Monday, May 04, 2009


Okay, so I'm doing this two days later. It's taken me a bit longer to have my thoughts about this game completely stew. I was hoping the Canucks had learned quickly in Game 1 that they can't sleep on this team of Chicago Blackhawks, a team that can score goals in bunches and do so very quickly.

The first 20 minutes of Game 2 looked a lot like the first period of Game 1. Vancouver looked great (aside from the first shift), and they had the lead going into the dressing room. They had a 1-0 lead after the first period in Game 1, but had a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes in Game 2. Much like Game 1, Chicago took ill-advised penalties in the first period and couldn't get all their lines rolling as a result. The Canucks made good 30 seconds into Niklas Hjalmarsson's delay of game penalty with a Sami Salo one-timer to make it 1-0. This was fine and dandy except that immediately after leaving the ice, Salo went to the dressing room and the team trainer followed him, and apparently the team doctor was involved as well. This happened 5:35 into the game, and Salo never returned, leaving the Canucks to play with five defensemen the rest of the way. I don't mind Bieksa and Mitchell getting extra minutes, but Mattias Ohlund is long in the tooth and I don't want Shane O'Brien getting any more minutes than he usually does. Anyway, the defensive pairings were screwed up for the rest of the game. Sure, Alex Edler capitalized on a one-timer on a five-on-three 69 seconds after the first goal, but the repercussions for the rest of the series could be huge for Vancouver without Salo.

Other things in that first period -- after Vancouver scored on the five-on-three, they nearly scored again toward the end of the penalty, but that was immediately followed by Chicago hitting Duncan Keith out of the penalty box with a pass to start a rush that was only stopped by being offside. I have Roberto Luongo's first glove save marked down with 9:51 to go. With 7:38 or so remaining, Ryan Kesler took a high-stick, but there was no call, and Chicago got a decent scoring chance after that. With 6:25 left, Jonathan Toews was allowed to skate through the defense and to the net untouched, but Luongo stopped and covered the shot. After Shane O'Brien was done serving a hooking penalty, the Kyle Wellwood line had a very good shift.

The second period was by far Vancouver's worst of the postseason. After Luongo made the ultra-awesome paddle stop of a Ben Eager shot with 10:51 left, it all went to crap for Vancouver. Rather than feeding off the energy that such a save could theoretically provide, the Canucks would go from up 2-0 to down 3-2 in a span of 4:26. After Pavol Demitra iced the puck (ill advised), Patrick Sharp scored soon after through a maze of bodies to make it 2-1. On a play where Dustin Byfuglien plowed into Luongo, somehow Kevin Bieksa was called for hooking which apparently froze the play and nullified the running of the goalie. With Bieksa in the box, Willie Mitchell wanted to put the puck in the air and inadvertently put it over the glass, and on the five-on-three, Sharp scored again to tie it. The fourth line for Vancouver did enough to get Patrick Kane to trip Rick Rypien. All good for the power play, right? It was until a crap change where Dave Bolland got behind the entire Vancouver defense. Duncan Keith fluttered a pass to him, and Bolland gloved it down, then skated alone to the net and put moves on Luongo before scoring. Shorthanded goal, and effectively the game was over. That was a backbreaker.

...then after that I stopped taking notes because I was so angry. The Blackhawks would score two more goals in the third period before the Canucks were able to answer. Any hope was squashed by the empty-netter that accounted for Chicago's sixth goal.

So what's the problem? Vancouver seems to juts have no bounceback to speak of after Chicago gets hot. Chicago takes the game to Vancouver, and the Canucks seem to have no answer. Rather than finding a way to stop the bleeding, the roof caves in. They definitely need to find a way to be more physical and to neutralize Byfuglien, that's for sure. They need Salo, but I don't know if they'll get him back. Maybe they go crazy and scratch a Rick Rypien for a Jeff Cowan, but probably not. If they get down, they just need to find a way to be stronger on the puck. Maybe when the Blackhawks are taking all those penalties early, it's by design -- all the skill players have rested legs later in the game, more rested than the Canucks' legs. The Blackhawks are fast already, but if they get the edge of a few more minutes of rest, that could be even more of an edge for Chicago.

Yeah, I don't know where this is all going. I just need the Canucks to advance.

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