Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Canucks seek answers versus Bruins

Two big stories from tonight's game in Boston, at least from this blog, will be how the Vancouver Canucks completely vanished, and how the NHL continues to mystify all players with their officiating.

Let's make no excuses for the Canucks, they played like crap.  Much like Chicago series' of years gone by, Vancouver is unraveling and melting down at the worst time.  Taking undisciplined penalties, and getting away from the style of play that made them so successful.  Drifting away so much in fact that their powerplay looks useless, their mobile defense is standing still, and their potent counter-attack couldn't gain entry to the Boston zone.

Vancouver's Problems
Tonight, it's a long list.

The Sedins / Burrows
Canucks offensive game and counter-attack was virtually invisible.  The Sedin twins had some good shifts, but didn't generate many good scoring chances.  Henrik Sedin's shot in the opening minutes may have been the best chance they had.  Expectations have lowered for this group.  Their cycle has been largely non-existent.  Injured or not, if they don't get going, the Canucks are doomed.

Secondary Scoring
Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond, and Chris Higgins must do more. The second line has done next to nothing in this series as well.  A few good shifts, most notably by Raymond and Higgins resulted in a couple of the few good scoring chances.  When the team's best shifts come from the Lapierre and Malhotra lines, you're in trouble.  The Canucks best players need to be their best players.

The Defence
Not just the forwards, but the defence as well appear to be skating in quicksand.  The Bruins were first to pucks all night, and when the Canucks did manage to get the puck first, they certainly weren't skating it out.  The Canucks D spent the entire evening shoveling the puck up the boards, and the forwards weren't there to corral it.  That meant the Canucks defense spent the entire evening feeding the Bruins' point men and allowed Boston to get prolonged pressure in the Vancouver zone.

Roberto Luongo
The Canucks' goalkeeper was average, and to win in the Stanley Cup final, you need to be better than average.  A key stop on Rich Peverley, or a routine stop on Michael Ryder and this game probably doesn't end 4-0.  The Canucks were taking over play and may have been able to turn their fortunes.
When the goalie at the other end of the ice is playing as well as Thomas, Luongo has to do more to make a difference.

Skate Skate Skate
Games 1-2 featured the Vancouver Canucks and some semblance of their 'A' game.  Not too sure what we saw in Games 3-4 in Boston, but it looked a lot like the no-shows from Games 4 and 5 of the Chicago Blackhawks first round series.  The Canucks defense and forwards were not playing as a unit, not supporting each other, and were out-hustled and out-muscled all over the ice.

The power play was pressed and did not react under pressure, and the forwards failed to get in on the forecheck, recover the puck and cycle.  The defense failed to escape their zone with speed, failed to make a good first pass, and they just looked tired.

Aside from their lackluster play, the Canucks didn't get any favours from the officiating.

Here are some of the highlights:

1) Trailing 1-0, referees missed Marchand High-sticking Sedin
2) Denis Seidenberg slashes multiple Canucks' ankles, no calls (more on this later)
3) Jannik Hansen breaks in alone on Thomas, but was called offside despite being onside.
4) Mason Raymond's stick does not hit Andrew Ference in the face.  Ference snaps his head back anyways and draws a call.
5) Canucks powerplay should have gone up 5-on-3, but a missed highstick on Kesler and a blatant too many men situation go uncalled.
6) On the 3rd Boston goal, Brad Marchand trips Keith Ballard, leading to the third goal - no call.
7) On the 4th Boston goal, Rich Peverley gloves the puck into the net, close call, no break for Vancouver there.
8) Henrik Sedin taps Rich Peverley, who goes down like he's shot - and draws the two-minute minor.
9) Ryan Kesler slashes Adam McQuaid a la Seidenberg, this time he gets a two-minute minor.  Somewhere Kevin Bieksa is crying, and Rich Peverley is laughing.

And not to be a complete Canucks homer on this one, someone tweeted something rather clever that biting Patrice Bergeron gets a two-minute minor.  Mockingly putting your fingers in someone's face gets two minutes and a ten minute misconduct.  Go figure.  NHL at its best.

Canucks need to get their stuff together though if they hope to regain momentum in the series.  It's a homer series and it'll be the Canucks' turn to take the lead Friday night.  What is the key to Game 5?  Probably revolves around Luongo vs Thomas.

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