After every game of the Stanley Cup Final, NHL Network analyst E.J. Hradek will break down that night's action with his instant analysis. Here is his Game 1 installment:
Let's start with the obvious: Vancouver's Roberto Luongo and Boston's Tim Thomas lived up to their Vezina Trophy-nominee status. They were both terrific.
I felt Thomas faced the tougher chances, starting with a quick in-close shot off the blade of Daniel Sedin just 17 seconds into the game. And, T.T. was particularly good working behind a tiring team in the third period, turning away good scoring chances from Alex Burrows, Maxim Lapierre and Jannik Hansen, before surrendering the winning goal to Raffi Torres with just 18.5 second left in regulation. There wasn't anything he could do to deny Torres.
At the other end, Luongo wasn't spectacular, but he was rock solid. Most importantly, he held his ground during several Bruins' power play chances in the first half of the game. The Bruins had 1:32 of 5-on-3 play early in the second period, but Luongo did a great job of eating his rebounds or steering them out of the danger zone.
I'm sure it was a delight for NHL Network's on-site analysts, Kevin Weekes and Marty Turco, both longtime members of the goaltenders' union!
Here are a couple of other things that caught my eye in Game 1.
* Alain Vigneault and his coaching staff did a good job managing a defensive unit that was shorthanded after Dan Hamhuis left the game early in the second period with an undisclosed injury after delivering a hip check on Bruins winger Milan Lucic.
Rotating five defensemen can be tricky. Vigneault seemed to lean most heavily on Christian Ehrhoff, who finished with a team-best 26:26. That number included 19:36 minutes at even strength.
Going forward, if Hamhuis isn't ready for Game 2, I would expect Keith Ballard to find his way back into the lineup.
* As expected, Bruins coach Claude Julien matched Zdeno Chara against the Canucks' top line of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows. Julien also used top two-way pivot Patrice Bergeron head-up against Henrik Sedin.
That tells me they feel comfortable using second-pair Ds Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk against the Canucks' dangerous second unit led by Ryan Kesler. I don't expect Julien to change that strategy. Still, Kesler made the big play in the game, finding Hanson to begin the mechanics of the game-winner. If the Canucks win the series, Kesler will take home the Conn Smythe Trophy.
* The Canucks wisely tried to tire Chara by punishing him physically at every turn. Boston's over-sized captain was dominant at times during the evening, but he did seem a bit worn late in each period. Julien might have to dial back his minutes a shade in Game 2. He also might abandon the idea of using the big man in front of the net on the power play. In those situations, the Canucks get an extra chance to get rough with him.
In the last series, Tampa Bay's Ryan Malone did a good job getting into Chara's kitchen. I don't think he had enough help. In this round, the Canucks have a roster full of players who'll be more than comfortable playing it rough with Chara.