Apr 232009

Before I go praising the Canucks through every high hill and low dale, I have to give credit where credit is due and that’s to the St. Louis Blues. They played a fantastic series, they were young, inexperienced, and they gave us a heck of a run for our money. The 4-0 series sweep was no indication of how close the series was and even in the last game, they were down, they got up, they tied it, and they took us late into OT before they finally fell to their final playoff loss of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

So now the Canucks have up to 10 days off. Should I be worried? Should we start throwing up the red flags? The Canucks of old would certainly have raised question in our minds as to whether they’d benefit from such a long break. Then again, that was the Canucks squad that came out flat against most opponents many nights, that was the Canucks squad that had no secondary scoring, and that was a Canucks squad that’s specialty teams were absolutely brutal. Here’s a Canucks team that defies everything we know and love about this team as fans. They’ve shown us a level of play we never thought was possible from them, and now have me thinking that even after 10 days off they’ll be just fine.

The boys need to use the time wisely and just heal their wounds. The early round advancing was a blessing in disguise. Salo and Sundin who were healthy scratches in game 4 now have a little extra time to fix their respective injuries. Demitra could use the time, as could Luongo and Henrik Sedin who were both a little shaken up at different times in the OT series clincher. I’m sure even Ryan Johnson could use a break and take care of the bruises he’s inevitably amounted after going down for nearly every shot he can.

No matter who we face in the second round I think the break will benefit us. If we face Detroit because San Jose pulls off the comeback in their series, then we’ll face a team that’s equally rested (barring a miracle on ice by the Blue Jackets). If that’s the case then they’ll likely be a little off their game from the lack of game time too. If we play the winner of the Chicago/Calgary series, I get the feeling the winner is going to emerge after 7 games, and with that in mind, they’re going to come out tired, and beat up. So even if we’re off our game a little after the long break, the fact we’ve got rested legs should make up for the temporary out of sync play that should start to dissipate through the first period.

This is a Canucks team that we haven’t ever seen. This is the best team we’ve seen since the West Coast express saw Naslund and Bert finish 2 and 3 in the scoring race during the regular season. While we all could try and predict what might happen, we’re likely shooting in the dark because none of us would have predicted this the way it turned out.

Apr 212009

Game 4 and the Canucks need one win to become the first team to advance to the second round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs. If the first three games were any indication of what to expect, you can believe that there’s a lot more coming. Only two teams in the NHL have ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series, the Islanders and the Leafs.

The first three games have given us everything we could have possibly asked for. There’s been hitting, some of the cheap stuff, fantastic goal tending, spectacular goals, can we really ask for anything more?

The fourth game is always the hardest to win, and it’s even harder to win when you’re on the road. In front of about 19,500 St. Louis fans the Canucks put on a special teams clinic last game and the Blues just couldn’t respond. The Blues have given the Canucks their best shots and only been able to muster 3 goals in 3 games. I really don’t think they have anything left in their bag of tricks. They’re going to come out desperate, they’re going to come out fast again, and at this point they’re on the verge of playing for pride. Mason has done his job in net for them and it’s clear that he is not the one at fault for the Blues so far in this series.

The Canucks defence has been solid starting with Luongo and working out. The penalty kill has been solid and the blue line boys have done a fantastic job of shutting down the Killer B’s – Backes, Berglund, Boyes, oh yeah, and that TJ Oshie kid. That’s been the real key. St. Louis have nothing when those guys are disabled, they don’t have any secondary scoring to talk of. Luongo has been on his game and is right now in a zone that we haven’t seen from him since he set all those Canucks records in our march to a second round exit at the hands of Anaheim two years ago.

I would usually say that I hope the Canucks come out flying in the game tonight, but it seems they’ve gotten over that hump of coming out flat. Be it on the road or at home, they’ve learned to come to play every night. They’ve built a level of team chemistry we haven’t seen since the days of the West Coast Express and I for one am excited to see a little history made tonight. What’s impressed me hte most is that the Canucks haven’t just sit back and taken all the cheap shots. They’re playing tit for tat and that little bit of feist, in the game of every single one of them, has pushed St. Louis over the edge.

Tonight Vancouver is going to be rocking like they’re playing at home, and the home town fans are going to rock this city like the Canucks were actually playing on home ice. I have to hand it to the St. Louis fans, they were loud, they willed their boys on, but at the end of the day it wasn’t enough as a St. Louis’ penalty parade cost them the game.

I say this every night because I want it to come true, so I’ll say it again. Tonight’s game is going go to multiple overtimes and I have a feeling we’re again going to have the privilege of seeing two of the hottest teams in the NHL right now play some of the best hockey of this playoffs so far. The way this series is going, tonight has Epic written all over it.

Oh yeah, and the Canucks could win their 7th game in a row tonight.

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