Game #7: Avalanche 0 - Canucks 3
|Luongo & Schneider, photo courtesy of ESPN|
Game Summary:The Canucks played a heck of a lot better than in their California odyssey this past week. Roberto Luongo got the surprise start and was good early when the Avalanche created a few chances early on. The Canucks actually didn't manage a shot for the first five minutes of the game, but Jason Garrison got them on the board with a harmless albeit quick shot from just inside the blueline.
After the goal, the Canucks carried play and didn't look back. The Avs had the odd foray into the Vancouver zone and matched them for shots, but the Canucks' victory never appeared in doubt.
The hairiest moment for Canucks fans would have been an extended 5-on-3 for the Avs that seemed to last forever - though it was really about a minute and a half. Alex Burrows was the most prominent of the Canuck penalty killers, and managed to thwart Colorado's attack.
Max Lapierre (bad groin and all) made it 2-0 by out-hustling Colorado's defense and putting one through Colorado's goaltender Varlamov's legs. Zack Kassian added an insurance marker on the power play and that was all she wrote. Luongo was very steady and made a couple of terrific saves off of Matt Duchene and John Mitchell - the former off a short-handed breakaway and the latter off of a terrific chance in the slot with just over a minute left in regulation.
Roberto Luongo: Recorded a shutout and was full value for the win. He made some terrific saves and backstopped the Canucks to the victory. He kept his team in the game long enough for them to find their footing,
Power Play: It actually scored a goal! Okay, okay, it also looked pretty good on the night, with a lot of zone time and possession...now if only they could get more shots.
Alex Burrows: Further proving his hockey acumen and versatility, Burrows was terrific on the PK and showed once again that he is not out of place playing as the team's second pivot between Jannik Hansen and Chris Higgins. (Honourable mention to Higgins who appeared to get his quickness back. Look for the upcoming motion pitcure: "How Higgy got His Groove Back"
Three DownPower Play: Admittedly, this is knit-picking in a 3-0 win, but Vigneault has often struggled to put pointmen on the powerplay who are in positions to accept one timers (left handers on the right side, right handers on the left side). Presumably this helps maintain possession by keeping the puck in the zone on clearing attempts, but it doesn't bode well for a threat from the point. It would be nice to see Garrison or even Edler unload the occassional slap shot.
Defence Pairings: Coach V has been using Keith Ballard and Chris Tanev upwards of 18 minutes a night of late. While that's great news for that pairing, it's a minor indictment of the rest. Edler, Hamhuis, Bieksa and Garrison have all started fairly slowly. For a team touted for it's defence and goaltending, surely the Canucks would like more from their 'top 2' pairings.
Goaltending Controversy: Fantastic news that Canucks recorded their second shutout of the year - one from each keeper, but the refusal to pick a starting goalie will undoubtedly become a distraction sooner or later. Other teams have survived with two goalies, but conventional wisdom suggests that you can only win a Stanley Cup while riding one goaltender. There have been a couple of recent exceptions, where the Hurricanes (Irbe/Ward) and Red Wings (Osgood/Whoever) have managed to beat the odds, but the curious choice of Luongo suggests that the starter's job may be up for grabs. Good news for this game, but confusion is nobody's friend long term.
Final ThoughtContinuing on the thought from above, Luongo's strong performance suggests a repeat (threepeat?) is in order on Friday when the Canucks suit up against the Blackhawks. If Luongo gets that start and does well, he strengthens his case - and appearance - as the Canucks starter. It also builds his trade value, as if he needs another win to pad his resume.
On the other hand, playing Luongo MORE shows a lack of confidence in Cory Schneider. So if the Canucks are simply riding the hot hand of Luongo or 'showcasing' that he's still got it, they could be doing themselves a disservice. If Schneider doesn't play and doesn't look capable or carrying the torch, Canucks fans will want to keep Luongo and Mike Gillis will appear more keen on keeping him. If Schneider appears to falter, the Canucks psosition of power in the trade market declines.
If the Canucks aren't careful, they'll have their 'best' goaltender on the market, won't get much for him, and will upset everyone in the process.
Next Chapter - Friday night!