We should probably call this the BSOD series: the playoff windows are closing for both these teams, and the one that can execute a methodical shut down will advance. The other will crash for the last time and get rebooted.
And probably bring in a new operating system, er, I mean coach, while they’re at it.
Before I go any further, I should say that if you’re looking for the long-winded, numbers-based analysis of this series, you’re in the wrong place. As Fox Mulder once said, "Nobody likes a math geek, Scully."
The truth is in here…
As we’ve been told over and over, and we saw in Game 1 last night, this series promises to be a coin flip. There might be slight variations in strengths and weaknesses here and there, but overall both teams are pretty evenly matched. The Sharks might have a bit more skill up front, but the Canucks probably have a bit more on the blue line. And in net, well, let’s just say that the only thing separating Luongo and Niemi in even strength sv% over the last three years is one one-hundreth of a percentage point.
That being said, this year has been a bit surreal when it comes to the goaltending situation in Vancouver, and I think it’s safe to say that the play of Luongo
and/or Schneider is going to have a lot to say about just how long this series will last:
The same would be true of Niemi, if this was three years ago, but the guy has been rock solid this year and really carried the Sharks to playoffs. Heck, the only puck to beat him last night was put in by once-and-almost-future Canuck, Raffi Torres.
Now, if you read through Thom’s write-up on this series, then a) you deserve a medal, and b) you would have noticed that he put a lot of stock in the line-matching that both teams will do when they have home ice advantage. I’m not so sure that will be the case, however, and Game 1 certainly proved this out.
Both these coaches apply more of a situation-matching strategy than a line-matching strategy. They tend to put guys out based on where the face-offs are, which may in the end result in the same guys facing each other either way. But other than that, I expect to see both coaches rolling lines, which is not to be confused with what happens when Jeff Carter and Mike Richards throw a party:
(Dear Mr. Carter and Mr. Richards, on the off-chance you are represented by Brian Burke’s lawyers, I am just kidding. This is a work of satire.)
All that being said, the Canucks are going to have to step up their game if they want to keep this series at a coin flip. They need speed through the neutral zone, which means making crisp, clean passes on the tape, and also to generate some sustained pressure in the offensive end of the ice. Look, the Canucks are going to play another round either way, but it’s only going be on an ice surface if they get can consistently get in on the forecheck:
But really, what it all comes down to me is this. I’m not so much concerned that the window is closing on this Canucks’ team. I’m much more worried that this version of the Canucks is a bit too much like Windows:
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