VANCOUVER, CANADA - MAY 24: Alex Burrows #14 and goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrate after defeating the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in double-overtime in Game Five to win the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Arena on May 24, 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
As I sit here and watch the euphoria on the streets, as my open window brings the whoops and yells from the sidewalks filled with revelers, "How I Wish You Were Here" comes to mind. That or "Comfortably Numb", because I still feel that way after soaking it all in for the past hour! How I wish you were here for all the rest of Canada that wants to come along for the rest of the journey.
Kudos to a great team from San Jose playing their best game of the series tonight. Bounces are a funny thing. The Sharks got a couple on their two goals, and the home team a couple big ones as well. The "icing" call the San Jose fans will be bemoaning is a tough one for a linesman at real speed on a slapper by Boyle, and it is just too bad it was Marleau that got a stick on the puck on Bieksa's clincher. He played well all series, as did most of his team. Joe Thornton is a warrior. A separated shoulder, and he had a great game. Wow.
That being said, so are the Sedins. They were the best line of both teams tonight, as was the Vancouver goalie the best of the two on the ice. Sure, you cannot really blame Niemi on any of the goals. But Luongo was the only reason this game was as close as it was. Hopefully, this career defining performance will quiet the Luongo doubters.
But you know what? I could care less. That is their problem, and the Vancouver Canucks are going to the Stanley Cup Finals!!
So, how you feeling about your various whipping boys on the team now huh? Bieksa, Luongo, the Twins were four of the biggest lightening rods for the hyper critical fans in this city. Those folks are falling all over themselves tonight telling anyone that will listen that they "always loved that guy"!
Its OK. We are all like that from time to time. The fans here just care so much. The players know that too, I would think. They know most of it comes from the love that we have for the team. Sometimes you would shake your head at the vehemence of it. But the gratification for those players and we the fans should take some of the steam out of that stuff. Congrats guys. You told us to be confident. We just have so much weird history in this city, you know? Sorry we doubted you!!
Wonder Twins wonderful ;
Henrik Sedin. What a leader. Not only does he get 2 assists, he led his team with a determination that was a delight to watch. The Boyle / Murray pairing got worked on the first goal. The Huskins / Vlasic pairing did better, but they were still hard pressed. That was all the Sedins and Burrows. Hank had a team high 46 shifts, and a number matching 33:33 TOI ( 1:03 PP / :02 PK ), he won 10 of 27 draws ( but plenty of those losses were taken back by ferocious checking by the Twins and Burrows ). A +2, 2 shots ( 3 missed )1 blocked shot, 1 hit and 3 takeaways, he is 1 lazy hook from perfection. 9.75/10.
Daniel Sedin was just as much a leader as his brother tonight. In 42 shifts and 32:21 TOI ( 1:03 PP ), he had an assist on Burrow's goal, and had a team high 5 shots test Niemi tonight ( missed 3 ). More robust than his bro', with 2 hits, and a giveaway to offset his takeaway. 9.5/10.
Alexandre Burrows is a big time player, isn't he? He scored the all important 1st goal in typical Sedinery fashion, blasting home the perfect set up. His 45 shifts and 33:46 TOI ( :51 PP / 3:24 PK ) were full of effort. For instance, ont he clinching goal, it was his effort that made Marleau get less than all of that puck. He almost had a second in front on a rebound, and another where he was buried by Pavelski on a huge hit just before he could get the shot off. All effort that guy. 1 goal, 1 assist, +2, 2 shots, ( 1 missed ), 1 block, 1 hit ( seems low, but whatever ), 1 takeaway, 1 giveaway, and a perfect 2 for 2 that included a huge in his own end, on the penalty kill draw. 9.7/10.
Kesler is a warrior too, right Joe? ;
Listen, Ryan Kesler has gotten more and more put on his shoulders in this playoffs, and he has stood up tall under that weight. Tonight, the man looked to have a possible groin pull ( though cramps was another betting favorite ) and still came back with the tying goal in the last 15 seconds on a perfect tip. Let's see how he fills up the stats sheet, huh? In 39 shifts and 29:17 TOI ( 1:19 PK ), he won 17 of 29 draws, including the one on his tying marker. +1, 3 shots, ( 2 misses ), 4 blocks ( more than any other forward ) 2 hits, 2 takeaways, and 1 giveaway, to go with 1 penalty for slashing Setoguchi. 9.55/10.
Mason Raymond? Well, he had 41 shifts and 28:00 TOI ( :41 PP / 1:05 PK ). He was pretty good on the penalty kill. His line was checked well by the Thornton line and the Pavelski line on occasion. But only 2 shots and 1 takeaway for the Cochrane, Alberta native. He skated miles and miles though, and made at least two wonderful back checks in this game. One in particular on Heatley in the slot in the third was very, very nice. 8.85/10.
Chris Higgins has the game on his stick on the second overtime period, but was denied by Niemi on a great save. In 38 shifts and 26:38 TOI ( :41 PP / :22 PK ), he had 3 shots and missed one. 1 giveaway, but ( tied with Lapierre ) a team high 5 hits. 9.05/10.
You guys! Just when I doubt you, you do something like that... ;
Maxim Lapierre had an up and down game in the early parts, but he and his line were stronger as the game went on. In 34 shifts and 21:07 TOI ( :16 PP / 1:04 PK ) Maxim had 4 shots ( a couple O/T sweeps on net that threatened ), 1 block, 5 hits, and a giveaway to offset getting beaten ( mainly by Mitchell, who was awesome in the circle tonight, going 11 of 15 ) in the circle, where he finished 5 for 15 draws with the puck. 8.9/10.
Jannik Hansen did not fill up the stats sheet like he does sometimes. In 35 shifts and 25:34 TOI ( :16 PP / 2:12 PK ), he only had 2 missed shots, 3 blocks, and 1 takeaway. But his speed was a factor on the kill all night, including that dynamic 5 on 3 kill. 8.89/10.
Raffi Torres had a game much like his Danish linemate. He had 33 shifts and 23:19 TOI ( :16 PP ), and his 2 shots were good ones. 2 hits, one a titanic hit on Murray behind the net that rocked the big Swede. 2 takeaways as well. This line was pressed in their own end all night, and maybe don't deserve high marks. But they rocked on their shifts in overtime. Their last shift before the goal was one where they had the Sharks running around like crazy. 8.895/10.
Well, they had a good half of a game, anyhow! ;
Cody Hodgson undoubtably does not care. He is a pro, and a smart hockey player. He knows the coach wants to go with three lines when the game is down one, and later in overtime. But none of the 4th liners saw the ice after the second period. ( you have to think if it went longer, they were going to get at least a shift in O/T, right? 6 shifts and 3:48 TOI ( :53 PP ) seems pretty low though, doesn't it? He won 2 of 3 draws at least. 8.2/10.
Victor Oreskovich filled up that stat sheet a little better in his 6 shifts and 4:18 TOI. 2 missed shots, 1 hit and 1 block. His speed made him look dangerous at times. 8.3/10.
I like Tanner Glass. Honest. But he had a team low 5 shifts and 3:22 TOI. He was only credited with 1 block, and no hits. We have to see more physical play out of him, or you might as well put Tambellini in, who is faster, and maybe even more defensively responsible. Had one very bad shift, where a lazy turnover led to almost 2 minutes of pressure. 7.2/10.
Not the "Dream Six", but damn this blue line is deep ;
First up is the scorer of the game winning goal, Bowling Green's own Kevin Bieksa. 44 shifts and a team high 36:40 TOI ( :59 PP / 2:09 PK ). A +3, also a team high. 2 shots on, 3 missed. 3 blocks, 2 hits, 1 giveaway, a penalty he did not even do ( and when Marleau scored on the tip, Bieksa might have been on and killing that penalty instead of sitting for a Raymond high stick ). Over it all is one very big, series clinching goal. 9.7/10.
Dan Hamhuis played 42 shifts and 33:16 TOI ( :41 PP / 2:16 PK ), and was a +1. He was a rock as usual on the PK. 1 shot , 1 miss, 4 blocks , 4 hits, 1 takeaway and 1 giveaway. The quiet man came here to compete for a Cup, and play for his home team. He get to do it in his first year. Once again, folks will say, " I did not notice him that much." Exactly. 9.3/10.
Alexander Edler was beaten on a bounce at the beginning of the third period. Pavelski made a nice play, as did Setoguchi. So, I won't beat him up that much. He played 41 shifts and 34:52 TOI ( 1:03 PP / 3:03 PK ), and had 2 assists, including keeping the puck in on the winning goal. A +1, 4 shots ( team high for the blue line, tied with Lappy for team lead ), 3 blocks and 2 takeaways. I thought I saw a couple hits too, but whatever. 9.4/10.
Sami Salo is finally getting a chance for the Cup. He was not the big time scorer of the last game, but his 39 shifts and 32:17 TOI ( 1:01 PP / 2:29 PK )were solid. He was the only one of the blue line to finish a minus at -1 ( on the Setoguchi goal ) 1 shot on goal, 2 misses, and 2 blocks, to go with 2 giveaways. Not his best, but still pretty good. Solid on the PK. 9.2/10.
Keith Ballard had a good game. Sure, the puck went off his glove on the first SJ goal, but it was tipped afterwards by Marleau. Tough break more than anything. He had several strong rushes up ice. He was mostly solid in his own end with Tanev. 30 shifts and 22:49 TOI ( :16 PP / :48 PK ) included 3 shots, 2 misses, and 1 block. 4 hits is good. A team high 3 giveaways is not. 9.1/10.
Chris Tanev has ice in his veins. The San Jose big forwards tried to put physical pressure on the rookie. But he just does not play like a rookie. In his 28 shifts and 20:42 TOI ( all but :07 PK time was 5 on 5 ), he had no giveaways, and 1 takeaway. Missed 1 shot, but blocked 4. This kid will be a part of the blue line next year for a full year. He is a pretty big part of it already 9.21/10.
Can I get a "what what" for Bobby Lou? ;
First off, I don't care about the 2 goals, Roberto Luongo gets a 10/10 in the Report Card tonight. Why? Well, in a first period where he was clearly the best player, he robbed the Sharks several times on the 2 man disadvantage. The Sharks out shot the Canucks in every period, 20 to 14 in the OT time, and 56 to 34 overall. Wellwood might have had the best chance, and he looked resigned to not scoring. The goalie was that good. The first goal went off a defenseman's glove before being tipped, the second was a bouncing puck, and a bang bang play that he still almost got to ( and only a tremendous play by Pavelski to beat him ). He was a beast tonight, in the biggest game in the teams' history. Good enough for a 10 for me.
What a game. The best of the series. A sincere handshake to the Sharks and their fans, this one might be a heartbreaker, but like I said to a friend tonight, don't say the "better team lost tonight". The goalie is a big part of any team. The Canuck goalie made the difference all series against a goalie everyone was saying "does nothing but win". No slight on Niemi. But he was the second best of the netminders this series.
On to the Cup! I am sure we will have plenty of time to dissect it to the Nth degree. For now, just bask in the glow of knowing your team is one of only three left playing, and that they will be competing for that sexy, awesome trophy.