 24-year-old signed a one-way, two-year deal after excelling in Finland last season.
Colorado Avalanche: The Blackhawks' signing of Corey Crawford will help the Avalanche get a good goalie on the UFA market or something. I don't see how it correlates but sure.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Todd Richards might replace Bob Boughner as a Blue Jackets assistant coach. Meanwhile, the Wild have received permission to interview Ken Hitchcock for their vacant head coaching position. Two teams, swappin' problems.
Dallas Stars: Speaking of coaching changes, the Stars might be considering Mike Keenan. I think I speak for everyone when I say, "Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha yesssss do it, Dallas!"
Detroit Red Wings: So long, Derek Meech, a person whose name Red Wings fans haven't thought of in years.
Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers' new rink will cost $450 million. And only $100 million of that will come from the city and provincial governments. What a deal!
Florida Panthers: Here's a nice little feature on Mike Santorelli's struggles to make the NHL in the years prior to this season. It seems like every professional athlete was once cut from a bantam or high school team at some point, doesn't it?
Los Angeles Kings: The bank foreclosed on Luc Robitaille's house. Not so lucky there.
Minnesota Wild: Hey, remember that guy who scored the lacrosse goal at Worlds? Yeah, he's staying in Finland for another year. Sorry.
Montreal Canadiens: Mathieu Darche will spend at least the first few weeks of his offseason recovering from abdominal surgery.
Nashville Predators: The Predators could soon sign 23-year-old undrafted free agent Victor Bartley from his Swedish club, because obviously what they need most is another young defenseman.
New Jersey Devils: Patrik Elias may not put up the big-time points we're used to any more, but jeepers are his possession stats unreal.
New York Islanders: Isles goalie coach Mike Dunham is an alternate to qualify for the U.S. Open golf championship, so it's nice to see the Islanders' vast experience with golfing at this time of year being put to good use.
New York Rangers: Derek Boogaard was buried over the weekend and a whole hell of a lot of people showed up, including a few guys he used to scrap with regularly, like Jody Shelley.
Ottawa Senators: The Sens' AHL club in Binghamton is in the Calder Cup Finals for the first time ever, which shouldn't be surprising because they have one in Ottawa too.
Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers management, Danny Briere and two NHL scouts share a shockingly candid appraisal of the team's collapse, including the potential for two "camps" to form within the team when things go wrong. Camp Pronger and Camp Richard. Neither one sounds like a fun way to spend the summer.
Phoenix Coyotes: The Coyotes signed Petteri Nokelainen over the weekend. Hey, remember that time they bought him out? Me neither!
Pittsburgh Penguins: Not to be too dramatic, but the entire NHL might change because of Derek Boogaard's death. (Hint: No it won't.)
San Jose Sharks: Hey, you know who sucks? Dany Heatley. He hasn't scored in eight games and got demoted to the third line in the third period when the Sharks were trying to mount their comeback. Not good.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues' ECHL affiliate won the Kelly Cup. That's the closest thing to St. Louis Blues information this week. Take it up with them.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Both these Teddy Purcell goals were awesome. The second one was better.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Mike Komisarek won't be charged for allegedly slapping a woman outside a nightclub. I assume this decision is based on law enforcement officials watching hours of game tape and realizing that Komisarek is incapable of getting physical with anyone.
Vancouver Canucks: You occasionally forget it because he's injured so much, but Sami Salo can straight-up bomb the puck. Oh my.
No one man should have all that power.
Washington Capitals: Here are some free-agent defensemen that the Caps might sign after they trade Mike Green which they will definitely do.
Gold Star Award
Boy, Teddy Purcell singlehandedly saved the Lightning's season in that second period, huh? Second goal was an absolute snipe.
Minus of the Weekend
Obviously Claude Julien should have called his timeout. What an ugly performance.
Play of the Weekend
I'm quite torn here.
This Henrik Sedin pass was so, so pretty.
But you never see hip checks like this any more either.
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
User "Trollmark" keeps it simple.
Kesler for Seguin
I believe today I will try … Bold.