SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 22: A Vancouver Canucks fan shows her support during Game Four of the Western Conference Finals between the Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose Sharks during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 22, 2011 in San Jose, California. The Canucks defeated the Sharks 4-2. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Sing with me Canuck fans. Sing for the years of waiting for this. So close. They all say the fourth one is the toughest, and of course that is true. But with only one more win to get, and a 3-1 series lead, let's say that Canuck fans are jacked.
Kudos all over the place. We'll get to those in a minute. But special mention has to go to the penalty killers, including Luongo. Those five straight early could have made this game a much different one early on. Kudos to the Twins for doing what superstars do, especially Henrik and his four point night. And, of course, kudos to the fans that took the time and money to make this a less than home game tonight. We heard you. We heard you sing that national anthem better than the lounge singer they had do it. Way to go folks!
Dream on fans. Just one more win this series, before waiting for the winner of the Bruins and Bolts. So close. I can feel "all these lines on my face getting clearer" already! Hockey fandom prevents aging!!!
Special teams . Both were important to this win today. The penalty kill kept the team in it in the first period. The power play put the dagger in when they had the chance to. That is what good teams do.
Wonder Twins powers definitely activated ;
Henrik Sedin. He was getting told by media and fans ( including me! ) alike that he must be injured in the Nashville series. Perhaps he was. He sure is not now. Classic Henrik today. Never shoot when you can make a better chance from a pass. In his 29 shifts and 20:39 TOI ( 4:12 PP / :25 PK ), Hammerin' Hank had 4 assists. His 1 shot was a solid scoring chance. 2 takeaways and 1 giveaway, to go with a 10 for 22 day at the dot. Oh, and he made a nice pass to Couture to get the too many men call in the 5 on 3 avalanche. Of course it was on a perfect pass. 10/10. (Yeah, I know, but did you see that pass through Niemi's legs on the 4th goal!? He set a Canuck playoff record with 4 assists as well, and now leads the NHL playoffs in scoring with 19 points)
Daniel Sedin did not just glide around all game either. In 27 shifts and 18:40 TOI ( 4:12 PP / :10 PK ), he got 3 assists, the last one to spring Henrik for a two on one with Burrows. Like his brother, he was a +1. Only 1 shot hit the net though, and 4 is too many to miss. 1 hit, 1 takeaway, 1 giveaway. Not as dynamic as his older brother, but good enough for a 9.29/10.
Alexandre Burrows may just get higher than that, even though he only had 1 goal, a tap into the empty net. In 32 shifts and 22:02 TOI ( 2:51 PP / 3:59 PK ) he only had the 1 shot. He was only credited with 1 hit. But he deserves more for his work on that perfect penalty kill. Three great screens on three power play goals. 9.3/10.
We can be whatever you want your second line to be coach ;
Ryan Kesler had a pretty good game. In 31 shifts and 18:59 TOI ( 4:12 PP / 3:57 PK ), the kesLORD had a power play goal on a great one timer over the goalie's shoulder. He went 9 for 22 in the circle ( a down mark for him. ) He blocked 2 shots, and led his team with 4 hits. 1 takeaway, and all the above offset the fact that his line went -2 in the third period. 8.78/10.
Mason Raymond can flat out fly, can't he? His speed got him free, and he had a great chance for a penalty kill goal early on. In his 26 shifts and 14:59 TOI ( 2:20 PP / 3:43 on that perfect PK ), he was credited with the 1 shot, 2 hits, and a takeaway. 8.6/10.
Chris Higgins will be needling his linemates because he was only a -1 tonight. Jut means he changed at the right time! He had a good game too, even without points. He was credited with no shots, but had a couple good opportunities on net that were blocked. In his 26 shifts and 14:48 TOI ( 2:20 PP / 1:30 PK ) he blocked a shot, had 2 hits, and 1 takeaway. 8.55/10.
Damn, that is what you call your third line? ;
Maxim Lapierre and his line were more the usual definition of a third line tonight. They checked hard, and were more about shutting down the other guys today. In his 23 shifts and 15:05 TOI ( :14 PP / 2:10 PK ), he finished an even. Lapierre also won 6 of 10 faceoffs. He missed his only shot on net, but blocked 3 and made 3 hits. More often than not his line was out versus the big stars for the Sharks. Mission accomplished. 8.7/10.
Raffi friggin' Torres. He was back in beastmode today. In his 19 shifts and 12:03 (:14PP ) TOI, Raffi was a -1, took a penalty that may have been at least partially a reputation call, but also had another ( the only hit he was actually credited with ) where he knocked Joe Thornton out of the game with a crushing shoulder to shoulder hit. At least a couple more should have been tallied ( one shift he shut down the Shark pressure in his own end by going into the corner and bowling everyone over! Maybe they did not know how to credit that one. ) I loved his game today. 8.69/10.
Jannik Hansen must be tough to play against. He has speed, and he hits. In his 24 shifts and 17:08 TOI ( :14 PK / a team high for forward 4:06 on the PK ), he was not credited with a shot, even though he forced a big save on the Raymond chance by driving to the net and getting to the rebound. 1 blocked shot and 1 hit, to go with winning the only draw he took, does not really describe his contribution accurately. 8.75/10.
Back to the 4th line with you rookie ;
Cody Hodgson should just stay in the lineup. His smarts on the ice were on notice all game long. He drew a penalty that started the avalanche of PP goals by hustling to check Heatley, who then took the lazy high stick. In 11 shifts and 5:06 TOI ( :06 PP ), he only got one takeaway, and was 1 for 3 at the dot. He could give you more if you give him more time on the ice. All you can ask from your 4th liners. 8/10.
Alexandre Bolduc gets the same kind of recommendation as Cody as well. He had 9 shifts, and 4:43 TOI. No other things the stats man saw made the final report. But I saw a guy that used his speed and size to keep the game in front of him all game long. Put it this way. AV had no problem with it when the Hodgson line found themselves out against the Couture or Thornton ( before his injury ) lines, and that's good enough for me. 8/10.
Tanner Glass though. What can you say? His first penalty was a dumb one. The second, maybe Wellwood went down a little easy, but its a penalty. He did block 2 shots, and had a hit in his 12 shifts and 5:53 TOI. Only forward under the give a shit line today, because of the penalties. 7.2/10.
Blue Line scoring is the best scoring ;
Kevin Bieksa is a definite leader on this team. His 35 shifts and 26:48 TOI speak to that ( 2:44 PP / 4:17 PK ). A -1, and of his 4 shots that were not blocked, only 1 hit the net. 2 hits seems a little low, and he did have 1 takeaway. His best work of the night was with Hamhuis on the penalty kill. Yes Kevin, that was a penalty. Stick barely touched Joe, and he did snap his head back like you showed the ref. But keep that stick down. 8.4/10.
Dan Hamhuis has his usual quiet, effective game. In 35 shifts and 25:15 TOI ( 1:48 PP / 4:13 PK ), he finished a -1. He also got 1 shot on, and 1 shot off. Where he was most effective was on the penalty kill, reading passes and breaking the pressure numerous times in the first period. Only credited with 1 hit, but he had 5 blocks. Yes, Dan, that was a very light call early in the 2nd for a fifth straight penalty to kill. But you saw how they were calling it already, right? 8.5/10.
Sami Salo gets called the best all round defenseman by his teammates all the time. San Jose will not argue after today. Lets see how he filled up his 35 shifts and 23:33 TOI. ( 4:02 PP / 5:09 PK ). Well, the Finnish MacGinnis had 2 goals and an assist. He had 3 shots, 5 blocks, and 2 hits. 1 giveaway makes it a "so close" for the quiet Finn. 9.9/10.
Alexandre Edler sure likes playing with Salo. He has been, overall, much steadier with the older Finn on his other side. Today he was just fine. The stats guy did not give him huge love, and 1 shot, a +1, 1 block, and 1 takeaway sounds kind of middling. I do not know how the SJ guy did not see him have a hit, as he was hard along the boards every time the puck was in his end. in his 34 shifts and 24:36 TOI ( 4:21 PP / a team high 5:12 PK ), I did not see him make many mistakes. 9.1/10.
Excuse me if I get a little high in the marks for Keith Ballard. He is such a good story. Such a good teammate ( how many 4.2 million guys do you know in the league that would create nary a problem, and even agree with their coach if they were not playing like Keith? ), and solid on the ice. How did he fill up his 17 shifts and 10:34 TOI? Well, he was a -1, but that was not specifically his fault or anything. His 1 shot was on a nice rush. His two hits included a tremendous hip check on McGinn that really lifted his bench. The plan of the Sharks was to try and pressure he and Tanev, but both handled that pressure like a dream. 8.65/10.
Chrisopher Tanev should be checked by doctors to see if he has blood in his veins instead of ice water. In his first playoff game ever, I don't remember a big mistake in his 16 shifts and 9:03 TOI. He was only credited with 1 block, but his game was all about smarts and exactly zero panic. Yeah, maybe not perfect for the kid. But a very good first game. 8.4/10.
I did not watch CBC today, so I don't know if Luongo was too deep in his net Mr Simpson ;
Roberto Luongo will always have detractors. He made 10 million this year ( though why does everyone use that to describe him instead of the 5.3 his Cap hit is, like everyone else? 10 million this year is just an accounting thing, right? ), and people expect perfection. Well, today, he had to handle 3 straight power plays in the 1st, 2 more in the 2nd, and a Shark team that outshot the Canucks 17 to 3 in the third, and 35 to 13 overall. Nothing beat him until the 3rd, and the first one was tipped. I heard Pang on NBC try to say he was a little off on the Clowe goal, but what can you do? Looked like a great shot to me. Mainly, Roberto was excellent. 9.2/10.
So, there we are. Only one more win for this team to get back to the Finals for the first time since 1994. Like Bart Scott would say "Can't Wait" until Tuesday!