Haggerty: Canucks quickly skating away with series

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Haggerty: Canucks quickly skating away with series

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

VANCOUVER Game 2 was a learning experience. There were some elementary things that both the Bruins and the Canucks learned about themselves after the B's lost a 2-1 lead and fell 3-2 in overtime on Saturday:

Tim Thomas had a difficult night. The first and third goals he allowed were mistakes. Though he had two standout periods in the second and third, Game 2 was evidence that the Bruins cant win games against the Canucks if Thomas doesnt don an S on his chest.

Alex Burrows proved it is indeed possible in the NHL to bite a mans finger in one game, and then completely dominate the next with dazzling offensive playmaking. Burrows factored into all three Vancouver goals, set up the tying score and turned relentless hustle into the overtime game-winner. He also undoubtedly earned the nickname Alex Bleeping Burrows in Boston just in time for Games 3 and 4 at TD Garden starting Monday night.

Theres even the surprise that the Canucks once again displayed thumping physicality and rattled off a game-high 40 hits against a Bruins club that prides itself on intimidation and inflicting punishment.

Mark Recchi showed he can still score on the man advantage, recording his first power-play goal since the month of January.

But there is one undeniable fact thatll likely be etched on the headstone for this years Bruins if they finally succumb to the Canucks in the finals: Speed kills.

The Bruins can talk about mismanaging the puck, throwing possessions away in the neutral zone, and making bad decisions, but the blinding skating speed and the instant-attack instincts of the Canucks produce those kinds of maladies in otherwise excellent hockey teams like the Bruins.

Neutral zone turnovers and our puck management were problems, said Bruins coach Claude Julien. I thought on our breakouts we needed to move the puck a little better. Puck management and 'D'-to-'D' passes weren't crisp or on the tape. We bottled a lot of pucks in our own end tonight. That allowed Vancouvers fore-check to be efficient.

So those are the things that I keep talking about. We're basically repeating ourselves with a lot of those things that are happening because of those two reasons I feel is hurting us right now: puck management and decision-making.

Those two things harped on by Julien were also clearly byproducts of being rushed and harried by a relentless Canucks attack that kept coming at them in unmerciful waves.

The overtime game-winner was a perfect example of speed destroying the Bs at the worst possible time. Patrice Bergeron won the faceoff to start overtime, but somehow the Canucks still managed to score the gut-wrenching game-winner just 11 seconds into the extra session.

All it took was one careless Andrew Ference chip through the neutral zone intercepted by Alex Edler. It turned into a Burrows breakout going in the other direction after a nifty Daniel Sedin dish.

That was it.

Tim Thomas flopped aimlessly outside of the crease trying to cut off Burrows, and it was game over before the Bruins really even knew what had hit them.

Youve got to give Vancouver some credit, too, said Milan Lucic when asked what went wrong against the Canucks in the third period and overtime. Theyre a team that doesnt give up and they fight to the finish. Its a game of momentum swings and thats pretty much it.

Perhaps the biggest telltale sign that the Bruins are getting encircled by the blazingly fast Canucks is the Bruins' noticeable fatigue in the third period of the first two games.

All season the Bruins have been aces in the final 20 minutes of games and shown the ability to finish strongly against the opposition. But Bostons defensemen and forwards are so worn down by the frenetic pace of the Canucks that theyve been outscored 3-0 in the third period and overtime of the first two games of the series.

Its not just the scoreboard, though.

The Bruins were outshot 11-5 in the third period and dominated for the second straight game by Vancouver in the final 20 minutes of regulation. Rock-steady performers like Zdeno Chara and Andrew Ference are making mistakes at the ends of games, and nobody in Black and Gold has anything approaching a burst in the third period.

The Bs goaltender couldnt or wouldnt pinpoint exactly what happened, but he saw a big difference in his team during the final 20 minutes amid a swarm of Canucks.

I dont know, said Thomas. If I knew the answer Id try to keep it all the time. I know there was a noticeable difference between the second and third periods. But Im just a goalie. Im worried about doing my own job as best I can right now.

One glimmer of hope for the Bruins: The physical tenor of the series will eventually wear down and slow down a Canucks team that looks like its playing a fast-forward brand of hockey.

Johnny Boychuk buried Ryan Kesler with a hit in the corner early in the first period and the Vancouver center was a shadow of himself skating around for the rest of the night. Raffi Torres and Kevin Bieksa both limped off the ice at points during the game, and Dan Hamhuis is still missing in action after his ill-conceived hip check of Milan Lucic in Game 1.

Boston knows that their best chance is to keep pounding away at the Canucks with the hope that the collateral damage will slow them down over the course of a seven game series, forcing Vancouver into turnovers as the body check count rises.

But the Bruins actually have to win a few games and elongate the series before it becomes an endurance test.

Right now the Bs are flunking the speed test administered by Vancouver just as every other NHL team has fallen victim to their pace this season. Speed kills in hockey, and the Bruins are two games away from being dead if they dont do something about it.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Some clarification on why Bruins may opt for ATO with Charlie McAvoy rather than playing him in the NHL

Some clarification on why Bruins may opt for ATO with Charlie McAvoy rather than playing him in the NHL

The second BU’s season ended, Bruins fans were champing (it’s champing, not chomping; look it up) to get sophomore defenseman Charlie McAvoy to the NHL. 

So when word emerged from Bob McKenzie that it’s looking like McAvoy will join Providence on an amateur tryout, eyes rolled. Why not sign McAvoy to his three-year entry level contract, have him stay in Boston and get some NHL experience. After all, we hear over and over that as long as you don’t play 10 NHL games, a year doesn’t get burned. 

The answer is because that 10-game thing doesn’t apply to everyone. It applies when talking about teenagers who are coming from the CHL, which is when the issue most commonly pops up, a la Tyler Seguin in 2010-11. 

Yet much like it didn’t apply to Torey Krug when he signed with the Bruins in 2012, it doesn’t apply to McAvoy now. The reason some kids can play nine games and then go away without a year being burned is because their contract slides. Players who are 18 or 19 years old as of Sept. 15 of their signing year see their deal moved back a year as long as they don’t play 10 NHL games, including the playoffs. 

For players who are 19 as of Sept. 15 of the year they sign (not season) and turn 20 between Sept. 16 and Dec. 31, their contract does not slide. This is all explained neatly here. 

If you’ve fallen asleep by this point, wake up right quick. McAvoy is 19 and will turn 20 on Dec. 21. That means that if McAvoy and signs and plays an NHL game this season, one year will be burned off his entry-level deal, making him up for a new deal after the 2018-19 season rather than the 2019-20 season. Same goes for Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, who already is 20. 

The Bruins actually used this drawback to their advantage when they signed Krug. The B’s let the 20-year-old Krug play in an NHL game after he signed, which got him to restricted free agency a year earlier. The promise to play him and burn that year was likely a reason Krug chose to sign with the B’s as an undrafted free agent. 

So for now, yes, an ATO is the safe play for the Bruins if they want to maximize the value of McAvoy’s entry level deal. His NHL career might have to wait until the fall. 
 

Tuesday, March 28: 1,000 games for Sabres' Gionta

Tuesday, March 28: 1,000 games for Sabres' Gionta

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while forgetting that Nancy Kerrigan is on Dancing with the Stars.  

*Here’s the rundown on Brian Gionta celebrating his 1000th NHL game played with the Sabres on Monday night.

*Congrats to good guy Chad Johnson, who was appropriately given the “Good Guy Award” by the Calgary Flames media this week.

*Brock Boeser showed his abilities in a fantastic NHL debut after leaving the college ranks for the Canucks.

*I hope the fancy stats crowd is listening to this: The NHL playoff forecast is raining on the Corsi and fancy stats parade.

*Hope that Eddie Lack is okay after he had to be taken off the ice in a stretcher following a collision at the end of Carolina’s game.

*ESPN’s hockey crew breaks down some expansion mock drafts and have either Adam McQuaid, Jimmy Hayes or Malcolm Subban headed to the Vegas Golden Knights.

*The Benn brothers are gearing up for their first match-up against each other with the Canadiens and Stars set to meet.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jen Neale nails a Philly columnist for a hot take on USA Hockey and says the column illustrates just how much a change is needed there.

*The Winnipeg Jets have officially been eliminated from the playoffs, so now the Colorado Avalanche don’t have to feel so bad about themselves.

*For something completely different: One thing I’ve never wondered is what Tony Robbins thinks about politics.