Even Strength

Are the Canucks out matched by the Blackhawks at even strength? Can we really only win when we get the chance to take advantage of their penalty kill? The Canucks have proven they have the offensive aresenal to take advantage of a bad turnover, poor change, or odd man rush, but in game 4 the distinct discipline of both teams proved that this series is just getting started.

The Canucks shifted from an offensive minded juggernaut, to a defensive machine that was looking to hang onto a one goal lead. I’d said earlier, the Blackhawks ARE going to get more disciplined. They ARE going to start taking less individual penalties and the Canucks need to be able to respond. If the Canucks could take advantage of the Blackhawks while they were 5 on 5, their speed and offensive prowess would eventually force the Blackhawks to take some careless penalties. When you play the trap and are a defensive clam though, you’re playing their game, not your own game.

In the first 3 games there were 34 PP opportunites between the two teams. In game 4, there were just three PP opportunities between the two teams. It seems that with all the powerplay time the Canucks were able to settle into an offensive groove, but with the lack of them they collapsed into a defensive shell which we haven’t seen since these 2009 playoffs started.

The key to game 5 is going to be taking advantage of the home ice and speed. If the Canucks can force the Blackhawks to play their game, and come out flying, they can force bad penalties and subsequently take advantage of what has so far been a red hot power play. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be hustling to create those even strength opportunities, but the Canucks cannot afford to go back to the United Center facing a do-or-die situation. They need to take advantage of a Khabibulin that struggles when he faces lots of shots. Apart from the point-blank OT save by Khabibulin, he’s looked shaky at times and if the Canucks can get sustained pressure and a high number of shots on him they will expose one of the Blackhawk’s weaknesses.

I expect big games from Mitchell and the Sedins tonight and certainly expect Bieksa and Sundin to step things up a notch and provide some more of that offense tonight.

Blog Song: Cloud Connected – In Flames

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