We definitely got fun and games! We sure have two teams that play physical. They combined for 64 hits ( Van 38 / SJ 26 ), and both teams finished their checks. It was the Canucks that were just a little faster, stronger on the puck, and, finally, pressing the play with a one goal lead. That is how you do it.
That being said, Joe Thornton is a beast, and Niemi was the only reason it was close. Shoot high guys! Keep hitting as well. Boyle said in post game interviews that "they might have wore us down a bit".
You know where you are? You're in the jungle baby! Well, for Games 1 and 2, anyhow.
Without a doubt, this series will be a war. Two big teams ( and the top two in hitting stats in the playoffs remaining. For all the talk of the Big Bad Bruins, the Canucks lead the NHL with 474 hits to date, compared to the #2 team, the Sharks, with 389. Tampa - 313, Boston - 308 ) that like to play physical. The speed of the home team tonight was a bigger factor however, in my mind anyhow.
"Let me change unis with Daniel coach" ;
The Wonder Twins have had a bit of a hard road to trudge so far in the playoffs. After starting out well, the return of Dave Bolland coincided with them not scoring as much. Playing Keith and Seabrook did not help. The next series, against the ubercheckers of the league, the defensive duo was Suter and Weber. Some fluky goals led to some minus games, and suddenly every paper and website had a story on how the Sedins were "struggling". Yeah, OK. Fair enough. If you guys say so. Personally, I still believed in the Twins. They rewarded that belief tonight.
Henrik Sedin had everyone, including me, saying he "has to be injured". His not skating in all but one practice furthered that storyline. Maybe we should have trusted him when he said he was OK. Tonight? Well, in his 30 shifts and 19:15 TOI ( 4:04 PP ), he led his team in face offs by far, going 12 of 17 for 70.6 %. He had a goal and an assist ( one shot on goal. a 100% shooting %! ) 2 blocked shots. The Sedins were dangerous most of the night. 9.7/10.
Brother Daniel Sedin also had a great game. In his 30 shifts and 20:04 TOI ( 4:04 PP ), Daniel was solid, and the line gave the opposition fits all night. He led his team with 6 shots. He blocked a shot. He only had one face off all night, but it was in the final 25 seconds and he won it. ( the quote is from what Henrik said to AV during the timeout before that important draw ) He had a takeaway. Yet, somehow he had no points when his brother had 2. What's up with that? 9.2/10.
Hey Alexandre Burrows, what's up? The third man on the Twins' line had a very solid game. They talked afterwards about how they had to change it up in their game, to avoid getting predictable, and certainly did that. They cycled superbly again, but were spread out a bit. It seemed to work, as the Twin's line had the defenders chasing all night. In 29 shifts and 19:13 TOI ( 2:26 PP / :33 PK ), Burr' had an assist on Bieksa's goal with a pretty pass. He had 5 shots, and blocked one. He won the only draw he had to take. Mr Everything, when he is going, makes the Twins go. 9.3/10.
Back to the shutdown line duties huh? OK ;
Ryan Kesler, quite rightly, was recognized for his offensive play in the last series. Now, with Joe Thornton to check, he may be back to the "shutdown" role. He is so much more then that now though. His line had the Sharks on their heels almost as much as the Twins line. How'd he do? Well, in 28 shifts and 22:19 TOI ( 4:04 / :33 PK ), he assisted on the GWG, with a very nice pass to Ehrhoff on the power play. He had 3 shots ( missed 1 ), including a flurry in the late second period that was surprising for not getting a goal. 2 blocked shots, 3 hits, 2 takeaways and a giveaway, in addition to going 8 of 19 against a tough face off artist like Thornton. 9.15/10.
Chris Higgins might be the best trade deadline acquisition of the year. In 27 shifts and 17:56 TOI ( 2:26 PP / :26 PK ), he had 2 shots on net, and missed one. He and Raymond were also the main reason that line played more in the offensive end then the other end with some very strong forechecking. Higgins led the forwards with 5 hits. 8.9/10.
Mason Raymond is all about speed. Tonight, his speed was backing off the defenders all night. In 26 shifts and 16:37 TOI ( 2:26 PP ) he had 4 shots ( missed 2 ). 2 hits, 1 takeaway and 1 giveaway. His penalty led to a goal though, and he did not win any of the 3 draws he had to take. 8.75/10.
Take this "superior depth up front for the Sharks" question and shove it ;
Maxim Lapierre might just rival Higgins for that "best trade acquisition" tag. What a game. By the second half of the game, AV went away from the Kesler on Thornton match up and went with the third line there, without missing a beat. His entire line was forcing the opposition back on their heels all game, even Joe's line. In 23 shifts and 14:37 TOI ( :17 PP ), his only real negative stat was going 2 for 10 in the circle. He had the opening goal for his team. A +1, with 1 shot ( another 100% shooting %! ) 3 hits, and 1 diving penalty from a higher score. Maybe it was the ref wanting to not "get involved". Boyle definitely took a penalty there. Maxim might have went down a little less easy. 9.35/10.
Raffi Torres did exactly what he was supposed to this game. He was a huge part of the team's success, and it was just because he played a simple game and finished his checks. In 22 shifts and 13:40 TOI ( :17 PP ), he had an assist on Lapierre's goal. A +1 with a block and 4 big hits. His finishing checks all night was the reason Heatley put his elbow into his face to take the penalty that led to the GWG. 9.1/10.
Jannik Hansen might be too fast for the SJ defenders. He was certainly too fast for Huskins, beating him to pucks all night. In 25 shifts and 16:14 TOI ( :17 PP / :27 PK ), he was all over. His pass from behind the net on Lapierre's goal gave Niemi no chance to get across to save the shot. That assist gave him a +1, and he had 4 shots (1 missed ). 3 hits and 1 giveaway, and he even won the only draw he took. 9.15/10.
Well, I can say for sure you will get shifts in the first two periods anyhow ;
Cody Hodgson certainly does not care about the ice time, or lack of it. He is enough of a team guy to know that in close games, the coach shortens the bench. He did have one third period shift tonight, so that's something right? In his 8 shifts and 5:23 TOI, the stats sheet says he missed a shot and lost the 2 draws he took. But its important to remember that they played solid defensively when out against the top line for the opposition. That he and his linemates could handle the extra time if given the chance. For now, let's say an 8.5/10.
Victor Oreskovich drew back into the line up tonight. In his 8 shifts and 5:16 TOI, he was credited with two hits. I also noticed his speed more than once when he forced the defenders with his speed. 8.6/10.
Tanner Glass, however, might still be feeling the affects of the rib injury he had at the end of the regular season. In his 6 shifts and 6:26 TOI, he managed to keep a clean sheet. Unfortunately, that is not as good a thing as it is for goaltenders in soccer. He needs to get some hits at least. 7.8/10.
Now thats a deep blue line ;
We call them Juicy Hammer in Vancouver. Kevin Bieksa is the Juicy part of that, and he had himself a game. Even though their minutes were not the most on the blue line, they were hard minutes against the Sharks' top guys. It was the smartness of the Juicy Hammer play that was impressive tonight. They seemed to be in the right place all the time. In his 26 shifts and 21:45 TOI ( 2:01 PP / 1:00 PK ), Juice had a big goal by jumping into the play at just the right time. His 2 shots ( 1 missed ), and 1 blocked shot were noticeable, but his 5 hits got him noticed by the opposition all night. 2 takeaways, and 2 giveaways completed a full night for Mr Bieksa. 9.2/10.
Dan Hamhuis is all smarts to go with Juice's brawn. In his 25 shifts and 23:22 TOI ( :17 PP / 1:00 PK ), he was rarely out of position. He continually used a smart stick and positioning to win battle along the boards against the bigger Shark forwards. He had 1 shot on net, (and 1 off ), but his 3 blocks led the team in that category. He was only credited with 2 hits, but, as I said, his game was more guile than muscle tonight. 9.15/10.
Alexander Edler looks like he is far more comfortable being paired with Salo. In 27 shifts and 22:112 TOI ( 4:29 PP ), he was a plus 1. Tonight, in that team high time on the PP, his one weakness was missing the net. He did that 3 times, and in all 3 cases, getting it on net might have resulted in a goal. His shot was very heavy, if not accurate. Aside from that, his 5 hits included several of the huge variety. He also registered a takeaway. 8.99/10.
Maybe AV knew what he was talking about in the regular season, when he continually reminded people that "we are missing our #1 defenseman". Sami Salo may be getting a bit older, but there is no denying he knows how to play his position very well. His 31 shifts led the team, even if the 18:45 TOI ( 2:25 PP ) did not. He was a +1, had 2 shots, and blocked 1. But its his calming influence and hockey smarts that makes him so valuable. 9.05/10.
Oh Christian Ehrhoff. You may not be the most dependable in your own end, but that pass on the GWG was beautiful. In his 24 shifts and 19:52 TOI ( 4:17 PP ) he had 4 shots, and missed 1. 1 blocked shot and 3 hits for the big German. You get your detractors, Herr Ehrhoff, but that's OK. You have to take some risks to make some plays. Maybe a little less pounding point shots on the power play into defender's shin's next time, OK? 8.95/10.
Aaron Rome is there for a reason. He is the guy that is expected to back up the 'Hoff's meanderings. In 21 shifts and 14:02 TOI ( all but 5 seconds 5 on 5 ), he had 3 shots and 1 hit. Rome played a mainly calm and controlled game in his time. 8.9/10.
The old "broken stick", eh Lui? ;
What can you say about Roberto Luongo? He said "not to make excuses, but I think my stick was broken",( Yeah, OK. LOL ) on his pass to his good friend Thornton to give him a gift goal. The second, I don't blame him for, even though Craig Siimpson tried to rally all the ex goaltenders on CBC to blame him for it. He had that wrister from Boyle before Marleau made the only play he was noticeable for all night on the tip. His defender's could have helped him there. Aside from that, he made some great saves, on White, Thornton on a rebound, and Torrey Mitchell, amongst others. His defenders helped him out quite often, but apart from the brain fart on the first, he made the saves he had to. The always lucky 8.88/10.
The Canucks won because they were the better team tonight. Apart from the +1 guys mentioned above, no one was a minus, the rest of the roster finishing even. Yes, the Sharks had some moments, but they were outshot 13 to 7 in the third when they were down for the last 11 minutes plus, and I bet most of those were from the point. Not good for a team that is supposed to be so strong down low with their bigger forwards. The Sharks won 29 of 56 draws, but were outshot 39 to 28, in addition to being outhit . They can probably play better though, so the home team will have to do the same. Can't wait until Wednesday!