Well, no one said it would be easy. At least they never said it to me. Once again the Canucks were the dominant team, and once again a goal that can only be described as "lucky" almost cost them again as much as it did in Game 2.
But "its too late to stop now". ( Seriously, best not Van Morrison version of the title song by Colin James here .)
As we watch this team's march through the playoffs. As we "sail into the mystic..." let's remember that just because we have the #1 team to be rightly smug about, there are no easy marks in the playoffs. Parity has seen to that.
Some might say they caught a break on the O/T power play. I would not be one of them. You make your own breaks, and after being a world class armchair referee, its nice to not have to do that tonight for the Canucks game. A bad call on Weber? Maybe. But Smithson maybe deserved a call earlier for his hit from behind on Bieksa. I'll let our friends at OTF debate that.
After a Kesler power play goal to start the second period, the Nashville team entertained their home fans with zero shots until there was three minutes left in the middle frame. The right team won tonight folks.
For all that, maybe next time the Canucks get a lead on these guys, they need to step on their throat and go for the next one, and the next one. Sitting back a little in the third almost cost them, with the Preds getting another gift from the Hockey Gods.
Tonight was Kesler's night of course. We'll get to him in a second. The Twins had a pretty good game, but will be critiqued in a different way from him tonight. They were -2, I get that. But they were not THAT bad, where they? The new guys had varying degrees of good games as well. Good thing this whole Report Card thing is about varying degrees then!!!
Numbers to note ; The Canucks won 42 of 78 draws, outshot the Preds 47 to 30, and were narrowly outhit 31 to 28. Only had 11 giveaways to the home team having 18, but the also had only 5 takeaways to the Pred's 11.
America. FUCK YEAH! ;
So, yeah, Ryan Kesler is a pretty good hockey player. Tonight was another example of that. Sure, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter played some shifts versus the Twins. They played a bunch against this line too. They played 29:10 and 30:19 respectively. But it was Kesler's line that Trotz was trying to get the match up against late. Two Yanks and a good old Alberta boy ( that's like our Texas anyhow right? Might as well call Raymond an honorary American. )
Maybe its the Bin Laden euphoria. Kesler was tweeting about being happy about that momentous occasion. More likely, he was just pissed about losing the last game. Whatever. Check out this stat line. He led all forwards in shifts (37 ) and ice time (25:26 TOI , 4:10 PP/ 2:12 PK ). 2 goals, and an assist. 6 shots ( missed 2 ). Blocked 2 himself. 1 hit and 1 takeaway. 13 of 24 in faceoffs. 1 minor penalty from a perfect score. 9.8/10.
His running buddy tonight was Chris Higgins. The New York native was flying all night. He dismissed all worries about how that line would do without Burrows brilliantly. He was a force against any opponent down low, and strong on the puck all night. In 32 shifts and 19:13 TOI (1:11 PP/ :59 PK ) he scored a great goal, was a +1, had 4 shots ( missed 1 ), 1 blocked shot and 1 hit ( though was in physical confrontations all night in the corners and in front of the net. 9.2/10.
The quiet Albertan of the trio, Mason Raymond might be the most consistent forward on the team. his effort is usually top notch. He has been skating miles, his speed a big factor once again tonight. He was strong on the penalty kill tonight. Dangerous 5 on 5, and generally solid in his 33 shifts and 19:38 TOI ( 1:11 PP/ 1:37 PK ) +1, 6 shots, a takeaway and a giveaway. 9/10.
Them There Gingers Are Funny Lookin' ;
Outside of Roberto Luongo, no one else is a lightning rod for criticism as much as the Sedin Twins. From the yammering masses that were so hard on them when they first came to Vancouver that they seriously considered going back to Sweden after their first contract was done, to the folks today that are willing to jump all over them anything less then the high standards they themselves have set here.
The Sedins get an interesting ride in this market. They answer every question and stand right up to take the blame when they are struggling. Tonight was a night in which both sides, haters and otherwise, had something to point to. They made the power play very dangerous tonight, however. It did go 2 for 4 and got the GWG.
Henrik Sedin, to start. He was a -2 tonight. You could say all the power play guys were at fault on the first goal against though, and the second, he won the draw, and Ward still managed to get the puck from Ehrhoff and off a forest of feet. Still. 34 shifts and 22:25 TOI ( 4:47 PP ) He lost a few draws in a row late, but ended up with a respectable 16 out of 30 draws won. 2 shots, 1 missed, and 1 blocked. Extra points for playing with an injury, as he was stretching out his groin or lower back late in the third and O/T, and did miss a couple shifts going to the room. No chance you get more info than that though! 8.45/10.
Daniel Sedin was pretty solid tonight. He was also a -2, but assisted on Kesler's first power play goal. In his 36 shifts and 23:27 TOI ( 4:47 PP ), he had a team high 7 shots, blocked a shot, and even was credited with a hit to go with his 1 takeaway and 1 giveaway. Both he and his brother are on the verge of breaking out. 8.6/10.
A large part of the Sedin line being more dangerous tonight was the return of Alex Burrows to the line. His robust play definitely helped find them room. In 37 shifts and 21:46 TOI ( 1:11 PP / a team high 3:31 PK time), he was credited with three hits ( 2 of them on Weber ) a -1, a shot, a giveaway and a block. A solid night all around. 8.5/10.
Just When I Think I Know You, You Do Something Totally Awesome and Redeem Yourself ;
Maxim Lapierre was on the verge of having a pretty bad night tonight, before his play turned things around for him, and the team. Matched mainly against the other team's 3rd and 4th lines, he took a bad penalty against Halischuk ( cross checking his head into the cross bar ), on which the puck almost went in. He took another on Hornqvist for slashing in the second. His team was very good killing penalties tonight, and he was big on the kill when Kesler was in the box. In his 31 shifts and 17:09 TOI ( 1:04 PK ), he had 2 shots, 1 hit, and was the best at the dot tonight, going 11 of 17. Was double shifted in the third, playing with Hodgson's linemates to take defensive zone draws. 8.5/10.
Raffi Torres was brought to this team for many different potential reasons, but one that was brought up pretty early was his playoff experience. In his 24 shifts and 14:50 TOI, he played solid defensively. In addition to that, 1 shot, 1 block, 2 hits and 1 giveaway was what the stats guy saw. He was solid tonight 8.2/10.
Jannik Hansen may just be taking the "Mr Everything" moniker from Burrows sometime soon. He had 26 shifts and 16:33 TOI ( 1:55 SH ), the penalty killing minutes very good ones. 4 shots ( and 3 missed ) forced the play at the other end too. Pretty sure I saw him hit a few people, but the stats guy did not. 8.4/10.
They Have Their Moments, Those 4th Liners ;
Cody Hodgson is always saying he is excited, and willing to do whatever he is asked to do. You can tell the kid is excited to be in the playoffs. Tonight, he had one of the best seats in Bridgestone Arena to watch the game anyway. He had 7 shifts and 5:13 TOI. Thats it. No hits, shots, or anything else. He was not out in the third at all, from what I saw. His 4th line mainly outplayed the other teams' 4th line when they were on the ice in the first two periods. That's something right? 7.87/10.
Mikael Samuelsson had the most interesting evening of the Canucks tonight. He started out with the 4th line, but finished with 21 shifts and 15:00 TOI. ( 4:25 PP ). His play was uneven at the start, an early shift where he had three separate chances to clear and could not not his best. But he got better as the night progressed. AV, to his credit, saw that the power play was better with him at the point, and put Samuelsson back there. The player rewarded the coach by assisting on the GWG, a smart , tippable shot that was all it took.. He was credited with 5 shots and a hit as well. 8.6/10.
Tanner Glass was another that will do whatever it takes. He played in 13 shifts that gave him 9:23 TOI ( :42 PK ). In that time, he missed a shot, and the stats guy said he hit 2 guys. But he was pretty good at just playing solid. Being in the right place in important too. Had a chance at scoring early, missing a Hodgson pass. 8.2/10.
You Mean You DON'T Have a #1 pairing? ;
Kevin Bieksa played 28 seconds and 2 shifts less than Weber, going 36 shifts and 28:42 TOI ( 1:31 PP/ 3:43 PK ). He was both good and bad tonight. 1 shot, 1 missed, and only 2 hits to go with 2 giveaways. Solid all night on the penalty kill again, but gave the puck to Smithson all alone in the slot on about the worst turnover I have seen him give up in a long time. ( in O/T!) OK, great on the PK, but not the defenseman with "swagger", when he is at his best. 8.5/10.
Juice's partner Dan Hamhuis had a better game in his first actual time on Bridgestone Arena ice since coming to the Canucks ( was injured the other two times the Canucks visited Smashville ). Tonight he was on for 36 shifts and 27:14 TOI ( :24 PP/ 3:42 PK ), and had 2 shots, blocked 2 more, 2 hits, a takeaway and a giveaway. His solid play in his own end helped the PK go 3 for 3 tonight 8.65/10.
Christian Ehrhoff had the blue line's worst -2 tonight. He also had 2 assists on the power play, on both of Kesler's goals. In 35 shifts and 27:25 TOI ( 4:34 PP/ 2:17 PK ) he missed a shot, had several blocked I am sure on the power play, two blocks of his own, and 3 hits. His play on the first goal down low and around Rinne's check was a very skilled play to get Kesler an empty netter. 8.69/10.
Alexander Edler is the man that some point to as that #1 defenseman for the Canucks. Its more like a "Big 4", with he and Ehrhoff, and the Hamhuis / Bieksa pairings getting almost as much ice time as the much more celebrated Weber / Suter duo. Tonight, Edler had 34 shifts and 27:22 TOI ( 1:39 PP/ 2:17 PK ) and was an even when his partner was a -2. He had 5 shots ( a high for the blue line ) and missed 1 more. A blocked shot, 2 hits and 2 giveaways completed his talley. 8.7/10.
So, how did the big fella do? Well, Andrew Alberts led the blue line in hits with 5, in 18 shifts and 12:02 TOI ( or, half of the Top 4's icetime ) A -1 with a blocked shot, I liked what Alberts brought tonight. His match up versus the Spaling line blunted their effectiveness on the forecheck tonight. A solid night for a guy that gets maligned more than he should. 8.71/10.
His pairing tonight was with Aaron Rome, most of the time. Rick Bowness used him a little more than Alberts, with 22 shifts taking him to 14:57 TOI. He was a +1, had a shot, missed 1, had 2 hits, a takeaway and a giveaway. Maybe not the most spectacular, and I did notice a mistake or two, but certainly had a good game. 8.49/10.
Are You Not ENTERTAINED ? ;
Roberto Luongo. He is going to be the one the radio "experts" get on no matter what. Another fluky goal! "See, I told you", some will say. Truth is, when the game was 1`-0 Preds, he robbed Sullivan on a breakaway. After seeing no shots for the first 17 minutes of the second, he made a huge save on Franson on a last second shot, and prevented a rebound for the traffic waiting for it. Goalies often say that is harder to do than actually being involved the entire period.
Yes, he gave up a goal to Legwand ( on a great play by the penalty killers on Edler and the rest ) on a slick set up by Suter for the opening goal. But the tying goal was another of those off a couple sets of feet and in. Not blaming him for that. Lucky number for the goalie, superstitious lot that they are. 8.88/10.
So, the team that deserved to win because they earned it and worked hard gets it done. Preds fans will bemoan that late call on Weber, and I don't know, maybe it was a make up call for the Smithson hit going unpunished. But once again, the Canucks were the aggressors. It was nice to see them get rewarded for that.
Besides, its the Preds. Hockey's equivalent of The Borg. We knew it was going to be this kind of series going in. ( Or we should have ). Don't act all surprised now!