Written by: Larry “The Nucks IceMan” Johnson
It turned out that Roberto Luongo was the Canucks best penalty killer and had to be, as San Jose started with the first five power plays of the game. Something was truly strange again as that made four in the first period, 10 in the last game, for a total of 14 penalties against the Canucks over the last four periods.
Even CBS’s HNIC’s Ron MacLean and Don Cherry agreed that at least three of the four called on the Canucks were not penalties. At the Canucks bench it must of been an “us against the world” mentality, as penalty after penalty kept being called.
Canucks special teams with Luongo, who stopped 33 of 35 shots, along with his .943 save percentage, were the difference. The ‘Nucks seemed to gain momentum and confidence from all of those kills. The Sharks on the other hand came away with zero for five attempts, while the Canucks scored on their first three attempts.
Even at that they were strange power plays, in as much as they were all five on threes. San Jose played two men short on all three and that, my friends, must be some kind of a record in the play-offs.
Canucks D-man Sami Salo had his finest game of the play-offs, as he was allowed to find the shooting lanes from the point and when he did, he unloaded that booming slap shot which Antti Niemi couldn’t stop. Salo finished with two goals, one assist, on three shots.
Since Coach Vigneault paired Alex Edler up with Salo, that pair has been much better than the previous pairing of Christian Ehrhoff and Edler. Edler looks a lot more comfortable with Salo, who as I stated before, has a calming effect on Edler’s game.
With Edler on the left point and Salo on the right, the Canucks have two players that can really make the Sharks point coverage uncomfortable. Not as many Shark players want to rush out to block either Edler’s or in particular Salo’s howitzers.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin have done a complete 360 from the Nashville series and today with Henrik’s four assists, which I believe is a club play-off record in a game, has taken over the NHL scoring with 19 points.
The pass that he made today through Niemi’s five hole to Burrows on the other side, was pure magic. That fourth goal turned out to be pretty important as San Jose fought back to close to within two goals.
Daniel was just as productive as he factored in three goals, with an assist in each. So that line with the Sedins and Burrows came away with eight points between them.
Raffi Torres was the Canucks version of San Jose’s Jamie McGinn, as he was running over Sharks like he was rushing out of a building on fire. Although he received a penalty at the end of the first period for bowling over Douglas Murray, he sure did get his licks in.
On another occasion he planted Joe Thornton into the boards on a clean hit, which put Thornton out of the game. There were several other Sharks D-men and forwards, and with that, his most physical game of the play-offs was in the books.
How he was only credited with one hit is beyond me. The person keeping those stats must have been day dreaming because I counted at least five.
Chris Tanev for his first NHL play-off game, was very steady, cool under fire and made some great first passes out of his zone. More importantly, he was able to keep away from the thunderous checks that San Jose’s forwards were dealing out.
Tanev played nine minutes of valuable, mostly error free hockey, and came away with a zero in the plus/minus column. I really liked how he worked with Keith Ballard, who he has played with before during the regular season. It’s not a coincidence that Ballard has played his best games with Tanev as his partner.
For a rookie, Tanev is starting to remind me of a younger version of Dan Hamhuis with the puck. Not flashy, doesn’t panic under pressure – just makes smart hockey plays.
After the game Coach Vigneault said he had a hard decision in choosing not to play Andrew Alberts. But since Alberts has not played the right side or Ballard, Vigneault decided he wanted a right hand shot to play that side. That’s how he explained it to Alberts.
Ballard, after only having played in four previous game,s also ate up precious time (10:34) for the back-end. His quasi hip check on Sharks McGinn who, while trying to put Ballard into the corner seats, missed and did a cartwheel, landing on his head, was a thing of beauty.
I wasn’t sure whether that ducking to get away from McGinn was one of the two hits he was credited with. I do know that McGinn came out the loser in that exchange.
Thirteen shots on goal doesn’t usually win you a game and especially in the play-offs, but then again this was no normal game having started at noon. The Canucks special teams were the deciding factor and now they are just one win away from advancing to the Stanley Cup finals.
If the referees can let the players decide the outcome of the game, without having a case of whistle-happiness, then just maybe this series will end on Tuesday evening in Vancouver.
Footnote: Surely the NHL officiating office can find someone more qualified than Eric Furlatt, because his refereeing was just downright incompetent. His feel for the game and tempo is something that needs a lot more seasoning and it shouldn’t be done in the play-offs!
Photo Credits – AP, Getty Images and Yahoo Sports!
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Filed under: Vancouver Canucks