Canucks survive with 4-1 win behind Bieksa's big night

Bieksa.jpgChicago Blackhawks 1, Vancouver Canucks 4

Blackhawks lead series 3-2

The Vancouver Canucks did a lot of talking leading up to Game 5, and some wondered if this was a team on the brink of falling apart. Their goaltender wasn’t focused, Shane O’Brien was the most outspoken player on the team and the coach routinely shot down anything the players had to say publicly.

You have to hand it to them though; they pulled it together to play one heck of a complete game to secure a big 4-1 victory to hold off elimination for at least one more game. While the Canucks will certainly need more from the Sedins if they hope to pull off a comeback in this series, there’s no overlooking the tremendous job that Christian Erhoff and Kevin Bieksa did tonight in leading their team to a win.

The Canucks entered the series already shorthanded on defense, and towards the end of the first period lost Sami Salo when he was hit with a puck. Erhoff and Bieksa instantly became the most important players on the ice for the Cancucks, and the two combined for three goals and four points. Bieksa led his team in ice time and had two goals and an assist himself, a great sign for the Canucks as it looks like Salo might be out for a significant amount of time.

Aside from the solid play of the defense, the key to the win was the newfound discipline of the Canucks. Looking like a completely different team than what we saw in games 3 and 4, the Canucks were in control emotionally for most of the game and never gave the Blackhawks a chance to get their agitating act going. Roberto Luongo did have a bit of a loose-lipped moment at the end of the 2nd period, but for the first time all series finally looked comfortable in net.

This was helped by a Chicago Blackhawks team that seemed ill prepared for taking on a good hockey team that had it’s back against the wall. Gone were the aggressive and confident Blackhawks that rattled off three straight wins; this was a team that just sleepwalked through the first 53 minutes of the game. If it weren’t for some timely Antti Niemi saves we’d have had another Game 1 debacle on our hands.

As for Salo, we’re still waiting on word as to the severity of his injury. At first, it seemed as though he was hit in the wrist or the abdomen. After watching the video replay, it could be much worse; it seems he could have been hit in the…ahem.. groin area with the puck. We’ll update when we know more.

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    Video: Reimer, Allen shut down dangerous one-timers

    SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 09:  James Reimer #34 of the Florida Panthers makes a save during a game against the Los Angeles Kings at BB&T Center on February 9, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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    In an ideal world, goalie equipment wouldn’t be such an issue. Teams would be able to “get goalies moving” with great passing and chances just about no one could stop.

    Then again, there are also those saves that a select handful of humans can pull off. A big reason why there’s only been one goal between the Panthers and Blues tonight is the lateral movement shown by both James Reimer and Jake Allen.

    First, watch as Reimer robs Jori Lehtera on what’s likely the save of the night:

    Allen really hasn’t been that far behind Reimer, right down to making a similar stop:

    Considering the two nearly identical one-timer goals scored by Arizona against Anaheim in finding seams for big passes through opposing defenses, tonight’s goalies might want to do some extra stretching during intermissions.

    Dvorak, Coyotes put Ducks in early hole with slick goals (Video)

    GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 11:  Connor Murphy #5 (second from left) of the Arizona Coyotes celebrates with Alexander Burmistrov #91, Shane Doan #19 and Christian Dvorak #18 after Murphy scored the game winning goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on February 11, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Coyotes defeated the Penguins 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    The Arizona Coyotes’ happy thoughts are mostly centered on the future. Christian Dvorak possibly being more than a guy who put up nice junior numbers with Matthew Tkachuk and Mitch Marner could fuel some really nice thoughts.

    He’s been red-hot in February, in particular, including a goal already tonight as the Coyotes raced off to an early 2-0 lead against the Anaheim Ducks.

    Check out that smooth play for his 10th goal of 2016-17:

    Again, he’s been on quite the roll lately.

    February: nine points (and counting?) in nine games
    Rest of the season: 13 points in 45 games

    He only had one assist in 12 January contests, so this outburst is even more unexpected than the Coyotes racing off to this lead.

    Interestingly, the Coyotes two goals looked awfully similar, at least in the finish:

    Randy Carlyle’s mood? Probably not too chipper right now.

    Brooks Laich wants another crack at NHL (with or without Leafs)

    TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 29:  Brooks Laich #23 of the Toronto Maple Leafs waits for a puck drop against the Tampa Bay Lightning during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on February 29, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  The Lightning defeated the Maple Leafs 2-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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    Brooks Laich wants another shot at playing in the NHL. As he told The Atlantic TO (sub required), if that means being traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs, then so be it.

    “You don’t win a Stanley Cup playing in the American Hockey League,” Laich said. “If the Leafs don’t have a plan for me with them, I would like to pursue a Stanley Cup somewhere else.”

    Interesting.

    Laich’s biased take: he has plenty more to give at the highest level.

    Hmm, that … seems a little crazy. Few players see their best days at age 33 and beyond.

    But what about his work with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies? Maybe he’s killing it there.

    Well, if he is, his contributions aren’t showing in the simple counting stats. In 22 games this season, Laich has one goal and six points. He isn’t even firing a shot on goal per game (just 17 in those 22 contests).

    Now, Laich wouldn’t sell you on his scoring skills. Face-offs might not be much of a calling card, either.

    So … it’s easier to understand why he’s struggling to get a foothold in his career. Laich isn’t much of a scorer, isn’t dominant on the draw and isn’t someone who’s shown a history of dramatically tilting the ice in his team’s favor.

    Does that mean he can’t be a fourth-line center, or failing that, at least a depth forward? Laich could conceivably be helpful to some team, even if it’s difficult to imagine anyone giving up anything but a minor asset for him.

    And, yes, it’s crazy to imagine him exceeding anything he did with the Washington Capitals.

    Avalanche say ankle injury ends Nikita Zadorov’s season

    DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 14: Nikita Zadorov #16 of the Colorado Avalanche congratulates Matt Duchene #9 after his goal against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Pepsi Center on December 14, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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    As if the Colorado Avalanche needed another miserable element to 2016-17: Nikita Zadorov suffered a season-ending injury during the same practice that Erik Johnson returned.

    Zadorov injured his ankle after being tangled up with Mikko Rantanen during a Monday practice, according to the Denver Post.

    Update: The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers reports that it’s a fractured ankle. Yikes.

    Zadorov, 21, is a big defenseman with the pedigree that would inspire teams to imagine better things in the future (16th pick in 2013 by Buffalo). So far, that potential hasn’t really manifested itself in production, whether you judge a player by points, plus/minus or possession numbers.

    He may be able to put it together at some point – again, he’s young – so perhaps he’ll remember this as a low point before he turns things around.

    At the moment, it’s just another grim part of a bleak time for the Avs.