In a 4-0 hockey game, the biggest highlights are usually goals -- a bad turnover creates a nifty chance, a booming slap shot gets redirected in front of the net, clever power play passing sets up a beautiful goal, etc.
While there were certainly plenty of offensive highlights in the Boston Bruins' 4-0 Stanley Cup Finals Game 4 victory over the Vancouver Canucks, one of the biggest ones came on a Boston power play, but not when the Black and Gold were on the attack.
With Boston leading by three and the puck at their blue line, Mason Raymond got Andrew Ference to cheat up and slipped the puck between his legs, giving himself a break into the zone without anyone between he and Tim Thomas.
That was when Michael Ryder showed up.
Ryder, who's played well all series long but has been especially remarkable in Games 3 and 4, came in on the backcheck, forced Raymond to the outside from behind and promptly poke-checked the puck away from him.
"I just tried to get back and lift his stick," said Ryder of the play, which to most observers, wasn't much compared to his second-period goal that gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead. "There was a loose puck at the blue line and I knew they had a great opportunity and I just tried to do what I could (to break it up)."
Break it up he did, and Rich Peverley would go on to tally later in the period, increasing the difference to four. That would be the final goal on a night when the Bruins defense continued to succeed in pushing Vancouver to the outside, killing penalties and relying on Tim Thomas to rein in any stray Vancouver pucks.
Reign in, as well. Thirty-eight Vancouver shots got to Thomas, and 38 Vancouver shots were stopped before reaching the goal line. It was Thomas' fourth career playoff shutout, and his third this postseason. The Boston defense blocked another 15 shots to protect Thomas from having to work too hard, but even when the responsibility came to him, he handled it like a Bruin.
Which isn't to say that he handled it gracefully or with valor; after numerous Canucks had taken chops at the knob of his stick on power plays early in the game, Alexandre Burrows tried to cross-check Thomas' twig out of his hands late in the game with the Canucks on a four-minute power play. Burrows was successful for a moment, but paid dearly for his attempt when Thomas regained his stick and used it to slash at the Vancouver agitator's ankles, nearly debilitating him.
"(It was) 6-on-4, we were up 4-0, the game was getting down toward the end," said Thomas of the slash after the game."I thought I'd give him a little love tap and let him know, I know what you're doing, but I'm not going to let you do it forever."
Thomas was assessed a slashing penalty on the play, but the penalties evened out when Burrows took a cross-checking penalty for his retaliation to the hit. Ryan Kesler and Zdeno Chara started to go at it, and both were handed ten-minute misconducts for their efforts.
It didn't matter. Vancouver's once unstoppable power play has become notoriously non-existent in this series, finishing the night 0-for-6, tumbling to an abysmal 1-for-22 in the series.
"We try to push them as far to the sides as possible, keep the puck on the boards and battle them as hard as possible," said Dennis Seidenberg, who blocked two shots on the night to increase his team-leading total to 66 in 22 playoff games.
"He's so positive, he's in such a good mood all the time. He makes everyone around him feel better about themselves," Thornton continued regarding his fallen teammate, lost to a season-ending concussion in Game 3. That game was a rout, and game four teetered on the brink of becoming another one.
In games like that, defensive plays -- no matter how big or small -- can be easily overlooked. But they can also take on a life of their own, like Ryder's play -- little more than helping out a teammate, but in doing so, taking away a possible momentum-builder and making a statement that even when one man falls, the rest won't make it easy.
"At any time in the game, it's important," Thomas said after the game. "That's what's given us success over the last couple games, is guys putting in that effort, doing the tough work that doesn't necessarily lead to goals right away, but are necessary for us to win.
"Every play like that throughout the game, when you add them all up, they become so important."
The Stanley Cup Finals are ongoing, as the Vancouver Canucks battle the Boston Bruins. Stick with this StoryStream for full coverage of Game 4. 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.