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Instant Analysis: Thomas outduels Luongo

Wednesday, 06.08.2011 / 11:29 PM / 2011 Stanley Cup Final - Canucks v Bruins

By EJ Hradek - NHL.com Analyst

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Instant Analysis: Thomas outduels Luongo
In his instant analysis of Game 4, EJ Hradek believes it came down to the goalies, and Tim Thomas got the better of Roberto Luongo.
I thought Game 4 came down to the goaltenders. When the Bruins needed a save, Tim Thomas found a way to make it, particularly in the first period when he faced 12 shots. At the other end of the rink, Canucks’ netminder Roberto Luongo couldn’t do the same.

Alain Vigneault’s team really needed a save at the 11:59 mark of the opening period when Rich Peverley snuck behind the Canucks D. They didn’t get it.

At 11:11 of the second, when Michael Ryder meandered down the left wing side, Vancouver needed its stopper to fight off a bit of a knuckle-puck. He couldn’t do it. A few minutes later, at the 13:29 mark of the middle stanza, the Canucks goalie had a chance to bail out teammates Keith Ballard and Henrik Sedin, both of whom bobbled a loose puck behind the net. It didn’t happen.

Coming off a blow-out loss in a tough environment on the road, the Canucks needed just a few saves. They didn’t get them. After being outscored, 12-1, in consecutive losses, the Canucks return home wondering if they can save themselves.

*When Boston GM Peter Chiarelli made the deal to acquire Rich Peverley from Atlanta in February, I don’t think he could have imagined just how valuable a player he would become in Beantown.

Bruins head coach Claude Julien has shown a great deal of confidence in the versatile forward, using him up and down his lineup throughout this playoff run. On Wednesday night, Julien moved Peverley onto his top line, replacing the injured Nathan Horton. Once again, the former-Thrasher came through, netting a pair of goals in the series-tying win.

With Horton ruled out for the rest of the series, Peverley will become an even more important piece of the Bruins’ puzzle. I get the sense he’ll do his part. He has certainly come along way since the 2004-05 season when he spent year in South Carolina, skating for the Stingrays of the East Coach Hockey League.

*I thought Bruins captain Zdeno Chara played his most complete game of the series. The big man was physical, but he stayed within himself. Chara started the play that led to the game’s first goal, moving the puck up to David Krejci. He also began the sequence that led to the third goal when he made a terrific effort play to keep the puck in the Canucks’ zone.

On the night, he worked 24:44 minutes. That’s a good number for him. In the first two games, he played more than 28 minutes. I felt that was a little too taxing.

With a big lead in each of the last two games, Julien has been able to better manage Chara’s minutes. The coach also is showing a little more confidence in some of his other defenders. Those defensemen – guys like Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid – have responded by making their coach look good.

*Henrik Sedin registered his first shot of the series, just 61 seconds into Game 3. He finished with two shots and a minus-1 rating in his 23 shifts. The slick pivot continues to struggle in the face-off circle, losing 10 of 18 draws. On the series, he has won just 25 of 68 face-offs.

I don’t think you have to be Toe Blake to figure out this: If Henrik doesn’t become more of a factor in this series, the Canucks are going to have a real tough time winning it.

*Vigneault will have some big decisions for Game 5. Does he make any line changes? What does he do with his defensive pairs? And, most importantly, does he make a change in goal? That’s an awful lot to ponder on that long plane ride home.
Quote of the Day

We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.

— Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis on head coach Randy Carlyle and his staff