Archive for the ‘2009 NHL Playoffs’ Category

Canucks out as Blackhawks move on

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

After a long and hardfought series, the Vancouver Canucks finally fell to the young and determined Chicago team that had been written off as an inexperienced group of kids since the start of the playoffs. Having beaten Calgary in the first round, Chicago began to turn heads, and continued to do so as they tied up the series with Vancouver on two occassions, in both the second and fourth games.

The Canucks went into this series as the favourites, despite showing signs of struggle against the Hawks in the opening game, then being shutdown 6-3 on home ice in the second game. But no matter how hard they tried, or which tactics they employed, the Canucks could not solve the Blackhawks and found themselves traling 3-2 in the series as they headed back to Chicago for Game 6.

It was a sea-saw battle for 53 minutes as both teams lost and regained the lead; a number of Vancouver’s fourth-liners stepped up to keep their team in the game, Shane O’Brien especially, having scored his first playoff goal in the second period to tie the game at three a piece.

Although the majority of the Canucks made their resence known in the United Center, one integral member of the team failed to live up to the standards of not only the fans, but himself as well. Roberto Luongo, for the first time as a Canuck, let in seven goals in one game, and had this to say after the game: “We had some chances early and I made some saves, but the rest of the way I didn’t help my teammates out,” continuing, “When you let in seven goals, I don’t think that’s a very good performance.”

While the loss can’t be placed entirely on Luongo’s shoulders, it was a dissappointing loss for the team and fans of Canadian hockey as the Canucks were the last of the Canadian teams to be eliminated from the tournament. Now fans must wait a grueling four months before they can see how this team will rebound.

Canucks denied after defensive effort

Friday, May 8th, 2009

The first three games of this evenly matched Canucks and Blackhawks series has been a close strategic battle, Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault likening the matchup with opposition coach Joel Quenneville to a chess match. Both coaches have been matching lines and trying to figure out the best plan to take the lead, and while there must be a winner at the end of each game, they find the series tied after Game 4 last night, proving how closely these teams have been playing.

The Canucks have been able to open the scoring in each game so far against the Blackhawks, but it has only paid off in two of them. Game 2 resulted in a terrible 6-3 defeat as the Canucks’ control of the game fell apart in the second period, but they rebounded in Game 3 with a 3-1 win on the road, looking as though they had solved the Chicago Blackhawks puzzle.

Having opened the scoring once again with Darcy Hordichuk’s goal in the second period, head coach Vigneault decided on this game’s new strategy: play the trap and focus on defense. With that in mind, the Canucks played a style reminiscent of the Minnesota Wild where they collapse to their blue line and control any offensive advances in their zone.

While the decison to play for the one-goal win seemed to be working against the offensively struggling Chicago team, a series of small slip-ups on Vancouver’s part led to a defensive breakdown, allowing Martin Havlat the opportunity to tie up the game with less than three minutes to go in the game. This would force an overtime period that the Canucks would have to adjust to offensively, having sat back and defended for most of the game.

Although Vancouver played a solid 57 minutes and generated early chances in overtime, they failed to stop Andrew Ladd three minutes into the extra frame, who put it through Luongo to take the game and tie the series at two.

Game 5 of this series takes place this Saturday, May 9th, at GM Place at 7:30 PM PST.

Canucks look to prep series for hometown victory

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

With a demoralizing defeat in their own arena in Game 2, the Canucks were able to return the favor to the Blackhawks, silencing the home crowd in Chicago in Game 3 with a 3-1 victory, reclaiming the lead in the best of four series, 2-1. As great as a playoff win on the road is, the Canucks must step up their level of play for Game 4 tonight, having shown signs of weakness against the Hawks since the series began.

Game 3 showcased the defensive capabilites of the Canucks, many of the defenseman claiming it has been their best defensive effort yet, keeping the young and offensive Chicago team away from the net and controlling rebounds. Although the game did not go off without a hitch — recording two delay of game penalties for putting the puck over the glass — the Canucks were able to block a series-high 21 shots in front of captain Roberto Luongo, as well as kill 4 of 5 penalties.

Perhaps the most surprising fact is that they were able to accomplish this without the aid of star defenseman Sami Salo and offensive forward Pavol Demitra, both of whom are out with injuries sustained in Game 2. With the loss of two important players came the return of Taylor Pyatt and Ossi Vaananen, the former making his first appearance since early April when he took a personal leave. With the return of Pyatt, team morale was high, and his contribution to the team was undeniable, recording a team-leading four shots in the game.

All the pieces are in place for an outstanding road performance by the Canucks if they can continue the success they’ve found buoyed by the presence of Pyatt, and their reinvigorated defensive strategies. If they can win on the road once again, they will be set to win the series in their home arena, GM Place, on Saturday, May 9th.

The puck drops for Game 4 at 5:00 PM PST tonight (May 7th).


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