Saturday, May 09, 2009

Game #4 - Blackhawks 2 - Canucks 1 - Game Notes

That one hurt. I haven't been that choked after a loss since game seven against Calgary in 2004. The Canucks decided to sit back on their one goal lead and in the end one mistake cost them a chance to be one game away from the Conference Finals. The instant Willie Mitchell coughed up the puck I knew it was going to wind up in the net. It was just one of those strange plays where you can see the goal coming before it happens. After sitting back for most of the third the Canucks couldn't ramp up the offense in time as the Hawks ended it on a simple "get the puck to the net" play. I had to take an extra day in order to make sure these game notes weren't just a rant fest...

  • In all honesty I had made a mental note that Willie Mitchell was struggling handling the puck during the game. He had made several miscues that he does not normally make and sure enough late in the game he made two huge ones. One ended up in his net the other should have resulted in a penalty shot or a penalty.
  • I haven't read the papers or checked out any online forums, but I'm sure the debate on the Canucks decision to sit on the lead is raging. I tend to lean to the side of it being a sound decision. The Hawks were generating nothing and were stubbornly refusing to change their game plan. In overtime when the Canucks started to use two forecheckers Chicago finally started to get more opportunities, so while it didn't work out, not aggressively forechecking was the right way to go about protecting the lead. The real problem with the strategy was that they didn't do enough in the offensive zone when they had the puck in deep...
  • ...which leads me to the play of the Sedins and Burrows. As much as Mitchell gets the blame for the loss the top line deserves it's fair share. They simply were a non factor for most of the night. I don't know if Burrows is hurt, but he sure hasn't done much in this series. No shots on goal in game 4. Not good enough. These guys need to step it up in game 5.
  • For most of the playoffs the Canucks have been dominant in the faceoff circle... that was until game 5 where they were a brutal 42%. Sundin 2 of 9, Kesler 2 of 5, Sedin 6 of 15, Wellwood 5 of 13. Only Johnson was good at 7 of 11. It's no wonder sitting on the lead didn't work out.
  • Mason Raymond continues to have a very strong series, his work on the PK has been especially strong.
  • I was very critical of Alex Edler in the first round, but he has really stepped up his game in round 2, especially in the last two games in Chicago. Edler was great in almost 30 minutes of ice on Thursday.
  • I don't think I've yelled as loud in the playoffs as I did when Hordichuk scored. It's too bad his goal didn't hold up as that would have made a great story.
  • Roberto looks to be back into top form. That bodes well for the rest of the series.

Game 5 Tonight!

Down the stretch and into the playoffs the Canucks have shown a strong tendency to bounce back from defeats. They will need to have a huge bounce back in this pivotal game 5. Obviously whoever wins tonight will likely take the series, here are some keys to keep an eye on...

  • The Canucks need to find a balance between their home and road games. They need the defensive responsibility of the road team and some of the offensive flair of the home team. They also have to find a way to channel the energy of the crowd without getting overly aggressive. Something both teams have been guilty of at home.
  • The Canucks special teams have been great all post season and they will need to be again tonight. I have a strange feeling that not much is going to get called tonight and both teams are likely to only get a few opportunities on the power play.
  • No word yet on the Sami Salo front, but it would sure be nice to have him back in the lineup. It's hard to tell for sure, but looking at the blurry/stuttery live feed on, it looks like Salo is on the ice for the morning skate.
  • Finally, the Canucks need to keep playing hard on the Hawks young stars.

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