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.