Commentary

Will Game 1 come back to haunt B's?

Updated: June 2, 2011, 4:30 AM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- If this Stanley Cup finals series follows the path that history suggests it will and the Vancouver Canucks go on to win their first championship, the Boston Bruins will spend a long summer thinking about the one that got away from them.

If the Bruins do end up having to watch the Canucks hoist the franchise's first Stanley Cup, they will be haunted by Game 1 and the many moments when it seemed Wednesday was going to be their night instead.

They will think long and hard about the six more failed power-play opportunities, including a long 5-on-3 chance.

They will think about the 36 shots they pounded at Vancouver netminder Roberto Luongo, none of which found the back of the net.

They will think about the stellar 33-save performance turned in by their own Vezina Trophy nominee, Tim Thomas, which ultimately went for naught.

[+] EnlargeBoston Bruins bench
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireThe Bruins' power play struggled again in Game 1, going 0-for-6 against the Canucks.

They will think about the six Vancouver power plays they killed off in a losing effort.

And they will wonder over and over about the goal by low-scoring winger Raffi Torres with 18.5 seconds left in the third period that gave the Canucks a 1-0 victory in Game 1.

"Yeah, this one was really close," David Krejci said. "We went into the series to win at least one out of the first two and we were really close. We talked about it here [in the dressing room] after the second, and we were really close to stealing the first one and go from there. It was a tough one.

"Just a tough break, you know," said the Bruins' leading playoff scorer, who looked more than a little gun shy in his first Stanley Cup finals game.

In fact, all of the Bruins' top line -- Krejci, hometown boy Milan Lucic and Game 7 scoring hero Nathan Horton -- looked more than a little out of sorts in Game 1. They will have to be significantly better in Game 2 if the Bruins are going to back up their assurances that this is going to be a long, hard series.

"It's only Game 1. It's a seven-game series. We didn't expect to win four straight. It's going to be battle," said Michael Ryder, who has failed to score in four straight games. "They have a good team over there. We did a lot of good things tonight. We just have to make sure we come out next game, we come out hard and make sure we leave here with one win."

The Bruins have been down this road before, of course.

They dropped the first two games of the opening round against Montreal and bounced back to win Game 7 in overtime. They dropped the first game of the Eastern Conference finals against Tampa Bay and won that series in seven games, as well.

But the Vancouver Canucks are an entirely different animal. The league's best regular-season team has consistently found ways to win this spring. Game 1 was just another chapter in what is looking more and more like a story with a fairytale ending.

That's what has to be disheartening on some level for the Bruins -- that they dodged a bullet in Game 1 by killing off all six Vancouver power plays, including a 5-on-3 on which the Canucks self-destructed by taking a penalty of their own. That's not going to happen every night because the Canucks' power play is simply too potent.

And the Bruins aren't going to be able to keep the Sedin twins at bay the entire series.

Did they let one slip away?

"Yeah, I think we played a real good road game, to be honest with you. To be in the situation we were after two periods, I didn't mind it, especially against this hockey club," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "It got away from us, but we still got an opportunity here in the next game to hopefully get that one and kind of get the home-ice advantage."

After a rocky start during which Thomas made a handful of brilliant saves, the Bruins found their legs and pressured the Canucks and forced Luongo to be sharp. The Bruins also were the benefactors of some careless play by the Canucks, who handed the Bruins an early four-minute power play when Daniel Sedin cut Zdeno Chara with a high stick. The Bruins, bedeviled with the man advantage all spring, moved the puck smartly and had a number of good chances but couldn't convert.

Then, early in the second period with Alex Burrows off for an extra minor penalty after allegedly gobbling one of Patrice Bergeron's fingers, Kevin Bieksa was called for high sticking to give the Bruins a 5-on-3 for 1:32. Mark Recchi had a glorious chance at the side of the net, but the Bruins again came up empty.

They were 0-for-6 on the night and now are a miserable 5-for-67 with the man advantage this spring. They have scored one measly power-play goal on the road.

"I think our power play was better tonight than it had been in a while. We spent a lot of time, we had some shots, had some opportunities, had some chances," Julien said. "We didn't score. Obviously when your power play isn't doing well, people are going to criticize because you didn't score. But I think the same thing happened on the other side. As long as we're able to stay on even terms with them when it comes to special teams, we're OK with that."

Really?

It boggles the mind that the Bruins have actually managed to reach their first Stanley Cup finals since 1990 with this sorry excuse for a power play. But there is no chance the Bruins will win their first Cup since 1972 if they continue to squander chances as they did Wednesday night.

"We've got to use those [power plays] to our advantage and score on one of those. We didn't do it tonight," said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who, along with defense partner Chara, played more minutes than any other player on either team.

Since 1939 when the NHL went to a best-of-seven format, the Game 1 winner has gone on to win the Cup in 55 of 71 times. Those stats mean something only if the Bruins cannot put aside the notion they somehow let a glorious opportunity slip through their fingers.

"I thought it was a pretty even game, and to lose it with just a few seconds left was tough," Bergeron said. "It is about making sure we're ready for the next one and just turning the page."

One has to wonder whether that will be easier said than done.

Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com.