It's been a long time since the Canucks Rock and Rolledinto the Conference Finals. Not since that magical 1994 run. Who knows though, with Kesler playing as much like a beast as Linden did back then, maybe we can get past that last hurdle. It would sure be nice to "Do the stroll" down Robson to Denman and Stanley Park. Lots of work to be done. Only half way there. But it feels good.
How's the ticker though folks? That was an intense game. The ice conditions might not have helped, but the special teams certainly did. In the end, the Predators only scored once on 21 man advantages. Tough to win that way.
Before we get to the ratings, a huge thank you, and a heartfelt cyber handshake, to the Predators and their fans for a series full of feeling, full of hard work, full of competition, but not full of hate. Sure, the teams grew to dislike one another over six hard fought games, ( and the NM and OTF blogs reflected that. But they also reflected passionate hockey fans.) but in the end there was a genuine respect expressed by both teams afterwards. Very nice to see. Almost as nice to see as the revelation for fans that do not get to see hockey "Southern Style". It rocks. I want to go to "Nash Vegas" and catch a game now!
By all accounts, the people were friendly to the Nth degree. The hospitality tremendous. The fans ( SBN and in the arena ) as passionate and in love with hockey as any Canadian. ( You guys get loud! ) Bravo Nashville, your fans, and your team. Well done.
I think you all know who will get a top rating tonight. But there were several others that had great games. Jeff Tambellini played 4:41. He may have made the most impact in the second period with that amazing display of speed.
Let's look at it again. Wow. You get another game if I am the coach Jeff. It was part of, and indicative of the collective team effort tonight. The Twins have been ( a bit unfairly ) maligned this series. Like playing against Suter and Weber is no big deal. They were strong in the third when it mattered. Bieksa and Hamhuis, Salo, and all the rest of the penalty killers put on a wonderful display of special teams.
Preds fans must feel like we did when Toews would singlehandedly beat the Canucks in past games, when watching Ryan Kesler do his thing. Both are talented and full of skill and a will to win. It's one of my favorite things about sport, watching an athlete perform to the zenith of his abilities and get rewarded. They will rest up and heal a little. Then we get to watch them do it all over again down the coast, or in Hockeytown ( go 7 boys!) We were witness to a new star player being introduced to the league this series. Kesler was the "man".
Man, that Kesler fellow can play hockey real good, hey y'all? ;
I am tempted to just make 10/10 his default position in these Report Cards. Another game where he was the best player on the ice. Lets do Ryan Kesler's numbers tonight. He led all Canucks in shifts and icetime with 33 shifts, and 22:54 TOI. (2:19 PP / 3:40 PK..highest for the forwards in that respect as well ) He won 18 of 29 faceoffs, and it seemed even the once or twice he lost one in his own end, that he battled and got the puck back. 2 assists. +1, only one shot on net ( 2 more missed,) and the close play on him specifically from the Preds blocked a few of his attempts ( they only had 10 blocks credited, but the puck was bouncing so much, who could tell?! ) I block, 1 hit credited ( he was in on the play all night though, tough stats guy in Nashville ) and 2 takeaways. A penalty for going to the net and getting rag dolled by Weber ( yeah, I know, he did not slow much, and it was deserved. But that was paying the price by definition when a guy like Weber gets to treat you that way! ) 9.6/10 ( give him something to shoot for!)
His linemate Mason Raymond had a hell of a game as well. In addition to scoring the opening goal on a solid set up from Kes', and a great play in close with the puck by Mase, he had a pretty full 27 shifts and 17:23 TOI ( :38 PP / 2:30 PK ) In addition to being dangerous at times in the offensive end, he was pretty good in his own end, especially on the PK. +1, 2 shots ( missed 2 more ) and a seems low 1 takeaway. His chemistry with #17 is pretty easy to see. 9.15/10.
Everyone's favorite New Yawker Chris Higgins was questioned as even being able to play tonight after a blocked shot on Klein in Game 5. Play he did. 27 shifts, and 3rd highest amongst forwards 19:22 TOI ( :38 PP / 1:30 PK ). +1, 1 shot on net ( a good one late that forced a good save and a face off late in the third. ) Missed 2 more, but he was hard on the puck with the rest of his line. Another guy credited with only 1 hit, but strong on the boards most of the night. A lousy penalty late in the first for slashing Tootoo the negative that takes him out of the 9's. 8.85/10.
Daniel and Henrik would like to politely raise the middle finger to the SuperDuo, and gladly wave goodbye ;
The Sedins had a good game. A goal on the power play, and strong in the third at both ends of the ice. People are going to praise or chastise them according to how they view the Twins anyhow. This was their best in a while.
Henrik Sedin may be injured, for all that. You will never get confirmation, but it did look like he pulled a groin earlier in the playoffs, and he is just not as strong on the puck as he is usually. Some of that may have to do with the Pred's top defensive pairing. They are not thought the best in the NHL for nothing. Tonight? Well, they got a -1, but that goal was another weird one. Maybe Hank could follow Legwand into the corner. But I don't think he expected him to score from there. Again.His 31 shifts included several late draws that he either won or battled well on. His 17:47 TOI ( 2:14 PP / :23 PK ) was mainly solid, apart from a few plays where he seemed to get pushed off the puck a little. Still, a nice PP assist, 3 shots, 1 block, and 1 takeaway showed he was not a passenger tonight. A tough penalty to take in the first minute though a bit unlucky. 8 of 16 at the dot. 8.5/10.
Daniel Sedin was stronger on the puck then his possibly injured twin brother. He had a goal on the power play in his 27 shifts and 14:00 TOI ( 2:19 PP / :13 PK ). 3 shots and 1 miss. No hits, but the Sedins, Daniel and Henrik, have to be commended for a pretty good third period. 8.7/10.
Mr Everything is what we call Alexandre Burrows. He was only a -1 tonight, and only had 1 blocked shot ( and a 1 for 2 taking draws !) in his 30 shifts and 19:35 TOI ( :38 PP / 3:18 PK ). It was on the penalty kill, and in the third where he did his best work. The line did look dangerous at times, though not up to the Hank/Dank/Bank standards. Still, pretty good. 8.5/10.
Anyone can play with Lapierre and Hansen. They just have to skate their ass off ;
Maxim Lapierre came out with a strong performance tonight in his 27 shifts and 15:30 "hard"minutes. ( snuck out for :08 on the PP/ and a strong 1:53 PK ) 7 of 12 in the circle, many of those defensive zone draws, especially when killing off the goalie interference call on Kesler. 4 hits and 1 takeaway in a hard skating, hard working game. 8.8/10.
Jannik Hansen is going to get paid in the offseason. The guy has wheels and desire like you would not believe. He gets farther up ice on the penalty kill then just about anyone not named Kesler, and his speed makes it a good thing, not a bad one. In his 28 shifts and 16:51 TOI ( :08 PP / 3:23 PK ) 2 shots, and a blocked shot. But his defensive work was great, and his penalty kill wonderful as well. 8.8/10.
Raffi Torres did not have the best luck in this game. You make your own luck, they say, and Raffi did not do that. He was OK in the first, but the penalty late in the second was almost a disaster. It saw his ice time and shifts fall as well, as he was replaced on the third line by Tanner Glass in the 3rd, when the 4th line did not see the ice. Seemed to be fighting the puck tonight in his 14 shifts and 9:35 TOI ( :08 PP ) Missed one shot and was 1 of 2 in the circle. He'll be better, but he was not the best tonight. 6.95/10.
We do more in two periods than most people do all game ;
I get it, I really do. Even a rookie as good as Cody Hodgson is still a rookie. Protecting a 1 goal lead, I had no problem with AV keeping the fourth line on the bench in the third. In his two periods, 7 shifts and 4:38 TOI he was only credited with one hit. He went 2 for 3 at the dot as well. But I watched him pretty close tonight. He made several smart plays, confident plays on the puck, and showed he will be able to handle more ice if given to him. Call it a high score based on hard work, and potential of more work! 9/10.
Tanner Glass had a more productive evening, however, at least on the stat sheet. 2 shots, 1 block, and even though the Nashville guy does not say so, I am crediting him with two hits I know I saw him make. Not bad in 16 shifts and 8:05 TOI ( :08 PK ). Solid defensive play with Hansen and Lapierre in the clinching third period. 9/10.
Maybe some stickler will berate me for the score I am going to give Jeff Tambellini. In his first playoff game ever, he did not see the ice in the third, and only had 1 block in 8 shifts in 4:41 TOI. There is a reason I gave him a special mention above. Martin Erat was just off the bench. He may have had a bobble picking up the loose puck, but Erat was at centre when Tamby took off from the offensive blue line. Erat is not the slowest guy around. But Jeff Tambellini made him look turtle slow, and probably saved a goal, if not a fantastic chance for one. Good enough for me. 9.1/10.
Oh, so THAT'S what you saw when you picked this blue line, huh Mr Gillis? ;
In a defensive game, with plenty of penalties to kill, and a third period where the Preds barely got a sniff, the blue liners had to have a big game. They did.
Dan Hamhuis is a very smart defenseman. Not the biggest guy, he makes his mark on the ice by being in the right position and playing smart. Was outworked by Ward on the one goal that gave him a -1, but the play was along the goal line. Hard to blame him that much, considering his team high 25:07 TOI over 31 shifts. ( :21 PP / 4:36 PK ...thats 4:36, more than any other defender tonight ) 2 blocked shots, 2 hits, and 3 giveaways. But I bet he got most of them right back. He was huge tonight, on the PK especially. 9.2/10.
Kevin Bieksa must really want to stay next year. First, there was this little nugget that Cherry showed us after the first. I love it. His teammates love him too Don. On the ice? Well, 32 shifts and 23:46 TOI ( 1:05 PP / 3:32 PK ) Was on the ice for the fluky goal. Blocked 2 shots and had 4 hits. Yeah, he had a penalty. For protecting the team's best player from getting rag dolled by Superbeard. That's OK by me 9.05/10.
When AV mixed up the pairings a little, he moved Alexander Edler, who had a tough game last time out, together with an old friend. (Salo played on and off with Edler in his first couple years ) Playing with the blue line's "secret #1 defenseman " Sami Salo, Edler bounced back and had a better game. He had 28 shifts and 21:59 TOI ( 2:03 PP / 3:18 PK ). 1 shot ( 1 missed ), and a team high 3 blocked shots. 3 hits, and a higher score if he did not take a stupid cross check on Legwand in front. 8.7/10.
Sami Salo is a beast. We like to make jokes about the 37 or so injuries. But this team is just better when the "Finnish MacInnis" is around. Tonight? 29 shifts and 19:29 TOI ( :38 PP / 3:39 PK ). He might have been the most steady defender, and certainly has a knack for calming the play down. That's a talent like anything else, and he is a smart player. +1 and 2 shots is not exactly filling the stats sheet. If they had a stat for breaking the pressure and dumping the puck without icing it, he might have filled it up more. 9.19/10.
Christian Ehrhoff had an alright game compared to the last one as well. In 23 shifts and 17:18 TOI ( 2:06 PP / 1:18 PK ), he kept his sometimes weakness of giving away the puck easily in his own end in check, with only 1 giveaway tallied. 1 shot and 1 hit. But he and Aaron Rome were dependable when it counted in that shutdown third period. 8.6/10.
We will have plenty of time to debate the 6th defenseman position in the break before the WCF. Aaron Rome is doing nothing to take himself out of the lineup. AV likes him because he plays a simple game, which is all he wants from the 3rd pairing. Tonight, he had the least minutes by far, with 17 shifts and 12:05 TOI ( :02 PP / :35 PK ). In that short time, he had 3 hits. He battled guys in front. 1 missed shot, but no giveaways tallied. 8.75/10.
Just win baby ;
Roberto Luongo. What do you call this performance. Well, Kypreos was trying to cast doubt and say he gices up a "weak goal a game", which seems harsh, and false. I get where he was coming from with the fluky ones. But that's the way Rollie wants him to play those sharp angle shots, rather than the "swinging door" technique of holding the post. He was very solid in the first when all the power plays ( the PK was a perfect 5 for 5 ) gave the Preds an 11 to 7 advantage in the first. In the second, apart from the goal, he was solid when his team needed him to be. Weber was shooting more ( 6 shots, 2 missed ) and Roberto stopped them all. In the third, he was very good on Wilson, Legwand, and Tootoo, before the big Weber shot in the dying seconds that Luongo fought through a screen to save. The haters can suck it. He did his job. 9/10.
So there we go. A hard fought and intense series that some will say was no where near as entertaining as the Hawks series. I disagree. This one had less "marquee value", but was pretty entertaining to me. It was more independent film as opposed to summer blockbuster. Congrats again to the Preds and their fans.
They'll be back. Damn it ( hope someone else draws these guys next time ). After slaying the physic dragon in the first round, this series showed the Canucks all about hard work and bringing it every shift. Both those lessons will make them a formidable opponent for either the Sharks or the Wings.