Monday, May 11, 2009


Okay, I'll admit it's pretty jack to start writing a piece about Game 5 with less than three hours to go before Game 6.

In Game 4, the Canucks tried to sit on that 1-0 lead and it almost worked. Then they made one mistake (what should have been a clear by Willie Mitchell) and it ended up in the back of their net. What could have been a 3-1 series lead was instead a tied series at two apiece. Fast forward to Saturday night, and it's an errant clear by Ryan Kesler, it's an errant clear by Ryan Johnson, it's undisciplined penalties late in the game, it's Sami Salo and Ryan Kesler colliding while they had Roberto Luongo pulled from the net and the team down a goal, etc. The Saint Louis series was completely different since Vancouver had an answer for everything that the Blues threw at them. That's hasn't been the case in this Chicago series. Game 4 was pretty much the only game where they played something close to a 60-minute game (sans overtime), and even though they controlled the game and had a stranglehold on it, they still weren't getting enough shots to the net. If the best they could do is play the suffocating defensive style and still not get that many shots away, then that's not going to be enough to win tonight, the series is over, and I shave off the playoff beard tonight.

The margin of error for the Canucks in this series has been small, and it's been way too small to allow for the mistakes they've made. I just want a win tonight just so the team can prove they have some pride and some fight left in them. Heck, the Boston Bruins have gotten themselves into a situation where they have to win three straight to move on, and they're the top seed, so the pressure must be incredible. In a way, the Canucks are in the same situation the Bruins are in -- they're down 3-2 in the series going into the other team's arena. They say home ice in the playoffs doesn't mean much until Game 7, and I'm hoping the Canucks get to a Game 7 for that to matter. It mattered against the Dallas Stars two years ago. Of course, I remember the two years before the lockout where it mattered less and the Canucks dropped two straight Games 7 on home ice (2003 against Minnesota, 2004 against Calgary).

As for the goals...
-- The first goal had Dustin Byfuglien (who the Canucks don't have an answer for) banging home a rebound off a right point shot by Brian Campbell. Mattias Ohlund just wasn't quick enough to get a hold of the rebound, and Byfuglien beat him to the puck and scored. No one was close to Campbell at the right point, which somewhat justifies Don Cherry's harping during this series about covering the points.

-- The second goal was Vancouver's first, tying the game at 1-1. Kyle Wellwood looked like he was passing somewhere other than the low slot, but it banked off a defenseman's skate and Ryan Kesler was down low and deflected it into the net. That goal doesn't happen if Kesler doesn't have his stick on the ice.

-- The third goal put the Canucks out to a 2-1 lead, and it ended with Mats Sundin showing some life, ripping a slapshot through on a 3-on-2 with the Sedins. The play started when a Chicago pass from the end boards got through all the Blackhawks and ended up on Henrik Sedin's stick.

-- The fourth goal tied the game at 2-2. Ryan Kesler was knocked down along the end boards on the penalty kill (Shane O'Brien got the extra two minutes in a late-period skirmish), but got back up and found the puck on his stick. I'm not sure whether he was woozy or what, but he tried clearing the puck down to the middle of the ice with one hand on the stick, and it was very much held in by Campbell. Luongo probably saw the puck through two of his own defensemen and Troy Brouwer in front. Still, a mistake ends up in the back of the net. I hate to say it, but it reminds me of January, a time long ago before the Canucks had truly found themselves. Toward the end of that God-awful run, the Canucks were coming close to winning games, but every mistake they made ended up in the back of their net.

-- The fifth goal, which the Canucks needed, instead ended up on the stick of the Blackhawks. Trying to kill off a power play (on an overaggressive high-sticking penalty that Kevin Bieksa can't take that late in the game), Ryan Johnson failed to clear the puck and it was held in. Mitchell in front tried to slash Byfuglien's stick out of his hands, but broke his own stick instead. He motioned to Johnson to give him his stick, but there was never a sufficiently long gap in the play to get the stick. Mitchell, with no stick, couldn't pick off the right-dot pass from Patrick Kane to Dave Bolland. Luongo played for a shot off Kane's stick, and was therefore completely out of position when the puck was on Bolland's stick.

-- The sixth goal was an empty-netter that iced it when a centering attempt went off a couple of sticks and toward the blue line. Salo and Kesler were near the blue line and got tangled up, and both were taken out of the play. As a result, Martin Havlat skated to the empty net untouched and scored easily.

One thing brought up by the radio postgame guys was the fact that after the Sundin goal that made it 2-1 for Vancouver, the Canucks had six shots the rest of the way. That's not going to get it done. The other thing that Tom Larscheid brought up is that if Kyle Wellwood buries his chance on that 2-on-1 midway through the third period, the Canucks win that game. Then again, your best players have to be your best players. The Canucks shouldn't have to depend on Kyle Wellwood to win games for them. That should be on the Sedins, Alex Burrows< Ryan Kesler, Luongo, Mitchell, Ohlund, and Bieksa before it's on Wellwood.

I just have a bad feeling about tonight. I really do. Then what am I left with? The Mariners? They can't hit. I can't wait three-plus months for the Seahawks to start playing.

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