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 072009
 
May 062009
 

A friend sent me this link from the OC Register today of a couple of young Canucks fans taking in the Detroit/Anaheim game in Anaheim. (Yup, Canuck Nation is alive and well in the OC.) Anyway, I know it’s still early to call our series, but gosh darn it, the optimism’s too cool and the picture’s too cute not to share.

Canucks fans in Anaheim

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
 

Dustin the Fugly One tried to get into Roberto Luongo’s head last night; Luongo wouldn’t have any of it. Luongo wasn’t intimidated and stopped 23 of 24 shots that came his way. The Canucks won, and suddenly, they hold a 2-1 series lead against those bigger, badder, younger, faster and more skilled Hawks. (Or at least that’s what everyone was calling them the last couple of days.)

The Canucks won because they competed hard against the Hawks. Like Lui, the rest of the team weren’t intimidated. Run Luongo? Say hi to Ossi Vaananen. Chirp with Luongo? Say hi to Shane O’Brien. Or Willie Mitchell. Or Kevin Bieska. Along the boards, Taylor Pyatt, Steve Bernier, Rick Rypien and Ryan Kesler threw their weight around. To a man, the Canucks matched the Hawks’ physical play, something they didn’t do in Game 2.

The Canucks won because they slowed the game down and controlled the tempo. After numerous breakdowns at GM Place, they placed a renewed emphasis on their defensive coverage and didn’t give the Hawks a lot of room to do their thing. After surrendering 31 and 32 shots in Games 1 and 2, respectively, they surrendered only 24 in Game 3. They also blocked 21 shots.

The Canucks won because they weren’t flashy. They were workmanlike and solid and left out the fancy. After the game, Luongo said it was one of their best games in these playoffs, and in an overall sense, he was right. Despite their 6-1 record, they very rarely played the proverbial “60 minute” game; last night, they did.

So often, professional athletes talk about dealing with adversity. Certainly, after Saturday night’s loss and Canucks fans jumping off the bandwagon, the Canucks talked about how they would make up for their poor showing at home. We’ve heard this all before, but unlike previous years, you get the sense that this group means it. All season long, they’ve pulled through. All season long, they’ve got knocked down, and each time, they’ve got back up again.

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 062009
 
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.

May 052009
 
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