Defense has been taking care of twins
So which came first — the smothering defense or the explosive offense?
It doesn’t matter much to Bruins fans, because their team has turned a desperate situation into a daring dash for the Stanley Cup. The Bruins picked off the Vancouver Canucks, 4-0, last night in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden, their second straight demolition of the regular season’s best team, to knot the best-of-seven series at two. Game 5 is tomorrow night in Vancouver.
The Bruins’ premier defensive shutdown duo of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, backed by the indefatigable Tim Thomas in goal, kept the Canucks and their magical Sedin twins off the scoreboard, out of the shooting lanes, and grumbling into their gloves in frustration.
The Bruins chased starting goalie Robert Luongo (for Cory Schneider) early in the third period after four goals, and they looked calm doing it.
“We’re scoring more goals than we expected but in the same sense, we’re working hard for them,’’ said Daniel Paille, perhaps the fleetest forward on the Bruins’ penalty-killing unit, “and trying to maintain that for next game is going to be huge for us.’’
Seidenberg led the team with 25 minutes and 48 seconds of ice time, followed by Chara, who wedged in 24:44 and took 12 minutes of penalties (roughing and a 10-minute misconduct at 18:09 of the third).
“I thought that as a whole team, we played really tight defensively and we made some strong plays,’’ Chara said. “And that’s what you need obviously, to have everybody contributing. We tried to make some strong plays and winning the races and battles. And we did a pretty [good] job.’’
Once again, the vaunted Vancouver power play was shut down by the Bruins, going 0 for 6 for a series total of 1 for 22. The Bruins’ penalty kill is 71 for 85 in the postseason (83.5 percent).
Thomas accounts for much of that defense; he made 38 saves to get the shutout, while the Bruins took 29 shots and scored on four. The Bruins are 11-4 in the playoffs when outshot.
“It’s puck battles, we just pressure them,’’ Seidenberg said. “It doesn’t change when we go on the PK; it’s about taking time and space away and making it tough on them.’’
Seidenberg said Thomas’s extraordinary play pumped confidence into the defense.
“It’s great to have such a warrior in the back there,’’ Seidenberg said. “He defends his crease and it’s awesome. I can’t say enough about him. As a team we played really solid towards the end. We had great gaps on them and they didn’t get much again.’’
The Bruins were playing mix-and-match with their lines in the absence of Nathan Horton (concussion), but every line came out hitting hard.
“That was our goal, to start where we left off last game [an 8-1 victory],’’ said Seidenberg, “to stay physical throughout the whole game, to keep finishing our hits.’’
After two periods, the Canucks’ top line was definitely less than the sum of its parts: Henrik Sedin had two shots and Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows were shut out.
Henrik Sedin finished with his two, Daniel also got two, and Burrows had three. But none was able to figure out how to get to Thomas.
The Bruins got to the Canucks by challenging them physically, bumping into them at every turn, knocking them over and over. In the final minutes of the game, Burrows and Thomas were trying so hard to occupy the same space in front of the Bruins goal that they resorted to cross-checks and slashes and a shove or two.
“They haven’t backed down,’’ Paille said. “They’ve matched every hit, they’ve been just as physical, I think. For us, it’s paying off and we’re getting those chances off those hits to create some plays.’’
The Bruins’ best defense was their refusal to react to the Canucks, who often tried to dump the puck into the Bruins zone and make them chase it.
“They try and make us turn,’’ said Seidenberg, “and we try and get the puck out [of the zone] as quick as possible, support each other, and make clean, crisp passes, which is not always possible. But if it’s a turnover we just have to battle as hard as possible and we’ve been doing a good job of it.’’
Canucks defenseman Keith Ballard, in the lineup to replace the suspended Aaron Rome, summed up Vancouver’s situation.
“It was a tough game,’’ he said.