On May 24th, 1994, Greg Adams scored in double overtime of Game 5 of the Western Conference Final to take the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final. Tonight, exactly 17 years later, Kevin Bieksa did the same. For only the third time in their 40-year history, the Vancouver Canucks are going to the Stanley Cup Final. After winning Round One in 7 games, Round Two in 6, and Round Three in 5, are the Canucks destined to sweep the Eastern Conference Champions? Is this the (Stanley Cup) Final Countdown? 7-6-5-4. It has a nice ring to it. But before we look to the future, let’s reminisce about the past. The recent past. The Canucks just won a hockey game. I watched this game.
Some of the people in the crowd seemed to be slightly confused, such as the guy who showed up in a Bruins sweater. At what point did he realize he was at the wrong game? Hey, that’s not Tim Thomas in net. Where’s Lucic? What’s going on?
Thank goodness the Sedins are “soft.” Instead of adroitly stick-checking Douglas Murray on the forecheck and forcing a turnover early in the first period, they might have tried for a big hit. If Murray knows how to do anything well, it’s how to take a hit. The Sedins instead combined to softly pick his pocket, then combined for some patented Wizardous Sedinerie to feed Alex Burrows a soft pass for the game’s opening goal. If the Sedins are less soft, that goal doesn’t happen.
The Sharks’ tying goal in the second period hurt twice as bad as Ryan Kesler injured himself racing Dan Boyle for a loose puck just prior to Keith Ballard accidentally tipping the puck past Luongo while trying to catch it. Ballard is worse with his glove than Smead Jolley. With the way Luongo was playing, Ballard should know to let that one go. He had an opportunity later to make up for his gaffe with an open net to shoot at, but had his stick checked at the last second.
There wasn’t a chance that Kesler would stay in the dressing room in the playoffs. If his leg was too injured, he would have had Mike Burnstein saw it off, tie some sticks together for a makeshift peg leg, and superglue it into a skate. Post-game, Kesler said I’ll play on one leg. I believe him. He’d attach a wheel to it and zip around like Rosey the robot maid.
The refs kept their whistles in their pockets for the most part, particularly in overtime, but they did give the Sharks a first period 5-on-3 opportunity. If it wasn’t for Kesler’s goal in the dying seconds on one leg and Bieksa’s double-overtime Bizarro-winner, the story of the game would have been the Canucks killing off this powerplay thanks to some huge saves by Luongo and active sticks in the passing lanes. The Sharks out-shot the Canucks 15-6 in the first period, but just couldn’t beat Luongo. Meanwhile, Niemi gave up 1 goal on 6 shots. But all he does is win.
I appreciate that the refs saw fit to let the players decide this game, but considering that Raymond took some major dental damage off an overtime high stick, that might have been a penalty that should have been called. Yes, even in overtime. That said, there were enough controversies that complaining too much about that particular incident seems unnecessary.
While the Canucks were badly outshot in this game (56-34), their inability to get the puck on net didn’t help. They missed 23 shots in this game. They missed more shots than the kid who made sure to be “sick” when they had immunization day at school.
The Canucks gave up a lot of shots in this game, but they blocked a lot of them too. They had 29 blocked shots, but 21 of those came in the first two periods alone. They were blocking shots like Dwight Howard. They were collapsing toward the net like it was a black hole. The shots that did get through to Luongo were mostly from the outside and Luongo had a clear view on most of them. If there was traffic in front of the net, the shot just wasn’t getting through.
The Sedins were absolutely dominant in the offensive zone. When they got the puck, they kept it. And then passed it. And then shot it. Unfortunately, they couldn’t seem to hit the net on any of their dozens of golden opportunities. The Sharks had no response for the Sedins, with their shifts bearing a strong resemblance to powerplays, which was good as the Canucks only got one actual powerplay. How much do you want to bet the refs were told to put away the whistles in this game after the absurdity of the last three?
Unfortunately, the Sedin line seemed to be the only line that could get the better of the Sharks. The other three lines spent most of the game chasing in the defensive zone. The 4th line was so spectacularly ineffective that only Victor Oreskovich played over 4 minutes, with 4:18. They were soldered to the bench early in the second period, while the Sharks were able to roll all 4 of their lines. We saw less of the 4th line than we saw of Cory Schneider on CBC after the Sharks scored their 3rd goal in Game 3.
In a game where Luongo made 54 saves, including 15 in the first period and 16 in the first overtime period, there will still be some people who will find something to criticize in his game. Such as the Sharks’ second goal, where Luongo leaves his net in an attempt to beat Joe Pavelski to a loose puck. After an unfortunate bounce over Henrik’s stick at the blueline, Luongo has two choices: go for the puck or face a 2-on-0 from the blueline in. Neither is particularly appetizing and I can’t fault Luongo for doing what he did. Pavelski needed to dive for the puck to poke it to Setoguchi: it’s a matter of inches.
Also, that’s yet another undeserved minus for the Sedins.
It’s a scene that will be replayed endlessly: down 2-1 to the Sharks with 29 seconds left, the injured Ryan Kesler wins the faceoff. After spending the bulk of regulation dominating the offensive zone and getting beautiful scoring chances without actually getting many shots on net, the time for making pretty plays had passed. As Henrik Sedin took the puck on the sideboards in the dying seconds of the third, everyone in BC was screaming at him to shoot the puck. He listened. He threw the puck on net where Kesler, battling both Douglas Murray and his injury, tipped the puck five-hole on Niemi. Kesler’s performance tonight deserves to become legen-wait for it…
With the weirdest overtime winner in the playoffs since Patrick Kane scored last year’s Cup-winning goal, Kevin Bieksa sent the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final. As the puck took a bizarre ricochet off a stanchion, Bieksa was the only person on the ice who knew where the puck was, slapping a knucklepuck bottom corner. Kenan Thompson would be proud. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t Greg Adams! Greg Adams!, but it still counts.
Best suggestion on Twitter: retire the stanchion. Just hang the stanchion from the rafters next to 12, 16, and 19.
My favourite part of the gamewinning goal was Burrows immediately swooping in to pick up the puck while everyone else was still wondering what just happened. It’s that kind of alertness and mental acuity that makes him a perfect fit for the Sedins. #Iamonlyhalfjoking
Even without the gamewinning goal, Bieksa had an amazing game. He led the Canucks in icetime with 36:40, was on the ice for all three Canucks goals and none against, giving him a +3 rating, and he blocked 3 shots. Alex Edler was almost as impressive, finishing second in icetime, taking 4 shots with another 7 blocked, and blocking 3 shots of his own.
Sidenote: we’ve been calling Hamhuis and Bieksa “HamJuice,” but you Arrested Development fans, can call them Hot Ham Water.
There’s only one thing left to say, but we may need a few more days to know just how to say it: bring on the Bolts/Bruins.
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