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 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 –

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