It’s halfway through the second period, and Vancouver is dominating. They’ve blasted shot after shot at Pekka Rinne, but the Vezina finalist’s glove is a black hole. Nothing is getting past him. Kevin Bieksa moves the puck through the neutral zone to try again.
Both teams are changing as Vancouver moves up ice. But Nashville’s bench is further away from their goal, giving Vancouver a brief advantage as Higgins joins the rest of the third line.
Mike Fisher stands up to Bieksa at the blue line. Instead of making a move and risking an offside, Bieksa simply flips the puck through Fisher’s feet to Lapierre.
Lapierre leaves the puck for Bieksa and continues down the boards past Kevin Klein. Fisher’s aggressive check has left him out of the play.
Bieksa has several tempting options: pass to Hansen in the high slot, Higgins coming in from the right point, or take it to the net himself. Instead, he dishes it back to Lapierre.
Now both Klein and Fisher are behind the play, and it’s a three-on-one. Jonathan Blum is in good position covering the slot as Lapierre cuts towards the net.
Klein and Fisher race to catch up as Lapierre finds himself in good shooting position. Rinne, of course, has to cover Lapierre and leave the others to his teammates. Hansen has gotten behind Blum and might be able to tap it in from the top of the crease.
Lapierre drops it back to the trailer, Higgins. Fisher has made a second mistake: heading straight to the net instead of to the open forward.
Higgins wrist a beauty over Rinne, who nearly robs him as he stacks the pads. But not this time. The puck’s in and out of the net so fast the refs need a video review to believe this is a goal.
I think it said a lot about how Canucks fans anticipated this series that much of the pregame chatter still focused on the team’s round 1, game 7 win against the Chicago Blackhawks rather than round 2, game 1 against the Nashville Predators.
No, game 1 against the Preds won’t soon be talked about as an instant classic, but from the Canucks’ standpoint, it was an effective performance. What they may have lacked in emotion – at least relative to how much they played with in game 7 – they made up by dictating the pace of the game and controlling most of the play. They had numerous scoring opportunities – quality chances – and really, had it not been for Pekka Rinne, the Canucks may well have blown out the Preds.
Chris Higgins. For the second time in these playoffs, the “consolation prize” in the Marty Reasoner sweepstakes scored the game-winning goal for the Canucks. He also scored the game-winning goal in game 1 of the first round against Chicago.
Patric Hornqvist. A 21-goal scorer in the regular season (2nd on the team), Hornqvist was held in check for most of the game and took 3 minor penalties.
70. The Canucks won 70% of their faceoffs in the offensive zone (19/27) – a big reason they dominated play and were able to create so many scoring opportunities.
11:12. Keith Ballard played a good game. He literally bowled through Ryan Suter in the first period to create a couple of scoring chances by himself. He also had a great hip check on Jordin Tootoo in the second period even though referee Marc Joannette called him for clipping. Despite that, he only had 11:12 minutes of ice-time. Meanwhile, the top-4 of Hamhuis, Bieksa, Ehrhoff and Edler all played more than 22 minutes. With Bally’s reduced ice-time and 2 penalties, why do I have a bad feeling Andrew Alberts will be reunited with Aaron Rome for game 2?
14. After leading the NHL with 3.15 goals per game in the regular season, the Canucks are averaging almost a full goal per game less – 2.12 goals per game – in their first 8 playoffs games. This ranks them 14th out of 16 playoff teams.
The Next Time
Some finish would be nice. Despite outchancing the Preds by a wide margin, Nashville was still a lucky bounce and a Mike Fisher third period breakaway from tying the game up.
Game 1 (at Rogers Arena): Thursday, April 28th at 6 PM
Game 2 (at Rogers Arena): Saturday, April 30th at 6 PM
Game 3 (at Bridgestone Arena): Tuesday, May 3rd at Time TBD
Game 4 (at Bridgestone Arena): Thursday, May 5th at Time TBD
Game 5* (at Rogers Arena): Saturday, May 7th at 5 PM
Game 6* (at Bridgestone Arena): Monday, May 9th at Time TBD
Game 7* (at Rogers Arena): Wednesday, May 11th at Time TBD
[Every Sunday, Caylie King looks at the Canucks week that was and the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@cayking).]
76 GP, 50-17-9, 109 points (1st in Northwest Division, 1st in Western Conference)
Roberto Luongo is ranked 11th in games played in, yet he leads the league with 35 wins. He’s been playing some of his best hockey as of late, he himself says that he doesn’t know of a time where he has felt better. His positional play and “never give up” attitude has allowed him to shine.
Allow me to put his brilliance into perspective. Since January 1st of this year, Bobby Lou has not been pulled from a game and has only allowed more than 3 goals in a game ONCE, and the Canucks still got a point in that game. He is third in the NHL in both save percentage (.927) and goals against average (2.18).
His great play can be credited to a good team in front of him, both defensively and offensively, and also, stellar play by Cory Schneider, which has allowed Lou to have lots of rest and not be overworked. We hope the 20+ games rest he will have this regular season will help him to stay fresh and ready to go come playoff time.
Jannik Hansen has 1 assist in his last 9 games. Seems ever since Uncle Manny got hurt, both Hansen and Torres have not been as offensively threatening as they were when those 3 were meshing. Hansen has been part of the line juggling that AV is doing, experimenting to find that right combination for the bottom-six forwards. The Canucks don’t rely on Hansen’s scoring and his tireless work on the penalty kill is a big part of his game. But hopefully he can help to contribute more offensively.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 vs. Nashville Predators (5:00 PM start, away)
The Predators have been on a roll as of late, riding a 6-game win streak and currently sitting in 6th place in the Western Conference.
This is the last meeting between these two teams; Nashville is leading the series 2-1.
Martin Erat has 4 points (1G-3A) and a plus-4 rating in the 3 games played so far against the Canucks. He also shares the team lead, in points (46), with team captain, Shea Weber.
The preview for this game is probably as boring as the game will be. Coach Barry Trotz loves to push results in low scoring, low excitement games. Buckle up, you’re in for a snooze-fest.
Thursday, March 31, 2011 vs. Los Angeles Kings (7:00 PM start, home)
The Kings are one of the teams in the heat of the playoff race position. They currently sit in 5th place in the Western Conference and have gone 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. They’ve won their last 3 straight games, however the last game saw them losing point leader, Anze Kopitar, who broke his ankle and is expected to be out at least 6 weeks.
Both Justin Williams and Dustin Brown have 3 points (2G-1A) against the Canucks this season. Williams and Brown are 2nd and 3rd in team scoring with 57 points and 52 points, respectively. Brown is also tied with Anze Kopitar with 25 goals.
Saturday, April 2, 2011 vs. Edmonton Oilers (7:00 PM, home)
The Oilers haven’t won a game after starting off the month of March with 3 straight wins; they have 1 win in their last 10 games.
Unfortunately, they’ve been hit hard by the injury bug all season long. For all intents and purposes, they’re just playing out the hockey season and preparing for next year.
The Canucks have won all 4 meetings against the Oilers; both Bobby Lou and Schneider have won 2 games each. The Canucks have outscored the Oilers by a combined score of 15-7 in their previous contests.
Andrew Cogliano has 3 assists against the Canucks this year. He has recorded a point in 4 of his last 6 games played. Cogliano and Tom Gilbert are the only 2 players on the team that have played the full 75 games. Cogliano has 32 points (11G-21A) this season.
In their last 4 games, the Canucks entered the third period without having been scored on. Despite that, Luongo and Schneider have a grand total of 0 shutouts to show for their efforts.
It’s pretty clear that the dynamic duo of Luongo and Schneider is one of the best goalie tandems in the league, however the Canucks seem to struggle to hold out on allowing that one goal. Superstitious fans blame it on all those tweeps and commentators saying the “S” word before the game is over. But the way I see it, shutouts are overrated. As long as we get the “W”.
[Every Sunday, Caylie King looks at the Canucks week that was and the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@cayking).]
56 GP, 36-11-9, 81 points (1st in Northwest Division, 1st in Western Conference)
It was about this time last year that Mikael Samuelsson went on a hot streak, a way of showing Team Sweden what they were missing out on. To say that Sammy is en fuego as of late would be an understatement. He has 6 goals and 14 points in his last 8 games while adding a different look to the first PP unit. With the injury to Alex Edler, Sammy has fit nicely into the first PP unit and is, for now anyway, quarterbacking the point with Christian Ehrhoff. Sammy is also happy to back on the 2nd line with Kesler, where they have rekindled their chemistry along side Mason Raymond.
Night in and night out, Jannik Hansen is one of the hardest working Canucks on the ice, but unfortunately, it hasn’t translated in to much offensive success recently. He only has 1 goal and 1 assist in his last 12 games. While he works tirelessly on the penalty kill and tries to generate chances on the 3rd line with his speed, he just hasn’t been able to finish.
Monday, February 14, 2011 vs. St. Louis Blues (5:00 PM start, away)
The St. Louis Blues lost both games to the Minnesota Wild in this weekend’s home-and-home series. Since a 5-game win streak to end 2010, the Blues have only 4 wins in 2011. (In contrast, the Canucks have 3 regulation losses in 2011.) The Blues are looking from the outside into the playoff race, sitting in 13th place in the Western Conference.
The Canucks and Blues have split their first two meetings of the season, with the road team coming out on top both times. The Blues won 3-2 in Rogers Arena on December 5th; the Canucks won their latest meeting 3-1 on December 20th in St. Louis.
Alex Steen has 4 points (3G -1A) and is a plus-3 in the season series to date. He has 15 goals, 40 points and a plus-4 rating for the season.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011 vs. Minnesota Wild (5:00 PM start, away)
On the front page of the Minnesota Wild’s website, it says “Every Point Counts”, which is fitting considering that the standings in the Western Conference seem to change every night. Minnesota has been battling with the Flames and Kings for the last playoff spot. The Wild are hot and are currently on a 4-game winning streak; they have an 8-2-0 record in their last 10 games.
The Wild have won 2 of their 3 games against the Canucks this season. Both wins came at home at the Xcel Energy Center where they outscored the Canucks 10-2, including the 4-0 beating just last month. (Incidentally, that loss was the start of a mini-slide where the boys in blue went 0-1-3.)
Martin Havlat has 9 points with a plus-7 rating in his last 10 games. He leads the team in points with 48 (16G – 32A) for the season. He has 3 points in 3 games against the Canucks this season.
Thursday, February 17, 2011 vs. Nashville Predators (5:00 PM start, away)
The Canucks roll into Nashville for the last game of a 3-game road trip. The Preds look different this time with the addition of Mike “Mr. Underwood” Fisher, who came over in a trade from the Ottawa Senators. The Predators are 5-4-1 in their last 10 and are currently sitting in 4th place in the Western Conference.
The Canucks have won the only meeting between the two teams this season, when Lee Sweatt potted his first NHL career goal and first game-winning-goal.
After a few tumultuous years in Montreal, Sergei Kostitsyn seems to have found a home in Nashville. He has 10 points (4-6) in his last 10 games and is second in team scoring, just behind Captain Shea Weber, with 15 goals, 18 assists and 33 points – all are career-highs.
Saturday, February 19, 2011 vs Dallas Stars (7:00 PM start, home)
It’s Hockey Night in Canada and the Canucks are home from a road trip to play against the Dallas Stars. With only 2 wins in their last 9 games, Dallas is just barely holding onto 3rd place in the Western Conference, with the Coyotes only a point back and making a push for the Pacific Division lead.
The Canucks have had Dallas’ number this season winning all 3 previous meetings by a combined score of 15-3. Both Sedins have 6 points each in the 3 games played.
All-Star Loui Eriksson has 4 points (1-3) in his last 5 games and is second in team scoring with 18 goals and 53 points this season. He is also a good plus-14. Eriksson is a pure offensive player and is generally-considered to be one of the most underrated players in the league.
Welcome Back: Sami “Balls of Steel” Salo
The win against the Calgary Flames on Saturday saw the return of Sami Salo.
About a month ago it was unknown whether we would even see Sami back this season or ever. But with the latest string of injuries – unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks, you’ll already know that Edler is out indefinitely after having back surgery, Ballard is out about a month with a sprained knee and Dan Hamhuis was plastered to the boards and will be out indefinitely with a concussion – the return on Sami has happened with opened arms.
Sami’s presence adds so much to the Canucks lineup, and it’s always nice to know we have that blast from the point that would scare any goalie straight. It’ll take a few games for Salo to get back into top playing form, after all this is his “training camp”, but to see #6 back on the ice makes all Canucks fans happy.
So here’s to Sami Salo, we missed you and your balls of steel!