We’re now through four games of the Stanley Cup final and the Vancouver Canucks have scored precisely five goals on Bruins netminder Tim Thomas. Of those five goals, only four of them were meaningful (the late goal in game 3 was scored in garbage time). Everyone is blaming Luongo right now (and there is validity to that blame), but they are not going to win this series unless they can score more goals. So this begs the question: how do the Canucks solve Tim Thomas?
Get more traffic in front of Thomas
This is the obvious answer, and the answer that is used whenever a team is struggling to score goals, but it’s true. Go to the net, bother him, get tip-in tries.
Don’t be so picky
Tim Thomas is a great reactionary goaltender, so the tendency is to try to overpass the puck, trying to get Thomas caught out of his net. While this is a good strategy, it’s only a good strategy to a point. Thomas gives up rebounds. If you throw enough to the net, you are bound to get a favourable bounce and that will result in a goal. Just like Daniel Sedin’s goal in game 2.
Game 5 will almost surely have better ice than we saw in game 3 and 4. Hot and humid conditions in Boston caused the puck to look like a tennis ball out there, bouncing off of sticks all over the place. While the conditions were the same for both teams, I feel like bad ice favours the Bruins. The Canucks are much more of a puck possession team, while the Bruins are a chip and chase team. Bobbling pucks gave the Bruins even more chances to physically punish the Canucks defense. Better ice will allow the Canucks to move the puck with more purpose, giving the puck to their talented forwards with speed through the neutral zone. Better ice will also allow the Canucks to move the puck better on the power play, important given how much pressure the Bruins are placing on them.
Play Your Stars
I think everyone was in agreement that it was a good thing when Manny Malhotra returned to the lineup because Alain Vigneault could play his fourth line more consistently. And he has. The problem with that is that it’s taking ice time away from their top three lines. But now it’s crunch time. The big guns for the Canucks need to play, and play a lot. I would like to see the Sedins and Kesler playing over 20 minutes next game.
Tim Thomas looks unbeatable right now, and so do the Bruins. But the truth of the matter is, Thomas is beatable. He has been beaten before, and the Canucks can get to him. If they can ever find a way to get a lead in game 5, look out.