Thursday, June 09, 2011

Canucks Video Day:

Watch Habs, Lightning

The Vancouver Canucks, the team we have entrusted to spare us from endless braying of the mindless Bruites, have been abysmal of late. It seems their goalie can't make a save and their envy-of-the-league offence can't crack the two-man crew Boston has assembled.

Before this gets too desperate and we need to call on the spirit of Kovalev to undo the black and gold yellow, some sage advice for the former Canadiens coach we all liked better anyway.

Get yourself some video of the Bruins playoff losses

The Canadiens will be more than happy to oblige, I'm sure, plus if you didn't know it's public access now, and you can probably afford the NHL Centre Ice package.

Tim Thomas must appear to be unbeatable right now, but he has weaknesses. Watch a Canadiens game (the Habs scored in every game despite lacking 6 good forwards), watch the Lightning play Tim Thomas to a pedestrian 0.916. Heck watch Toronto figure out the old man in their last three regular season meetings.

Tim Thomas thrives on first stops. First stops from lousy positions. His team ushers players to these places knowing that Tim will make the save. He's good at the rest too, but he has his dislikes:

1) Cross-ice passes

Because he flops rather than shifts across ice, he relies on percentages on cross ice rather than eyesight or other skill. The Canadiens worked the cross-ice pass to near-perfection when they figured it out, even getting a goal from the stingiest goalie in the final two minutes of a game that should have ended in regulation.

2) Low shots

Games 1 and 2 of the playoffs put Thomas's deficiencies into neon light for all to see. With the Habs low shots were rebounds. Always.

3) Patience on the PP

Thomas may be riding an astounding 0.936 for the playoffs, but he's not otherworldly when on the PK. His 0.877 there is Roberto Luongo/Corey Schneider level and behind such luminaries as Ray Emery and Brian Boucher. He's saved his team's bacon a few times, but when it's been PK time, often Boston took a loss. Still, a goal is not a given and patience can allow the team to wait for opportunities to exploit weaknesses 1) and 2).

Well this is easier said than done, isn't it? Because in order to get a cross-ice pass in, or take a good low shot, one has to first beat Chara.

But Chara has his weakness too, you know. Being punched being one of them, of course (good show Kesler).

A rational person might see 6'9" and come up with the idea that the only way to beat Chara is with someone who can match his size and physicality.

This is wrong. He is so much bigger than anything most teams can throw at him, and so conservative and efficient in movement that this actually plays into his hands.

Take the opposite approach. Go small. Small as can be. Cammalleri was the player of the first round despite Chara's protestations. Gionta gave Zdeno fits at times with hits to the knees. Who led the Lightning against Thomas in their series? St. Louis.

Obviously part of the advantage these players have on a guy like Chara is speed, and more importantly maneuverability. I am not so intimately aware of the Canucks line-up, but as long as you don't ask Higgins, find a shifty player to turn Chara inside out a few times, hit him low and bingo, the vast advantage he usually gives his team is diminished.

From there the Canucks can start to pick on judgment-sink and uber-hypocrite Andrew Ference and his band of journeymen.

I'm not saying this is a guaranteed recipe for success. But when one can't see the forest for the trees (or tree-sized skaters) then one sometimes has to be told obvious little things like these. Vancouver has been poor against the Bru9ins largely because they haven't adapted their game to reflect Bruins weakness. No time to waste in seeing that happens now.

Down the Bruins.

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