2011 NHL Stanley Cup Finals Game 4 - Boston 4, Vancouver 0 – Series tied, 2-2
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Someone tell the Vancouver Canucks that the Chicago Blackhawks are not in the Stanley Cup finals. After four games of the NHL’s championship series, it seems as though the first round of these 2011 playoffs is unfolding all over again, albeit with some slight differences in details.
Put an emphasis on the word “slight.” In the big picture, the parallels between this series and the first-round battle between Vancouver and Chicago are too overwhelming to ignore. The Boston Bruins are doing an uncanny job of playing the role filled by Chicago almost two full months ago.
Let’s simply recap the story, a narrative that is well known by now: In the first round of the postseason, Vancouver dominated Chicago until the Canucks’ Raffi Torres crushed Chicago’s Brent Seabrook on a cheap shot that fired up the reeling Blackhawks. Chicago bombed the Canucks in the two games after the hit, 7-2 and 5-0. The Hawks came within one goal of turning a 3-0 series deficit into an outright series win. Vancouver’s excessively rough play inspired Chicago instead of leading the Blackhawks to lose any measure of willpower. The Canucks angered an opponent instead of putting it to sleep.
These dynamics are unfolding all over again for Vancouver in its clash with Boston.
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You know about Game 3. Aaron Rome of Vancouver cheap-shotted the Bruins’ Nathan Horton all the way to a Boston hospital. After that hit in the first period of Game 3, the Bruins crushed the Canucks by an 8-1 score over the final two periods of that contest. Entering Game 4 on Wednesday, everyone in the hockey community wondered if Game 3 was going to be an aberration, a blip on the screen, or the start of something substantial. Was Game 3 going to be the exception in a quick, tidy five-game series, or was it going to swing the momentum to Boston in a sustained manner?
Clearly, the answer came down hard on the backs of the beaten Canucks: This series, once 2-0 in Vancouver’s favor, is now dead-even, with Boston owning all the momentum heading into Game 5 on Friday in Canada.
The bottom line in this game was very much the same as Game 3: Boston goalie Tim Thomas – probably the leader in the race for the Conn Smythe Trophy, win or lose – played brilliantly and aggressively, while Vancouver netminder Roberto Luongo, as was the case in the Chicago series’ middle games, simply did not show up. Luongo whiffed in his attempt to catch Michael Ryder’s slapshot midway through the second period, as Boston grabbed a 2-0 lead and began to pull away. Just over two minutes after Ryder’s goal, Luongo utterly failed in an attempt to cover up the puck on a scrum near his net, and Boston’s Brad Marchand chipped the biscuit into the basket. Vancouver’s goalie looked utterly lost on that play, and he was equally clueless on Rich Peverley’s second goal of the game in the opening minutes of the third period. That last goal of the game, just 3:39 into the period, was an ugly score caused by Peverley’s mad dash toward the net, but it wouldn’t have occurred if Luongo had stood firm on the play. Luongo’s lack of confidence was manifested in the fact that he bailed out and flinched in an expectation of impending contact. That contact never really came, but Luongo’s glove hand didn’t come close to covering the puck. Peverley nudged it over the goal line, and with the game out of hand, Luongo got pulled by coach Alain Vigneault in favor of teammate Cory Schneider. The four-goal rout was on, and when Thomas held onto the shutout despite a four-minute double-minor penalty at the end of regulation, the Bruins were able to remain in the Canucks’ heads on the long upcoming flight to Vancouver.
It’s a brand new series, a series that feels like Chicago-Vancouver more than six weeks after the fact. We’ll see if Vancouver can close the sale just as it did against the Blackhawks, or if Boston can continue to surge and steal the Stanley Cup away from Canada yet again.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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