Game time decision
By Joey Kenward & Derek Jory
After posting their eighth consecutive Game 1 victory in the NHL playoffs, the Canucks prepare to host the Boston Bruins in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals tonight.
Wednesday night saw the Canucks get a late third period goal from Raffi Torres to defeat the Bruins 1-0. Roberto Luongo made 36 saves for his third shutout of the playoffs, all of which have come in Game 1 of a series.
Last Wednesday marked the first time since January 15, 1996 that Vancouver collected a shutout against the Bruins. That day, Corey Hirsch was in goal in what proved to be a 6-0 Canucks victory.
Vancouver’s line-up will look a bit different tonight compared to the opening game of this series. Defenceman Dan Hamhuis is questionable to play after leaving the game in the first period following a hip check on Bruins forward Milan Lucic. If Hamhuis can’t play, either Andrew Alberts or Keith Ballard would likely to take his place on the blue line.
Forward Manny Malhotra skated in a full practice with his teammates at UBC yesterday. Having been cleared for contact, Malhotra took regular shifts on a line with Jeff Tambellini and Victor Oreskovich.
Malhotra confirmed post-morning skate that he is a game-time decision and will take the pre-game warm-up to see how he feels. The Canucks forward still does not know if he’ll play in Game 2.
“I’m honestly not trying to send you guys on a wild goose chase, it’s just the nature of the situation right now,” said Malhotra. “I feel really good. I felt good yesterday skating, I felt good this morning skating, so hopefully that will continue throughout the day.”
Should Malhotra slot in, he said simplicity will be his goal. He wants to keep his feet moving, get in on the forecheck and make smart decisions with the puck; essentially he Malhotra wants to control what he can, which won’t include the fan reaction to seeing him back for the first time.
“It’ll obviously be a very touching moment,” said Malhotra. “I realize how privileged I am to play in a market like Vancouver, we have incredible fans here and they’ve shown me nothing but support throughout this entire year.”
With his goal on Wednesday, Raffi Torres became the 9th player for the Canucks in this year’s playoffs to score a game-winning goal. In Game 1, the line of Torres, Maxim Lapierre and Jannik Hansen combined for ten shots and ten hits.
Roberto Luongo has won eight of his last ten starts in these playoffs. In that stretch, he has allowed two-or-fewer goals against seven times. He now has five career shutouts against the Bruins, the most of any team he has played against in the NHL.
Game 1 marked just the 5th time in 19 playoffs games this year where the line of Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, and Alex Burrows was held off the score sheet. Daniel is the only one of the trio to have ever scored a goal against the Bruins.
Boston is not expected to make any changes to their line-up tonight. Tim Thomas was outstanding in net in a losing cause Wednesday, stopping 33 shots. He has now played Vancouver four times, allowing a combined two goals against in those meetings.
The Bruins are coming off their second shutout loss of the playoffs. The only other time they were held off the scoreboard was in Game 1 of their first round series with the Montreal Canadiens (2-0).
Boston’s power play woes continued in Game 1, when they went 0-for-6 with the man advantage. In their last six games, Boston has scored only one goal on 20 combined power plays. When playing on the road in this year’s playoffs, the Bruins are 1-for-32 (3.1%).
If Boston is to head home with a split, they will likely need to get some offensive production from their regular season leaders who have been quiet lately. Milan Lucic, who led the club in the season with 30 goals and 36 assists, has just one goal in his last eight playoff games. Patrice Bergeron, who had 22 goals and 35 assists, has scored twice in his last 13 playoff games.