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Cullen: Burrows takes charge; Habs-Bruins going seven

Scott Cullen
4/27/2011 8:03:25 AM
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An epic series ends in Vancouver, the Habs take the Bruins to Game Seven and the Flyers chase Ryan Miller in the clincher.

VANCOUVER-CHICAGO
Alex Burrows was the Game Seven overtime hero in what will go down as one of the great (first-round, if you must) playoff games of all time.

With the recent history between these two teams, there was so much hype, so much drama coming into the game that it, somehow, shockingly exceeded expectations.

As an aside, it was really interesting seeing how many NHL players on Twitter were commenting on the Blackhawks-Canucks game; it was obviously an eagerly-anticipated game, even for those on the inside. 

Burrows scored the first goal of the game on a great setup by Ryan Kesler, just 2:43 into the first period. 

Even though he hadn't scored a goal in the series, Kesler was a force all over the rink in Game Seven and his matchup with Jonathan Toews was a virtual saw-off throughout the series.

Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford was sensational in defeat, stopping 36 of 38 Canucks shots.  He thwarted a Burrows penalty shot early in the third period and had a sequence of three consecutive saves, the last of which came off the stick of Kesler, with just over five minutes left that kept the Blackhawks' season alive.

Crawford's heroics allowed Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews to come up with a spectacular shorthanded goal to tie the game with 1:51 left in the third period.  It was Toews' first goal of the series but, with the season on the line, it was a great example of responding under pressure.

In overtime, Burrows was in danger of wearing the goat horns, as he took an early penalty, but Roberto Luongo came up with a big save on Patrick Sharp to keep Vancouver alive and, ultimately, setting the stage for Burrows to score the winner after intercepting a failed clearing attempt by Chris Campoli.

Burrows erupted in the final two games of the series, scoring three goals and adding two assists; yes, the Canucks totaled five goals in those two games.  Burrows also had seven shots on goal in Game Seven, after managing nine shots on goal total in the first six games of the series.

Blackhawks centre Dave Bolland didn't find the scoresheet in Game Seven, but he might have been an early leader in the Conn Smythe race had the Blackhawks emerged from the first round; starting with Game Four, Bolland's presence changed the entire complexion of the series.

The rest of Chicago's big guns had their moments, though Patrick Kane managed just one goal, but it was players further down the depth chart going above and beyond expectations that kept the Blackhawks in the series.

Michael Frolik had a miserable regular season, but had five points and was plus-3 against Vancouver.  Rookie Ben Smith tallied three goals, including the Game Six OT winner.  Bryan Bickell had four points in five games, then couldn't play in Game Seven after undergoing surgery for a lacerated tendon in his wrist.

Bolland's line, which often included Frolik and Bickell, shut down Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin, limiting the twins to a combined three points and a minus-13 rating over the last four games of the series. 

If the Canucks are going to move beyond the second round, they'll surely need more from their top regular season scorers, and that goes for Kesler as well.

Roberto Luongo also got to shed some demons by beating the Blackhawks.  It may not mean much if Vancouver doesn't build on this and go on a long playoff run, but Luongo's 31-save performance should silence the critics that suggested he couldn't win under pressure.

Finally, in my NHL Power Rankings, I had ranked Chicago higher than anyone else online (that I saw) at the end of the regular season, at number six, and their performance in this series only solidified my belief in that ranking.  An OT loss in Game Seven, on the road at everybody's top-ranked team more than justified their placement.

BOSTON-MONTREAL
Montreal scored two power play goals and that proved to be enough to fight again another day, which will be Wednesday in Boston for Game Seven.

Mike Cammalleri had a goal and an assist for the Canadiens, setting up shop in the right faceoff circle on the power play, giving him nine points -- good enough to be tied for the playoff lead -- through the first six games of the series. 

Carey Price was impressive again in the Montreal net, stopping 31 of 32 shots.  The goal he did allow was a softy to Dennis Seidenberg, but Price came up with big saves the rest of the way to preserve the victory.

The Habs' second power play marker came during a five-minute power play as a result of Bruins winger Milan Lucic getting tossed out for boarding Canadiens defenceman Jaroslav Spacek.  Lucic has but one assist, and no goals, in the series, so the five-minute penalty was likely more punitive than losing his presence for the rest of the game.

Rich Peverley had an assist and five shots on goal, to lead the Bruins, while playing 18:01, which ranked third among Boston forwards.

There is no time to rest of reflect on this game, however, as the deciding game is set for Wednesday.  It's been a goaltending duel throughout the series, with a grand total of 27 goals scored through six games (4.5 per game).  Does the first team to score two take Game Seven?

PHILADELPHIA-BUFFALO
With Brian Boucher back between the pipes, the Flyers took control early, outshooting Buffalo 16-2 in the first period, taking a 1-0 lead and minimizing the impact goaltending could have on Philadelphia's fate.

Philadelphia then went 2-for-2 on second period power plays to open the game up, taking a 3-0 lead into the third.

When Ville Leino scored at 1:59 of the third, that was all she wrote for Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, who was pulled.  Not sure how astronomical the odds would have been against Miller being pulled before Boucher in Game Seven but, it was an unlikely result to be sure.

What wasn't so unexpected was big-game performances from Danny Briere and Claude Giroux, who each had two points, giving Giroux nine points and Briere seven for the series.

Flyers defenceman Kimmo Timonen finished the series with a plus-9 rating.

Chris Pronger had an assist in 17:27, his first significant action of the playoffs, and led the Flyers with five blocked shots.  He's still limited by his broken hand, but can obviously help the team win.

Sabres centre Derek Roy returned and played for the first time since before Christmas, playing 20:01, but was minus-2 on the night.

Defenceman Marc-Andre Gragnani was the Sabres' leading scorer in the first round, with seven points.

Thomas Vanek led the Sabres with five goals, but with four coming on the power play, he also ended up with a team-worst minus-7.

Drew Stafford was one of Buffalo's most dangerous forwards during the regular season, but only scored one goal and three points in the series. 

The most glaring no-show in the first round for Buffalo, though, would be Brad Boyes, who had 14 points in 21 regular season games to help the Sabres' playoff push, but was then held off the scoresheet entirely until he potted a meaningless goal with 4:39 remaining and the Sabres down 5-1 in Game Seven.

Going into the series, if the Sabres knew that they would have a shot in Game Seven, they would have had to like their chances with Miller going up against whomever the Flyers decided to roll out, but it just didn't work out that way and the Flyers will move on to the second round.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




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