Last season, the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks played in the
Stanley Cup finals. At the start of the 2012 calendar year, both teams looked
unstoppable in the regular season and both figured to be major power players in
the postseason – especially since both teams had top-two finishes in their
But here we are in the second round of the playoffs and
neither team made the cut. So, what went wrong?
Canucks can't blame Luongo this time
Last postseason, Roberto Luongo was the scapegoat. The
All-Star goaltender performed poorly in the postseason and was
judged to be the main difference between the Canucks winning the Stanley Cup
and going home sour. While many thought that would be the case once again in
the 2012 postseason – including head coach Alain Vigneault, who prepared backup
Cory Schneider by playing him more throughout the regular season – that never
turned out to be the case.
The Canucks faced the feeble Los Angeles Kings – the type
of team that never gives them problems in the playoffs – and in a low scoring
series, the Canucks couldn’t get their offense going. The Kings were built
similarly to teams like the Nashville Predators, whom the Canucks easily
disposed of in the playoffs last year: little scoring, good defense and
excellent goaltending. In series like this, the Canucks typically thrive, but
not in 2012.
Luongo did allow seven goals through Games 1 and 2 of the
playoffs, but he played far better than his numbers will indicate. Cory
Schneider came in for Game 3, but the Canucks still lost two of the final three
games of the series.
No, the problem wasn’t goaltending. In fact, it was
scoring, which is astounding to say for a team that finished with the most
goals scored in the Western Conference. The Canucks lone win was a 3-1 result
but in their other four losses, they managed just five goals. Leading goal
scorer Daniel Sedin missed the first three games with a concussion but he isn’t
the man to blame. Overall, the team just didn’t do enough offensively to win.
Some might point to the trade of Cody Hodgson and wonder
why the Canucks traded away such an aspiring young talent who really could have
given the Canucks frontlines a boost? That’s a question we’ll be left to ponder
as the Canucks could have really used him – especially with Sedin out of the
The truth for the Canucks is that they just had a bad
series. Let’s not forget that they’ve played a lot of hockey over the last
three seasons because of deep playoff runs; sometimes that can wear on a
team. That’s what it looked like as the Canucks weren’t sharp on special teams,
they were outworked by the Kings and just couldn’t get their offense going.
They also lost all three times on home ice, which is very uncharacteristic for
one of the best home teams in the NHL.
Make no mistake about it: this is still a Cup contending
team and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if they won the Presidents’ Trophy for a
third straight year. It finally looks like they’ll move goaltender Roberto
Luongo and, if they can find a good power forward that can provide leadership
and moxie in the playoffs, they’re likely to finally succeed where they fell
short the last couple of seasons.
Did injuries finally catch up with the Bruins?
The Boston Bruins had a really weird last couple of
seasons. Entering the 2011 postseason, they didn’t seem like an elite team but
they escaped three Game 7’s to go on and win the Stanley Cup. In the 2012
regular season, they had spells where they looked unbeatable and stretches
where they looked like a team that was a few bricks short of a load. They still
qualified as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference but, when faced with
another Game 7, this time fell short.
Like the Canucks, the Bruins returned their Cup-winning
team intact, so there are a lot of questions as to why the Bruins could barely
compete with the seemingly hapless Washington Capitals? Did the 2011 team
simply have a magical run, and the 2012 ran out of fairy dust? Or were the
problems much deeper than that?
For starters, just like in Vancouver, fingers
are being pointed at a veteran goaltender: Tim Thomas. Last season's Conn
Smythe-Trophy winning goaltendersimply wasn’t himself in the
second half of the regular season and the playoffs. While he shined with a 2.00
GAA in the 2010-11 regular season, something happened midway through the
2011-12 season – maybe his decision not to visit the White House with the rest
of his teammates, which caused a big off-ice distraction, had an impact on him.
Thomas posted a 2.64 GAA with a .903 save percentage
following the All-Star break, which is not what we’re used to seeing from him.
In the playoffs, he gave up just two goals through the first two games but then
allowed 14 in the final five (2.8 goals per game with a .907 save percentage).
Considering Thomas posted a 1.98 GAA and a .940 save percentage during the Cup
run, the dip in numbers clearly hurt the team.
And while the Bruins – like the Canucks – will weigh the
merits of trading away their veteran goalie, they’ll also plan to bolster their
Although the Bruins won’t make excuses, it’s fairly clear
that concussions have cost the franchise dearly over the last couple of seasons.
They’ve managed to adjust to life without Marc Savard, who was a key
difference-maker, but losing Nathan Horton also hurt the team. Had both been in
the lineup, it’s hard to imagine Boston losing but we clearly can’t deal with
‘ifs’ or ‘maybes’.
The Bruins clearly need a little more offense up front as
they made 22-year-old rookie netminder Braden Holtby look like an All-Star.
They scored just 15 goals in the series while scoring one goal or less four
times. That’s not good enough.
the Canucks, they’ll look to bolster their front lines and it might come at the
expense of 38-year-old Thomas, whose no-trade clause won’t be in effect this
summer. We’ll see if they take the route of the Canucks and move the man that
helped them become great in hopes of returning reinforcements to make another
run in the 2012-13 season.