THN at the Stanley Cup: Bruins have to adjust game plan against Canucks in Boston

BOSTON – It’s unlikely there will be any major lineup changes for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final for either the Boston Bruins or Vancouver Canucks, but the Bruins acknowledge they’re going to have to change their approach if they hope to get back into the series.

Aside from coaxing more inspired performances out of some of their key players – yes, we mean you, Nathan Horton – the Bruins know they must make things far more difficult for the Canucks than they have so far. One way to do that would be to pressure the Canucks defense in their own end and not give them a free pass out of their own zone. That means the Bruins have to be much more aggressive on the forecheck and create turnovers, much the way the Canucks have done to them.

(To be fair, though, the Bruins don’t have the luxury of going after a player such as Tomas Kaberle, who seems spooked every time he sees a Canuck bearing down on him and bails out on the play.)

“I think we can do it,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “I think we have to. We certainly don’t feel like we’ve played to the level that we can. That has to improve. Better puck management, as you’ve heard me say now for three days in a row, is about putting pucks in the right place and creating that forecheck that we want to get. It’s also staying away from those turnovers. That’s a big part of the game.”

We might be in a minority on this one, but the Bruins would be well-advised to take Zdeno Chara away from the front of the net on the power play, for a couple of reasons. First, the Canucks have figured out it’s not worth expending all kinds of energy pushing him out of the way and have left him pretty much alone, with goalie Roberto Luongo looking around him instead of over him and being successful at it because he’s not being jostled around. Players can only create havoc in front of your net if you engage them physically. Second, Chara has one of the hardest shots in hockey and the boomer from the point is being wasted. When the Bruins did finally score on the power play in Game 2, it was on a Mark Recchi tip in front of the net off a point shot from…you guessed it, Chara.

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Not much has to change for the Canucks, even though you get the feeling they haven’t played their best hockey, either. But if they can continue to dominate third periods the way they have, they’ll be a threat in every game. One area where they could use a marked improvement is in the faceoff circle, where Henrik Sedin in particular is getting eaten alive by Patrice Bergeron. Henrik is just 12-for-38 in faceoff wins for a success rate of 31.6 percent, a large reason why the Canucks have won just 49 of 109 faceoffs in the series so far.

“The one guy who has been having issues in the faceoff circle is Hank,” said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. “All the other guys have been fairly close to their normal percentage. Hank’s aware of that. Manny (Malhotra) was good. So hopefully we’ll have Hank be a little bit better tonight. He takes a lot of draws in the other team’s end. Obviously, we’d like to start with the puck instead of chasing the puck in that end.”

One issue that won’t die, largely because the huge media contingent covering the event won’t let it, is the biting issue. Alex Burrows got away without punishment after supposedly biting Patrice Bergeron’s finger in Game 1. Then Maxim Lapierre tried to stick his finger into Bergeron’s mouth during a scrum in Game 2. When asked about it, Julien wisely managed to show a little gamesmanship without coming off sounding like a whiner. (Excellent veteran coaching move, by the way.)

“If it’s acceptable for them, then so be it,” Julien said. “Certainly it wouldn’t  be acceptable on our end of it. I think you know me enough to know that. The NHL rules on something. (The Canucks) decide to make a mockery of it, that’s totally up to them. If that’s their way of handling things, so be it. We can’t waste our time on that kind of stuff. We really have to focus on what we have to do. The last time I looked, we’re down two games to none and all our energy has to go toward that.”

Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to with his blog

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