Saturday, June 11, 2011

Game Five Goes the Way of the Home Team, Canucks Lead

Of course, the biggest question going into Game Five of the Stanley Cup Finals was whether or not the Vancouver Canucks had the resolve to bring their game back into the series and give the Boston Bruins another taste of Western hospitality.  The answer was a resounding, "yes!"

Early on, there were many signs that the Canucks were not going to miss a beat from Game Two of their series, where the flow of the play was quite good at every point at the ice and the Canucks started to force the turnovers in the neutral zone, much like they did at the beginning of the series and the Bruins had done to them in Boston.  Both teams, for the most part, played really well, but Boston couldn't capitalize on three power plays in the 1st period, while not taking any penalties themselves, leaving the score at 0-0 after the opening frame.

The 2nd period was a little bit of the same, some great puck battles, good stops by both keepers, some shots wide and some whiffs, but overall a great period of hockey.  Both teams riding their own brand of confidence, the Bruins having two straight wins and the Canucks confidence was growing as the minutes went by in scoreless hockey.  The Bruins owned the shot totals in the 1st period, but the Canucks came right back in what had been their worst period in the series, taking the shot total contest back in the 2nd period, carrying the play a little bit more.

Some early back and forth skating in the 3rd period and it was the Canucks checking line that came out with some extra gusto, as Maxim Lapierre got an early chance on Tim Thomas, saved, puck went back to the point for a Kevin Bieksa wide shot/pass to Lapierre again, who bounced one off the gear of Thomas to give the Canucks the 1-0 lead.  Then for the most part, it was the Bruins trying to break through the Canucks defense to tie the game up, pulling Thomas with just under two minutes to go in the period, but they had fallen short with not enough shots on net, the Canucks pulled it out, 1-0, to lead the series 3-2, heading back to Boston for Monday night.

Roberto Luongo made 31 saves for his 4th shutout of these playoffs, he now has 38 points in the 2011 playoffs, leading his goalie rival at the other end, Thomas by 4 points with two games to go.  The only other point that counted in Game Five came from Bieksa, who had the shot/pass from the point, giving him 11 points in these playoffs.

Overall Standings
ImplicationsBefore I hit the overall standings, I just want to point out that since the favourite teams in both the West and the East conferences made it to the finals, we have set a record for most points scored in the playoff pool in the five years that this format has been done.  Tryst'n'Grant and the Langdon River Dogs each have 303 points through five games in the last series of the playoffs, far eclipsing the 283 points that were scored (also by two teams) in 2009.  With a couple of games possibly left and both leaders having the goaltending duel on their side, the record will grow even more.  All She Wrote, who sits in 3rd place, has also eclipsed the previous record, now sitting with 287 points.

Okay, so we know about the top three, what about the rest of the top five?  Well, since there were no Bruins goals in Game Five, there really was no change in the top five and since Henrik Sedin didn't figure into the only Canucks goal, that meant that Superstar is still safely situated in 5th place, holding onto the tie-breaker against Hollywoods Heroes.

The two teams that started the night in the top 10 without Luongo, seaherwet and Pucking Luck, took a big hit with the shutout, as they dropped down to 10th and 11th in the standings, respectively.  Jack_Bit_Gary, who also has Bieksa, jumped into the top 10 again and will be featured in Monday morning's Game Six preview.

The 17th place team of Send the Bill to Lord Stanley, now leads the pool in points in this series, claiming 28 points with all six players they have in the finals.  Flyers Fanatic #1 and #2 are at the bottom of the pool in this series, having 2 and 3 points, respectively.

Game-Winning Goals
New Playoffs Game Winner ButtonWith Maxim Lapierre scoring the winning (and only) goal in Game Five, that meant that another bonus point was so carelessly lost to the playoff pool on Friday night.  It was Lapierre's first game-winner of these playoffs and it couldn't have come at a better time for his club, who were in desperate need for a win.

A quick recap, David Krejci still leads all players in the playoff pool with 4 GWGs, while the 45th place team in the pool, The Kings Don't Pay Their Bills, still leads all teams with 18 GWGs through his team.  The pool leaders, Tryst'n'Grant and the Langdon River Dogs, have 15 and 17 winners, respectively.

Games Three and Four in this series have made it hard to believe that the Canucks will close this series out in Boston on Monday, but with the way they played in Game Five can be carried over to the road rink, then anything is certainly possible.  I, again, believe that as much as the goaltending duel has been front and centre in this series (why wouldn't it be, it's a Vezina showdown?), I truly believe that the defensive battle is what is carrying this series to the bitter end.  The shots against Luongo were kept to the outside again on Friday night, with little traffic and open lanes all night long, very similar to the Boston end against Thomas.  This has been the style of game that the Canucks have been winning with all playoffs and will need to continue to play, if they want to end it in their favour.

Game Six, Monday night, 6pm MT... be there or be square!

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