In my previous blog, I spoke about what the Canucks had to do in order to be successful. Last night they came out and played their system to perfection.
They set the tone early with hits causing turnovers in the Chicago end. Neutral ice was taken away from the Hawk’s, pressure on Chicago’s defense man was prevalent and the proof was in the pudding.
The NHL’s “Event Summary” of the game, tells the story of how successful the Canucks executed that system. They had 21 blocked shots and only three giveaways to Chicago’s seven. When you limit the opposition to just one shot in the third period, you know you are doing something right, especially against a talented Hawks team.
The hits were in favour on the Hawks 35-20, but the person taking those stats must be watching another game. Everyone on the Canucks was finishing their checks, even players like Henrik Sedin, credited with one, when I recorded two on one shift. Are you going tell me that Kevin Bieksa and Alex Burrows had zero hits last night?
The Canucks aggressive play resulted in an early Hawks power play but it was stifled, with an excellent kill and shot blocking. Speaking of Vancouver’s penalty kill, it has limited Chicago’s power play to just three goals in 16 chances, while scoring five in 18 opportunities on their power play.
The first goal came off an excellent read by Kevin Bieksa, who jumped down into the Hawks corner, passed out to Ryan Kesler, who in turned spotted Mason Raymond cutting down the left wing. Raymond took the pass and one timed it underneath the cross bar, over a sprawling Kikolai Khabibulin.
This was one of the Canucks better periods, initiating instead of reacting to the play.
Nucks started the second period on the power play with a puck possession cycle by the Sedins. Daniel Sedin distributed the puck back to the point to Alex Edler, who unloaded a shot which was kicked out by Khabibulin. Parked right in front was Steve Bernier, who swatted in the rebound in to make it 2-0.
The new line of Sundin, Kesler and Raymond were clicking on all cylinders, and on a two on one, Kesler’s pass to Raymond just missed when Raymond’s backhand failed to pick the top corner.
Raymond is having an outstanding series doing the little things on the ice. As small as he is, it has not stopped him from recording eight hits in the three games. His speed allows him to jump in on the fore check and force the defense to back up. I like his play.
Applying the pressure in the Hawks zone paid off, as Edler jumped in, grabbed the loose puck, fed it to Henrik Sedin, who slipped it under Khabibulin to make it 3-0. This was the Canucks playing like they had during that long winning streak. Sound hockey in all areas.
Chicago answered back three minutes later on a power play goal by Brian Campbell, who blew it by a screened Lunogo. Supplying the screen, as he has done all series, was that crease crasher, Dustin Byfuglien.
Roberto Luongo asked after the game about the incidents with Byfuglien, Roberto responded, that he was looking for Byfuglien as the game ended, to offers his “congratulations on a good game”. Does this action not remind you of a Patrick Roy moment?
All four lines for the Canucks supplied all the ingredients that this team must provide, to be successful. These are puck support, down low coverage, clogging the neutral zone, defensive zone pressure, finishing their checks and outworking the opposition. That’s their identity, along with the strong goal tending of Lunogo.
This was the first time in this series that the Canucks have played their game and the statement was posted on the scoreboard to prove it, 3-1.