Last minute win
By Laura Chambers
The Vancouver Canucks opened the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night, claiming their fourth Game 1 victory of the post-season. The Canucks beat the Bruins on home ice at Rogers Arena with a score of 1-0.
“The focus has been trying to put our best game on the ice from the first game, get everybody settled in,” said defenseman Sami Salo.
During the 2010.11 regular season, Vancouver met Boston only once on February 26th, dropping the game 3-1. Head coach Alain Vigneault said it took time for his group to adapt to the unfamiliar Bruins.
“I think what happened in last night’s game, Boston came at us a little more aggressive than what we had seen on video,” Vigneault explained. “I think once we adapted towards the end of the second period, we were able to go a little bit quicker north/south. We got some good rush chances.”
The quick study of the Canucks paid off just in time. Raffi Torres redirected a pass from Jannik Hansen to score the only goal of the game with only 18.5 seconds left in regulation.
“I thought we were going to play all night the way it was going,” said Robert Luongo, who stopped 36 shots to record his third shutout of the playoffs.
The Canucks goaltender had his work cut out for him, dealing with Zdeno Chara on his doorstep much of the night.
“Obviously when you have such a big body like that in front of net, there’s no sense in getting in a pushing match,” Vigneault said about the towering 6-foot-9 Bruin. “[Luongo] can’t look over top of him because he’s so tall. He’s got to look around him. That’s what he did last night and he found the pucks.”
With concerts taking place at Rogers Arena, the Canucks moved their practice to UBC on Thursday. Twelve players skated, of whom only Jeff Tambellini, Victor Oreskovich and Alex Bolduc played the night before.
The Canucks will face off against the Bruins for Game 2 on Saturday at Rogers Arena at 5:00pm PST.
“We know Saturday is a big game for us,” said captain Henrik Sedin. “If we can play like we did yesterday, I think we have a good chance of being up 2-0.”
Third line heroes
Last summer, Raffi Torres was looking for a job. Now he is the lone scorer of the Stanley Cup Final.
Torres and his linemates are a force to be reckoned with this post-season.
“It’s obviously big when we can get three lines going or four,” said third line winger, Jannik Hansen, who has two goals and seven points in the playoffs. “It makes it harder for whoever we’re playing to contain us. If we get contributions from every guy in the lineup, we’re pretty good.”
Hansen received the puck from Ryan Kesler just inside the Bruins’ blueline as the seconds ticked down in the final period of Game 1. He sent a cross-ice pass to Torres who buried it behind a sprawling Tim Thomas for the win.
“[Hansen] and Raffi are working hard every game,” said Maxim Lapierre of his wingers. “They’re smart players on the ice. They’re always in good position. It makes my job way easier.”
Torres is the only player on the Canucks roster who has experience in the Cup Final. After playing on five different teams, he is proving his worth with the Canucks.
“We knew we were getting a very motivated player,” said Coach V. “We know Raffi sometimes plays a little bit outside the box, but you’ve got to let him go to his strengths.”
Last night’s tally marked Torres’ third goal of the playoffs.
Ready on D
The defensive depth of the Canucks was tested throughout the regular season and the playoffs have been no different.
“We’ve used, I think, 13 or 14 defense this year,” said Coach V. “Obviously you prefer not to have injuries…we’ve just dealt with them. We’ve done the same thing in the playoffs.”
The Canucks may have a new injury to their blueline to contend with. Dan Hamhuis left the game early in the second period after dealing an impressive hip check to Milan Lucic. Vigneault and his team played the rest of the game with just five defensemen.
The club did not provide an update on Hamhuis, but Vigneault says the Smithers native is day-to-day. Should Hamhuis be unavailable to play on Saturday, Keith Ballard could potentially get the nod.
Ballard has sat for more than half of the playoffs, but knows the importance of staying on top of his game.
“If you get into the series, it doesn’t matter if it’s Game 1 you’re starting it or you get in late in the series, you have to be ready to go,” Ballard said following practice on Thursday. “You keep going on and on in the series and the games just get bigger so it’s unfair to your teammates and everybody else if you’re not ready to go.”
Whoever suits up for Game 2, coach Vigneault has faith in his defensive corps.
“If we need somebody to play minutes, I’m confident they’ll be able to step in and do a real good job for us.”