May 042009
May 042009

The Vancouver Canucks flew to Chicago this morning; Sami Salo wasn’t on the flight.

The Vancouver Canucks made the trip to the Windy City without defenceman Sami Salo.

He remained in Vancouver for treatment on a lower-body injury suffered in Game 2 of the Canucks’ Western Conference semifinal series versus the Chicago Blackhawks.

Salo came off the ice after he scored the first Vancouver goal in Saturday’s 6-3 loss. Afterward, coach Alain Vigneault would only say that it’s a lower-body injury and that Salo was listed as day-to-day.

If Salo is out for any extended period of time, it’s a tremendous loss to the Canucks. Including Saturday night’s game when he left in the 1st period, the Canucks are 39-18-7 with Salo in the lineup and 10-10-3 without him.

Simply, he’s their best overall defenseman. He plays with Willie Mitchell on the team’s shutdown pairing and he moves the puck better than any Canuck defenseman. He plays on the 1st unit powerplay, and in fact, 14 of his 25 regular season points and all 5 of his goals were on the powerplay; 2 of those goals were game-winners. He has 6 points so far in the playoffs and 4 of them were on the powerplay; he has 3 goals, including 2 on the powerplay and 2 game-winners.

Needless to say, the Canucks will need the rest of the defense to step it up. In all likelihood, Ossi Vaananen will replace Salo in the lineup. Vaananen played some big minutes alongside Kimmo Timonen earlier in the season so he should be able to play Salo’s minutes. (He logged 17:54 minutes of ice-time in game 4 of the St. Louis series.) He’s also a more defensively-minded defenseman which should free up someone like Kevin Bieksa offensively.

Now speaking of Bieksa, I think he needs to step up his game the most. In the regular season, he led the defense with 43 points in 72 games (0.60 points/game). So far, he has 2 assists in 6 playoff games and he plays the second-most powerplay ice-time of all Canucks defensemen (4:00 PP minutes/game). (Alex Edler leads the team averaging 4:01 PP minutes/game). That’s not to say he hasn’t been productive because he’s contributed in other ways, but with Salo out, they need him to start contributing offensively again as well.

May 032009

The Canucks CAN win in Chicago. It’s not a matter of if they win. It’s a matter of how they win.

The Canucks sit in a position in which they haven’t been in, well ever. They have depth. After Salo scored his power play goal in first period the defense imploded. That was the turning point in the game. The Canucks defense fell apart, they collapsed in on themselves and before you know it, Kane was walking in on Luongo and the game was out of the Canucks control at that point.

During the season after games in which they collapsed and were handily beaten, their next game they rebounded. After falling to the Coyotes 5-1, they came back with a 5-2 win against Turco and the Stars. After losing 4-2 to the Blues in a game where the kids on St. Louis dismantled our defense, we came back with two convincing wins against the Avalanche (4-1) and the Blackhawks (4-0). Even after the 5-1 loss to the Capitals at the beginning of the season, the Canucks came back and beat the Red Wings.

Sami may be out, but Gillis’ heads up forward thinking is about to pay dividends. Insurance acquisition Ossi Vaananen who’s already seen playoff time to replace Salo at the end of the Blues’ series, has proved he can play as a replacement and be defensively responsible. The Canucks have depth on all levels. Stop to think about the fact that if Pyatt were to return, we are so deep he would/could be a 4th line player. Jannik Hansen has been scratched for the better half of the last 20 games, and if we were to lose another defenseman, we have the services of Rob Davison sitting in the press box.

The Canucks suffered a minor setback Saturday night. That shouldn’t affect how they do on Tuesday. They have an extra day to lick their wounds, and while the shot of Salo will be sorely missed on the point, the Canucks have the pieces in place to continue without major hiccups caused by injury. They rebounded during the regular season, and after facing their first post season loss in this year’s playoffs, it’s time for them to bounce back again.

May 022009

As the bandwagon spills over the edges there are several things which were a bit worrisome in game 2, but there was one or two things to take away from the game.

Luongo can now say he’s had his bad game. Get that out of the way, I’m positive he’ll come back stronger and make a statement on the road at the United Center in Chicago. What worries me the most is that with the loss of Salo the defence collapsed quickly. That being said, we’ve seen the Canucks play well during the long stretch he missed during the regular season, and with the veteran play of Mitchell they have the depth to pull together and move on until he returns.

Salo, the Canucks 2nd leading scorer in this year’s playoffs proved how important he is to the power play’s success again tonight and there’s no doubt Khabibulin is hoping he doesn’t have to face that shot in game 3. Lets be realistic though. The Canucks (as much as we’d like and hoped for) were not going to go 16-0 through the playoffs. The Blackhawks weren’t going to take the series lying down, and the Canucks had to lose at some point. I’m glad they lost when they did. There’s never a good time to lose, but losing the first game would have put them in a hole deep. The fact that they’ve split the first two puts them at square one with this now becoming a best of five.

Certain things were inevitable in this series. The Canucks were going to lose at least once. Khabibulin was going to win and finally break his 11 year losing streak versus the Canucks. The Canucks were going to falter.

Now that the reality check has set in, it’s on, it’s a new series. The fact they won game one despite blowing a 3 goal lead didn’t do the trick. They looked flat and the loss of Salo (who is day-to-day with a lower body injury) seemed to hurt. This year though, we’re not as bad off as we would otherwise be. Edler is stepping up nicely, Ossi Vaananen has proved he can be a consistently solid defensive replacement, and this is exactly what Gillis brought him in for.

While it looks like there’s not a lot to take out of this, the fact that we lost is like getting a monkey off our back. It lowers the bar of expectation which was getting a little high, and taking the Canucks a notch down which is never a bad thing. They weren’t getting cocky and overzealous, but they needed to stay down to earth and keep things in check. If nothing, that’s one of the biggest things to take out of this game. While a loss is never something you want, it can be a blessing in disguise. The Canucks don’t want to be Cinderella this year and losing that first game is one of the steps to making sure that doesn’t happen.

The ship’s not sinking, it’s just leaving port. The series is starting fresh, and we should have some great hockey ahead.

May 022009
Apr 282009
Apr 262009
Apr 222009
Apr 062009

There are probably a million excuses for the Canucks’ weekend, which included back-to-back losses against teams that won’t make the playoffs. I mean, last night’s game was their 9th game in 16 days and they’ve had to travel the night prior to each one of them. Also, they’re still obviously feeling the loss of Carly Bragnalo, a family member.

The fact is, after the high of catching up to Calgary last Tuesday, the Canucks have lost 3 straight games (0-2-1), and in each of those losses, they surrendered the first couple of goals and had to play catch-up. Whether it’s physical or mental fatigue, they need to recover quickly – like, by Tuesday – if they want to continue to remain in the hunt for the Northwest Division championship.

To the Canucks’ credit, they’re not making any excuses.

Here’s Roberto Luongo (from Brad Ziemer, Vancouver Sun):

“There’s no excuses tonight,” said Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo. “That was a game we needed to have. We all need to give a little bit more, starting with myself trying to make one or two more saves.”

Here’s Sami Salo (from Ben Kuzma, Vancouver Province):

“We have to figure it out soon, because it’s not going to happen by pressing a secret button going into the playoffs,” said defenceman Sami Salo, who wouldn’t lean on the fatigue crutch of the Canucks playing three games in four nights and 10 in the last 18 days.

“Every team plays the same schedule, so that shouldn’t be an issue for anybody. We lost this game in every aspect — battles, puck management and everything.”

The Canucks are well aware of what’s at stake.

Here’s Daniel Sedin (from Iain MacIntyre, Vancouver Sun):

“If we don’t play better than we did today, we’ll get embarrassed,” winger Daniel Sedin said. “This is a tough game to explain. We talked about coming out in the first period and getting a lot of shots on net. We had five shots in the first period.

“I think everyone realizes we have a good chance to win the division, and to come up with this kind of effort is not good enough. We can’t go into the playoffs playing like this.”

Fortunately, they have an opportunity to quickly right this ship. Tuesday’s game is against the Calgary Flames – a win will keep their hope for a division championship (and home-ice advantage in the playoffs) alive and a loss will all but kill it.

Go ‘Nucks!

Mar 052009
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