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Playoff Preview? Bring It On!
Posted By Mark Gage On Mar 30 2009 @ 3:47 pm In Vancouver Canucks | 10 Comments
What's not to like? The Canucks rolled into Chi-Town and rolled right over the Black Hawks in a dominating 4-0 win against a team that, just 7 weeks ago, was 11 points ahead in the standings and wakes up this morning tied with the Left Coasters for 4th in the West.
The Hawks still have a game in hand, but the in the last two meetings between the two the Canucks have a 11-3 combined edge in goals. When the Hawks ran off and left the naysayers in their dust early in the year, hardly ever losing a game, they were practically unbeatable at The United Center. Prior to last night they had won their last 3 at home, but before that they couldn't beat anybody in front of those 21,000-plus rabid fans that are selling out the building every night.
Sunday's game was a huge one for both teams. If Chicago had gotten a regulation win the chances of Vancouver catching them would have been very slim, now the Canucks have “to be in their heads”, and clearly the young Hawks would prefer playing someone else in the first round.
I've said for a while now that I was actually hoping the Canucks stayed in 5th so that they would start against the inexperienced Hawks facing immense pressure on home-ice after re-invigorating their massive fan base in one of the best stories of the NHL year. I still feel that way, but that home-ice advantage might come in very handy in the 2nd round if there's an upset or two by others in the first round.
Of course, the Canucks are now only one point behind the Flames with a game in hand after Calgary plays San Jose tonight), and an April 7th match-up looming on the horizon, so taking the Division Crown and getting the 3rd seed would let them avoid San Jose and Detroit in the second round, assuming only one of the 5th through 8th seeds can win in the first round.
In an 82 game schedule there's usually a handful that stick out more than others and this win, under these circumstances, was most definitely one of 'em. Teams win when they're not at their best sometimes, but this win was one of, if not the best, 60 minute team-win of the season.
Not only did they get the huge win and two points in, arguably, the biggest game of the year so far, but the extra curricular activities early in the 3rd after Dustin Byfuglien gave roberto Luongo a blatant cheap shot to the head can only help galvanize the Boys as a group in the room.
They already felt they had a good team with all the components required, but you can't orchestrate emotions and when a line-brawl like that happens and guys show they have the gumption and desire to stick up for one another, it can have a very real effect on energizing the team, reinforcing their beliefs … a lot of this game is between the ears and to get that Boost so late in the season against a potential opponent can not be under-estimated.
The Triplets led the way with Henrik, Daniel and Burrows a combined plus-9 on their 9 points. Daniel got 2 & 1 and now has 30 on the year while Henrik dished out 3 helpers and Burrows sent his totals on his magical season to 26 goals and 21 assists, and is now 16 points and counting above his career-high.
The number one unit also happened to be on the ice when all the shananigans went off and I thought the Sedins were more than accountable considering their nature … and more importantly, the perception they have in a lot of Canucks Nation.
I've said it countless times, but they take a ton of crap and never back down … it may not be THE “tough” that us Canadians want from all our players, but make no mistake, it is a form of toughness. Daniel showed it in Dallas last week with his badly cut lip and losing a tooth, and last night he didn't give an inch as he was being challenged repeatedly with blows to his face that has to be extremely sore from the injuries. Yes he didn't do much reciprocation, but he didn't run away and hide either, knowing that Chicago would more than likely come out of it on the short-end of the penalties he stood there and took it like a man.
Then you have Shane O'Brien and Kevin Bieksa, who are, in my mind, far and above Darcy Hordichuk in the team's enforcer rankings, going nutty in the Brouhaha and you have a team that is truly a TEAM and one that even the most pessimistic amongst us must be at least starting to admit that they just might have a chance this year.
This far into the Blog and the only time Lui's name has been typed is talking about him being cheap-shotted when he gets a shutout in a huge game? Well, he obviously got the job done and he was very good in doing it, but this was much more all the guys pulling-the-rope in the same direction than the goaltender standing on his head.
When Bobby Lou's on his game he makes everything look easy and his 26 saves, for the most part, “looked easy.” The bagel was his 7th of the season tying his career-high (after missing two months on IR), and his 18th as a Canuck in 2-plus seasions, leaving him just two shy of Kirk McLean's Franchise-best 20. His team is now 19-5-1 in the last 25 games and he has gone 18-4-1 over that stretch. He has set the bar so high that even when he's perfect he sometimes doesn't get the recognition he deserves and I am as guilty as anyone on that front … well, almost as guilty … lolz.
The final game of this 6-game roady goes tomorrow in Minny against the always-tough-for-the-Canucks Minnesota Wild and with a win there's a good chance that we'll wake up and see our team in 3rd place in the West come Wednesday morning.
Whoever the Canucks meet in the first round I like their chances, however after yesterday's game I really, really, hope what we witnessed yesterday was a Playoff Preview.
No regular Grades today … this team-win deserves nothing but an A+
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