Game 4 Report Card ; Turn From Here And Go

NASHVILLE, TN - MAY 05: Henrik Sedin #33 of the Vancouver Canucks is congratulated by teammates after scoring an open net goal against the Nashville Predators in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals at Bridgestone Arena on May 5, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

There is a line in this gem from the Eagles, Seven Bridges Road, "Sometimes there's a part of me, has to turn from here and go, running like a child from these warm stars, down the Seven Bridges Road. "

That's sort of how I feel about this series.  Its been perfectly pleasant seeing the wonderful embracing of the game in Nashville. They look like wonderful people, and they treated the Green Men just as well as you would guests in your own home ( look at them getting all friendly and such with Nicole Kidman)   They get loud, they love the game, and put paid to the assertion that Southern hockey fans don't know the game.

But yeah, we would rather just file it under "pleasant memories" and move on. The Canucks took a step in that direction tonight, with a win that at least gives the Prez Trophy winners a chance to close it out at home.

The ESPN box score.  The NHL linkYankee as on point as always with the game recap.

Lets see who wins the shiny gold star tonight. As if you did not know already. A certain native of a certain suburb of Detroit perhaps?

 

I think we all know who the high mark guy is once again tonight.  But a few thoughts and points on the other guys.  

 

-With all the talk about the Twins, they had a pretty strong game.  Most shifts that started in their own end did not end up there ( back me up on that Cam! ), and they did pretty good at pushing the play.  Burrows has made a huge difference being back on that line.  He has made it much harder for Suter and Weber, forcing them to be aware of his physical play and general Mr. Everything awesomeness.

-Erhoff is the embodiment of the hockey term "high risk / high reward". He might just be in the dictionary as an example. But he made some good plays late defensively, and I still love the big German.

-Max Lapierre is not Manny Malhotra.  He is an excellent playoff performer though. As is his old Habs running buddy Higgins, who may just pinch himself daily to be on a team like the Canucks, and not the Panthers. Well done Mr Gillis.

-After the eventual game winner at 7:28 of the third, the Preds got 12 shots at the net.  Five required saves. Great work and give a shit on the blocks late by Kesler with one of them, Edler and Higgins on back to back Weber bombs, Rome, Ehrhoff and Lapierre.  Kostitsyn got a couple in that Luongo had to handle, but the whole team looked engaged for most of the game. They certainly were engaged after the Franson mystery puck goal.

-Alex Motherf%$^ing Burrows.  His play on Weber on the empty netter for Hank embodies the reasons we love the guy here.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2011/2012 Hart Trophy nominee. His mates kick ass too ;

 

Unless anyone has any objection, I think I will just hang a 10 on this guy. Ryan Kesler. Hockey player.  I think he is the physical manifestation of the "Beast Mode" gamer option the kids tell me about. That unintentional elbow that forced Smithson out was just a case of too much man. The goal is just another to add to the growing legend. Consider ; 1 goal, 2 assists, +2. 6 shots (1 missed), 1 blocked shot, 3 hits, led the forwards in ice time with 23:40 TOI ( 4:07 PP/ 2:40 PK ).He and Burrows ( and Hamhuis ) the big reason the 5 on 3 looked so bad for the Preds.  I'll forgive the 14 of 31 night on the draws. By his force of will alone, his line goes. 10/10.  (PS, loved the celebration on the GWG too. Looked like Buf' breaking OUR hearts last year! )

Chris Higgins is not all that bad either.  He seems to, every game and shift, find new ways of contributing.  He also seems to be getting even better at reading Raymond and Kesler and being where he needs to be. That line has made Fisher's line a non factor in this series.  3 shots, 1 block, and 1 hit in 17:21 TOI (1:00 PP / :12 PK ), but he does the "little things". 9/10.

Any game now, Mason Raymond is going to break out.  His stats line is not all that impressive. 1 shot, 1 missed, and 1 giveaway in 17:53 TOI ( 1:00 PP / 1:05 PK ) But everytime you looked up, he was out hustling someone in the offensive zone to get the puck and exert more pressure. His solid defensive play in his own end, especially on the penalty kill. 8.9/10.

 

So, don't you know you are supposed to be sucking right now? ;

 

To me anyhow, its kind of amazing how the Twins have become the current whipping boys ( Forwards category ) in this market. ( the speed of it, and the amount of invective thrown at the back to back Hart trophy guys. You would think that would buy you a second of a break, but not with some in Canuck Nation.)  The expectations on them are extraordinary, and they still keep battling.  The assists on the Ehrhoff goal were an example. Critics will just call that all lucky and whatnot, but they both fought through checks and made little touch passes in traffic to get that chance out of nothing.  Their work on the power play was great as always.  Their work 5 on 5 was not all that bad either!

Henrik Sedin has had to answer questions about being injured, and the "what's wrong" sly queries.  You know he wants to contribute and shut some people up.  Tonight, I heard Denis Potvin still say "No" on that question on SNET. Far be it from me to question one of the best defensemen of the past 40 years, but I have to a bit. 1 goal, 2 assists, a +2, with 1 shot and 1 takeaway in 18:05 TOI (4:07 PP / :16 PK ). He went 10 of 20 in the circle, but that draw with 30 seconds left on Fisher won the game. 8.89/10.

His brother Daniel Sedin was working hard too. People forget that the Twins are still seeing Weber and Suter on almost every shift. They still end up making those two ( thought by many the top pair in the NHL ) work their asses off to contain them. The battle aint over yet, but the Sedins looked better this game than the previous nights in this series.  In his 16:55 TOI (4:07 PP ) Daniel was credited with 1 assist, +1, 2 shots, (1 missed) and a takeaway. The Preds blocked 15 shots tonight. Weber led his team with 5 blocks. I am wiling to bet more than one of those was on Daniel. 8.7/10

Alexandre Burrows. Hated in opposing cities the league over. The member of the Ball Hockey Hall of Fame, one time Growwl, Checker (ECHL), Moose (AHL,thank you Craig Heizinger for insisting Nonis sign this guy! ), and now Canuck star got there by just outworking the other guy. He has talent. He has moves. But its that hard work every shift that makes him the fan favorite he is.  Tonight was just another example.  His work on the penalty kill, especially the 5 on 3 with his fellow Terror Twin Kesler, was wonderful.  His hard work on the Henrik empty netter, his screen on Rinne on the Ehrhoff goal. 1 assist, a +2, and 3 shots. I flat out am calling the ESPN stats guy a liar for the no blocks and hits. I saw him hit Weber with my own two eyes! 1 takeaway, 1 giveaway, and 1 of 3 filling in at the dot round out a very full 17:15 TOI ( 1:00 PP / 2:40 PK ) 9.125/10.

 

A Quebecois, a Mexican from Toronto, and a 9th round Dane walk into a bar... ;

 

Maxim Lapierre is a dirty player, we heard. He'll cost you dumb penalties, other fans intoned.  Media mavens would remind us that he was a fantastic playoff performer.  Those media guys were right so far.  Tonight, Mr Lapierre took a penalty for getting "interference" on Tootoo, before the Rome call made it a 5 on 3, but it was killed off by his guys. Every shift seemed a hard working one though.  He won 9 of 14 draws, including several defensive zone draws, as well as ones on the penalty kill.  That skill has enabled AV to not have to rely just on Kesler for big faceoffs. He was the guy AV went with when he cut down,for the most part, to three lines in the third, giving Hodgson's shifts to Lapierre as well. 1 hit, 1 block, 1 missed shot in his 14:06 TOI ( :36 PK ) 8.66/10.

Raffi Torres looked comfortable with Hansen and Lapierre. They all work hard, and force the other team to defend them as often as they lock down on defense to prevent opposition chances.  His 12:46 TOI, he was a +1, had 3 shots and missed one more.  The stats guys said he had no hits, but he menaced several guys at least.  8.65/10.

Everyone's favorite Dane Jannik Hansen had another solid game.  The stats guy only saw him get 1 blocked shot, and 1 hit, while going a +1 in his 12:20 TOI ( :59 PK ).  That almost seems inconsequential by his standards.  Led the team in pissing other guys off, how's that? 8.64/10.

 

Stick with me kid, I'll make you a star ;

 

Cody Hodgson will do just fine in the NHL. In his limited duty in the playoffs so far, he has shown solid hockey sense, and he definitely has the skills.  His skating is fine as well, thank you very much.  Tonight he was a -1 ( on for the Franson goal, I think it was ), and had 1 hit. 1 for 2 in the circle tonight. 7.99/10.

Mikael Samuelsson had a few more shifts and ice time than the rookie. He is back on the point on the #1 PP, because he works there ( had a couple lousy plays there too, but also several good ones ) Was a -1, had a hit and a takeaway in his 13:27 TOI (4:00 PP ). He did get back with the Twins a few times, after penalty kills and such. But he is where he deserves to be 5 on 5 still. 8.1/10

Tanner Glass? About the same. He had a few more shifts and ice late compared to Cody. 8:04 TOI. 2 hits. I think he had a half chance or two against the Borg like checking of the Preds, but I can't be sure without an audit. 8.02/10.

 

Blue line powers activate ;

 

Big minute man tonight was former Pred Dan Hamhuis. He was on for 24:13 TOI ( 2:04 PK ). The stats man said he had a +1,1 hit, 1 blocked shot, 1 shot, and a giveaway. The stats man can suck it. Hammer was a rock tonight. His work on the 5 on 3 was legendary, as was his work on other kills. Passes that started breakouts. Plays on boards that prevented the other team getting pressure. Dan the Man has a knack for being in the right place when he is on his game. He was on his game. 9/10.

His partner Kevin Bieksa had a bit more noticeable game according to the stats team. His 23:54 TOI (:51 PP / 1:33 PK )  was considerable. Most the time it was positive. +1, 3 shots, 1 hit, 3 blocks, and a takeaway.  His penalty was an offsetting one for getting to physical with Weber.  8.9/10

Mr Christian Ehrhoff had a bit of what we might call a "lively" night.  He was directly at fault on the Ward goal ( with his partner), but had a goal and 2 assists.  Was a +1, had 3 shots, 2 blocks and a hit in 20:37 TOI ( 4:00 PP/ 22 PK ) I know he may have made a couple mistakes here and there. but he was solid late when it counted, and had a goal and 2 assists. 9.1/10.

Alexander Edler had a similar evening.  He played less than Ehrhoff ( his minutes taken here and there by Salo pairing with the big German instead, as well as 'Hoff's big minutes on the power play contributing ) at 16:21 TOI (:16 PP / :56 PK ), but he had a goal, on a great shot. A +1 with 2 other shots missed, 2 blocks, and 3 hits.  8.9/10.

I don't know about you, but I am pretty happy that Sami Salo is back.  He makes the whole team better with his presence, and is just a solid all round player.  In 16:45 TOI ( 1:07 PP / 1:29 PK ) he had a penalty for the always called, the dreaded "delay of game".  Not his fault the Preds finally score a power play goal!  He also blocked 2 shots, and had 2 hits. He was solid, as evidenced by his getting more minutes in the third. 8.8/10.

Aaron Rome, however, has had better games, though its not like he was horrible. He was fairly solid defensively ( though the stats guy says no, I saw he had 2 giveaways anyhow. One in his own end particularly galling ), but not THAT good.  His penalty on Erat that led to the 5 on 3 was one that just cannot happen. 1 shot, 2 blocks, and 1 hit in 13:20 TOI ( 1:13 SH ). Let's start a rumour that Ballard starts Game 5. 8.49/10.

 

Ricky Bobby is a DRIVER Roberto Luongo is a GOALTENDER ;

 

There was a goal he would like back, the early third period one that tied the game.  The other one seemed more a case of his defenders leaving Ward alone too long in front, and he did make the original save.  But that tying goal will be enough for some of the goaltending sages to nod their head and intone how he has to grow.  Perhaps.  Roberto Luongo made some huge saves tonight as well. The ones on Hornqvist, during a scramble, and later on a strong rush, were both all about hanging in and never giving up on the play. Luongo did that. 21 shots and 2 goals is a fairly pedestrian .905 sv % in this game for the big fella.  Still he made the saves when he had to.  Let's keep with the lucky Chinese Numerology numbers for the goalie. 8.88/10.

 

So, there you go.  It was a solid game overall, and a win is a win. The Predators pushed a little harder than they have in the other games the Canucks won.  They did not push enough. The better team won again.  Let's not forget that the Preds were the better team in Game 2 on Roger's Arena ice. They can do that again. Put the workboots on, and out hustle these guys on home ice fellas.

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