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.
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 do lend itself to that.
The Vancouver Canucks will play tonight’s game in Nashville without Alex Edler, Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts and, as we found out this morning, Kevin Bieksa. That’s 5 of their top 7 defencemen out of the lineup. To make matters worse, minor leaguer Lee Sweatt broke his foot in practice. Even the Manitoba Moose have injury troubles on the blueline, with Nolan Baumgartner suffering an injury last week. He might have been one of the recent call-ups.
One of the most exciting days on the NHL calendar is just around the corner. That day is trade deadline day, and it’s less than two weeks away. We have already gotten a taste of deadline day in recent days, with the Leafs and Senators beginning to offload players.
Well, we’ve all had a chance to take a deep breath, sit back and really think about the year that was for our beloved Vancouver Canucks. Gone is the emotion/heartbreak/disappointment/anger from their second straight second round loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. What’s left is a better chance for impartial analysis as to what they did, what they have and what they should do.
The better team won. Face it. I have heard lots of whispers from the Canucks players and from fans that somehow the Hawks aren’t the better team, which boggles my mind. They were the better team during the last two regular seasons, they were the better team the last two playoffs. Sure there were some mitigating factors. Willie Mitchell’s injury sure hurt. Playing game 6 with a less than 100% Sami Salo and losing Alex Edler made things difficult. Lots of the Canucks forwards were banged up. Injuries ARE excuses, legitimate excuses. Injuries don’t mean you automatically lose, but they make things more difficult. These injuries meant that the Canucks had to be extra good, seeing as how they were underdogs to begin with. In the next few days I’ll take a retrospective look back at the Canucks season that was, but for now, lets concentrate on what happened in the deciding game, game 6 versus Chicago.
Game 5 was the first one sided game of this entertaining series. For the first time in the series, Roberto Luongo clearly outplayed Jonathan Quick, who was chased in the second period. For the second game in a row, the Canucks power play equaled the Kings power play, perhaps indicating that this penalty killing jinx is at least close to ending.
Whew! That was close. Not only did Jack Johnson nearly put the puck in the net, but if Michael Handzus doesn’t put his arms up in the air, he might have been able to bury it. Classic Bieksa pose in this picture by the way, standing upright, watching a member of the opposing team in front of the goal. With that said, perhaps I’m being a bit unfair. I thought Bieksa had a solid game, as did the rest of the Canucks D. Most notably, Alex Edler was strong in both ends of the rink. He was a beast, as evidenced by this hit on Drew Doughty (you think Edler trash talked him? Something like “welcome to the playoffs, kid” would have been nice).
With 15 games left in the regular season and the nightmare record road trip behind them, one thing is still not clear. Are the Canucks contenders or pretenders? It’s a question that doesn’t elicit a unanimous response. I think that we as Canucks fans underrate this edition of the Canucks (just as we overrated the Naslund-Bertuzzi era Canucks).
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