May 24 2011 10:28AM
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Juice brought it the heat in Game 2. Let's hope his Canucks do it again tonight.
(Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Game Day Recon: Western Conference Final Game 5 - Sharks @ Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks have been here before, and Canucks fans all hope that they learned their lesson. The Canucks couldn't close out the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 5 at home. They couldn't close the Nashville Predators in Game 5 at home.
Will the third time be the charm?
Game Time: 6:00 PM PT
The Vancouver Canucks can punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final, if they can finally win a Game 5 at home. In both previous series, the Canucks held 3-1 series leads and couldn't seal the deal at home.
At the end of Game 7 against the Blackhawks, Ryan Kesler said that he had never wanted to win a game more than that. Well, I think that game has been trumped. While Kesler has been quiet on the scoresheet, he's been really effective on the powerplay, causing havoc in front of Niemi and generally causing troubles for the Sharks. Right now, he only has 1G 1A in the four games against the Sharks, but tonight is a night where Kesler realizes that a win puts him and his Canucks into the Stanley Cup Final and he wants to show that his team has the killer instinct to win it all. Tonight is a night where Kesler goes into full-on beast mode and pulls his team into the final round. He has more will and determination than ANYONE on the Canucks, and I believe that Kesler will have his best game of this series, and possibly the best game of these playoffs tonight.
I also foresee a huge game for Roberto Luongo. He has been absolutely rock solid in this series so far, laying low under the limelight while the Sedins and the Canucks power play are both taking bulk of the focus. He hasn't specifically stolen a game yet, and he hasn't needed to yet. While the Sharks play for their playoff lives tonight, I would expect them to come out guns a-blazin'. That would, however, be a fairly drastic turnaround from the previous game. Certainly the Sharks had the bulk of the play early, but that was due mostly to the Canucks handing them opportunities in the first period by taking a litany of penalties. That said, while the Sharks certainly outshot the Canucks, they barely outchanced them. From the Copper and Blue (and Thomas Drance's Game 4 Review), the chances in Game 4 just barely favoured the Sharks 15 to 12. Keep in mind the total shots fired were 74-31 for the Sharks. So for all the possession that the Sharks had (and some of that was based on the fact that the Sharks had much more power play time than the Canucks), they weren't getting a lot of scoring chances.
And there you have the Canucks, who amongst their weaponry boast fear, surprise and a ruthless efficiency. The Sharks just don't have an answer for the Sedins right now, or the Canucks' powerplay. Nor do they have an answer for their speed and the Canucks have to use that as much as possible.
I have long believed that the team that can weather the storm of injuries has the best chance of winning, regardless of skill level. The Canucks lost their best faceoff man in Manny Malhotra. No problem. They lost Stanley Cup winner and secondary scorer Mikael Samuelsson. No problem. They lost leading scoring defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and AV 's favourite Aaron Rome on the same night. No problem. The Sharks just don't seem to have that depth or resilience to overcome injuries. Ryane Clowe is clearly still hurt. I'd argue that Joe Pavelski must be hurt as well. They've lost Jason Demers. And now they have Joe Thornton possibly playing with a separated shoulder. If Thornton, the Sharks best player through the playoffs, can't play to at least 90%, the Sharks won't be able to recover. Not unless Heatley, Setoguchi, Clowe and Pavelski magically awaken from their collective slumber and come alive tonight. Right now though, there is nothing to suggest that's about to happen.
For the Canucks, they need to weather the early storm. As TEAM1040's Jeff Paterson points out, in both previous Game 5's this year (both at Rogers Arena), the Canucks have allowed a goal in the first 5 minutes of the game. The Canucks need to come out fast, hit smartly and keep the forecheck going. And no penalties, please. Maybe, if the Canucks don't want to get behind early and don't want to take penalties, they should keep Tanner Glass parked firmly on the bench.
Can the Canucks make the third time the charm? This is the third straight series where the Canucks have held a 3-1 series lead at home with a chance to end it. They need two more games to seal the deal against the Blackhawks. They needed one more game to finish off the Predators.
Could they finally need no more games after Game 5 to end the series? Will history be made tonight?
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Treat tonight like Game 7. The Canucks are talking a good talk right now, but it's time to put this talk into action. Using the current 4-Round format, no team has won the Stanley Cup without finishing at least one round in 5 games or less. The Canucks could use the break to heal, to regroup and to prepare. It's time to close out the Sharks.
2. Hit Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle... ALL the time. They've both taken big hits and are hurting. Thornton left Game 4 with an apparent shoulder injury after a bruising hit from Raffi Torres, and was somewhat in doubt for Game 5. That said, Thornton is a gamer and has asaid he is playing tonight. So the Canucks know he has a gimpy left shoulder - they have to exploit that. After all, Thornton has easily been the Sharks' best player.
3. Roll four lines... until Tanner Glass starts taking stupid penalties. The Canucks' fitness has been their ace-in-the-hole this series and they've used it so well. But if the Canucks put themselves down early, having to kill a slough of penalties to start the game again, it will take away their advantage. I'm looking at Tanner Glass on this. He took two STUPID penalties in Game 4 and he isn't playing his game at all. He's not hitting, he's not forechecking effectively, and he's not killing penalties. So why is he out there? Anyway, that's not quite the point. The point is for the Canucks to roll all four lines, to keep everyone fit and fresh. But the fourth line, as always, has a really short leash, especially Glass.
Here are your top 5 links for today's game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Sharks @ Canucks (Canucks.com)
2. Canucks penalty kill will be key in series (The Province)
5. Sharks Gameday: Adversity (Fear The Fin) << SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY!