Nashville: Game Four
As long as I have been a fan, it has been a hockey truism: It does not matter how good a team is offensively, a team has to be able to grind out victories to win it all. A good defensive team can always – if they sacrifice their offense – create a close game. As Jannik Hansen said last night, the Canucks are comfortable playing that way so they don’t mind being forced to that style. Comfortable? The Canucks are doing what they have to do – beating the Predators at their own game.
This series feels like it is over. It almost surely is – I can’t see Nashville winning three in a row – but winning it Saturday has become very important. The Canucks may deny it, but there is no way the team needs a couple more long flights in this series. Wrap it up and the Canucks can spend the next couple of weeks in their own time zone. (And while I think Detroit has very little chance to come all the way back against San Jose, maybe they could push the series to six games? Maybe give the Sharks a few more coast to coast trips?)
Even Barry Trotz seems to be at a loss. What now? Does he throw caution to the winds and open it up to get some offense? I doubt it. If the Predators can’t beat the Canucks playing Nashville’s game, how do they beat the Canucks playing Vancouver’s? We’ll see more of the same from the Predators. With a wish and a prayer…
1) Kudos to the crowd and atmosphere in Nashville both games. The fellow who sang the national anthems – I missed his name – did a great job, particularly with the Canadian anthem. The place was jumping. (Did Gary Bettman show up to drink it in and try to wash the taste of Phoenix and Atlanta out of his mouth?)
2) The turning point was when the Canucks killed off the long five on three without giving up a good scoring chance. It seemed to take all the air out of the arena and the Predators. “We’ll never score enough to beat this team in this series” was the thought that seemed to sweep through the crowd. The fans stopped believing in the miracle.
3) Joel Ward is such a great story, I’m nearly glad to see him do so well. Still, when he’s the best Nashville forward… Tootoo has been okay, and Legwand has had a burst or two but after that?
4) Two games ago, Kesler’s lack of scoring was a “problem” even though with zero goals, he was the Canucks best forward. Now? MacTavish calls him the Conn Smythe frontrunner. The Sedin “problem” also disappeared last night because they put up some points, even though – to my eye – their game didn’t change much.
5) Its time to really start singing the praises of Alexandre Burrows. After Kesler, he’s been the Canucks best player. Most opposing fans dislike Alex – I get the reasons why – but they should also acknowledge that he’s become a terrific hockey player.
Even if you credit the Sedins for most of his offense – I don’t – he’s so good without the puck that a Selke nomination would be a long way from a travesty. The only reason he is the second most valuable defensive forward on the Canucks is that Kesler is a centre. Both were terrific on the PK, particularly when the Canucks were two men down.
6) The entire Canuck defense has been great. It isn’t like the Predators aren’t trying to get the puck to the net. I’m a little surprised that Aaron Rome is the sixth man these days, but I’m past trying to second guess Vigneault. Ballard earns $4.2 MM and he’s currently eighth on the depth chart. That’s shaping up to be a post playoff problem for Mike Gillis.
7) The strongest evidence that Henrik Sedin really is hurting? The Canucks continue to dress Cody Hodgson even though Vigneault clearly doesn’t trust him.
8 ) The latest thing we should supposedly worry about? Roberto Luongo continues to be plagued by “spurts of vulnerability“. Even if we accept the premise, as long as the spurts are separated by long stretches of invulnerability, who cares? How does this make him different than any other goalie?