Playoff intensity just what the Doctor ordered …
The assumption is that “The Sisters” always fade down the stretch. Sure they put up points in October and November, but as soon as the going gets tough when the games really start to have meaning as the season is winding down they disappear.
Funny thing is that their career points-per-game stats are almost identical in March and April to what they have put up the rest of the months that make up an NHL season.
Then there's the playoffs … when their production drops off a cliff and clearly they are not front-line players who can carry a team to the promise land. The only problem with all of that is that they have been in the post-season as the defacto #1 line exactly once, and that was with pretty much zero support from the other 3 lines which had names like Naslund and Morrison skating on them. Oh, and there was that serious virus they were battling at the time that had them on daily intravenous from game #4 on of that 7-game series agaimst Dallas.
Who knows, maybe all the naysayers will end up being vindicated once this season is all said and done and be able to say they were right all along and we should just let the Sedins walk (all the way to Daddy Burkie in Toronto) come Jusly 1st. All I know is that the playoff sample-size is far too small to come to any conclusion one way or the other … lets just let it play out, shall we?
Last night's 5-2 win in Dallas was as intense and physical a game as you'll see. The Stars were a desperate team fighting for their playoff lives and clearly meant business and were looking to avenge the loss in Vancity last week.
So what did the twins do when all the chips were on the table and the Stars were out-hitting the Canucks 41-19? Just a combined 5 points, and both paid a price for those points, especially Daniel.
After getting a vicious (accidental) stick in the chops from former Vancouver Giant Mark Fistric (who is looking very good as an NHL Blueliner these days) late in the first period that cut right through his lip and removed a tooth, he stayed on the bench when he was in obvious need of medical attention. He then went back on the ice on the powerplay less than a minute later, still bleeding, and worked his butt off making a very nice redirection of a Sami Salo shot with his soccer skillz (Hi TL16!) while being manhandled in the dirty area in front of the net.
His job done, there was little celebration as he immediately skated off the ice and headed to the medical room with more than a minute and a half left in the period. Back to continue the game to start the 2nd he got a helper on Henrik's first of two in the game (to go along with one assist) a minute 30 in … oh, and btw, Henrik also took a high-stick in the throat later in the game. These guys have always taken more abuse off the ice than any team could ever deliver on it (and they are way tougher than almost everyone gives them credit for), and all they do is produce and keep their mouths shut.
Coming off the 5-1 embarrassment in Phoenix on Saturday this physical, emotiional game was exactly what this team needed to ensure that compacency didn't set in. The Stars literally woke the Canucks up and they didn't back down in the slightest, and were by far the more disciplined team on the night.
Steve Ott was his usual weasel-like self (but man, I would take him on my team any day!) stirring up crap on almost every single one of his 19 shifts, and he actually dropped the gloves once, albeit against the middle-weight, at best, Alex Burrows. He also managed to show us all that the NHL has something called a Clipping Penalty in the books when he submarined Taylor Pyatt as he stepped out of the penalty box. Of course he refused to fight Pyatt, and the result of that was that he left his team mates open for retribution for his deeds.
It didn't take long for that to occur as Darcy Hordichuk decided that Marty Turco, who was closer to the blueline than his net along the sideboards playing the puck, was fair game. He could have hit him a lot harder than he did, but he definitely gave him a good shot and ended up with coincidental minors along with Trevor Daley who tackled him in the corner. Hordichuk barely surpassed 3 minutes of ice-time on the whole game, but that hit, at that time, was exactly what the Canucks needed and from there on out the outcome was never in doubt.
Ryan Kesler also had his warrior mentality in full gear for this one, as he always does, scoring his 23rd and 24th goals of the season while receiving a 4 inch gash to the back of his head from Jere Lehtinen's skate as he tried to jump over Kesler who was sprawled on the ice in an attempted shot-block. Kesler was very lucky that he wasn't more seriously injured on the play … it doesn't take much of a leap to imagine how bad that play could have turned out.
Much like the 4-2 win over the Stars here last week, this was a complete team effort from top-to-bottom. It wasn't quite a full 60-minute one as Roberto Luongo was counted on early to make a handful of great saves to keep the boys in the game, but even that can be seen as a bit of a positive after he was far from his best against the Coyotes the game before.
There has been lots to like about the Canucks in the last 20-odd games, but this type of game was a great tune up for what lies ahead when the playoffs get going … and I'd like to thank the Stars for reminding the Canucks that if they play a tough physical game they can have a lot of success.
The Grades …
A … Daniel
B … Luongo, Ohlund, Salo, Bieksa, Henrik, Kesler, Raymond, Hordichuk
C+ … Mitchell, Edler, Vannanen, Sundin, Demitra, Burrows, Wellwood, Johnson
C … Bernier, Pyatt
The road show continues in St Louis on Thursday and Colorado on Friday before heading to a huge game in the Windy City on Sunday against the Hawks.
Last night's 2 points ties the Canucks with Chicago for 4th and brings the Flames back to just a 3-point cushion in the NW … I'm not sure that I wouldn't prefer finishing 5th over 3rd or 4th and open on the road against a very young and inexperienced Hawk team that would be facing all sorts of pressure to win, but I'll definitely keep enjoying riding this winning wave the Canucks are taking us on for as long as they are able to keep it going.
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Written by Mark Gage