Throughout a season like no other for the Vancouver Canucks, it has been marvelous to watch this team find new ways to destroy old assumptions.
Lately, with the playoffs looming, we have heard from so many different fanbases, and some media, about certain teams being ones the Canucks would be “scared of” in the playoffs. Hawks and their fans would boast confident assertions. Even a fine coach like Mike Babcock was not above trash talking Luongo on the playoffs, or how this team has to live up to the “pressure” of being the top dog.
We all remember Theo Fleury and his Twittering. Kyle Wellwood intoning about needing to “grow more”. Shane Obrien was just the latest ex-Canuck to sound off.
It just does not matter. This team, this year, looks ready to take on all comers, and play whatever style of game you want, because they can win playing all ways as well.
The Nashville Predators are a very good team. They are coached well, have a collection of hard working, if not supremely talented forwards, a seemingly endless supply of good defensemen, anchored by Suter and Weber. Behind all that, a good goalie would look great. A great goalie like Pekka Rinne looks like a potential Vezina candidate.
They make you work for it. Part of that is the trapping style, although tonight they actually had a couple forwards forechecking on occasion. Collapsing to the net on any chances in their own end, making it tough to even get the puck on net. Coming into the final game between these two teams, with the Preds leading 2-1 in games played, the brayers and bashers were gleefully filling fanboards with boasts of how the Preds would upset the Canucks, and with ease.
Those folks even had a chance to smile smugly when, through two periods, it looked like the Preds were once again going to choke the life out of a game and shove it back at the top team in the league. While being out shot 17-15 through two, the home team was keeping much of the play to the outside, collapsing well, and taking away chances.
Even when Higgins or Kesler got a shot off, or Raymond ( and that line had a very strong game ), Rinne was there. He was a little lucky on occasion, like on a Lapierre attempt in close, or when he left the top corner open and Daniel Sedin hit the post, but it was looking to all and sundry that he could possible have another shutout to go along with the 3-0 score the last time the Canucks played in the country music capital. The Canucks were definitely outplaying the Preds in that second period, but a lucky bounce that went right to Fisher on one of their few forays enabled Mr. Underwood to finish the play with the only goal of the game.
Cue the Sedins. On their first shift of the last period, Daniel and Henrik made that #1 pairing of Weber and Suter look like any other. Daniel drew Suter to him, banked the puck deftly to his brother, who had Weber watching him instead of Burrows. A slick saucer pass to Burrows, and a goal that looked unstoppable in it’s inevitability.
The Preds had no answer, and it was fairly obvious that the strategy of playing not to lose instead of win was not going to work. Even with the referees calling penalties for both teams ( 4, 2 each in the final 20 ), the ineffectual home team power play looked to have nothing for the #1 penalty kill. They had 2 shots the entire period versus the Canucks 14.
Still, it was tied, and looked like the Preds would at least be able to nurse a point out of this one at least. Cue that top line again. This time one brother would do the spade work along the boards. Alex Burrows, seeing what was developing, saw the puck get worked to Henrik and took off. Henrik of course found him behind Weber, and Burrows went to “I only have one move” ( because it works! ) and went high backhand at top speed for a big goal that put the knife in.
The Predators pulled the goalie, but really did not look dangerous. Aaron Rome, from behind his own goal line, and just clearing the zone, found the net for his first goal as a Canuck in 109 games. The puck just trickling in, with Henrik sheperding it to prevent Weber from getting to it, set off celebrations for the team, showing the togetherness and love for a #7 defenseman and how tight this team is.
On to the next. LA Kings, you are on the clock…