Monday, April 25, 2011

Deserving of a Better Fate?

The Vancouver Canucks played their best game of the series, but it wasn't enough to finish off the Chicago Blackhawks. Alain Vigneault shook things up by juggling his lines and starting Corey Schneider in goal. Despite outplaying the Blackhawks in the second half of the game, Vancouver couldn't get the one goal they needed. For Canuck fans it was just another heartbreaking loss. On to the game notes...

  • Before the game the twitter world was abuzz with the late news that Corey Schneider would start (for a while there "Corey Schneider" was trending worldwide). Schneider played very well between the pipes, unfortunately he was a disaster when he left the crease. Two poor plays handling the puck led to two goals against and in the end a loss. Without those two goals Chicago probably isn't in the game. Schneider left the game after cramping up following a failed save attempt on Frolik's penalty shot.
  • That meant Roberto Luongo would get his chance at redemption. While he played admirably in a tough situation - facing little action for most of the 3rd - the winning goal was yet another misplay for Luongo. Sure there was a lot of traffic, but you've got to find a way to stop that puck without completely removing your ability to stop the rebound. Once again Luongo failed to get it done.
  • While Alain Vigneault's line juggling payed off, his decision to dress Raffi Torres and Andrew Alberts backfired. Torres took yet another offensive zone penalty, this time a goaltender interference call. Fortunately it did not lead to a goal this time, but Torres wouldn't see the ice for the remainder of the game and may not ever see it again as a Vancouver Canuck. Andrew Alberts played well in his first game since February 14th. Unfortunately, when Sami Salo went down early, it left Vancouver with a predicament on defense. Alberts of course couldn't handle Marion Hossa in overtime which resulted in the winning goal. The decision to start Alberts over Ballard may have cost Vancouver the series.
  • In a game which the Canucks dominated most of the second half it's hard to believe that the Canucks only drew two power plays (Chicago had 4 plus a penalty shot). John Scott absolutely leveled Burrows in front of the net after play was whistled dead - no call. On one of the Canucks rare power plays Kesler got absolutely leveled from behind, taking away Sedin's passing target - no call. Then there was Henrik's stick being chopped in two, an automatic penalty for most of the season - no call. And of course there was Bickell's hit on Bieksa, a carbon copy of the Torres hit on Seabrook. Game three it was a penalty, game 6 - no call. Then you have the worst call of the night... I can live with the officials putting their whistles away, but the decision to scrape the ice half way through OT after the Canucks had Chicago's 4th line stuck on the ice following an icing... unbelievably absurd. 100% the wrong call, don't care how the NHL decides to defend it. And just for the record here the power plays in this series are now 27-16 in favour of Chicago.
  • While the Canucks aren't getting any help in the power play department, part of it is their own fault. When 4 of your top 6 forwards have reputations for embellishing your not going to get the benefit of the doubt. Henrik Sedin flopping like he was shot at the end of the second isn't going to help him get a call later in the game.
  • A lot of Canucks had their best game of the series. Chris Higgins finally showed up, winning more puck battles in the first period than he had in the entire series up to that point. Max Lapierre was huge during the third and overtime. Burrows finally got going offensively, despite missing a wide open net. Bieksa was a beast on defense and the Sedins played by far their best game.
  • Unfortunately Ryan Kesler still has not scored. If the Canucks are going to win game 7 they need a goal from #17.
  • Speaking of the Burrows missed opportunity, the ice at the United Center was terrible. Puck was bouncing all night long.
  • Finally, the Canucks need to find a way to get more point shots through. Chicago blocked 31 shots, the most important was a poor attempt by Hamhuis which would result in Chicago's first goal.

So the big question over the next day is who starts in goal? Tough call. Schneider played well, but not well enough. On the other hand Luongo has never beat Chicago when it matters. Flip a coin? In the end I think you have to go with Luongo, if for no other reason than you can't have another situation where Schneider is forced to leave the game early or fails to make a save due to his cramping issues.

Vancouver has one more chance. It's hard to believe that it's come down to this, but as a Canuck fan are you really surprised? A win could propel them on to the Stanley Cup. A loss and it's hard to fathom the repercussions...