VANCOUVER — Thirteen shots on net is a pretty decent haul for a line of three players, but even Bruins center David Krejci admits that some of those shots in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final were on the power play and some weren’t from prime scoring areas.
The Bruins’ top line of Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton is going to have to change that Saturday night in Game 2 if Boston’s going to have any chance of bouncing back after Wednesday’s Game 1 loss.
Most of the night, the speedier but lighter Vancouver trio of Selke Trophy finalist Ryan Kesler centering Mason Raymond and Christopher Higgins was assigned to clamp down on Krejci’s line.
“That top line, they’re three big guys, especially Milan,” said Raymond today after the Canucks and Bruins practiced at the University of British Columbia. “He’s a big fella, he can throw his weight around. But I feel all three of us think we can hold our own and do the job that we need to do. You don’t have to lay a guy out, but you get good positioning on him.”
In six of Boston’s seven losses this postseason, the first line has been shutout. The top trio has combined for 29 points in the Bruins’ 12 victories and just seven points in those seven defeats. If ever there was a straw that stirs the Bruins’ drink, it’s that first line. That’s why the Canucks put their shutdown trio — which has gone head to head with the likes of lines centered by Joe Thornton and Jonathan Toews in earlier rounds — against Krejci’s line, and why Krejci’s line has to battle through and get some points on the board.
“Obviously we still go out there and play good defense. I think that’s what we did,” said Krejci. “But we’d like to create more scoring chances. We’re the top line, so we’re expected to score goals, you know? So hopefully we do that next game.”
Rather than just hoping, Krejci and his linemates have to do it. They have to put their weight advantage to use along the walls and in the corners and get up in goaltender Roberto Luongo’s grill as often as possible.
“It’s been the same since the first series. I mean, you look at where most of our goals are scored. It’s in front of the net, getting in those dirty areas, getting those rebounds and fighting for pucks,” said Lucic. “Their defense does a really good job of battling with whoever’s in front of net.
“Our guys go to the net. For us, we got to get there, create a screen. Like I said, we got to find those loose pucks, work hard, bear down once we get those opportunities.”
It’s not likely going to get any easier for the Bruins top trio. If they up their game, however, Vancouver’s shutdown threesome sounds like it’ll be ready.
“We did a pretty good job. They’re three talented players,” said Higgins. “They’re big guys on the wing there that are more skilled than you think they are. And you’ve got a slick playmaker that’s got some really good hands, really good vision. And they seem to have good chemistry together. So it’s a big challenge to play against them. We expect them to get better and better with each game in this series. And we’re going to have to elevate our play to match them.”