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…
As the 2011 Canucks try to become the first Canucks team since 1994 to go to the Stanley Cup finals, most members of that 1994 team are going to be having a reunion at the River Rock Casino on Monday.
What a game that was! The Canucks won game 2 by a score of 7-3 and looked like the powerhouse team that won the President’s Trophy during the regular season. That was the best the Canucks have played in the playoffs this year, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Their top three lines are all producing, and their defense is jumping into the play. Roberto Luongo is steady in between the pipes, and making the big save when he needs to (in both game 1 and 2, he made a key save in the third period while the Canucks were trailing or tied). And their defense, judged by many to be the best in the entire NHL, is looking like it. There’s still a long way to go, but they are firing on all cylinders right now.
With a 3-2 win in game 1, the Canucks are 7 wins away from their first Stanley Cup, but surprisingly it’s not all positive news the day after. There are more than a few misconceptions that are spewing from the mass media today. Maybe it’s because there’s a two day break, maybe it’s cause they’re bored. Maybe it’s something else.
Here are a few of the news stories making the rounds today:
Roberto Luongo is not known as a good puck handling goaltender. In fact, he has been known as a terrible puck handling goaltender. So naturally after giving up this goal in the first period of game 1, criticism flowed his way. Was it justified? Yes, but no.
Let me explain. Roberto Luongo is not a great puck handling goalie. But he rarely gives away the puck like he did in game 1. For the most part, he plays within his limits and makes the simple play. I’m willing to cut him a break, especially given the fact that he played exceptionally the rest of the game.
Luongo’s critics will find a way to rake him over the coals no matter what. When he had great numbers in front of bad teams, they said he hasn’t won anything yet. Then he won a gold medal, but they said he didn’t play that great. Now he’s a Vezina Trophy candidate on the President’s Trophy winning team in the conference finals and he STILL has doubters. He’ll need to continue his strong play, but lets not act like he’s played poorly.
If I hear that “Niemi just wins” one more time, I think I might puke. Saying that Niemi is just a winner is another way to say that he wins despite having average numbers. I think he plays well under pressure, but he has never been a world beater. You know why Antti Niemi has won so much in the playoffs? Because he’s played on excellent teams, that’s why. Niemi is a good goalie and he had a good game, but lets not get crazy here. Luongo is getting raked over the coals for his giveaway in game 1, but there’s been hardly a mention of Niemi’s giveaway.
Another big story has been about the Canucks taking dives. So is it true? I think it is to an extent. They’re not taking blatant dives, but they certainly are embellishing out there. The criticism is fair, but some members of the media are getting carried away.
John Lu of TSN did a whole story on it today, and even stated that the Canucks lead the league in diving this year. That’s very misleading, considering the fact that only Ryan Kesler and Maxim Lapierre received diving penalties this year. Kesler got one penalty for diving, and Lapierre got three (two of Lapierre’s three diving penalties came before he was acquired by the Canucks).
Are the Canucks diving? Yes. But they’re not drawing many penalties because of it. Ryan Kesler’s head snapped back on a high sticking penalty, but the stick hit him in the face. So they are diving, but it’s been exaggerated a lot.
The Sharks are also picking a convenient time to become sportsmanlike. Wasn’t it only a week ago that they were spraying Jimmie Howard with snow at every chance?
By the way, if the Sharks were diving and the Canucks were complaining about it, there’s no doubt in my mind that the eastern media would be calling Vancouver a bunch of whiners. Just saying…
The Real Story
The real story after game 1 is that the Canucks outplayed the Sharks, and won despite giving the Sharks a gift of a goal to make the game 1-0. They were grittier, faster, stronger… better. That’s not to say that they’ll walk away with this series, far from it. But in game 1, they were the better team, and they won. Luongo and Niemi played equally well, though Niemi had more work.
The other real story from game 3 was the fact that Daniel and Henrik Sedin bumped their slump. Funny how fast stats in small sample sizes change. Henrik Sedin now has 6 points in his last four games.
Canucks coach Vigneault defends Luongo’s play outside his crease
There’s a lot of talk about whether or not the Canucks are “Canada’s team” lately, given that they’re the last remaining Canadian team in the playoffs and the fact that a Canadian based team has not won the Stanley Cup since 1993. So are they Canada’s team? Do we care?
With their thrilling 3-2 game 7 victory over the Detroit Red Wings, the San Jose Sharks avoided a collapse of epic proportions and booked a ticket to Vancouver for the Western Conference final.
Sharks… Canucks… Get excited Vancouver!
It was a slow day in Canuckland today given that the team has been given their second day off without practicing and the fact that they won’t play game 1 of the conference finals until Sunday. That was, until Jason Botchford of the Province dropped this in the Twitter world:
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.