Carrie Underwood. That is all.
It wasn’t a picture perfect win, but it was a win nonetheless Monday night at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The Canucks limited the Predators chances, en route to a gritty 2-1 win.
Usually I’m not a big fan of sitting on a one goal lead for long periods of time, but if there ever was a time to do it, it was game 6 in Nashville. The ice surface was so poor that it was very difficult to make complete passes and hold pucks in the offensive zone. The puck looked like a bouncy ball out there, hopping and skipping around all over the place.
I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Henrik Sedin has 1 goal (an empty netter) in his last 18 games. Daniel Sedin has not scored since the Chicago series. Their plus-minus is a combined -14 in the postseason. Mason Raymond has zero goals.
There are a lot of uneasy stats making Canucks fans queezy right now, and they are a little concerning. But remember stats can be misleading. For one, Henrik Sedin has only 1 goal in his last 18 games, but he often has stretches of 10+ games without a goal. You know why? Because he is a playmaker. When he’s not getting assists, that’s when alarm bells will go off for me.
You know what else is misleading? Plus-minus in small sample sizes. The Sedins have been a victim of this lately. Is it their fault that Alex Edler has been playing like he’s drunk in this series? He’s coughed the puck up more than a few times resulting in goals. And combining their plus-minus is just plain stupid. If they’re on for two goals in a game, they’re “a combined -4″. Sounds impressive but it’s misleading.
These aren’t great stat lines, but things can change very quickly. Remember when Ryan Kesler had 0 goals in the playoffs? Where was the offense from this 40 goal scorer people wondered. Kesler had no goals in 9 playoff games, that was 6 days ago. Now he’s tied for the league lead in points.
What about Roberto Luongo? Remember his save percentage and goals against average after game 5 and 6 versus Chicago? All of a sudden, if you take a look at Luongo’s stats (2.35 GAA, .914 SV% and 2 shutouts) they’re pretty good.
My point is not to suggest that the Sedins are doing great, clearly they’re not. I thought Daniel and Henrik had some great shifts in game 5, but ultimately they didn’t produce. But all of that can change in an instant. If Daniel Sedin scores 2 goals in game 6, he will move into a tie for first in league goal scoring.
The Canucks lost game 5 because of a few bad breakdowns. If they tidy that up, they should win. Every game in this series has been so tight, that just one bad bounce can decide the hockey game. If they play hard and smart, they should earn their bounces and the stats will follow.
Mikael Samuelsson injured himself in game 5 and didn’t take the trip to Nashville. That means he’s not close to returning, and could mean it’s a very serious injury. I would be very surprised if he’s not out longer than a week at minimum. That means that either Victor Oreskovich or Jeff Tambellini are likely to take his place. Personally, I would like to see Jeff Tambellini inserted into the lineup. Tamby hasn’t played a playoff game yet, and I think he would be thrive given the chance. He would be so pumped up to play, he would play like he was shot out of a canon. He’s gritty enough, and they could use a fourth line goal.
It’s a cliché, but it’s true: your best players need to be your best players. That’s exactly what is carrying the Canucks right now, as they lead the Nashville Predators 3-1 and are one win away from advancing to the conference finals for the first time since 1994.
Ryan Kesler is an absolute stud right now. His goal in game 4 might well be the goal of the playoffs. Up until game 3, everyone was in agreement that he was playing superb hockey, but just wasn’t scoring. Well, with 6 points in his last two games, including two game winning goals, I think it’s safe to say he’s now producing. He’s a Conn Smythe trophy favourite right now.
Everyone’s talking about Ryan Kesler right now, and so they should. But you know who else is producing? Robert Luongo. It was only 10 days ago when half the city believed that he didn’t deserve to start in game 7 versus Chicago, but I bet he has a lot more believers now. So far in this series Luongo is 3-1 with a 1.26 GAA and a .949 SV%. His numbers are absolutely sparkling, yet he isn’t getting the credit he deserves.
Much has been made about the struggles of the Sedins, but I think it has been overblown. They have played against two of the top defensive pairings the NHL has to offer over the last two series. Despite this, Daniel Sedin is 11th in playoff scoring. With three points last night, Henrik is now only one point back of his brother (by the way, we predicted that he would break out before last game). The Sedins can play better, but they’re doing enough right now.
There’s no doubt the Predators are stumbling right now, but there’s lots of series left. If you’ve been a fan of the Vancouver Canucks as long as I have, you know that a series isn’t over until it’s over. Check that, if you’ve been a Canucks fan for the last two weeks, you know that a series isn’t over until it’s over! Regardless, I have a lot of confidence that the Canucks can finish the job, and if they do it will be no small feat in club history. The Canucks haven’t made it to the conference finals in 17 years, and have only done it twice ever. They get a chance to do it one more time on Saturday night.
Ok, before I upset the hockey gods again, let me first state that this series isn’t over. It’s not even close to over.
Ok, with that out of the way, the Canucks need to keep their momentum going and not let up on the Nashville Predators. The Canucks looked dominant in game 3, yet needed a borderline penalty call in overtime to beat these plucky Preds. There’s very little margin of error when you play Nashville, which is why focus must be at an all-time high.
Head coach Alain Vigneault tipped his hand on a few key adjustments at practice designed to improve the Canucks chances for a victory in game 3. Scoring two goals in 8 periods of hockey will tend to lend itself to that.
As we told you yesterday, the Nashville Predators have complained about the Canucks famed ‘Green Men’ and the NHL has taken action to curtail some of their actions. Most notably they won’t be allowed to touch the glass next to the penalty box.
It was revealed during the second intermission of yesterday’s Canucks game on Hockey Night in Canada that the NHL has told the Green Men to knock off some of their antics beside the opposition penalty box. Apparently they’ve been told to not touch the glass. What’s worse is that Glenn Healy agrees with them!
We’re now two games into the Predators-Canucks series and it’s become clear that goal scoring will be at a premium. Both teams have combined to score 2 goals each in 8 periods of hockey. A series for the ages? Not likely…
So where has all the goal scoring gone? Well, in game 1 it was the Nashville Predators who failed to show up and rode the coattails of Pekka Rinne to keep them in the game. In game 2, it was the Canucks’ turn to fail to show up through 60 minutes, putting up a pathetic 15 shots on goal. Meanwhile, Roberto Luongo stood on his head for 59 minutes, before letting in a stinker from behind the net.
One of the great things about this year’s Canucks has been the way the players have absorbed each other’s best qualities. Malhotra’s faceoff skill, Ballard’s hip checks, Sedin body positioning, and Bieksa’s tenacious yet positionally sound defence have been picked up by the entire team.
The stud in the shared skills stable though is certainly Kesler’s sizzling every-inch-matters brand of intense puck pursuit. In game 1, the Sedins back checked and won pucks, Higgins was aggressive at both ends of the rink and even twinkle toed Mason Raymond has turned into a fore checking menace!
If there was anyone who needed an injection of Kesler-tensity it was game-winning Yale-preppy Christopher Higgins whose 3rd line (w/ Hansen & Lapierre) will have to consistently punish Nashville’s lesser defencemen if the Canucks are to win the series.
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