Sunday, May 03, 2009

Game #2 - Blackhawks 6 - Canucks 3 - Game Notes

Well that was ugly. Things were looking pretty good for the Canucks when they took a 1-0 early in the first on a Sami Salo rocket... that was until Salo left the bench and never returned. Playing with 5 defensemen for the remainder of the game, the Canucks simply couldn't handle the offensive skill of the Hawks. The disjointed blueline struggled with their down low coverage and Shane O'Brien was badly exposed in the extra minutes he had to play against more skilled Hawk forwards than he had to face in game 1. In the end though, the ultimate difference may have been Nikolai Khabibulin who came up with some huge saves at the right time to keep his team in the game. On to the game notes...

  • While the loss of Salo had the most significant impact on the game, there was a key sequence of events in the second which really changed the game. After Luongo allowed a juicy rebound he came up with a save which should have been the save of the playoffs, unfortunately a few mistakes negated what could have been a huge momentum builder for Vancouver. As pointed out on HNIC by PJ Stock, Luongo chose to play the puck instead of freezing it and allowing his team to settle down, but that wasn't the biggest mistake. That came a few moments later when Pavol Demitra needlessly iced the puck. Simply a brutal play. What followed was the Hawks first goal and their opportunity to take over the game. If the Hawks go on to win the series you can look back on this key moment.
  • It was a frustrating night for armchair coaches and it started with a mistake by Ryan Kesler on the PK. Down 2 men Kesler's stick broke and while it's pretty difficult to get to your bench during the 2nd period without icing the puck, Kesler had the opportunity to get a new stick when he was at the blueline and the Hawks initiated a change. Despite me yelling "Get a damn stick" at the TV, Kesler chose not race to the bench and instead sat back and futilely tried to defend the 5 on 3. Tie game.
  • If you've read this blog for long enough you'd know that I'm not a fan of having a forward on the point on the power play while you are leading or tied. Sure enough a few minutes after the Kesler incident I found myself again yelling at the TV (or AV to be specific) when Raymond was on the ice playing the point on the PP. Sure enough Raymond got caught not paying attention to his defensive duties and David Bolland was wide open for a shorthanded goal which put the Hawks ahead for good.
  • While Khabibulin was better than Luongo in game 2 one thing that was very noticeable was the contrast between the traffic in front of the two goalies. The Hawks were all over Luongo all night long, while I don't think the Canucks even bumped Khabibulin at all. The Hawks were excellent at generating traffic while the Canucks were not. The Canucks will have to change that if they hope to win the series.
  • Interestingly, there were two delay of game penalties for putting the puck out of play... both resulted in goals on the respective powerplays.
  • The Sedins and Burrows were not good enough. Way too much time in their own end.
  • Darcy Hordichuk played again and again the 4th line was mostly ineffective. They did manage a good shift which drew a penalty and Rypien was robbed of a goal, but they spent too much time in their own end and not enough time forechecking and getting on the body. Without the benefit of last change the Canucks will need more out of the 4th line in Chicago and that should start with Pyatt replacing Hordichuk.
  • The third line had an awful night, combining for a -6. Failing to pick up his check in front of the net, Steve Bernier looked like the goat on the Eager goal, but it was Alex Edler who made the brutal turnover at center ice when he simply banged the puck against the boards instead of advancing it up ice.
  • As I mentioned earlier, Shane O'Brien was badly exposed in his extra ice time. He was on the ice for 3 even strength goals and was clearly over matched by the speedy Hawk forwards.
  • Luongo needs to stop Kane on that 5th goal.
  • What can you say about Ryan Johnson. I was begging Vigneault not to put him on the ice for the late Chicago power plays. No point in him breaking a hand or foot when you've already lost the game.
  • Where has Alex Burrows been? He's been awfully quite in this series.
  • The Hawks were better in the faceoff circle in game 2, finally breaking even.

So what's in store for game 3?

The Canucks will likely be without Salo again, so they are going to have to find a way to compensate for his loss. That starts with getting the puck in deep and generating more of a forecheck. As AV said post game, the Hawks D were facing the play most of the night and were able to hit their forwards with speed.

Game 2 could be the kick in the ass the Canucks need. So far they haven't had to face any adversity in the playoffs and it has shown in their play. The intensity level isn't quite where it needs to be and their was too much of a calmness or even a feeling that everything is going to go their way eventually. The loss should put some much needed urgency into their game as so far we haven't seen that in the playoffs. We'll see how they respond on Tuesday night...

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