Both teams played strong last night, but the Canucks stole the Blues' special teams work ethic: one goal when the man was pulled for the pending power play, one PPG blast from the point and successfully killing off 1:42 of a 5-on-3 in the first period. An all around great effort from the Vancouver special teams, coupled with Luongo's 25 saves, gave their packed house its first playoff win since the game seven victory over the Stars in 2007. (Aw, Trevor, where art thou?)
Some random thoughts:
- The Blues started stronger in the early going (shots were 5-1 in the opening minutes) and curiously some of the Vancouver players looked lost. But they settled in and definitely ended stronger, winning ten straight faceoffs and, at one point, outshooting the Blues 14-2.
- Talk about a game where everyone learns to hate the refs. It took until the third for any semblance of an even strength flow for either team to take hold. They could have easily tossed out a pair of calls per side. Vigneault was "confused" while Burrows said it was "cheesy".
- The officiating aside, the Canucks still marched to the box far too often. The Sedin hooking call that lead to Boyes' power play goal is precisely the type of crap that has to stop. They can't give a top ten power play unit seven chances on the PP because eventually they'll pop one.
- Vancouver pounded every Note within reach. They were far more physical and, for the most part, composed. Blackout's final minute and Balls clotheslining a Blues player is funny in hindsight, but again, see above.
- The Unemployment Line, still without Pyatt, was rock solid. The Holy Bernier was throwing his body around and even Pudge got into the act, pasting Perron to the boards in the third. Bernier was also screening Mason on Salo's winning goal.
- The Sedins were buzzing all night, so they're doing their best to shake that "non playoff player" tag they've been saddled with. Demo as well; not only was he playing physical, but his fake shot that froze Steen and lead to the slap pass goal showed great patience.
- On the other hand, I'd give you Sundin stats, but besides face-offs where he was second best at 53% (Pudge had 58%), there isn't anything to say. Perhaps that's why the Sun wants you to "take it on faith he's contributing." Whatever.
- If you count the regular season, Vancouver is now 31-0-3 when going into the third period with the lead.
- Anyone know why Berglund only played 8:41, third fewest on the team? Blackout played a massive 2:24 for Vancouver, but was charged with that misconduct for half of the second.
Heading into Friday both teams will need to adjust. Game one played very much to Vancouver's strengths (low scoring and physical) but they'll need to tighten up both of those and hope they can continue to overpower and outlast St. Louis. The Blues were sloppy too and it didn't "feel" like the Blues team that ran from 15th to 6th so you should expect a better effort, especially from their energy guys like Backes and Oshie.
Plenty of series left and the lines have been drawn. Friday should be more of the same.