You’ll notice that the title of this blog entry does not end with a question mark. That’s because I know what went wrong in game 3 for the Canucks. Here’s what it was:
1. PENALTIES! It’s obvious of course, but you’re not going to win many games when you’re in the penalty box all night. Some of the penalties were undeserved, but a lot of them were well deserved. Stay out of the box and you’ve got a fighting change.
2. The penalty KILL! Also obvious I’m sure, but the Canucks need to get better on the penalty kill. Sure, the Sharks have a good power play, but not this good. Part of the blame goes to Luongo, but he hasn’t been terrible. The Canucks must find a way to stop the Sharks before they enter their zone. Because when they do that and get set up, they’re hard to stop.
3. The 5-on-3 power plays. The Canucks had two opportunities 5-on-3, one was 1:24 long, the other was 29 seconds. They didn’t score on either chance. Antti Niemi was partially responsible for that, he was great, but the Canucks aren’t playing it right. To start, Alain Vigneault was playing 4 forwards and 1 defenceman for both two man advantages. The problem with that? None of the forwards have a dangerous slap shot from the point. In my opinion, every great 5-on-3 power play is set-up with two potential one-timers from the point that scare the dickens out of the other team. Ryan Kesler and Henrik and Daniel Sedin don’t fit that bill. Sami Salo, Alex Edler and to a less extent, Kevin Bieksa, do. If they do that and start with a couple of heavy one timers from the point (and when I say one timers, these need to be side-to-side one timers, not down low/high one timers), then that will stretch the penalty killers and open things up for the Sedins down low. Seems simple to me.
4. Injuries on defense. Part of the reason the Canucks power play wasn’t great 5-on-3 was because Christian Ehrhoff wasn’t on them. He was injured early in the game, and won’t play in game 4. That’s huge loss for the team and they’ll need to find a way to replace him. That’ll likely be Sami Salo, but I think they might be well served to use Kevin Bieksa. Bieksa is a little quicker and a little craftier than the slower Salo. Aaron Rome was also injured, so look for Andrew Alberts and Keith Ballard to return to the lineup.
5. Desperation. The desperation level of the Sharks outmatched the Canucks. That shouldn’t really cause concern, because it’s hard (or impossible) to fabricate desperation. The Sharks needed the game a lot more than Vancouver did, and it showed. The Canucks were unable to weather the storm early, and that ultimately cost them the game. If the Canucks can weather the storm in game 4, they’ll be set up to do a lot better.
And now a little song to cheer you up in advance of game 4…