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A "Math Problem" Game Recap ( 4-2 L )

Game Three. It is always a big game. One team is either desperate to not go down 3-0, or, like in this series, one team is trying to win the first of the now best of five.

Derek Leung/Getty Images

The Canucks were pretty impressive in the previous outing, at both ends of the ice.  But this one would be the first playoff game in Calgary in a while. The Canucks' outstanding road record versus the whatever the CBC / Rogers narrative for the Flames will be tonight.   The math tells us that the winner of Game Three goes on to win the series 67.3 % of the time.  That might not mean as much in a rivalry where the Canucks once came back from 3-1 down.  But it is something.

Echoes of '94 aside however, it would be nice if the Canucks could win back their hard earned "home ice advantage." and get a split of their own ( at least ! ) at the Saddledome.  Be it this game or the next one.

Stats Corsi Stats

1.

The Canucks and Flames started the same 1st versus 1st line matchup to start the game, and they set the tone for some good early energy.  The Sedin line got off to a good start, with Hudler getting separated from the puck cleanly on a Henrik Sedin hit ( it is always funny to watch opponents complain and talk to a Sedin when they throw the weight around a bit.

Ferland started the way he ended the last game,with a couple quick hits, contributing to the momentum, as the Canucks had to withstand the early push from the home team.  They looked to be doing so adequately, but a Bieksa and Sbisa back and forth ended with a turnover, the fourth line for the Flames jumped on a puck, and after a blocked shot by Dorsett, a puck was there for Bollig, who put it home for an early 1-0 lead.

The Flames did have some motivation for a bit, but then the Vrbata line showed some motivation of their own.  Hiller made a couple saves, but Shawn Matthias ( off the bench ) was just too strong, and showed the skill to get it skate to stick and stuff home the tying goal.

The back and forth intensity got ramped up again, and Gaudreau "Johnny Hockied" one off the post on a shift the Horvat line looked to score a couple times.  Neutral fans must love it as lovers of the sport.  Fans of one team or the other have to ride the emotional wave instead.

The Canucks did that just fine.  They were up 10-5 in shots at one point, but after the puck could not get out when it should have, the Flames got their first pressure in a while and got a screened point shot through from Brodie for a 2-1 goal that took advantage of Vrbata getting taken out by a fallen Bennett at the blue line, thus being unable to clear.  Sure, the Flames were finishing every check, and even more energized now, but the traffic still seemed, on average, more one way, and in favour of the visiting team at that point of the period.

That pressure drew the first power play against Bollig on Matthias, and the first unit looked to do everything BUT score.  Bonino was denied by Hiller on an early 2nd unit chance, but the rest of the special teams was just not that special.  The Flames took the momentum out of the kill, with Eddie Lack making a nice save on a tip on a late chance to end the period.

The Canucks had a decent road period.  They outshot a hyped up home team 12-11, and, while the 14-7 edge in hits can be interpreted a couple ways ( yes, the Flames were playing physical, but that also means that the team getting hit probably had the puck a lot more ), they were not being run out of the building or anything.  Led by Bonino going 5 of 7, the Canucks held a 12-9 edge on draws after one.

But, don't let the narrative builders on Stronbo's Desk be stopped.  Mostly, it was gushing about Bennett ( 1 hit on the stat sheet to that point, though he ended up pretty good in this game ) and Nick gushing about "Ferkland". ( at least he had 4 of his 9 hits by then ! ) It is funny how some teams curry the favour of the T.O Studio Boys, and some don't.   And really, it basically "is what it is". anyhow.  But it sure is predictably funny to watch at times.

2.

Down one, the Canucks almost gave up the third right away, but Lack bailed out Tanev on a turnover, and robbed Jones on a quick early chance.  It looked a little dicey in the early going, as the Fames had a much harder forecheck going to start the second.  They were forcing turnovers with the hitting, and the Canucks were making some bad quick decisions that were forced by that pressure.

The Horvat line was in the process of changing that momentum with that patented "drive the net and tip the pass up" play that thye have had success on, but the fourth line of the Flames went the other way, and Jooris, while pushed in a bit, was too aggressive with the goaltender and took the interference call.

The power plays once again were just not that good at closing the deal, and we were back to the five on five.  But only shortly, as Backlund ran Higgins from behind for a "mulligan" on the man advantage. That was short lived too, as Matt Stajan then snookered Edler into a call, and the game went to some four on four instead.   The teams withstood each other pretty well with the empty ice though, and it was Edler on a Sedin set up that got a chance as soon as they went to five on five again.

The game seemed to settle in for a bit, as both teams handled the rush better, and a lot of turnovers in the neutral zone were followed by a trading off of offensive zone time without too much danger at both ends.  One troubling development was Bo Horvat being followed to the room by Mike Bernstein ( that is never good ) as the Sedin line had some solid pressure, as a kerfuffle came out of Burrows taking three whacks at a rebound.

So, back to the four on four.  The Flames had a couple forays, but were only slightly threatening, and the five on five once again was when the momentum ramped up again.  The Canucks were affected by the absence of Horvat, as it affected the ability to roll the four lines, and the Flames looked slightly more dangerous in a low even period where the Canucks outshot the opponent 6-4 in the middle frame.

3.

Bo Horvat was out to start the third period, which was good news for the visitors.  The home team looked to send the one forechecker instead of two, and the Canucks started to press.  They got in on the forecheck after forcing a turnover though, and Sam Bennett was able to get on a loose puck and put in a rebound for the two goal lead.

Want a perfect example of the "narrative builders" at CBC and their obvious bias?   Listen to the sad language from the Alberta homer Craig Simpson.  Brad Richardson was bloodied, and it may well have been the puck.  But he was slashed with no call at the same time, on the hands.  Simpson ignores that and uses " trying to sell" ( dripping with dismissiveness... ) language as he infers the Canucks were trying to get away with something.  What a joke that guy is.  He was still "Zapruder filming" it five minutes later ( as the Flames got a power play, ignoring that too ).

The penalty kill had to be good now, and it actually looked to be the power play a man down, with a lot of early zone time and a couple chances.  The power play got a great chance as it ended by Bennett that Lack robbed, as he made a bunch of saves on the pressure that followed.

The Flames proceeded to sit on the two goal lead now, as the Canucks pressed.  The attack was being kept to the outside, and the Flames were making good time out of odd man rushes to at least blunt the pressure.  The CBC guys had moved their affections to Ferland now, equating finishing his checks with being able to shut the entire Canucks team down, or something.  I get it.  The kid was noticeable.  And even though the Flames' stats guy was probably hitting the button every time the boards moved, he did end up with 9 hits.  But a few shifts against the Sedin Line for the fourth line in the third ( which did have a great game, don't get me wrong, but it was not all # 79 ) was not "shutting them down".  That was more the Flames as a team keeping it all to the outside and packing it in like maniacs as the puck came to the net.  Which they did very well.

The Canucks were then simply the victims of some bad luck.  Yannick Weber was driving the net, and tried to avoid the defender as the gpaltender almost stepped out from behind the defenseman and surprised him.  Hiller reacted pretty dramatically, but it was definitely a penalty that would, at the least, kill the time.  The game got out of hand after that, as Bennett was reaching for a puck and took a Hamhuis shoulder to the head.  Once again, it is definitely a penalty.  But that is a play that happens so often in the NHL, and the offensive guy leaning forward and reaching for a puck always makes it look uglier.

The Flames were able to cash in on the two man advantage, as Monahan went post and in from the slot for the clinching goal.

There was not any quit in the Canuck fourth line though, as Horvat set up Hansen for a goal to get the Canucks back to two goals down.    That gave them hope, and they pulled Lack with a couple minutes left.  They had some pressure, but then a Burrows hit ( which led to a call that was probably deserved as he hit Gaudreau, though it was not at all in the numbers, and shoulder to shoulder.  I guess you can't hit the little fella.  He did come from a ways away, but more than likely, it was the refs trying to keep a lid on things leading to the call  ) led to a fight.  Russell instigated the fight, but for some reason, Burrows got four minutes called for that.  It was a moot point, but just another example of how Burrows is in a class by himself when it comes to interpreting the rules as they are written.  As they are written for everyone but Burrows.  Giving him an instigator that will be reviewed is absurd.  That will be overturned, but come on.

Bieksa then decided to use the opportunity to pound on Ferland a little, taking his pound of flesh out of the rookie in a one sided fight.  It felt good, I am sure, but the scoreboard made it a hollow victory.

Full credit to the Flames.  They were definitely better on the scoreboard. and on the ice tonight.  But they are not the better team in this series.  That was their best shot, I think.  The Canucks have to go against the math of the winner of Game Three winning the series two thirds of the time now, but they can do much, much better than they did in this game.  The Flames were opporunistic, and good for them.

But they are not some young team of destiny, and Ferland it not the second coming of Claude Lemieux, no matter how much the Ivory Tower mavens will pimp their favorite team.  Game Four will be another rollicking affair, but this is just one game.

The Canucks can and I predict will come back and win this series.   Fighting aside, the Flames were fairly opportunistic tonight.  The Canucks were outshot in a third period where they were down 14- 8, and that is troubling.  But they can and will do more against this team.