May 10 2011 11:09AM
"GROUP HUG!!! Aw, c'mon, get in here, guys. I love you guys."
(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Vancouver Canucks are into the final four of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in 17 years. Since 1994, the Canucks have never made it past the second round. In fact, in those 17 years, the Canucks only made it to the Conference Semi-finals 5 times. So it is a tremendous accomplishment for the Canucks.
But as was pointed out on TEAM 1040 last night, the Vancouver Canucks are now only half way to their goal.
The Vancouver Canucks 2011 playoff history has been quite a rollercoaster ride thus far. After coming off the highly emotional series victory over their post-season nemesis Chicago Blackhawks, the Canucks got no rest and were thrust right into their series with the Nashville Predators. And this Predators series was everything that the Blackhawks series was. The series with the Predators was largely unexcited, low-scoring, filled with great goaltending and all sorts of Ryan Kesler on the scoresheet.
The big mystery with the Canucks through this series was the Sedins. Where were they? And the stats tell a very bizarre story about their presence. First off, anecdotally, Henrik said in his post-game on-ice interview that he felt that he and Daniel played much better in the last three games than the first three games. I would almost agree with that. I think they were much better in the last two games than the first four. Ignoring stats to start, the Sedins looked hampered and tight for the first four games, had trouble making their patented space, couldn't get their cycle rolling at all, and struggled to adjust their game accordingly. As Kesler emerged as the clear top player in this series, the pressure on ice lessened on the Sedins, as the Predators defense focused more on Kesler's line than the Sedins. Games 5 and 6 saw the twins get their cycle moving a little more, they found a little more ice and were able to get their game moving a little more in the direction were they are typically comfortable.
But the stats on the Sedins tell a different story. Based on CORSI, their two best games were (BY A COUNTRY MILE) games 2 and 5... which the Canucks lost... the ONLY two games the Canucks lost. So the better the Sedins play, the worse chance that their team has of winning the game? Well, that's ridiculous. What is strange though is that the two games that the Canucks won most handily (games 1 and 4), the Sedins had their most balanced zone starts of any of the games. So, when the offensive specialists were playing their best, the team lost. When the offensive specialists were starting the games almost equally between the offensive and defensive zones, the team won the most handily.
Uh.. yeah. It don't make no sense. But that's pretty much in keeping with this series. For most of it, it wasn't fun to watch. Unless you love massive glove saves by Finnish goalies, in which case you probably jizzed your pants every game. That said, the balance of this series came down to special teams, and the Canucks soundly thrashed the Predators in that stat and it ultimately got them through the second round. The Predators were a dismal 1-for-21 on the powerplay, while the Canucks were a decent 4-for-18. And the Predators penalty killing woes were focused on their own rink, as the Canucks went 4-for-10 at Bridgestone Arena.
In a series where goals were few and far between, special teams made all the difference.
And so did Ryan Kesler.
The GOOD and the BAD
What was GOOD in this series:
- Ryan Fkn Kesler.
- The goaltending on both teams. Especially Pekka Rinne's glove.
- Joel Ward.
- The Canucks defense (except for Game 5).
- Max Lapierre in the faceoff dot.
What was BAD in this series:
- The Sedins until Game 5.
- The Predators power play.
- The entertainment value in any game.
- The Canucks defense in Game 5.
- The Predators offensive output from EVERYONE not named Ward or Legwand.
The Canucks now move on to the Western Conference final against either San Jose or Detroit on Sunday. So the Canucks get some rest. A lot of time to heal with 6 days between games, but surely Henrik and Samuelsson and Higgins and Salo and possibly Edler can all rest their wounded bodies, and get ready for another battle.