April 22, 2009
The St. Louis Blues' return to the playoffs after a five-year hiatus came to an abrupt end last night. While the Blues forced Game Four into overtime, it was too little too late as far as the series went. The Canucks won Game Four to complete the sweep.
Scoring was a problem for the Blues as the Canucks outscored them 11-5 in the series, including a shutout in Game Two.
During the regular season, St. Louis' power play was ranked eighth, successful 20.5 percent of the time. The Canucks, led by Luongo in net, shut them down. The Blues went 1-24 on the power play in the series, including three missed opportunities in the OT of Game Four.
In Game One, the Canucks carried a 2-1 lead into the third period, but instead of holding back and just playing defense, Vancouver took it to the Blues. They outshot St. Louis 15-6 in the period. It wasn't until the Blues pulled their goalie, Chris Mason, in the final minute that they were able to counter Vancouver's onslaught.
Luongo was on fire in Game Two, stopping all 30 shots from the Blues. He faced 14 shots in the third period alone and dealt with a Blues power play that came at the 16-minute mark, which was then followed by the usual end of game desperation attacks from the losing team.
The Blues' frustration led to several fights at the end of the game.
The series went to St. Louis for Game Three and things seemed to be going their way. They came out banging, outhitting the Canucks 19-5 in the first period. Their domination led to a goal and their first lead in the series. But the turning point came in the second period.
Vancouver turned on the pressure. Demitra fired a shot which Mason stopped. The rebound came to Burrows but his shot flipped the puck over the net. All the traffic in front of the net got Blues center Jay McClement freaked out and he got called for a slashing penalty.
On the ensuing power-play, Mattias Ohlund scored a goal. This led to more St. Louis desperation and another power-play for Vancouver. Daniel Sedin got the power-play goal and gave the Canucks the lead.
Although St. Louis tied things up later in the period, another power-play goal for Vancouver (Bernier) gave them the win.
Surprisingly, despite being down 3-0 in the series, the Blues didn't break. With the Canucks up 2-0, the Blues rallied to tie. A scoreless third period led to OT.
Luongo faced 18 shots and three St. Louis power-plays in OT but held his ground. With 19 seconds left, his work was rewarded as Alex Burrows scored the game-winning, and series clinching goal. It was Burrows' second goal of the game and third in the series.
An interesting note about Burrows is that he spent most of the season as a checker. Looking to shake things up, coach Vigneault put him on the line with the Sedin twins. He had 12 G and 12 A at this point (51 games in). In the remaining 31 games, he scored 16 goals and had 11 assists.
Luongo finished the series with a 96.2 save percentage and a GAA of 1.15
This was the Canucks' first ever playoff sweep. It's still to early to know who they'll face in round two, but they'll use the time to rest up for their next challenger.
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