Best of ThreePosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
One of hockey’s venerable playoff truths is: “you’re never in trouble until you lose at home.” Neither the Vancouver Canucks nor the Boston Bruins have lost on home ice in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, effectively shrinking the set to a best-of-three with the Canucks holding the home ice advantage. Things looked grim for Boston at the beginning of the week. They headed home having lost two close games on the road, and in a 2-0 hole in the series. But they had yet to play at home. In Monday’s Game 3, Boston first-liner Nathan Horton was victimized by a late Aaron Rome open ice hit at the attacking blueline in the first period. That hit knocked Horton from the game and the series – he has a severe concussion – and removed Rome from the series as well when he earned a four-game suspension. Boston misfired on the resulting five-minute power play, and it went into the second period of Game 3 all even at 0-0. But Boston defenseman Andrew Ference scored just 11 seconds into the second frame, opening up a 12-pack of tallies that the Bruins unleashed on beleaguered Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo over the next four periods of hockey. In those four periods, Luongo surrendered a dozen goals on just 51 shots on net. That computes to a 9.00 GAA and a .765 save pct. for the Vancouver goalkeeper, a 2010-11 Vezina Trophy finalist. At the other end of the ice, veteran Boston netminder Tim Thomas – also a Vezin a finalist – has now allowed five goals in his last five games, and just one tally in his last two contests. To win the Cup, Boston will have to win at least once on enemy ice. If the B’s can manage that achievement in Friday’s Game 5 at Vancouver, you have to like their chances of closing it out at home on Monday in Game 6. Thomas is 9-1 in his last 10 games at home this spring, and he’s given up just two goals in his last four games on the Boston sheet. Naturally, talk of which netminder the Canucks should start in goal began even before the final horn sounded in Boston’s Game 4 win. To me, there’s really no question. As badly as the Bruins have battered Luongo in the last two games, the Canucks are still in the driver’s seat here and they still own home ice advantage. That’s not insignificant. Luongo has pitched three Game 1 shutouts on home ice in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, and he forged a .937 home save pct. at GM Place during the 2010-11 regular season. He wobbled a bit midway through the Canucks’ first-round series, even yielding the net to backup Cory Schneider in a surprising Game 6 switch. Luongo is 9-3 at home during the 2011 playoffs, and he has allowed two or fewer goals in eight of those dozen games. He’s got to get the net again for Game 5. As ugly as the last two losses were for Vancouver, they were merely losses and they didn’t count for any more or less than Boston’s two close shave setbacks in British Columbia. Neither team has lost on home ice yet, so neither team is in trouble. Yet.
Although goaltender Olie Kolzig was property of both Tampa Bay and Toronto in the days after his playing career ended here in the District, Kolzig will always be thought of and remembered as a Capital. Today, the 41-year-old Kolzig begins a new career as the Capitals’ associate goaltender coach.