Yodellay-ee-whoooooo! Cauncks, I’d like to yodel in celebration tonight. Just like Ehrhoff.
Make that happen. I wanna see handshakes tonight.
(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Vancouver Canucks)
Game Day Recon: Western Conference Semifinal Game 3 – Canucks @ Predators
Let’s be clear… the Nashville Predators didn’t win Game 5. The Canucks lost that game by handing it to the Predators with a comedy of errors and careless defensive play. While the notion of again crossing the continent to play one game, losing sleep and rest and healing time, and throwing off schedules, is largely unpalatable, the good news for the Canucks is that Detroit and San Jose are doing the same thing.
So will the Canucks take advantage of this new opportunity and finally kill off the Predators?
Game Time: 5:00 PM PT
The Vancouver Canucks are now 1-4 in their attempts to eliminate their opponent in these 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. That’s NOT a demonstration of killer instinct. They’re also 1-2 at home in this series, and Game 5 was the first time in their history that the Predators had ever staved off elimination (they’re now 1-5). Couple all of that with the fact that the Canucks defense looked like the Keystone Cops on Saturday and Game 5 was roundly a disaster.
So that sounds bad right? Yes, except that when you consider that Game 5 was a perfect storm for the Predators and they still only won the game by one goal and barely kept that game from going into overtime. So that’s the good news for the Canucks. The defense arguably couldn’t have played worse against that team, but they still almost got it into OT. Tighten up the defense, start paying attention, stop the egregious turnovers and the Canucks are walking away with the series.
So now the Canucks have to do something that they’ve done only twice before in their history – win a series in six games. And yes, they HAVE to win. While there is currently no panic in Canucks fanland, there could be. After all, they’ve just lost only one straight game. And the Canucks have shown that they are the superior team, only losing Game 5 because their blueline sh_t the bed and felt like handing pucks over to the Predators like they were giving out Hallowe’en candy. Kevin Bieksa has been the Canucks second-best defenseman in these playoffs (behind IMO Dan Hamhuis) but he was terrible, while Alex Edler, who’s had a very hot ‘n’ cold post-season, was ice-cold on Saturday and even batted a puck into his own net. Alex, you’re not supposed to do that, okay cupcake?
Ok, so I have beaten that dead horse. You get it.
As for the Canucks lineup tonight, it looks as though the only change will be one of necessity, not choice. Mikael Samuelsson, rumoured to be injured coming into the playoffs, went down awkwardly early in Game 5 and didn’t return to the game. In fact, he wasn’t even put weight on his injured leg. While I’ve been harping on the team to sit him down for a game to get healthy, the Canucks now have no choice. As he was getting only fourth line minutes, he will likely be replaced with Victor Oreskovich, adding some much needed physical presence back into the lineup. It also means that the Canucks will have to change their first unit power play. They had done this briefly earlier in the series, but went back to putting Samuelsson on the point. It was an early disaster, as he turned the puck over badly which then led directly to the Predators first goal. Now the Canucks will go back to a more traditional power play lineup, likely with Salo and Edler on point for the first unit. There is also a strong possibility that Chris Higgins won’t play tonight, after blocking a shot in Game 5. He was out skating at practice this morning, but left early. So we may see Jeff Tambellini for the first time in a LONG time, as well as Oreskovich.
The Predators will likely see Jerred Smithson return to the lineup, while Steve Sullivan is still out. But the Canucks really have to worry about Joel Ward. Yeah… JOEL WARD. He’s been opportunistic, to put it mildly. He’s got points in 4 straight games, now with 7 points in the series (4G 3A). And they can add David Legwand to the watchlist too, with 3G 1A in last 3 games. Ok, so maybe the Canucks should focus on Ward and Legwand? And maybe not give up the puck on the powerplay? Two of Legwand’s three goals have come shorthanded. Yeah.
Ok, so enough of the pussyfooting. Get hitting. Get your focus. And get the puck in the net early.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Bury EVERY chance you get on the power play. And enough with the turnovers already. Get behind the puck at the point and FIRE it at the net. Quit shooting it wide looking for tip-ins. That works about 0.0008% of the time.
2. Sedins need a GAME. Get them playing, get them ice time, and get them to work through whatever issues they have. It would certainly help if they got their power play mojo working early.
3. Play physical. Get hitting again. It seems like the Canucks have taken their hand off the throttle after they’re bruising series against the Blackhawks. But it got them into the game quickly. With Oreskovich likely drawing back into the lineup, guys need to go hit. A LOT. And guys like Bieksa, Edler and Rome need to be far more bruising than they have been so far.
Here are your top 5 links for today’s game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Canucks @ Predators (Canucks.com)
2. Hopes Alex Edler’s "Raging Bull" will check in for Monday’s Game 6 (The Province)
3. Nashville imbibers target Kesler, ignore Sedins (Vancouver Sun)
4. Canucks/Predators Preview (Yahoo! Sports)
5. Canucks @ Nashville Game 6 Preview: Home Stand (On The Forecheck) << SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY!