As the second round begins Thursday evening, here’s a few quick hits on what to watch for as the Canucks try to move on to the third round for the first time since 1994…
One day after the Dallas Stars inexplicably had their poorest showing of season, a 7-1 loss at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks, and one day before Mr Roxy himself, Shane O’Brien returns to town, it seems appropriate to look in-depth at the “Roxy Flu”.
Ok, so Shane O’Brien wasn’t the best player or the smartest player, but he was one of the most entertaining. Even in the way out, he had some interesting comments about coach Alain Vigneault: I wish I got a little fairer shake in camp. I only played three exhibition games, all on the road, and we flew the day of the game on two of them. And – no disrespect to the players we had in those games – but the three games I played we were nowhere near an NHL-calibre roster. It was the icing on the cake for my career here in Vancouver.
The countdown to the free agent frenzy is on. July 1st marks the first day of free agency 2010 and the Canucks are sure to be busy. The Canucks currently have five regulars scheduled to become unrestricted free agents and four regulars set to become restricted free agents. Clearly not all of them will be back and some new players will be added via free agency. There is also the potential for young players to step into the lineup and more trades to happen. So what will Mike Gillis do? Well, lets try to figure that out right now:
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.
Skate and go to the net, presumably that’s the message from Coach V to his troops tonight. Alain Vigneault has a few lineup shuffles in mind for tonight’s contest. Pavol Demitra and Rick Rypien will sit out tonight’s contest in favour of Michael Grabner and Tanner Glass. Here’s what the Canucks lines are expected to look like:
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.
The advice the Canucks could use can be summed up in five words: stay out of the box. Vancouver gave up six man advantages on Saturday night, which isn’t a lot, but that’s not the point. The point is the types of penalties they’re giving up right now: dumb penalties. Look no further than Shane O’Brien’s stupid penalty midway through the 2nd period last night. With the Canucks up 2-0, O’Brien got his arm up into the face of the Kings player to take an obvious roughing call. The puck had already been played out of the area and O’Brien didn’t hit him very hard. The Kings scored on that power play and the Canucks lost the game, which magnified the blunder.
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.
After calling the Canucks “Cup pretenders” last Friday, I must admit that I was starting to believe they were contenders with one of the most impressive outings of the season against the Senators on Saturday followed up by a 1st period knockout of the Calgary Flames the next day. But then came the Islanders game on Tuesday night. Now I’m not suggesting that Canucks fans should begin panicking about this team because of it, but it certainly didn’t help. Another thing that didn’t help was losing first star of the week, Mikael Samuelsson. He’ll be gone 2-3 weeks with a shoulder injury or so we’re told (and we’ve been lied to before, see Dan Cloutier). With that said, here are a few random thoughts going through my head as the playoffs loom:
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