2011 NHL Stanley Cup Finals Game 3 - Boston 8, Vancouver 1 – Canucks lead series, 2-1
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There’s really just one question to be asked after a Monday night massacre in Game 3 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals: Have the Vancouver Canucks unwittingly revived the specter of the Chicago Blackhawks? Maybe this game was just a cruel tease for Bostonians and New Englanders, but there’s legitimate reason to believe that this series has taken a noteworthy turn.
Why are the Chicago Blackhawks – Vancouver’s foremost nemesis and the team that came within one (overtime) goal of stunning the Canucks in these playoffs – a part of the conversation after Boston’s seven-goal rout in Game 3? It’s really rather simple. The Canucks foolishly took out an opposing team’s player, giving the other side ample motivation to dig out of a very deep ditch.
Entering Game 3, the Bruins were in big trouble. They had actually competed quite well, only to come up short in the final 20 seconds of regulation (Game 1) and in the first 20 seconds of overtime (Game 2). Boston owned a 2-1 lead in the third period of Game 2 on Saturday but suffered due to faulty puckhandling and a chronic inability to clear its own zone when it had the chance. Silly mistakes – including the mad scramble that led to Vancouver’s overtime winner just 11 seconds into the fourth period of Game 2 – buried the Bruins more than anything else. The mountain of a 2-0 series deficit felt especially hard to climb. Having scored a total of just two goals in two games, Boston needed something, anything, to light a fire on offense. Vancouver’s size and depth were likely to prevent the Bruins from getting off the deck.
Then it happened.
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In the first period, Vancouver’s Aaron Rome went headhunting and leveled Boston’s Nathan Horton with a blind shot away from the puck. Naturally, Horton didn’t expect to be crushed in open ice away from the play, so he fell severely without being prepared for impact. Horton had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher and transported to a nearby hospital.
His Boston teammates took notice, to say the very least. This, however, is where the Chicago connection emerges.
Vancouver was dusting off the Blackhawks, three games to none, in the first round of this year’s postseason. The Canucks were in cruise control, and the impotent Hawks had no answers for them. Then, however, Vancouver’s Raffi Torres decked Chicago’s Brent Seabrook in another plain cheap shot that roused and angered the Blackhawks to a man. Game 4 turned into a 7-2 Chicago rout, and Game 5 became a 5-0 Blackhawk laugher as well. When Chicago dug out an overtime win in Game 6, the series was tied at three games apiece. Only a ballsy goal by Alex Burrows in overtime of Game 7 saved Vancouver from an historic collapse. The larger moral of the story, though, was obvious: Don’t give a beaten team any reason to get off the deck. Vancouver fueled Chicago; it filled Boston’s tank on Monday night.
After the first period concluded with a scoreless tie, Boston roared out of the locker room with the anger you’d expect from a team that just saw one of its brothers get cheap-shotted all the way to a hospital room. However, no one anticipated that the Bruins – a defense-first team – would be able to score with such stunning frequency. Four second-period goals and four third-period goals formed a Boston steamroller that sent a very pronounced message to the Canucks. It’s game on in the Cup finals, and the Eastern Conference champions might have found the same source of inspiration that Vancouver gave to Chicago two months ago.
Game 4 will now prove to be a very pivotal moment in the life of this series. Lord Stanley could very well land in the lap of the team that seizes the moment on Wednesday in New England.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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