Wednesday, April 22, 2009
This final game was a bit weird, though. It was kind of like two games in one. At the halfway point in the game, it looked like the Blues had absolutely nothing left. It looked like they'd thrown everything they had at Vancouver. Luckily for fans of the Blues and anyone that wanted a little bit of competition in this series, the Blues got up off the mat in the latter half of the second period. The Canucks weren't getting to a lot of the loose pucks like they had been for most of the series. The Blues, after repeatedly saying that they needed some bodies to get to the net, finally were making a bit of good on their words. In Game 3, the Blues were shooting for the blocker side on Luongo, and in Game 4, they managed to get someone there for the rebound. Brad Boyes' shot rebounded to Luongo's right, and Boyes skated over to put in his own rebound at the 13:30 mark of the second period. David Perron tipped in a puck to tie the game 3:24 later on a bit of a broken play. Bodies were flying everywhere, Luongo was way out of the net, and Alex Edler nearly saved a second goal in the game with his skate blade on the goal line.
It's good that the Blues showed a bit of moxie and pride to their fans on their home rink, because before that point in the game, it was just more disappointment. When the Canucks take early penalties, it usually throws off their early rhythm and line rolling. Steve Bernier went off 2:48 into the game for interference. Not even two minutes after that, Canuck penalty magnet Shane O'Brien went away for cross-checking. With under 90 seconds left in the period, key penalty killer Willie Mitchell went off for hooking, but the penalty itself was passable since it may have prevented a goal on a transition play. Much to the chagrin of Saint Louis fans, the result of all of the Canuck penalties was the same: no goals on the power play. Not even a minute after the early Bernier penalty had expired, Carlo Colaiacovo made a brutal turnover to his former Leaf teammate Kyle Wellwood, who skated all alone to the net and deked Chris Mason out of his equipment for an easy goal. The Mitchell penalty carried into the second period and expired, but Alex Burrows got called for a high stick 6:29 into the second period. Again, the Blues failed to capitalize. Again, the Canucks didn't take long to score at the other end. Shane O'Brien flung a puck toward the net and Burrows deflected it through Mason for the 2-0 goal, which looked like it could hold up as the put-away, demoralizing goal.
Of course, Saint Louis fans are going to crow about the disallowed goal which occurred with 1:54 remaining in the second period. Video replay, which I don't think had audio on it, showed the play devolving in front of the net, and eventually Luongo's left pad dipped a bit behind the goal line and Jay McClement got the puck into some white space. It looked like Luongo reached a breaking point on the play, like at some point he shut down, and that the puck went in after that. I think that could have been right after the whistle came. As for the rule of intent to blow the whistle counting just as well as blowing the whistle itself, I do think something has to be done about it, but I've seen a few of those go against the Canucks as well, and it isn't cool. But if your team went 0-for-7 on the power play, a disallowed goal like this isn't the only reason your team lost. I won't deny the Canucks lucked out at this point, and they were praying for the second period to end. I certainly was.
Speaking of the power play, Ryan Kesler looked like he was going to sprint across the Saint Louis blue line with some speed in overtime, and it appeared he got whistled for offside. I'm not sure if the call took too long or what, but that turned into a double-minor for high-sticking, and though I yelled at the television for the call, I couldn't do it after the replay. Kesler tried flinging his stick forward, and it caught former Canuck Mike Weaver's face and drew blood. The Blues didn't score on the resulting four-minute power play, and it ended before the four minutes elapsed because Colaiacovo took an ill-advised roughing penalty. That proved to be the final death knell in the series for the Blues. Saint Louis went 0-for-7 in the game on the power play and went 1-for-24 in the series.
Mats Sundin didn't dress for either of the two games in Saint Louis, and Sami Salo didn't dress in this game. Hopefully with what could be a week or nine days of rest, the Canucks can have those two draw back into the lineup. I'm not sure I was too comfortable with having Rick Rypien skate with Kesler and Pavol Demitra. I like what Sundin adds in terms of key faceoff wins and puck possession along the end boards in the offensive zone. Sami Salo's absence took away the booming slapshot on the power play, so it makes Vancouver a bit more one dimensional on the power play. Still, to me that just means Alex Edler needs to shoot more, not just on the power play, but at all times since he has the hardest shot on the team. In any event, with Salo out, Ossi Vaananen drew into the lineup, but Alain Vigneault's use of him was only in even-strength situations, and for only 8:17 of play. Vigneault relied heavily on Mattias Ohlund and Willie Mitchell, who were on the ice over 35 minutes. Kevin Bieksa nearly got to 35 minutes himself. Edler was on for 28:12, and O'Brien did 16:15 on the back pairing.
After Alex Burrows' 2-0 goal in Game 2, Canuck radio play-by-play man John Shorthouse's call was, "how many big goals can one man score?" I would say this has been a charmed season for Burrows, but he's worked really hard for all the good things that have happened to him this year. He had a 28-goal season with 23 assists, and now had three goals in this playoff series. He ended it with the overtime goal and an arrow-shot tribute to late Canuck defenseman Luc Bourdon.
If the Sharks manage to blow their series against the Ducks (or if the Red Wings have a monumental collapse from being up 3-0), the Canucks will have home-ice advantage in the second round. If the Sharks lose, the Canucks would get home-ice against the winner of the Chicago/Calgary series. If Calgary came back to win that series and we had Calgary/Vancouver, I don't know if I'll make it through that series alive. With how heated that rivalry is, you can throw out the seedings, throw out the fact that the Canucks swept their first-round opponent, throw out the season-series record, throw it all out and just play, even steven. When those teams get together, nothing that happened before matters. Of course, the Sharks could come back to win their series, which would land the Canucks in a series with the Detroit Red Wings. As I've said, the Canucks match up better with the Red Wings than the Sharks. That could be a fun series.
But now, we rest...