- Pro Sports Blogging - http://www.prosportsblogging.com -

Best Game Of The Year … Canucks UP 2-0

Posted By Mark Gage On Mar 5 2010 @ 12:51 am In Vancouver Canucks | 1 Comment

It wasn’t the Canucks best game of the year; it was the best Hockey Game of the year!

Unfortunately if you live in Canada east of the Alberta Border you didn’t get to see the best period of the 2008/09 season as you were still watching the Pens and Flyers battle it out in OT. I’m sure that was exciting, but I guarantee it didn’t match what the Blues and Canucks were doing at GM Place here in Vancity.

There were only 12 shots total in that epic first period, but it was the most action-packed, thrilling end-to-end 20 minutes of scoreless hockey you could ever hope for, especially in comparison to the referee-induced coma that was Game #1 of this first-round series.

Including official timeouts, the opening frame in the Canucks’ 3-0 win took a total of 28 minutes to play … and play they did! Over 8 minutes of the first 9:20 was without a whistle and the period itself had a grand total of 8 faceoffs.

Oh, and then there was all that hitting, 22 of ‘em in the first 9 minutes and 30 in all. It was two teams going head-to-head putting everything on the line and it was obvious that the first-game jitters were long gone for both teams. There were “only” 25 hits the rest of the way, but the game didn’t lose any of its luster over the final fourty.

There were a combined 38 players who saw the ice in this game and every single one of them, with the exception of Ryan Kesler, David Backes and Barret Jackman who were all as good as they could be in the first game two nights earlier and had no where to go but down, were far better than they were in Game #1.

Rest assured, the fact my team won the game has nothing to do with me calling this the best game of the year … the Blues easily could have won this one and I still would be making the same proclamation. As a hockey fan you couldn’t ask for anything more and this one was the absolute definition of why Playoff hockey is so different, or at least can be so different, than regular season play.

Both teams gave it everything they had for the full sixty minutes and the individual performances for most were at least a step up from what their respective fans are used to seeing.

Of all the individuals, none were better than Roberto Luongo who made at least 10 spectacular saves in the 30 shots he faced to register his first official shutout in the post-season, his third in the 5 games played over the last 9 days. In those 300 minutes of hockey to end the season and start, what is hoped to be a long spring on the Left Coast, he has let in a whopping 2 goals … not too shabby!

Like Game #1, he started early, and it was obvious he was once again on a mission. 15 seconds in Keith Tkachuk pasted Kevin Bieksa into the boards, stole the puck and fed Dan Hinote in front whose one-timer met the right pad of the Canucks’ Captain.

Less than 5 minutes later he lunged and got a piece of an Andy McDonald deflection with his blocker to send the puck off the cross-bar. In the second he made back-to-back saves off of McDonald and Backes with his left pad that were both off-the-charts.

In the third, while moving to his left, he stretched out his right leg to once again thwart McDonald and then later got just enough of his glove on yet another McDonald shot to nudge it up high enough to hit iron again.

I could go on and on … the guy is just absolutely amazing when he’s on his game and the saves he is making, especially on deflections of which there were numerous last night, are just phenomenal.

Nobody has the ability to “get in their heads” like Lui does. The only other goaltender that I ever remember who could single-handedly change the way players play so much was Dominik Hasek, who in his prime, could make players look like they had actually given up on doing what they do best and would force them to try foolish things.

The Blues haven’t gone that far yet, but you gotta feel sorry for them as they worked so hard in this game and had so many guys playing well, yet no matter what they did, they couldn’t beat Bobby Lou. McDonald could have about 6 goals in this series already and instead his team has 5 less than that.

“It was sick how well Louie played,” Alex Burrows said afterwards. “He was unbelievable. He made so many key saves and it was nice to see him step his game up another level, even though it was already at a high level.”

“Once you get into the playoffs, the adrenaline takes over,” Luongo said. “It brings (my game) to that next level. It makes you quicker, sharper and more aggressive.”

“He’s one of the best, if not the best, in the world,” summed up Backes.

Luongo wasn’t the only goalie to play well in this game as Chris Mason was also very good making many key saves throughout, and the only pucks that got by him were a mid-air deflection by Mats Sundin that barely squeezed through his legs and a wrap-around effort from Burrows after some tireless great work down low by the Triplets.

The Kid Line of T.J. Oshie, David Perron and Patrick Berglund were 10 times better than they were in the first game, especially Perron who only adds to Canuck fans despair with every game he plays after Dave Nonis & Co. took Patrick White ahead of him in the Draft 2 years ago.

Having said that, their best shifts were against the Canucks’ fourth line and not the third line of Kyle Wellwood, Mason Raymond and Steve Bernier who they once again faced most of the game. This Canucks’ trio was very good and in Game #1 but were even better last night as all of them did almost everything well and were Vancouver’s most consistent line on the night.

The 3rd line is supposed to be a checking line and they are defensively responsible, especially Wellwood who just continues to shine in his own end supporting his Dmen and making great decisions with and without the puck, most of their “checking” comes from playing keep-away in the offensive zone.

That line, more than anything, is what makes this team so dangerous in my opinion, as the Canucks are able to roll out line after line and not really lose much in offensive capabilities … the balance up front is now there with three distinctly different groups coming at you in waves and it makes for a pretty tough game to play against.

On the Blueline I thought all 6 of them were better than they were on Wednesday. Sami Salo has been a rock since he was paired with the rock himself, Willie Mitchell, and he was fantastic in this game. Alex Edler had his second straight very good game and ap
pears to be putting a somewhat shaky regular season behind him and looking more like the kid who earned a big raise this year.

All of that and I’ve hardly even mentioned the Sedins who combined for 4 points on the night and are well on their way to shedding the perception that they can’t do it when the games matter … all they’ve done is do “it” for the last two months and the playoffs appear to be more of the same.

I fully expect the Blues to be better in Game #2, but so will the Canucks and all that will do is make it a much better game for all of us to watch …

… is how I ended my last Blog but I can’t do that again as I can’t see how anything can be better than what we saw last night.

The Grades …

A+++ … Luongo

A … Salo, Edler

B … Mitchell, O’Brien, Henrik, Daniel, Burrows, Kesler, Demitra, Wellwood, Raymond, Bernier, Johnson

C+ … Ohlund, Bieksa, Sundin, Rypien, Hordichuk

Last night’s loss was the first time St Louis has lost back-to-back games since mid January and it marks the first time the Canucks have been up 2-0 in a series since they took the first two games in Detroit in 2002.

The Blues will be very tough at home on Sunday, but the Canucks are a good road team and there’s no Dan Cloutier to let one in from centre ice this time around … you just get the feeling that no matter how tight every game is, the Canucks will stay within themselves and come out ahead. I’m not saying it’ll be a sweep, but the chances of the Blues coming back and taking this series look to be pretty minimal, at best.

About the Author Subscribe to author's RSS feed [1]

Article printed from Pro Sports Blogging: http://www.prosportsblogging.com

URL to article: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2010/03/05/best_game_of_the_year_canucks_up_2_0/

URLs in this post:

[1] Subscribe to author's RSS feed: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/author/mark-gage/feed/

Copyright © ProSportsBlogging.com. All rights reserved.