We are all well aware of the importance of scoring on the power-play; we watched the Hawks all year. There was even an added sense of importance to the 5 on 3, thanks much in part to coach Q's comments about not winning games when those opportunities go without production. Well, incase you missed today's Western Conference Final game, or the last, I can tell you that it all boiled down to power-plays and especially 5 on 3's. Game 3 saw 55 minutes of penalties handed out, while today's game had 22 (a fair amount). But, 8 of Vancouver's 10 minutes of penalties came within the first period and SJ could not muster a single goal. The orange men brought some luck in game 3, but some bad juju for game 4.
Power Play City: The Canucks find a 3-1 lead in San Jose.
I find it kind of interesting that I really have no impression of how these 2 teams stack up when 5 on 5. Since the Sharks refused to show up in the first 2 games to play hockey and these past 2 games have been without much even strength play, your guess is as good as mine. Today's 3rd period ended with the Sharks taking the only 2 penalties and still out-shooting the Nucks 17-3 (not bad). They put together an impressive push and scored 2 goals, but it was not enough to win back the game that should have been theres by the end of the first. The score would end at 4-2 even after the Sharks outshot Vancouver 35-13.
I give a lot of credit to Vancouver's special team's play. SJ has to stay out of the box to have any chance at making this a 3-2 series on Tuesday. While short-handed for half of the first, the Nucks did an outstanding job of keeping shots from the perimeter and not allowing too much traffic in front of Luongo. I give this to their aggressive PK's, something I like to preach about. Their constant movement keeps the attackers on their toes and helps to direct their opposition's play. They set themselves up for victory with tremendous penalty killing, plain and simple.
Vigneault placed a lot of blame on the officiating in game 3. Duh, when does he ever look at himself or his team's performance? Well, that same officiating delivered 3 consecutive 5 on 3 PP's to the Nucks in the 2nd period of game 4. I can not recall another time when I saw such an occurrence. All that it took was 3 beautifully set-up shots in which the blast was too much for Niemi to handle. He faced something like 6 shots during the first 25-30 minutes of play until Kesler delivered a hell of a shot after a nicely placed pass across the ice on the first 5 on 3 for Vancouver. 2 more well placed and hard shots from the outside after cross-ice passes on the following 5 on 3's landed Vancouver with a 3-0 lead.
And that is all she wrote. Marleau and Thornton have been playing some impressive hockey lately, but they did not have enough juice to bring this one back within reach. Add to the fact that Luongo was obviously having a good night. In the end, not converting on PP's was the demise of SJ. They had this game in their hands, the chance to even the series which would have made for some interesting hockey in the NHL. 2 series tied at 2 a piece would have been nice.
It has begun to look like this year was made for the Canucks. It has also occurred to me that the Blackhawks were the team that came a Sharp-shot away from ending that season.