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

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

This probably won’t come as a complete shock to those watching the way things have played out with him this season, but the Bruins have engaged in discussions with multiple teams about a Ryan Spooner trade, per multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. 

The 23-year-old Spooner was mentioned casually a few months ago as possible fodder in a Jacob Trouba deal with the Winnipeg Jets, but that deal never really materialized prior to the Jets signing their young, frontline D-man to a two-year deal. The Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and San Jose Sharks have all expressed interest in Spooner, per one hockey source, as it appears that things simply aren’t going to work out for him in Boston. 

It’s been a challenging year for Spooner with pedestrian numbers of three goals and eight points in 24 games, but there are plenty of mitigating circumstances behind the slow start. Spooner has been pushed into playing left wing for the bulk of the season rather than his natural, preferred center position, and he’s been dropped to the fourth line by Claude Julien over the last few weeks. At times he’s also been pulled from the Bruins power play where he racked up six goals and 17 points working off the half-wall last season.  

Julien talked about the former second round pick in frank terms after this week’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes, which featured a Spooner snipe to the top corner during a successful shootout for the Black and Gold. 

“I think at times that [David Krejci] line goes quiet, other times it’s better. We’ve tried different guys on the left side right now and one [Spooner] might give them speed but doesn’t win as many battles,” said Julien of his search for stability at left wing alongside Krejci and David Backes. “The other way [with Tim Schaller] guys are a little harder right now, and they spend more time in the O-zone. So we’re really trying hard to find the right balance there.”

Trade talks have increased the past few weeks because A) the situation has worsened recently with Spooner’s prolonged stint as a miscast fourth line winger and B) the speedy, skilled forward will most likely be a man without a spot when 22-year-old left winger Frank Vatrano returns sometime around the mid-December range. 

According to one source, the Bruins are asking for a “top six forward” in exchange for a package including Spooner, and it’s a lead pipe certainty they’re looking for some goal-scoring given their 24th ranked offense this season. That represents a bit of an organizational sea change after the Bruins searched low and high for a top-4 defenseman in trade over the summer. The emergence of 20-year-old Brandon Carlo, and the Boston defense’s performance across the board, has lowered the Black and Gold’s priority list need to trade for a D-man. 

The Bruins have scored two goals or fewer in 18 of their 25 games this season and badly need somebody that can put the puck in the net from one of the wing positions. Unfortunately for the Bruins, there aren’t a lot of top-6 forwards readily available that could make an immediate impact. It’s highly doubtful any team is going to fork one over for an asset like Spooner that’s been downgraded due to the way he’s been utilized by the Bruins this season. He hasn't played with the same creativity or confidence this season after posting 13 goals and 49 points as their third line center last season. 

So it remains to be seen what the Bruins will get for Spooner after they offered him and a draft pick to Buffalo for rental forward Chris Stewart a couple of years ago. That was a deal Sabres GM Tim Murray turned down before trading Stewart for considerably less at the trade deadline.

The bottom line: the Bruins are working the phones discussing possible Spooner deals, and it feels like there is some motivation from B’s management to move a player that doesn’t seem like he'll ever be a proper fit in Julien’s system. 

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling at the Bruins setting a franchise record this season for fewest practices in a regular season. Thanks compacted schedule due to the World Cup!

*Pavel Zacha is adjusting to life as a rookie in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils, and things are getting better as they go along.

*Manitoba Moose players relive their favorite Star Wars moments prior to the team holding their Star Wars Night.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Friedman sits down with new Florida Panthers head coach Tom Rowe to discuss the massive changes in that organization with the firing of Gerard Gallant.

*Good for Anders Nilson putting a rainbow decal on the back of his goalie to mask to support some gay friends that have faced public resistance in their lives.

*Bruce Garrioch has his weekly NHL notes with several players, including Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald, potentially on the trade block if anybody wants them.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson suffering a broken leg that will keep him out 6-8 weeks.

*There was no blood for the Vancouver Canucks fans, but there was still plenty of drama in a win over the Maple Leafs.

*For something completely different: The World Baseball Classic works for everybody except for Major League Baseball, and that would appear to be a problem.