May 07 2011 11:18AM
Canucks need some more Higgybum in Rinne's business. Wait, that's doesn't sound right.
The Canucks need to bugger Rinne. Nope, that's not right either.
(Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Game Day Recon: Western Conference Semifinal Game 5 - Predators @ Canucks
Two weeks ago, the panic level amongst Canucks fans went through the roof, as the Canucks failed, then failed again, then failed again, to eliminate the Chicago Blackhawks.
Well that was then, and this is now. And the Canucks aren't playing the Blackhawks anymore.
Can the Vancouver Canucks prove that they're ruthless and eliminate the Nashville Predators tonight?
Game Time: 5:00 PM PT
The collective blood pressure of Canucks fans was high and still rising as their team was in the same position in Round 1. The Canucks had the chance to sweep the Blackhawks but failed miserably. The two teams returned to Vancouver and the again Canucks pulled a complete no-show, this time in front of their hometown fans. As is now written in Canucks lore now, the Canucks then had to return to Chicago, only to lose again in heartbreaking fashion, then came home to finally knock off the Blackhawks.
Why bring this up? Well Canucks fans have short memories and that was a hard series to forget. The Canucks blew three chances to move on to the next round before finally emerging victorious. The Canucks are now on to the second round and, lo and behold, they have their first chance to move on to the Conference Final since 1994. And if the Canucks are paying attention to what's happening in this series, they'll see that the cards are starting to go their way. So tonight is the perfect opportunity for them to get their opponent, who's already laying down with his back on the mat, to finally tap out.
Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are slowing down, looking tired. Pekka Rinne is starting to look beatable again, and is getting frustrated. With the exception of Joel Ward for the past two games, the Predators offense is not generating nearly enough chances to get their team a lead, which they've held for less than half a period through 4 games. A perfect example of this is: After Ryan Kesler scored his highlight reel goal in Game 4 to give the Canucks the lead for good, the Predators fired only 4 shots on Roberto Luongo. Four. That's it. Unless you get the luckiest of lucky bounces, you're not going to win with a sheer lack of offense. And now the injuries are starting to befall the Predators, too. In consecutive games, they've lost Steve Sullivan and Jerrod Smithson and are now stretching their already razor thin offensive depth.
And while the Predators are starting to falter, the Canucks are warming up. Ryan Kesler put the team on his back while the Sedins were cold. Well now the Sedins are getting going, with two much improved performances in Nashville for both Daniel and Henrik. While neither was playing quite to their Art Ross winning level, they're starting to heat up and the Canucks will need that if they hope to move on to the Conference Final.
Can the Canucks finally be ruthless? Can they finally put the Predators out of their misery? Can they prove to remaining teams that they are not a team to take lightly? They can only do that if they win tonight, to silence the doubters and critics. Getting to the Conference Final for the first time in 17 years would go a long way in quashing that doubt. 17... Hm.... Vancouver sure loves the number 17 lately. And with good reason.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Push the pace early. The Predators are starting to look gassed. And the Canucks aren't. Pure and simple. The Canucks need to get skating early and dictate the tempo of the game. The more the Predators are chasing, the more penalties they'll take.
2. Own the faceoffs. The Canucks have not been their normal dominant selves in the faceoff circle. Interestingly, Kesler is the one who's had the most trouble lately. If they can get back to winning the faceoff battle, then they'll control the puck and virtually dissolve any chance the Preds have of generating offense. A perfect example of this was the play on Henrik's empty-net goal in Game 4, executed to perfection.
3. Get down the ice, then go at Rinne. The Canucks did a great job of this in Game 4, and need to keep it up. Get the puck down the ice 180 feet, then move the puck across Rinne in the last 20 feet. Mason Raymond has been terrific at carrying pucks deep, but he keeps going into the corners with the puck. He need to stop 15 feet sooner and go to the net. If he doesn't get a shot, he'll at least draw a penalty.
Here are your top 5 links for today's game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Predators @ Canucks (Canucks.com)
2. Predators on the hunt for way to slow down Kesler (The Province)
3. Canucks’ Dan Hamhuis a steadying hand on the blue line (Vancouver Sun)
4. Canucks/Predators Preview (Yahoo! Sports)
5. Predators @ Canucks Game 5 Preview: Not Dead Yet (On The Forecheck) << SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY!