Cup Final eve
By Laura Chambers
The Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins took part in Media Day at Rogers Arena post-practice on Tuesday.
The two teams, including coaching staff and management, answered questions in anticipation Stanley Cup Final opener.
Canucks general manager Mike Gillis addressed the health status of Manny Malhotra. The club announced on Saturday that the centreman was cleared to play; however, Gillis said today that it is unlikely he will suit up for Game 1 tomorrow.
Malhotra, who took a deflected puck to the eye on March 16, began taking full contact on Friday, but did not participate in practice on Tuesday.
“This has been a day-to-day thing all along,” said Gillis. “Today was a day where they felt it would be best if he stayed away. He’ll be back around the team tomorrow we anticipate.
“We have to be really patient with this. We have to rein him in a little bit because he's very enthusiastic, as you know. It's up to us to try to be as responsible as we possibly can be with his best interests in mind.”
NHL to Winnipeg
Fifteen years after the Jets left Winnipeg, the NHL is headed back to Manitoba. The League finalized the deal today to move the Atlanta Thrashers to the starving Canadian market.
“No doubt that this pursuit reflects the passion of our fans in Winnipeg,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. “It is clear that times have changed for Winnipeg as an NHL market, and this is a wonderful time to add a club to Canada. Hockey in Canada has never been stronger.”
The new NHL team will play at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, where the Manitoba Moose have called home since the Jets left.
Gillis said that the Canucks do not have alternative plans yet for their AHL affiliate, but he expects details to be determined in the coming weeks.
“We anticipate having a relationship with a minor league affiliate whether it's us owning a team, whether it's us doing what we've done in the past with Manitoba,” Gillis commented.
Through the first three playoff rounds, four Manitoba Moose call-ups have contributed to the Canucks lineup, including Victor Oreskovich, Cody Hodgson, Chris Tanev and Alex Bolduc.
“I think it’s great,” said Oreskovich. “Winnipeg, the way they ran that organization there was awesome, all the guys there are awesome, from the top to the training staff, it was a great place to play, I think they’ll do really well there.”
Luongo vs. Thomas
Vancouver Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said it best, “Goalies are the biggest factor in the game, and especially in the playoffs.”
The Canucks have battled some of the top goaltenders in the league throughout the playoffs, and the toughest may be yet to come.
“I thought Crawford was really good for Chicago, Rinne the same, I don’t think you can blame Niemi,” Alex Burrows said about goalies encountered in the previous three rounds. “Obviously we’ve faced some great goaltenders.”
The fourth round will see two Vézina finalists go head to head as Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas man the pipes. Thomas posted an NHL record season with a .938 save percentage and 2.00 GAA.
“Obviously Thomas has been doing it for 82 games,” Burrows continued, but he believes the Bruins net minder is still beatable. “If we get traffic and rebounds and make it tough for him we’ll be able to score goals.”
The similarities in Thomas and Luongo’s performances this post-season are uncanny -- at least statistically. Both goaltenders have played 18 games, averaged 2.29 goals against, and recorded 2 shutouts. Thomas and Luongo’s save percentages differ by only a fraction at .929 and .922 respectively.
Roberto Luongo has one experience up his sleeve that Tim Thomas does not – ice time in an Olympic gold medal game.
The Canucks goaltender backstopped Canada to the gold medal in Vancouver last year, while Thomas played backup on the American squad.
The overtime Olympic thriller is just one of many experiences Luongo will draw upon in preparation for the Stanley Cup Final.
“I’ve been using a lot of things that have helped me prepare like Game 7 against the Blackhawks, OTs, and those types of situations,” said Luongo, who calls the NHL playoffs a “different animal” from the Olympics.
“It’s a 4 out of 7, you see the same team every night...there are some similarities you can use but at the end of the day it’s much, much different.”
With such tight competition between opposing goaltenders, it may come down to who has the mental edge; something Luongo believes he’s developed over the past few weeks.
“You learn along the way,” said Luongo. “I probably learned the most about myself in these playoffs, as far as growing and maturing and how to handle things mentally more than anything else.
On the eve of the Stanley Cup Final, there’s only one thing on Lu’s mind.
”I want to win a Cup, that’s why I play hockey.”