Thoughts on Game 1

Jonathan Willis
April 15 2009 11:30PM

Bernier

I've never especially liked Steve Bernier.  He's got a lot of talents that I'd normally associate with a hockey player; good size and grit, enough offense, not a terrible defensive game.  I have just never seen him as having a terribly high ceiling as a player.  Tonight, though, he was everything that was right about the Vancouver Canucks.

Now, I could also have used Kesler or Burrows as examples, but everybody's fawning over them this year, and the HNIC crew gave Kesler in particular some (much deserved) recognition, so instead I'll focus on Bernier.

Bernier was aggressive all night.  I haven't looked at the numbers, but by eye his line (with Wellwood and Raymond) did a very good job outchancing the Blues' Kid Line, despite the fact that Raymond wasn't anything special (although Wellwood had a surprisingly effective game, as pointed out afterward by Ron MacLean).  It's a key matchup for the Blues in this series; the Canucks are a far better team at even-strength and that's the one matchup where St. Louis should have had the edge.  But I'm digressing.

The special teams battle is one that St. Louis is going to win, most of the time.  Tonight the Canucks managed a saw-off (thanks in particular to a brilliant 5-on-3 penalty kill by Kesler, Burrows and Mitchell), but they won't get that every night so it's important to eliminate stupid penalties.  There were a bunch of hits by the Canucks that were either borderline dirty (hello, Rick Rypien) or not remotely relevant ot the play (hello, Mathias Ohlund).  Bernier was smart in his aggression; he threw clean hits and even drew penalties.  That's something that the rest of the squad should pick up on.

Beyond that, here are some assorted thoughts:

  • Jebediah Mason has a heck of a beard.  Seriously, it's incredible.
  • That whole Rypien line (along with Johnson and Hordichuk) was brutal tonight.  They had one good shift which ended when Rypien took a charging penalty; other than that they were hemmed in their own zone.  I suppose that isn't surprising given that two of the three players on that line aren't in the game because they can play it.
  • Sundin was ragged on a bit by MacLean and Co., and honestly he deserved it.  He's not playing at playoff pace by a fair bit.
  • The Sedins had their usual, effective game.
  • On the Blues side, I though that Carlo Colaiaiaiacovo played pretty well, and that Crombeen is a perfect example of the kind of useful, unheralded player a team can pick up off of the waiver wire.  Keith Tkachuk had an up and down game, but he dominated Ryan Johnson in the last minute, taking his stick away from him on two seperate occasions; it was brilliant.
  • Lastly, I'm so glad that Hughson and Simpson are covering the Canucks.  Simpson is bright and articulate, but Jim Hughson is, for my money, the best play-by-play man in the business.  He treats the audience like they're bright enough to understand the game, he follows the tactics, and his research on the Blues was outstanding.  Brilliant work by both, but especially by Hughson.
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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Andrew Bucholtz
April 16 2009, 12:33AM
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Interesting analysis. Right with you on Bernier; he was very good tonight. Colaiacovo was tremendous for the Blues, and his play to stop that breakaway was incredible. It's going to be a long series in my mind; the Canucks have a bit of an edge in talent, but the Blues are in tremendous form and can play with them.

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#2 Mike
April 16 2009, 03:02PM
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You're dead on with Bernier and Sundin. Our best hope with Mats is to basically hope he doesn't take bad penalties and, better yet, can draw some on the rush. That's it. 14 straight games without a goal isn't about to end anytime soon.

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#3 Trevylan
April 16 2009, 03:32PM
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Mike wrote:

You’re dead on with Bernier and Sundin. Our best hope with Mats is to basically hope he doesn’t take bad penalties and, better yet, can draw some on the rush. That’s it. 14 straight games without a goal isn’t about to end anytime soon.

Switch him (Sundin) to the Raymond line, maybe the two could help each other out. Both are having the same kind of streak, one which no one likes to see.

Good game, good analysis Jon. I say its over in 5 though. As hot as St. Louis has been, I just don't see them enduring that long. Tkachuk doesn't have the energy to make his experience of any use to the rest of the team, IMO. I like him, but he's tired. Can't wait for Friday :-P

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#4 Jonathan Willis
April 16 2009, 03:41PM
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@ Trevylan:

I guessed 6 games, but it could easily be 5 if the Canucks can play with a semblance of discipline.

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#5 Sedinz
April 17 2009, 02:22PM
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@ Trevylan:

I agree with your point on Tkachuk. He is too old to keep up the pace at 37 yrs young

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