Big, bad B's must ground flying Canucks
Two games in. Two games down.
After more than 120 minutes of heart-pounding jubilation and inevitable frustration on ice, the Vancouver Canucks hold a 2-0 lead over the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals.
As a Bostonian and Bruins fan all my life, it brings pleasure and pain to watch my beloved B's take the ice. When young guns such as Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic (let alone scarcely played Tyler Seguin) are picking pockets, defending the zone, and making their opponents' lives miserable, the Bruins are a blast to watch. But when Boston fails to score on its historically bad power play (with the exception of Game 2, thank God), fails to make the right shift changes and consistently resists starting an all-out, gloves-off fight with a pesky Canuck, it's hard to swallow.
Yet, without a flinch in my body, I still gobble up every single minute of pregame, postgame and on-ice action I can. I mean, hell, I love the guys.
Let's start with Game 1, now deemed in the Riley household as "The Biting Game."
As the first period came to a close, a scrum ensued involving Bergeron and Vancouver's Alex Burrows. With gloves in each others' faces, it was only a matter of time before a referee would break it up. But out of nowhere, resorting to some childish second-grade schoolyard routine, Burrows chomps down on Bergeron's outstretched finger but would only get a double-minor for roughing.
An onslaught of pressure was unexpectedly put on Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo. That four-minute power play (two minutes of which included a five-on-three) for the Bruins at the beginning of the second period was extremely valuable. But with our luck, Luongo stood on his head as shot after shot came hurling his way.
I know Bruins fans all over the nation are still in pain after having to watch that debacle (and seemingly miscalled offside penalty) of the last 18 seconds. Our guys played their hearts out. And advertised as a true underdog, to fall short by one goal -- in that way -- really hurts.
The events play out as follows: no penalty. Game 1 goes to Vancouver. No league suspension. Game 2: Burrows has two goals, one assist.
That makes me sick.
However, there was truth to be told from that Game 1 performance -- the B's can skate with these guys.
A star-studded lineup featuring Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Burrows provides the Canucks with fast-skating athletes all over the ice. If you let them wind up at their own blue line and get up speed in center ice, they'll blow by the best defensemen in the league. And that's exactly what they did, putting pressure on Boston goalie Tim Thomas all night.
But even with some of the Bruins' glaring weaknesses and Vancouver's advantages, Game 1 was absolutely in hand.
Game 2 had a completely different script. Choppy play resulted in a back-and-forth match that concluded tragically. Hyped for an exciting playoff overtime battle with the score knotted at 2-2, I found myself emphatically turning off the TV 11 seconds later as Thomas spun out of control and (of all people) Burrows wrapped the puck into the net. That was a series-changing 11 seconds.
Yet even with the biting incident, the gut-wrenching late goal by the red-bearded Raffi Torres, the Burrows goals in Game 2, and all the agony in between, it's pretty special to see my Bruins playing into June.
This is something we haven't done since 1990.
As I grew up watching the Orr-Esposito juggernaut in the late '60s and early '70s, I kind of got spoiled. Just like I did with the NBA's Celtics.
I think it's safe to say I was pretty bare-bone on expecting anything from the Patriots, or any luck from the Red Sox.
But our expectations got the best of us B's fans as we got real close with the Neely-Bourque crew. However, they ran into the Gretzky-Messier bulldozer. We've been competitive nearly every season, but Lord Stanley's cup has remained out of reach.
It's up to Game 3 to see if this Bruins team has the guts, the will and the tenacity to go out and get back into this series. There's no questioning the talent on this club.
Thomas, as Barry Melrose would say, is out of his mind. Zdeno Chara is a force to be reckoned with. And the aforementioned young stars consistently provide this squad with tempo and controlled chaos.
A few changes must be made heading back to Boston for this Bruins crew. Namely, Seguin must play more minutes. In the first two games, he's logged a little more than 15 minutes combined.
With his passing and setup abilities, young legs and unlimited potential, Seguin needs to be utilized more. You never know, we might see this kid blossom before our eyes in this series -- a true coming-out party.
Also, someone needs to lay out one of these flying Canucks. Be it an Andrew Ference and Torres fight or a devastating Chara hip check, something needs to happen to ignite these B's and, in Game 3 especially, take the crowd to a whole 'nother level.
And please raise your hand if Maxim Lapierre's finger-taunting act in the third period of Game 2 didn't get under your skin. Like Rex Ryan's pregame comments about the Patriots under your skin. Like Aaron Boone reruns on ESPN under your skin. I think you get the point.
If Game 3 in the Garden proves to be anything like I expect, then this Canucks team has another thing comin'. We just need more action from Seguin, a (hopefully goalie) fight or two, a limit on turnovers and another solid Thomas performance and we'll be back in the series.
But if for any reason that doesn't happen, and the Sedin twins go for five goals combined, get ready to pull out your 2004 lucky Sox hat and let's all meet at the Common for a candlelight vigil.
Drummer Steve Riley of W.A.S.P. and L.A. Guns is a native of Revere, Mass. He's been a featured guest on numerous sports talk radio shows and sports TV programming.
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