Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Game 3 - Kings 5 - Canucks 3 - Game Notes

Some quick notes before a pivotal game 4...

  • The Canucks penalty kill has been beyond terrible in this series. The PK is at the point where they may as well just concede a goal and save themselves the 2:00 off the clock. Vancouver absolutely needs to be better on the PK or they are done, simple as that.
  • And the guy who can help the PK get it done is Roberto Luongo. Just when I thought Luongo had turned a corner he comes up with another brutal performance. That fourth goal, no matter how poor a play it was by Wellwood, is inexcusable from the supposed leader of the team. I don't want to see Luongo take one look or have one conversation with an official. Focus on the puck and stop the puck.
  • The Canucks power play was just as bad as the PK. Christian Ehrhoff was awful and showed none of the strong play we saw in the regular season. He handled the puck like a grenade and could not handle the pressure.
  • As strong as Wellwood has played down the stretch and even in the first two games of this series, the fact that the Canucks have a 3rd line centre who does not produce offensively and cannot kill penalties is really hurting then right now.
  • Finally the disallowed goal... The best part about the NHL replay system is it's consistency. Whatever game you are watching when you see a goal reviewed the vast majority of the time you know what the call is going to be. In the past they have always been consistent - the puck might be across the line but if you can't see it on video it's not a goal etc. etc. - that's why this decision is so aggravating to Canuck fans. This same play has been called a goal over and over and over, that was until Monday. The fact that the decision overturned the on-ice call, favoured a large US market team and was made by an ex-King, and now has Colin Campbell claiming he actually made the decision even though it was pretty clear it wasn't his decision (yes the same guy who supposedly "investigated" the Burrows-Auger incident) - well it really brings into question the credibility of those involved.

    The Canucks are behind in this series because they haven't played well enough, but it's hard to ignore the fact that they have had two calls go against them even though those calls directly conflict with the language in the official rule book. The explanation of the Sedin non-goal was ridiculous. It's debatable whether Sedin even saw the puck come off Burrows' stick let alone attempted to kick the puck. But I guess by slowing the replays down enough and by looking at all the angles Mike Murphy somehow managed to get inside Daniel Sedin's head and determined that yes he intentionally kicked the puck in.

    But hey it must have been the right call right? Otherwise why would you have to take the unprecedented step of having to go on hockey night in canada to defend a video review call immediately after the game?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Game 2 - Kings 3 - Canucks 2 - Game Notes

After game 1 the question was how would the Kings react after getting a game under their belt? On Saturday night the Kings were much better while the Canucks lacked the sense of purpose they played with in game one. The result was a 3-2 loss in overtime on an unlucky, if not questionable, too many men on the ice penalty.

I don't like to blame officiating for a loss, but penalties in overtime are a different animal. First you had the non-call on Ryan Smyth's high stick which was somehow deemed a follow through even though he was not taking a shot, he was simply flailing at a lose puck and got his stick up... what happened to being responsible for your stick? The refs let that go and I would have been fine with that, until the too many on the ice penalty (called by a linesman no less). Did the Canucks have too many men on the ice? Yes, that was obvious. However, 1) the puck was shot towards the Canuck bench by the Kings; 2) It hit Bieksa who was coming off the ice and was not played by a player coming on to the ice. In the NHL those types of plays are usually not called, let alone called in overtime during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

That said it wasn't the officiating that cost Vancouver the game. They simply didn't play hard enough. The Kings were better in that department and in the end their hard work got them the breaks they needed to win the game.

  • If their was one silver lining for Vancouver it would be that the real Roberto Luongo made an appearance at GM Place for the first time in 2010. That is the Luongo we are used to seeing. He was razor sharp all night and for the first time in a long time I felt 100% confident in him.
  • It has become apparent that this series is going to be determined by special teams. The Kings power play has been lights out and the Canucks have taken far too many penalties. Vanocuver's PK needs to be much much better. Right now they are giving too much respect too the points and it has resulted in the Kings easily moving the puck across the ice through the middle and down low. The Canucks need to tighten up and make some adjustments.
  • Andrew Alberts is an awful defenseman. There's a reason one of the worst teams in the NHL wouldn't give him any important minutes. The Canucks needed a defenseman at the deadline, but Alberts for a third is looking like Gillis' worst move as GM. In his first few games Alberts seemed to be on the ice for half the team's goals against. He looked a little better in the final few games of the year, but two games into the playoffs he has been a disaster. Alberts has nearly single handedly kept LA in this series.
  • Where was the 4th line? If you can't get them some ice at home how are you going to do it in LA? Three minutes of ice isn't enough. Mike Gillis chose not to get any help for the bottom 6 and so far it has resulted in Vancouver playing a 3 line game. Pretty tough to go 4 rounds doing that.
  • The Sedins were great in game one, and not too bad in game two, however it was Henrik Sedin being late on the backcheck which allowed the Kings to tie the game up.
  • Where has Demtira's game gone? Maybe the Canucks should put a Slovak jersey on him and see what happens. If he doesn't show signs of life soon, I'd like to see Grabner moved up to play with Kesler.
  • Alex Edler was great in game one and solid in game two, but he's got to hit the net. Edler missed the net 5 times on Saturday night.
  • The Canucks found an edge in the faceoff department, which should help as they head down to LA.

Game three goes Monday at 7:00 pst. Let's hope we don't get stuck with that stupid high camera angle that is used so often in California.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Game 1 - Canucks 3 - Kings 2 - Game Notes

Time to post again...

The Canucks opened their quest for the 2010 Stanley Cup with a very strong, even dominate, performance against the Los Angeles Kings. Vancouver was by far the better team 5-on-5 as the Kings rarely sustained any pressure. Special teams were a different story as the Kings scored twice on the power play and were dangerous when they didn't. On to the game notes...

  • Alex Edler was the big story after game 1 and deservedly so. While most of the talk was about the big hits, especially the great one on Doughty, it was the defensive play against Anze Kopitar that was most impressive. Edler stayed right on the talented forward and didn't allow Kopitar to score as Luongo was flopping around like a beached whale. That play may have saved the game for Vancouver.
  • Speaking of Luongo, while he made a huge save in overtime, he didn't exactly do anything to show that his struggles are behind him. While Quick looked confident and inspired his teammates, as soon as the Kings scored Luongo appeared to be fighting the puck again and lost the swagger he was displaying early in the game/pre-game. The second Kings goal wasn't a "bad goal", it developed quickly, it's still one that Luongo should stop. If he can't stop those the Canucks won't be getting out of the second round.
  • What more can you say about the Sedin's? They are superstars in this league and if anyone tells you different... well there an idiot.
  • Andrew Alberts was the one black mark in the Canucks performance. In the last week or so of the season Alberts had finally gotten his game to a point where he wasn't a total liability. However his two dumb penalties resulted in two goals against and were the only reason the Kings were in the game. Hopefully Rome is ready to go tonight.
  • The officiating in game 1 was decent, at least they let them play, however there were numerous non-calls on high sticks, how they didn't see Kopitar's stick through Henrik's visor is mind boggling.
  • Both teams are good in the faceoff department and they split the draws 50-50 in game 1. As the series progresses it will be interesting to see if one team can find an advantage in this department.

Game 2 goes tonight and should be interesting. The Kings were happy with their game on Thursday (at least that's what they were saying), but it will be a short series if they don't make some adjustments (especially breaking out of their own zone).

You have to wonder how much of a factor experience will be for the remainder of the series. In game 1 the Canucks were confident and played with a purpose, while the Kings were often on their heels. No one ever admits it, but for young teams making their first playoff appearance their is often a subconscious feeling of being "happy to be there." Is that a factor in this series? Maybe. The Kings season is already a success, while the Canucks' core has experienced early playoff failures and is hungry to go deep into the playoffs.

Tonight we'll see if the experience of that first playoff game will help the Kings, or if the Canucks are truly the dominant 5-on-5 team...