Thursday, April 16, 2009
In long, though...
My goodness, were there enough penalties called in this game? So much for playoff hockey having the officials swallow the whistles. That's probably more of a Game 7 thing. Anyway, there was five-on-five hockey for exactly 39:24 of this game. Which means, combined, that the equivalent to an entire period of hockey was played on special teams. No wonder a lot of the game seemed a bit disjointed -- it didn't allow for a lot of end-to-end stuff, rolling lines, and that kind of thing. It's a miracle the game went a whole 7:37 before Alex Edler got put into the box for that elbowing penalty along the end boards. I thought the fact that Alain Vigneault put the fourth line out for the opening faceoff would set the tone for the game, but it was the snowing of Roberto Luongo that started the rash of post-whistle extracurricular activity. Some stupid post-whistle penalties were called, and some weren't. After Mattias Ohlund got called for interference, the post-whistle scrum that ended the play nearly resulted in Shane O'Brien getting the gate, but fortunately for him, he didn't. Instead, Sami Salo slashed a stick out of someone's hands 19 seconds into the penalty kill, setting up Vancouver's big kill of the game.
Unfazed by the snowings, Roberto Luongo looked fine in net. He saw everything, and as usual, he tends to stop everything he sees. The Vancouver defense wasn't allowing a lot of havoc to occur in front of their net, and thus, there weren't too many moments where Luongo could be considered close to being under siege. Most of the shots were swallowed up by Luongo or cleared away if there were rebounds. In other words, barely any second chances, which is important because the lone Saint Louis goal was on a big rebound. If Luongo was a tiny bit more lucky, Brad Boyes' goal could have been stopped by the goal stick. I won't say that could have been the series-turning equivalent to Kirk Gibson homering in Game 1 of the World Series on one leg, but you never know. Of course, if Luongo added a shutout to the two shutouts that ended the regular season, the pressure on him to keep that going in the next game probably would have been unreal. All told, Luongo stopped 25 of 26 shots.
Though they took the one-goal lead into the third period, they didn't completely sit back to milk the lead, which really they should never do. As Tom Larscheid would say, "never give a sucker an even break." The Canucks had quite a few chances to pot a dagger goal, but never did. Mason Raymond hitting the post comes to mind, Carlo Colaiacovo's big pokecheck on the Alex Burrows breakaway comes to mind. The bottom line is, the Canucks didn't bury the Blues, and that's really all the Blues need to believe that they still have a chance in this series. Sure, the Canucks are one win closer to winning this series than the Blues are, but the Canucks didn't dominate them or demoralize them.
I think there was a shift in the third period where Rick Rypien pretty much was hitting everything that moved. On his third (I think) hit of the shift, he got sent to the box for charging since he did a bit of a lunge job on the hit, maybe left the feet a little bit. I guess I think about two things immediately -- one, how many times has a shift like that occurred for the Canucks this season, and two, how different would the Canucks' season have been if they guy didn't miss 70-some-odd games?
Maybe it's just me, but there seemed to be a litany of offside infractions in this game. I know it happened at least once with the Sedin line and once with the Kesler line, though I'm sure they were more than likely multiple offenders. Maybe I'm more scrutinizing with this, but it seemed like the players just weren't in sync as much as they'd probably like to be. Something seemed a bit off, and it's not just how slow Mats Sundin is skating either.
Still, the turning point in this game was probably the Canucks' kill of a 1:41-long two-man advantage for the Blues. This was the closest Luongo was to being under siege in the game, and it was an incredibly long shift for Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, and Willie Mitchell, who failed on a couple attempts to clear pucks, but still managed to block a few shots and tip pucks away from danger areas. It also wasn't easy since even if they did manage to clear the puck, two of their defensemen (Ohlund and Salo) were in the box. A Saint Louis goal at that point would have tied the game at 1-1 and done wonders for their confidence. Instead, the penalty kill came through and the Canucks never trailed in the game.
Lastly, I think Kyle Wellwood is going to score at some point in this series. I'll completely steal Larscheid's words and bring up Wellwood's poise with the puck and how he never rushes the play. There was a play where he made a real nice move toward the net and didn't ultimately get a shot away, but it's quite the teaser.
Game 2 is Friday night. As is the case for any team that wins Game 1 in a series, Vancouver will see how Saint Louis adjusts and adjust accordingly.
The Canucks took a year away from playoff hockey, but I'm so glad it's back.