May 122009
 

I’ve defended Luongo all season. There are people that are saying that I’m completely out of line for what you’re about to read, there are people saying that were it not for Luongo, we would never have gotten where we were. There are people that say it was the defences fault and that he is not to blame.

When the regular season is done, it’s gone. What happens in the regular season means nothing. It’s over. Don’t believe me? Look at the San Jose Sharks. Slam dunk case. ln an elimination game, all stats go out the window. Nothing matters but the final score. It doesnt matter how Luongo played to get to where we were, all that mattered was how he played in Game 6.

I’ve seen the tears before. We saw the tears from him when he cost us the elimination Game 6 against the Ducks, we saw the tears when we missed the post season and he blamed himself last year, and again we see the tears this year when he blames himself for letting in 7 goals. Count it – 7 goals. What gives me the right to come down on him? The fact that he spited Canucks fans by strongly implying he wouldn’t resign with us when his contract was up because we weren’t a contender.

“I think we have a team with a chance to win the Cup. At the end of the day, the only thing that’s going to enter my mind for the [contract] decision is winning. That’s why I play. I’ve played 10 years in this league and haven’t had much success. I think I’m deserving of having a chance to win the Cup, and hopefully that comes with Vancouver.”

The fact that when the game that mattered most came around, he was no where to be seen. When everything is on the line, you need your best players to be your best players. There’s no doubt that everyone came to play last night, except Luongo. He was fantastic in the first 5, maybe 10 minutes. After that it’s like Cloutier was back in net. The Canucks upped their shot totals, they had their powerplay click, their penalty kill was alright, and on a night where they managed to fix most of the problems they’d been having all series, the one part of their game which was usually their cornerstone, collapsed.

At the end of the day I’m not in Luongo’s head. I don’t know what was going on, and why he came up with the performance he did. He was inconsistent all series, and certainly didn’t live up to the billing he earned in the first round and the second half of the regular season. The man who’s supposed to be our captain, the man who’s supposed to be our leader and come through in the clutch picked a horrible time to have his worst game of the entire 82 game regular season and their 10 game post season. Dont give me the “He’s human, he makes mistakes and has bad games too excuse.” Nobody makes those mistakes with their backs against the wall.

May 112009
 

It’s over. It’s not the end of the world, but for the next couple of days it’s certainly going to feel like it. Everyone predicted what they thought the game would be like, we all hoped for Game 7, the only 7 the Canucks saw tonight was on the score sheet. The final score Blackhawks 7 – Canucks 5.

This was a night that saw almost everything you could think of in a game. Horrible refereeing, enourmous hits happening all game long, beautiful goals, run and gun hockey, a hat trick, some fabulous goal tending, some not so fabulous goaltending, a ceremonial faceoff, a bit of blood, incredible passing, dekeing, a comeback, some scrums, and after not scoring a single goal all through the regular season and through the first 9 playoff games – even Shane O’Brien scored.

It’s hard to pin the fault on anyone yet, and the taste of bitter is still fresh. The game saw a furious pace in the first period which produced beautiful end to end action with barely stoppages in play. Again though, the Blackhawks everytime they were down came back. As you look at the ending tallies, the Blackhawks came back from deficits in this series 11 times.

At the end of the day it was too many, to not enough. The 2008-2009 Canucks season has ended and now we look forward to next year. We look forward to a better year, some great prospects in Hodgson and a Moose playoff difference maker for this year Alexandre Bolduc and put away the towels and jersey’s until October.

Blog Song: Tears Don’t Fall – Bullet for my Valentine

May 092009
 

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

May 082009
 

After Game 4 the series is tied and it looks like this is going to go the distance, and if not, it’s going to come close.

1 - The number of Power Play opportunities the Canucks had in Game 4. While the Powerplay has been hot, as I said earlier, if the Blackhawks become more disciplined, we’re going to need to win playing 5-on-5.

2 – Number of penalties Bieksa had last night. Also the number of points (2 Assists) Bieksa has in 18 career playoff games.

3 – Number of games in this series in which the Canucks have blown a lead completely.

4 – Number of Blackhawks (Brouwer, Walker, Byfuglien, Seabrook) that combined for the same number of total hits as the Canucks had as a team last night. Blackhawks outhit the Canucks 41-22.

5 – Number of shots Havlat had on the night. The Canucks as a team only had 6 in the second period.

6 – The most shots the Canucks managed on Blackhawks ‘tender Nikolai Khabibulin in any one period. In the first and third they were only able to muster 4 shots each.

7 – Points by Edler in 8 games. He’s flown under the rader and is 3rd in team scoring with 1G and 6 Assists.

8 – Willie Mitchell’s number. He played over 29 minutes and something we rarely see, he played his worst game of the season. Missing his check on Ladd completely led to the OT winner for the Blackhawks. People forget though, even he is human.

9 – Faceoffs taken by Mats Sundin last night. In 9 Faceoffs taken, he lost 7.

10 – Ryan Johnson’s number. His consistency continues. In Game 4 he had another 2 blocked shots. He also was +1, had one assist, and went 7 for 11 in the faceoff circle.

11 – Shifts played by Rypien and Hordichuk the two who combined for the Canucks lone goal. The next fewest shifts by any Canuck was 18.

12 – Number of Blackhawks that recorded at least one shot in last nights game. The Canucks only had 9 players with at least one shot.

13 – Sundin’s number. His statline read 0 SOG, 0 Points, 1 Blocked Shot, 1 Giveaway, 7 FOL, 2 FOW in 15:20 of ice time

14 – Total missed shots in the game. Not surprisingly Vancouver’s lack of shots led to only 2 shots being missed. Chicago had a total 12 missed shots which if on net would have brought their shot total up to 40.

15 – Shots by the Canucks in game 4. You can’t win games with only 15 shots.

May 072009
 

What started as a best of 7, went to a best of 5, and then tonight after being tied up again is now down to a best of 3. The Canucks have home ice advantage playing two of the potentially remaining 3 games in the friendly confines of GM Place, but the Blackhawks have proven that no matter where they’re playing they have the comeback down to a science.

While the Canucks fixed one problem area in their game, they let up in another. I think back to the game tonight and am left scratching my head as to what actually happeened. The Canucks didn’t play badly, they didn’t play phenomenally either. They were just there… skating back and forth. In a season where Filet Mignon abandoned trap hockey and utilized his offensive weapons to capture the Northwest Division, tonight, out of nowhere, it was as if Jacques Lemaire had taken over control of the bench and the game hinged on boring.

Rypien’s heads up play was like an injection of adrenaline as the game picked up significantly after his second period tally, but neither team had any chances. Luongo was rarely tested, but when he was he seemed on top of his game. Neither team spent much sustained pressure in the offensive zone and apart from the desperation by the Blackhawks late in the third resulting in their tying goal with about two minutes left, the game seemed emotionless and empty; Even the United Center seemed strangely deflated, for no real reason.

With the series tied, it’s back to square one. Equal series wins apiece, the only difference being the two teams know a little more about each other’s play. Two at home, one on the road. The Canucks cannot afford to go back to the United Center facing a do-or-die game with their backs against the wall which makes taking advantage of Saturday’s home game 5 that much more pivotal. Saturday’s game could make or break the series and they have a lot to work on from now till then.

Blog Song: Sleepyhead by Passion Pit

May 072009
 

The series has been tight so far. The Canucks ability to get out to an early lead has been countered by the Blackhawks ability to comeback and their ‘we’re-not-out-of-it-till-we’re-out-of-it’ menality. Everyone wanted to see the matchup, for the good hockey, and well for a little something else. Besides the fantastic hockey potential the series had, the speed of the Blackhawks and the pace of the Canucks, I think we were all expecting some of the more subtle storylines from the regular season to spill over to the playoffs.

Everyone wanted to see Eager and Bieksa renew aquaintences, and Burrows has a friend or two on the Blackhawks that I’m sure he’s missed. In Game 1 the two teams sized each other up, they held off on anything out of the ordinary, and apart from the heart attack caused by the Canucks lead blowing skills, and not from the Wendys Baconator I was salivating over during a commercial break, the game was smooth flowing with little carry over from the epic battles held in the regular season.

In Games 2 and 3 it was clear that the emotions are getting high. After managing to keep things in check for Game 1 despite the anticipation of some fireworks, after getting blown out on Saturday the Canucks frustrations spilled over and then in Game 3 it was the Blackhawks turn to start the scrums as they were down late in the game. The tension’s been building and the rough stuff we all expected is still to come.

With the way tensions are increasing, cheap shots being taken, and every Blackhawk trying to get under the skin of Luongo, it seems only a matter of time before we see what Don Taylor affectionately calls a brouhaha. The fans want it, and whether either team wants it, it seems more and more likely depending the course this playoffs continues on.

If and when it does ensue lets hope the Canucks walk away with just some cuts and bruises. The playoffs is a battle of attrition and when several of your players seem to be made of glass that puts you at a disadvantage from the get go. When the dust settles the Canucks want to try and get out of Round 2 with the fewest number of injuries and as healthy a roster as they can. The nastier this gets, the more likely someone’s going to go down badly. The Canucks have to try and avoid being the instigator and keep as disciplined as they can. If something happens, let the Blackhawks start it, but they shouldnt go looking for trouble or trying to get hurt. Getting out of this series relatively injury free is probably one of the main objectives. Either way, it’s going to be fun to watch.

Blog Song: Guerrilla Radio – Rage Against The Machine
“It has to start somewhere, it has to start some time. What better place than here, what better time than now. All hell can’t stop us now!”

May 062009
 

In the post season so far the Canucks special teams woes have disappeared completely. They boast the third best Power Play in the league (tied for third with Chicago) at 25% and they’ve allowed the third fewest goals against while down a man of the remaining playoff teams.

Of the 11 goals they have scored in this series so far, 5 have been Power Play markers. While it’s nice to see the Canucks powerplay clicking they can’t rely on the Blackhawks sloppy play to win games. On top of having a red hot powerplay, the Canucks penalty kill has been equally hot. They’ve let in only 4 goals, which is tied for the second fewest goals allowed on the penalty kill in the playoffs so far. Boston is first with a perfect powerplay so far. 50% of your goals with the man advantage is impressive, but it’s going to end at some point. I’m looking to Bieksa, Burrows and Sundin to really step up play. Sundin to start setting up some more goals, be the playmaker we brought him in to be and Bieksa just to start pinching in from the point to pick up some points. Burrows knows where to be and when to be there, he’s slowed a bit from when he was hotter than fire but with the way he’s skating he’s due for another, and we all know how he likes to rack up the 5 on 5 points.

Sami Salo skated again today and while his return to game 4 is still tentative, I’d rather he wasn’t rushed. The Canucks banked on this happening and that’s why they picked up insurance players like Vaananen. What’s interesting is that without the shot of Salo on the point, the Canucks have managed to alter their Power Play and play down low instead of relying on the shot from the point and a rebound. Having Salo back can only improve the Power Play and also help bring back some more offense to the blue line. I know, offense from the blue line seems a little paradoxical, but he is the 2nd leading scorer on the team in the playoffs so far tied with Burrows for 2nd with 3 goals. He’s 4th in overal scoring with 6 points in 5 games played.

It’s a nice problem to have, a powerplay that’s too hot, but what worries me is that should we move on to the next round, playing a more disciplined team might hurt us. It’s foresight and foreshadowing, but the Canucks need to keep rolling all four lines and if they can get their legs moving, goals like Raymond’s on Tuesday night will start coming with ease. Looking forward, if the Canucks powerplay continues the way it is, they’re going to want to hope the Ducks win. They have a better chance of burning the Ducks with the PP than the Red Wings. Pronger, Parros and Neidermeyer can all help out the Canucks for the Cup cause by taking turns in the box.

Blog Song: A.M.P. – A.M.P. Army – http://is.gd/xlu2

May 062009
 

Game 3 boasted a Canucks team that we hadn’t seen since the St. Louis series. They were defensively responsible while playing offensive hockey. But just because it was better than games 1 and 2, isn’t reason to go crazy just yet.

Public enemy number one right now is Dustin Byfuglien and that’s no secret. He’s their secret weapon at the moment and about the only part of that team’s game that’s clicking (other than game 2 the ‘Hawks have looked awkward and out of place). He’s placing himself in front of Luongo and having his way in the crease. The Canucks absolutely cannot allow that. On replays of the first and only Chicago goal Byfuglien was given liberties. Edler stood there like he was afraid of Byfuglien, the screen ensued, and the rest is history.

Windy City Canuck commented on an earlier post saying, “I was at the game last night and I don’t know if this was ever caught on TV but every single timeout, Byfuglien would jump off the bench and skate up to Luongo as Luongo was going to the Canuck bench and start yelling at him. It was comical.”

The Blackhawks know, as do all other teams, that Luongo is the key to the Canucks. That’s why the Blues tried snow showering him all series, heck even the Blackhawks are trying that. The bad news is that Byfuglien is finally getting to Luongo. After several whistles Luongo was in B-Fug’s face showing for the first time all playoffs that people can get through to him. Edler, Mitchell, whoever’s on crease patrol, has to assert their presence. We all saw Bieksa hulk slash Backes stick out of his hands towards the end of one game when Backes was near the crease. Where’d that go? What are they afraid of Byfuglien?

The Canucks defence have to do everything they can to prevent the Blackhawks from harshing Luongo’s mellow. When Luongo is on his game we’ve seen the miracles he can perform. The Blackhawks have been taking liberties with the Canucks, it’s time to return the favour. Byfuglien should not have an all access pass to the crease, and incase Pyatt, Sundin, Bieksa, or any of the other big boys that park themselves in front of the net forgot, we can mess with Khabibulin too. Time to fight fire with fire.

Blog Song: Public Enemy vs Benni Benassi – Bring the Noise – http://is.gd/xfik

May 052009
 

Through the game there were several names that people came with on Twitter instead of Byfuglien. I coined Byfuglidouche, there was B-Fug, DieFuglyOne, Buttfugly, and my personal favourite, (and no, I have no idea how you get the following nickname from Byfuglien) Barfing Lama. I’m sure there are a couple more out there. He’s starting to get on my nerves about as much as he’s bothering Luongo.

All Byfuglien nonsense aside, with the game time scratch of Demitra, it was Raymond bumped to the second line and Pyatt inserted for the first time since he left to mourn the passing of his fiancee. I’ll admit, before becoming Sundin’s harshest critic, (okay maybe second harshest, Iain MacIntyre is just ridiculous, he needed another Swede to rag on after Markus left) I was pretty rough on Taylor. Now I just fee bad ragging on him because of what happened, but in all seriousness he played much better than I expected him to.

I expected the odd gaff or two, missed pass, screwed up play. None of those from number 9 in an important game 3. In fact, Pyatt out there was part of a consistent 3rd line that played shut down hockey when we needed them to. He blocked a shot or two, he laid a few hits, none bigger than the one just before he took a penalty where he layed out a Blackhawk behind the Khabibulin’s net. It was good to have him back and it looks like the team was happy to have him back. He’s a big boy, he needs to start using that size of his.

The Canucks played a statement game. I said they would in my last post, and they came to play. Blowing multi goal leads three games in a row is a formula for nothing good and they showed they could shut it down when they needed to. While the bandwagon is slowly piling on again, this by no means is a sign the Canucks are home free. They played a better game. They played a full 60 minutes, but there are certainly a few more issues that need to be fixed. The Canucks look to be back on track. It took them 2 games to get their game back together, but they finally look like they did back in the St. Louis series. The Blackhawks if this continues are going to have to look for a few aces up Joel Quenville’s sleeve.

May 052009
 

With word that Demitra is a game time decision and the glass factory we acquired him from are not replacing him under warranty, word has it that if Demitra is out, Pyatt is in. Pyatt coming in bumps Raymond up to the second line and then it’s game on.

We’re playing a team that is fast. Reality check, they’re faster than a lot of our team. So why is Pyatt slotted in? We certainly don’t need his size. If Mitchell and Bieksa along with the rest of the blue line can do their job, then size shouldn’t be an issue. What this team needs is a bit more speed and Hansen who’s been a healthy scratch for the better part of the second half of the season needs to see some game time action. Heck, even throwing in Jeff Cowan would be better than Pyatt.

I’m not here to rag on Pyatt, I do that enough, but the bottom line is we need to start hitting harder, and skating faster. Right now the Blackhawks are beating us at both of those and they shouldn’t. We are bigger, and while we can’t necessarily skate faster, we can make minor adjustments to keep pace with them. Pyatt is a big body, but that’s not what we need in game 3. We need to step out there and start flying from the moment the puck drops. Flying both on the ice, and in the air.

Pyatt getting the start is going to be an interesting decision. While he’s been mentally exhausted as of late, he does come as a fresh body, then again so does Hansen. If he can play the same way he was playing towards the end of the second half of the season before tradgedy hit, we might be okay. He’s a big boy that handles himself like an awkward puppy at times. I still maintain we need speed over size and Hansen wins out in that category. Pyatt’s never been an energy player and that’s something I’d even be willing to turn to Cowan for. We have the depth, this is the precise situation Gillis planned for, it’s time to take advantage of that.

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