Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Too Little Too Late

At least the Nux gave it the old college try but this all could have been avoided if this attack at will game plan was instituted in Game 4.

There has been much gnashing of teeth over Roberto Luongo's play but both goalies in this series were average at best. Luongo's .879 save pct for the series vs. Nikolai Khabibulin's .873 pretty much shows that goaltending was not what turned this series. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Chicago ventilated Bobby Lu for seven goals in Game 6 but the overrated one was playing lousy the entire series. This is also now the second time in two playoff years in which #1 has blown a deciding game in rd. 2. History does repeat itself as the old adage goes.

Also, you'd think a so-called world-class goalie who worshipped at the altar of Grant Fuhr would be a cooler (Chicoutimi?) cucumber in a run-and-gun game. Obviously he's not, as his constant complaining to the officials about being run shows Luongo still has not embraced his dark side. Learn from the master (and holder of four Stanley Cup rings), you want players to stop running you, channel Billy Smith. In the long run, it will pay off, Luuuuuu.

Would someone also point out to our forwards when they break a stick, race to the bench and get another stick or get off. Ditto the defensemen or at least forwards, hand the D-man without a stick a stick.

Certainly, if you step back a bit and look at Game 6 and see what an exciting game it was, that should be the style of play we see the Nux adopt for '09/10. If Luongo is anywhere close to the worth of his contract and rep, the Nux could be headed for Chicago-like glory in 2010, by playing this sort of uptempo game. It certainly beats watching the death by 15-shots-a game style as we saw in Game 4.

The question is will coach Yogi Bear throw caution to the wind or fall back on his usual rope-a-dope tendencies as he did in that infamous Game 4? As a fan of actual hockey (you know, the game where teams skate, pass, hit and shoot) I'm pleading with him, let the players play and stop coaching out their creativity. Mistake-free hockey is a myth perpetrated by coaches like Ken Hitchcock and Jacques Lemaire. It's not soccer on ice so let's see some more 7-5 games next season.

Lastly, would it kill GM Mike Gillis to show some emotion when the camera pans to you after the Canucks score? At least ex-Canuck and current Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon looked like he was into the game. Patience is one thing in building a team but for those two to three hours, how about acting like a fan? Maybe then you can understand how we "fans" feel when we watch this team you put together run us through the emotional ringer minute by minute in a playoff game.

Mr. Mike showing off his Canuck fervor

Anyway, two seasons ago the Nux finished 8th overall and lost in rd. 2. This season the team was 7th overall and again lost in rd. 2. So to those who feel it's been a successful season, the Nux are basically right back where they were two seasons ago after missing the playoffs in '07/08--no better, no worse.

Let's just move on and enjoy the real hockey being played by the Caps and Pens in the East and push for an old WHL-like best-of-9 format next season should these two meet up again.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Plan the Funeral Route?

To the timid goes none of the spoils. Game 6 comes down to that. If the Canucks continue to be outshot and if Roberto Luongo does not step up and prove he is this supposed second coming of Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek all rolled into one, then we can all start planning the funeral route.

All the Nux really have to do is skate better, get to the loose pucks and get more shots on the man the media think has returned to his '04 Cup winning form. Yes, the Bulin Wall's save pct. of .875 in this series seems as good as his .933 save pct. with the '04 'Ning.

Just another goal in the Wall

Anyhoo, sounds like a simple game plan but executing it may be beyond the Nux.

One major problem is getting to loose pucks requires speed and younger players tend to be speedier and healthier. On that score, the Hawks are miles ahead.

Look at the Hawks doing major damage in this series and their respective ages:
Dave Bolland 22 years old
Andrew Ladd 23
Dustin Byfuglien 24
Patrick Kane 20

It gets worse as you look at the backline:
The oldest regular is Brian Campbell at 29 while the main pairing of Duncan Keith, 25, and Brent Seabrook, 24, are spring chickens compared to the 32-year-old Willie Mitchell and those two other seniors in Mathias Ohlund and Sami Salo.

Not that being an ageist is warranted but remember the Nux D-men over 30 are not named Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Pronger or Scott Niedermayer.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Who's Hot . . . Who's Not

We're through four games in each of the series in this second round so time to check out who is toasty and who is toasted.

Boston vs. Carolina

Well, who's winning that battle between Eric Staal and Zdeno Chara? The 3-1 series lead that the Canes have pretty much tells you who.

Jussi Jokinen, Car 3G 3A +2
Eric Staal, Car 4G 1A +2
Marc Savard, Bos 3G 0A -2
Cam Ward, Car .932 save pct

Zdeno Chara, Bos 0G 0A -4

Washington vs. Pittsburgh
This series may go down as one of the greatest ever. Certainly through four games we've seen enough wild hits (and missed hits), shots, saves and classic flubs (Simeon Varlamov's glove hand in Game 4) that you often don't see over seven games in any series. Also, although Alexander Semin has 4 points in the series, he's not scored and is as lazy backchecking as Evgeny Malkin is for the Pens. Speaking of which, one strong game out of four does not do the Art Ross Trophy winner any justice unless Malkin is channeling Patrick Marleau out there.

Sydney Crosby, Pitt 5G 3A +4
Alexander Ovechkin, Wash 5G 2A +2
Bill Guerin, Pitt 1G 3A +4
Sergei Gonchar, Pitt 1G 3A +2

Alexander Semin, Wash 0G 4A -5
Evgeny Malkin, Pitt 1G 2A -3
Marc-Andre Fleury, Pitt .884 save pct

Detroit vs. Anaheim
Another terrific series that shows why the West is best. In case you're wondering who the best player in the NHL is, you've got to now add Ryan Getzlaf's name in with Crosby and Ovechkin's.

Ryan Getzlaf, Ana 1G 7A -1
Corey Perry, Ana 3G 3A -1
Nicklas Lidstrom, Det 2G 3A +1
Johan Franzen, Det 4G 1A +3
Chris Pronger, Ana 1G 4A -2
Henrik Zetterberg 2G 2A +1
Jonas Hiller, Ana .933 save pct

Pavel Datsyuk, Det 0G 1A -1
Bobby Ryan, Ana 0G 1A -3

Vancouver vs. Chicago
The most boring series so far in the entire playoffs through two rounds. Somehow Hawks' Coach Q is trying his best to lose this series by playing the wrong goalie. Meanwhile Nux Coach Yogi Bear is doing the same by playing defense first when the Nux had a chance to go up 3-1 in the series. The weirdest stats are the fact that Henrik Sedin has three goals and his brother, Daniel, has none while Patrick Kane has contributed offensively, he has been more of a liability five-on-five.
Lastly, the lead singer of Green Day shows he can play some hockey as he leads all players with five points after four games.


Dave Bolland, Chi 3G 2A +3
Martin Havlat, Chi 1G 3A +2
Alexander Edler, Van 1G 4A +1
Duncan Keith, Chi 0G 4A +3
Henrik Sedin, Van 3G 1A -2

Dave Bolland's punk rock twin


Willie Mitchell, Van 0G 0A -4
Jonathan Toews, Chi 0G 1A -3
Patrick Kane, Chi 3G 1A -4
Alexander Burrows, Van 0G 1A -1
Nikolai Khabibulin, Chi .867 save pct

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Sky Has Fallen

What was that? I'm talking about the game plan to go to the rope-a-dope mode and try to let a 1-0 lead hold up.

It's bad enough the Nux got only 15 shots on goal but has Yogi Bear lost his mind? The Detroit Red Wings are THE model on how to play to win...CONTROL THE PLAY!

The Nux have the ability and talent now to pin teams deep in their own end, if the coach would just let them. He does at times allow his players to freelance a bit offensively (and this season has been better than last on that score), but the bottom line is this is the most boring series of the four still in progress. Do you really want to cheer on New Jersey West just because it says "Vancouver" on the front of the jersey? Win or lose, this is not the way to play hockey.

All can be rectified in Game 5 but when you have a so-called "world-class" goalie, methinks you can take more chances offensively and you'll be better off. I get why the Nux are afraid of a Chicago team that finished tied for 3rd overall in scoring leaguewide, but I guess winning on the road in Game 3 may have created the disastrous result in Game 4.

Game 3, though, had the Nux up 3-0 and then the rope-a-dope makes some sense. Up 1-0 in Game 4 when there was more than half a game left to play made zero sense.

I know the white towel is the Canuck symbol now but it doesn't mean the team has to throw it in by trying to live by the 1-0 soccer scoreline sword.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Is It The Goalie Or The D?

Supposedly Joel Quenneville is a good coach but isn't coaching all about getting the right matchups? So explain to me how after a very average first round vs. the Lames that Coach Q has stuck with Nikolai Khabibulin through the first three games of this series.

Not that Roberto Luongo's one good game out of three excuses him but the Blackhawks have a perfectly good backup in Cristobal Huet who has a 3W 0L record, .914 save pct in '08/09 vs. the Canucks. All Joel had to do was look at Khabibulin's '08/09 record vs. the Nux 0W 2L, .800 save pct. to realize starting Khabibulin was the wrong move.

The Chicago D has certainly done its job limiting the Nux to an average of close to 23 shots a game so, if you want to change the course of this series, Huet better be in goal for your team come Thursday.

Speaking of D, there is a lot of hype over Anaheim's D. Any team that has given up an average of 39 shots per 60 minutes of play is not good. I'm sorry but anyone who saw the non-goal (thanks to a brutal refereeing mistake with a premature whistle) last night that Detroit "didn't" score would have noticed the much ballyhooed Scott Niedermayer giving the puck away behind the Ducks net.

Yes, Niedermayer and Chris Pronger both contribute offensively and are probably two of the better defensemen in the league, but this Cup run the Ducks are currently on is due to one man alone not being a piece of Swiss cheese. Jonas Hiller, take a bow.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Can A Team Be Too Rested?

The Canucks look anything but Cup contenders through two games vs. the Blackhawks. More worrying that Roberto Luongo's .871 save percentage, which you know won't last, is that the three injured players from round one are all on life support.

Sami Salo has been terrific with two goals, including the third period winner in Game 1, but he's now hurt. And, as we all have seen, the Canuck D is only as good as Salo's health is.

Willie Mitchell (who looks like he's still wearing those weirdly tight jeans out there) as he is a -2 so far in the series and gives the Nux zip offensively anyway.

Mats Sundin is back and has 3 assists yet is a -3.

So did all this rest help these three players at all?

Game 3 and 5 will be the key to seeing where this series is headed and really given the shaky goaltending at both ends, the Nux main goal should be matching Chicago shot for shot. Being outshot 62-47 through the home games here on the Great Wet Coast was puzzling given the home ice advantage of being able to match lines. In the United Center's cauldron of noise (not scoreboard induced like here in Vancouver) coach Yogi Bear is going to also have to be better at getting the right matchups.

Add to this Duncan Keith (of the pointless rd. 1) has found his game with 3 pts and a +3 so far and the Blackhawks are riding a high.

Plus this article suggests maybe Dustin Byfuglien is having a greater impact on the series than we thought.

Let's hope the team Luongos brings them down from that high tonight with some inspired roadwork.