Vancouver Canucks Beat Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins At Their Own Game

VANCOUVER, BC - JUNE 01: Milan Lucic #17 of the Boston Bruins gets flipped after being check by Dan Hamhuis #2 of the Vancouver Canucks during game one of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Rogers Arena on June 1, 2011 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final played right into the Boston Bruins' style -- which means the Vancouver Canucks' last-minute win is all the more dangerous to Boston's Cup hopes.

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final went pretty much the way the Vancouver Canucks wanted it to go. Ok, maybe they would have preferred a 4-0 buzzsaw through the Boston Bruins, but as series openers go, this was more than just a "win is a win" victory.

Vancouver's biggest concern going into Game 1 had to be the combination of Boston's noted stingy defense and Tim Thomas' acrobatics. That, combined with the potential rust from an eight-day layoff, and it was as unideal a situation as a Presidents' Trophy-winning team could want.

Any little bits of momentum seemed to get stifled by Boston's defense. And when the Canucks did break through, Thomas proved once again that his acrobatics were indeed Vezina-worthy.

But as the dust settled, the Bruins made a mistake just about, oh, half-a-minute too early. And what looked like it'd be the perfect steal of Game 1 -- a low-scoring game with Thomas performing admirably -- disintegrated right before Claude Julien's eyes.

Here's the thing: on paper, the Canucks are the more-talented, faster, and just plain better team from top to bottom. Boston has its strengths and its system, and you could argue that Thomas is a better goalie than Luongo, but the package as it stands is far stronger dressed up in blue and green. By starting out somewhat against the eight-ball, it made sense that the Canucks wouldn't see a high-flying game like they did against the San Jose Sharks.

Instead, Boston's goal was to bring the game down to a sludge-like pace, similar to Vancouver's series against the Nashville Predators. That strategy doesn't always work against Vancouver, but when it does, it does give the lesser-skilled team a chance to win. And Tim Thomas, as good as he is, can't play at his peak for absolutely every game.

That's why Game 1's win slid right into what the Canucks wanted to achieve. They knew that Boston would have at least one game in this series where it devolved into Claude Julien's pace, and yet that game has now fallen to Vancouver. They knew that Tim Thomas had all the ability in the world to steal a game, and yet that game has now fallen to Vancouver. They knew that the long layoff would accentuate any sort of slow start to the game, and yet that game has now fallen to Vancouver.

It's not quite dodging bullets, but it's understanding that at some point, the game would flow to fit Boston's style of play. As it stands, Boston did just about everything they wanted to do for an opening game on the road, and it wasn't enough.

Can Boston keep controlling the pace like this? Most likely not; in fact, I'm betting that a more in-the-groove Canucks team comes out flying against the Bruins at full throttle.

When Vancouver plays their game, they'll win most of the time. When they engage in a battle like this, it's a 50/50 proposition -- the Predators series shows this to be true. With one win under their belt, the proverbial slumbering giant is about to awaken.

In other words, Boston better hope that Thomas has an even better Game 2.

The Stanley Cup Finals are ongoing, as the Vancouver Canucks battle the Boston BruinsStick with this StoryStream for full coverage of Game 1. For coverage on the Finals, stick with our Stanley Cup Finals hub, our Canucks blog, Nucks Misconduct, and our Bruins blog, Stanley Cup of Chowder.

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