In these playoffs it’s clear that the Canucks need to be firing on all cylinders. Everyone talks about the Sedins needing to step it up. They talk about Luongo needing to be on top of his game, but there’s one thing that can really be the X-Factor for this year’s Canucks playoff run and it is the play of 4 players. Particularly it is the 3rd line and Ryan Johnson.
Coming off game three where the Canucks faced their biggest challenge in a first period throttling that saw them spend half the period on the penalty kill. That’s where the X Factor shone brightest. Johnson in particular was key to shutting down the Blues and literally surviving a first period that could have broke the game wide open and let St. Louis back into the series.
If the Canucks plan on going far in this year’s playoffs they are going to need something that they haven’t had all season, that X Factor, the third line. In the first 3 games of the playoffs so far it’s been overwhelmingly clear that the Canucks have come to play. With a handful of Canucks playing in their first career playoffs the excitement hasn’t dried up yet and that’s really paying off for the Canucks.
Bernier has been showing hustle and speed that no one thought possible from him due to his play in the regular season. Raymond who we all knew could skate like the wind has been winning most races to the puck, especially on the penalty kill, and Wellwood’s play has improved exponentially since the Canucks played game one. Also, Rypien who’s been energized from his first game back is silently doing his thing. This third line is playing better than it has all year and I think that’s showing because Vigneault isn’t splitting them up very much.
Bernier’s quick reflexes got him a goal last night against the Blues as he handled a sweet, quick pass from Sedin to put it behind Mason who had no chance at all. Raymond and Wellwood along with Bernier are the key to a long run. When you look at the way the Sedins have made a statement, the way Kesler and Burrows have played as of late, and the leadership in the tending of Luongo, the last piece of the puzzle is if that third line of Bernier, Raymond and Wellwood can pull it together and play as consistently as they have recently. Wellwood’s itching for a goal and with the way he’s playing it’s only time before he gets one in the back of the net.
With primary scoring all figured out, Luongo looking more amazing than ever, and a defense that has once again regained its edge, we’re looking at a Canucks team that is more dangerous than this city has seen in years. With the energy and speed the 3rd line has been playing with, and the clutch play of Ryan Johnson both in the faceoff dot and on the ice (shot blocking) right now the Canucks look to be without flaw as they head into tomorrow night with a chance to sweep the Blues at home and record their first every best of 7 series playoff sweep.
The Canucks will go tomorrow for their 7th consecutive win, and have never swept a best-of-7 playoff series. They have one sweep in their franchise’s history and that was back in ’82 when the Canucks beat the Flames 3 games to none.