Ryan Kesler, you are a magnificent beast. Can you wrap it up in three periods though?
(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
Game Day Recon: Western Conference Semifinal Game 4 – Canucks @ Predators
The Vancouver Canucks finally got their bounces. They got none in the opening round against Chicago, and none through the first two games against Nashville. Those lucky bounces and goals seemed to be going AGAINST the Canucks, but Game 3 saw that change. As the adage goes, "You have to be good to be lucky and lucky to be good."
So has the Canucks puck luck finally swung in their favour?
If so, can we expect the Sedins, specifically Henrik, to finally break out on the scoresheet tonight?
Game Time: 5:30 PM PT
The good thing about the Sedins is that they are as steady as they go. They are the epitome of "not too high, not too low". It serves them incredibly well in the regular season, when they can shake off one or two poor games and come out firing. They can catch team unprepared. They can pounce on teams that have played back-to-backs. They can take advantage of teams that have traveled.
None of those benefits exist in the post-season. They travel the same days and distances as their opponents. They play the same schedule as their opponents. And everybody seems prepared in the playoffs. So while the attitude of not-too-high and not-too-low has its place, you also have to have the players who get high and get low, that dial up the emotion, that can go up another gear. Ryan Kesler is the Canucks poster-boy for all that, and rightfully so as he’s ratcheting up his play one game at a time.
It couldn’t happen at a better time, as the Sedins have vanished. Well, Henrik has vanished. But unfortunately, the two get lumped together. When one struggles, they both suffer. Daniel has still been producing. He leads the team with 5G 3A 8Pts in 10 GP. He also has 6 SOG or more in 4 of his last five games. Daniel is playing. But who knew that he would have to carry his twin, Art-Ross and Hart trophy winning, brother? It seems obvious that Henrik is hurt and it’s costing him right now. The Canucks need to try and polish off the Predators FAST, for the sheer sake of trying to get Henrik healthy. With 1 series out East already finished and the other two series at 3-0, the Canucks could win in 5 games and STILL be the last team to get to the Conference final. That’s goddamn nutty. So if they can, they need to wrap this up in a hurry and get Henrik some rest to heal up.
Again, luckily for the Canucks, the rest of the team is doing what it needs to win. Kesler’s line with Chris Higgins and Mason Raymond has been dynamite this series, especially in Game 3. The defense has been steady (not flashy or anything), although Alex Edler had an abyssmal game 3 so we’ll assume he can rebound. And Roberto Luongo has been fantastic in this series, putting up BETTER numbers than his lauded counterpart, Pekka Rinne. If the Canucks defense actually starts pressing forward and jumping up more, the Predators could be in a lot of trouble. If the Canucks continue to get some powerplay opportunities, and can be as lethal as they have been on the road (5 PPG on only 12 powerplay opportunities), tonight’s game will definitely swing in their favour.
The bounces are starting to go in the Canucks favour. They’re starting to. But the Canucks still need to make their own luck, and their play in Game 3 sure went a long way to prove that they are doing just that. They’re starting to get Rinne a little more off his game, getting him moving. Not a lot, but a little. So they need to keep that up.
As for the teams’ rosters, Steve Sullivan is gone for the series after suffering a knee injury, so Colin Wilson looks to slot in for the Predators. For the Canucks, Sami Salo has been skating and may come back into the lineup tonight, although there hasn’t been any confirmation yet. Other than those two changes, there are other moves expected for either team tonight.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Build on a lead. The Canucks have had the lead in all three games in this series. So there’s no problem there. But the Canucks need to get a 2-goal lead and step on the Predators’ throats. The Predators just haven’t shown enough offense in this series to prove that they can come back from a 2-goal deficit.
2. Get the defense to rush more. If the Canucks want to actually GET a two-goal lead, they are going to need more offense from the defense, which was a staple for the Canucks during the regular season. The Canucks D has only 4 goals, and that’s from 4 different players, so no Canucks D-man has more than 1 goal.
3. Go North-South for 180 feet, then East-West for the last 20. Get the puck in deep. No shots from 80 feet, because Rinne is GOING to snag those. Get down deep, then get Rinne moving across his net. Skate back and forth in front of him. If the Canucks get him moving too much, they’ll fill the net. And they need to fill the net to put this thing to bed (see Key #1).
Here are your top 5 links for today’s game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Canucks @ Predators (Canucks.com)
2. Trade-deadline acquisitions Higgins, Lapierre paying off in playoffs (The Province)
3. Goal-starved Preds go dead offensively (The Vancouver Sun)
4. Canucks/Predators Preview (Yahoo! Sports)
5. Canucks @ Predators Game 4 Preview: Do or Die? (On The Forecheck) << SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY!