The Canucks looked like a team still pissed off about their series loss last year, storming the Blackhawks right off the hop, while the Blackhawks looked a bit surprised by the push and never really seemed to recover. They’ve earned at least a split in Chicago, which is huge for a team like the Canucks who are so much better at home than on the road.
The so-called “parity” of the salary cap era is on display, as the three top seeds are now eliminated in the East. But what about the parity between the West and the East? It seems as though the only strong team remaining in the East is the Pittsburgh Penguins and compared to their counterparts in the West; San Jose, Chicago, Detroit and Vancouver, they look overmatched.
This image (along with this song) has haunted Canucks fans for almost an entire calendar year. Patrick Kane, mouth guard dangling and all, scoring the insurance goal late in game 6, his third goal of the night. The Canucks insist that they should have won that series, to which I disagree (they had fewer points than Chicago, and were beaten in six!). The Hawks were the better team last year, and throughout the regular season have been the better team this year. No doubt, they are the favourites. With that said, this series should be a close one and could go either way, depending on a few keys of the series:
Roberto Luongo saved his best game in the first round for game 6, and was the best player on the ice. Everyone will be talking about his big save off of Ryan Smyth, dubbed the “save of the series” by Jim Hughson, but his game was more than that save, as big as it was. The Los Angeles Kings were the best team on the ice for the first 40 minutes but it was none other than their team captain Roberto Luongo that kept them in it. They were outshot 26-11 through the first two periods, but were bailed out by Luongo until the Canucks finally found their groove and grossly outplayed the Kings in the third.
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.
Game 4 had a similar feel to it to Vancouver vs Chicago in game 6 last year. The main difference, of course, is that the Canucks found a way to win this one. They did it on the backs of their top players.
What a bizarre, infuriating game it was. Vancouver came out and dominated most of the first period, hitting like they’ve never hit before, making the right plays, getting scoring chances, causing turnovers and getting the first goal by Mason Raymond on the reunited speed line with Ryan Kesler and Mikael Samuelsson. Then it happened.
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).
The moment Canucks fans have been waiting for all season is almost upon us. That’s right, round 1, game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Canucks faceoff against the Kings in what promises to be an entertaining series. Lets see how the series breaks down.
Ok, maybe there’s not a true goaltending controversy in Canuckland these days, but if it weren’t for Roberto Luongo’s reputation, there would be. Luongo is having his worst season in a Canucks jersey, being pulled more times than ever, while Andrew Raycroft is enjoying the the best season by a Canucks backup since Alex Auld. Statistically speaking, Raycroft has better numbers. They share essentially the same save percentage (Luongo at .913, Raycroft at .914) and Raycroft has a better goals against average (Luongo at 2.55, Raycroft at 2.31). These stats should be skewed a bit given the fact that Luongo plays fatigued more often and usually plays the tougher teams, but this is still highly unusual for Luongo. Luongo typically has numbers far superior to his backup and is usually at the top of the league in GAA and SV%. This year, he’s middle of the pack, 18th in GAA and 17th in SV%. To put that in perspective, Dan Cloutier was 16th and 18th in GAA and SV% in 2003-04.
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