Game Review: WCS Gm 1

Dan, why so worried? You’re hugging Higgy and he just scored a goal!
It’s all good, baby.
(Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Game Review: Western Conference Semfinal Game 1 – Predators @ Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks shook off any hangover from beating the Blackhawks in the opening round and came out to play against the Predators. It’s just a shame that Nashville didn’t do the same.

Ok, let’s be fair. Pekka Rinne showed why he is a Vezina candidate. And Shea Weber showed why he is a Norris candidate (btw – if he doesn’t win it will be a goddamn crime). But that was it for Nashville. Even the coaching seemed to disappear. Although we know for sure that Barry Trotz’s neck has permanently vanished anyway. Nashville was directionless, tired and bored. While you might have expected the Canucks to be the ones lagging behind, it was clearly the Predators suffering from a first round hangover. If not for Rinne’s heroics and Weber’s physical play (finished at 28:29 TOI, 3 SOG, 4 Hits, 2 BS), this game would have been a runaway for the Canucks.

That said, the Canucks did very little to make Rinne work hard. His glove was a vortex for pucks all night long, and yet the Canucks continued to shoot at his crest and his glove the entire game. Who was it that said that stupidity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? Something like that? Yeah whatever. You get the idea. And the one time where the Canucks caused some confusion in fron tof Rinne and got him moving east-west in his net, Higgins scored. Lesson learned? I hope so.

Rinne is a fantastic goalie, but for some reason the Canucks were just not clueing in that they had to get him moving. The Sedins started to figure it out, but it was a little late by that point. Speaking of whom, the Twins had a terrific game. Lots of chances, plenty of shots, good looks at the net. Sure, they kept finding Rinne’s glove and logo with their shots, but they weren’t the only ones. As for their linemate… Mikael Samuelsson is CLEARLY hurt. He has to sit out. He was awful last night. AWFUL. I am stunned as to how AV doesn’t see this. I know he’s a warrior and all, but Sammy – you gotta sit out now, son. You’re done. And having him on the point for the powerplay was just depressing. It was the biggest reason why the powerplay ended up going 0-for-5… well that and the fact that Pekka Rinne’s glove was a Bermuda Triangle for pucks.

The Canucks had three solid lines rolling last night, with a minor little chip-in from the fourth. Not surprising that we didn’t see much of the fourth line. There was no physical pushback from the Preds last night, and it was more about solving Rinne than anything else.

It was an ugly win. But a win is a win in the playoffs. You have to expect that the Predators will get an earful from Trotz over the next 30 hours or so. They stunk, asleep at the wheel. Martin Erat had 0 SOG. None. Mike Fisher had only one shot, the breakaway attempt. That was it. Both Fisher and Erat finished -1. Patric Hornqvist was arguably the worst player on the ice last night, taking three penalties and two of the horrible variety.

If not for Rinne and Weber, the score should have been out of hand in a hurry. So the Canucks need to anticipate a big bounce-back game from Nashville tomorrow in Game 2. As for the Canucks, all you can ask for Game #2 tomorrow is: More of the same, please. Just pick a corner or go blocker on Rinne. Get him moving side to side!

Three Big Stats

Here are my top 3 stats from last night’s game:

1. 12 SOG for the top line. 6 from Daniel, 6 from Henrik, 0 from Samuelsson. The twins had a great game, but were obviously snakebitten and faced an ultra-hot goalie. They were also hitting Rinne right in the logo or his glove. Samuelsson was AWFUL all night. No shots from him means he didn’t even get anything going on the powerplay either.

2. Faceoffs – 61% to 39% in favour of Vancouver. The Preds were a disaster in the faceoff circle to start the game, and it really set the tone for how the game would progress. Max Lapierre was 6-0. Yeah. Kesler was 19-11. Get some! David Legwand was 4-14.

3. Kevin Bieksa’s entire stat line. He was a beast last night. And was the best non-goalie on the ice. Bieksa finished at: 1A 1 Pt; +1; 24:59 TOI; 1 SOG; 5 Hits; 2 Blocked Shots.

Three Big Moments

Here are my top 3 moments from last night’s game:

1. Chris Higgins’ goal. The only goal of the game, and it was perfectly fitting for this game, which itself felt out of step for the entire 60 minutes. The puck certainly went in, but the refs weren’t sure (for some reason). Anyway, quick review, it obviously counted. Away we go.

2. Keith Ballard’s beauty hip check on Jordin Tootoo. It was incredulously called a clipping penalty. Canucks fans have seen Ballard throw that dozens of time this season. and it’s always a crowd pleaser. The refs decided it was a hit below the knees apparently. Canucks fans just shook their collective head.

3. Luongo’s save on Mike Fisher’s breakaway. He kept his calm and limited Fisher’s shooting area. Luongo has his mojo working with his second opening game shutout. (F-Fwd to 3:00 mark of this clip)

 (Thanks to @CanucksHD for the video clips – massive again!)