May 20 2011 09:16AM
Look, this goal is so nice, I'm not even gonna look at it. Don't even look at it.
No, Hank, you're not allowed to look either. Just skate away.
(Photo by Don Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
Game Day Recon: Western Conference Final Game 3 - Canucks @ Sharks
The Vancouver Canucks head down the I5 (well, they'll fly down in a multi-million dollar chartered plane but whatever, the I5 is fun, too) for Game 3 of their Western Conference final series with the San Jose Sharks.
For the first time in these playoffs, the questions from Canucks fans about the upcoming game aren't about their Canucks. But there are definitely questions about the Sharks after their debacle in Game 2.
Can the Sharks rebound from their disastrous effort, or have the Canucks gotten into their heads?
Game Time: 6:00 PM PT
Through 2 games, the Sharks have taken a boatload of stupid penalties, been absent offensively, unraveled defensively, looked horrible on their penalty kill, and can't totally depend on their goaltending. The only part of their game which has been working in these past two games has been their power play, and that has more to do with 3 big breakdowns from the Canucks than anything else.
Dany Heatley, Devon Setoguchi, Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski, Torrey Mitchell and Kyle Wellwood have been almost entirely vacant through two games. Joe Thornton has been very good so far, and Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture have been decent. To summarize, that means that out of their top 9 forwards, 1 has been very good, two have been decent, and the rest have been non-existent. If the Sharks have any hope of getting back into this series, they have to turn that around in a hurry. Also keep in mind that the Sharks are now 1-5 in their last 6 games.
The good news for the Canucks is that the Sharks totally lost the plot in Game 2 and aren't showing any signs of re-writing it. Through both games, the Sharks started off strongly then faded badly as each game wore on. The Canucks quick-strike offense was able to overcome deficits in both games and the Sedins have awoken from their supposed slumber. The Sharks defense just doesn't seem to have an answer for the Sedins right now, and it's showing.
For the Canucks, their only concern is their penalty kill. While it looked great against an anemic Predators' offense, it's gone 0-for-3 against the Sharks. The Canucks PK has been quite bizarre through the first two games. On each kill, the Canucks have started off well, limited the Sharks to few chances. But then all of a sudden, the entire PK unit (goalie included) has a massive brain cramp and the Sharks have capitalized. Two of the the three Sharks power plays have gone 1 minute or longer, which shows that the Canucks are doing a good job initially, but then ultimately failing. If the Canucks can lock up their penalty kill, especially with rushes up the middle, then they'll take away the only real offensive attack that the Sharks have been able to muster. Luckily for the Canucks, they've been disciplined and have only taken 3 penalties in 2 games. But they can't tempt fate. They need to stay disciplined AND fix that bloody penalty kill.
And while they're at it, the Canucks can and should everything they can to poke the bear that is Ben Eager. In a shrewd bit of insight, our man Kavi Lehdar points out that Eager went batty in the same way that the Canucks did against the Blackhawks last year. In the interviews after the game and today, it seems obvious the Canucks are starting to get in the Sharks' heads. If the Canucks can keep poking Eager and goading him into ridiculous penalties and get him to go nuts again, then they're doing to the Sharks exactly what the Blackhawks did to the Canucks last year. Pretty soon, if this keeps up, then the Canucks will win both the physical and mental battles in this series. And that's exactly what the Canucks want to see.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Keep the puck moving out of their own zone. If the Sharks can't hem the puck in the offensive zone and slow the pace, they fall off their game plan. The Canucks have been solid in two games so far in clearing the pucks smartly out of their own zone and it's killing the Sharks primary method of gutting out goals. More of the same.
2. Fix the damn penalty kill. Stop letting guys fly straight up the gut. Help your goalie out in front of the damn net. You were so good all year long. Go watch some old game tape if you need to.
3. Keep turning the other cheek. The Sharks will keep trying to punch you in the mouth. Just keep taking it. The Sharks are taking such stupid penalties and it's driving them mental. Just laugh and smile. Cuz it's working and if it keeps up, the Sharks will fall down the rat hole quickly.
Here are your top 5 links for today's game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Canucks @ Sharks (Canucks.com)
2. Torres into the groove (The Province)
3. Struggling Sharks again in troubled waters against hungry Canucks (Vancouver Sun)
4. Canucks/Sharks Preview (Yahoo! Sports)
5. Sharks Gameday: A Brief Foray Into Nothingness (Fear The Fin) << SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY!