Boston @ Vancouver, Game 2 Preview

The puck drops shortly, but I wanted to write a little something about a couple of things to watch for in tonight’s Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals.

My previous post following Game 1 pretty much sums up my feeling about the early parts of this series, but there is something that I would suggest to each team to further its effort to win Saturday’s big one.

For the Bruins, please stop pretending that just being 6’9″ tall makes Zdeno Chara a regular Tomas Holmstrom.  He’s not.  Don Cherry talked about this on Coaches’ Corner in Game 1, but Chara’s form in front of the net is awful.  He does absolutely nothing to screen Roberto Luongo, but instead jumps out of the way of shots whilst trying to tip them all.  For one, he’s not used to tipping pucks in front of the net, you know, because he plays defense.  Two, the guy has won the hardest shot competition multiple times, so why take that aspect of his game away on every power play?  I hope for the Bruins’ sakes that they give up on this ill-concocted scheme and get back to playing the kind of hockey that got them here.  That kind of hockey starts with Chara and Dennis Seidenberg on the blue line, not fidgeting around like a pee wee team with a few supreme players that dominate at every position.  Hell, if we’re playing pee wee style, why not use backup goalie Tuukka Rask as a forward on the power play?  You know, because your best players can play every position at the highest level…

For Vancouver, I don’t have suggestions so much as questions.  It appears that center Manny Malhotra is finally ready to come back, which should be a huge boost for the Canucks in the faceoff circle.  Malhotra typically is right there with Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews amongst the league leaders in faceoffs won.  Additionally, Malhotra should only add to Vancouver’s defensive prowess, and I wouldn’t be surprised if his addition results in the Canucks outshooting the Bruins tonight, unlike in Game 1.

The second question mark for the Canucks revolves around stud defenseman Dan Hamhuis.  He is being reported as a game-time decision, but it appears that Vancouver is making plans to play Game 2 without him.  There are a few options for the Canucks, but the obvious one is the $4.2 million healthy scratch, Keith Ballard.  It’s been certainly a down year for Ballard, his first with the Canucks, but the guy sounds like a player who is dying to get another chance.  Here is a good article on Ballard by The Hockey Writers.  Obviously, the Canucks have a great back end no matter who fills the void left by Hamhuis’ injury.  But Keith Ballard is the only one that has proven, known upside from the last time he’s been seen for the squad.

The rest of the Canucks’ top four, Bieksa, Edler and Ehrhoff, are good enough to step up and play a few extra minutes each as well.  Sami Salo and Aaron Rome have been playing as the team’s third pair of defensemen, and now it will be interesting to see if one of them gets moved up, or if that spot on the top four gets filled by Ballard.  One would have to assume the idea of rotating lines in-game is a possibility, but if I had to guess I would say the minutes will shake out on the bottom of Vancouver’s D according to the way the refs call the game.  Salo plays a lot of special teams, while Rome usually plays his hockey at even strength.  Vancouver is probably going to want an opportunity to use a lot of Salo, because the Canucks need to get that power play back up and running after Game 1’s doughnut on six opportunities.  Either way, I would advocate using Bieksa, Ehrhoff, Edler, Rome, Salo and Ballard.

*** I am now finding out that the 6th D man will be Andrew Alberts, and not Ballard. ***

Tonight’s Game 2 between Boston and Vancouver is on NBC, CBC and RDS live at 8 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. PT in the United States.  I hope you all enjoy it.
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