April 15 2009 11:30PM
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.