Tag: game previews

Jordin Tootoo, Keith Ballard

Keith Ballard and Andrew Alberts are likely replacements for Christian Ehrhoff, Aaron Rome

1 Comment

The Vancouver Canucks’ 4-3 loss to San Jose in Game 3 hurt them in ways beyond defeat. It looks that game also cost them two defensemen: hard-shooting former Shark Christian Ehrhoff and Aaron Rome. The Canucks have three major options to replace that duo: Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts and rookie Chris Tanev.

We might not know for sure until game time, but considering the importance of this Game 4* on such a large stage, the smart money is on Ballard and Alberts taking Ehrhoff and Rome’s spots.

The Canucks dealt with a litany of injuries during the regular season, yet they still managed to run away with the Presidents Trophy in 2010-11. We’ll see if they can do the same against the Sharks.

Replacing Alberts for Rome isn’t an enormous downgrade, although Alberts occasionally ranks as a goat among Vancouver fans. The bigger loss is Ehrhoff, a defenseman who has been a nice surprise for the Canucks since he was traded from San Jose. Dan Boyle is the only defenseman with more more playoff points (15) than Ehrhoff’s impressive 11. Ballard has been a bit of a letdown since being traded to the Canucks from the Florida Panthers last summer, something the well-paid defenseman admitted to the Vancouver Province.

Fair or unfair, that’s the reality I’m faced with on mistakes,” he says. “Some guys like Hank and Danny can turn the puck over but because they’re putting up 100 points they’re obviously going to get more room and mistakes may not affect them as much. There’s not a lot of room for error for me, that’s the bottom line.”


“I’m a better player than I was in Florida,” says Ballard. “I’m sure I can still play very well in this league. My confidence . . . it’s the one thing I haven’t lost.”

The Canucks made a big investment in the Ballard trade, sending Michael Grabner, Steve Bernier and a first round pick to Florida for the defenseman and Victor Oreskovich. That deal hasn’t really paid off for Vancouver, but if Ballard can do a solid job while essentially replacing Ehrhoff, then maybe it was worth it after all.

* – Which you can watch on NBC at 3 p.m. ET today, by the way.

Vancouver needs to turn the special teams tide against San Jose

Patrick Marleau, Roberto Luongo

Out of context, it might seem odd to refer to the Vancouver Canucks’ special teams as a problem. After all, they’ve scored the same amount of goals (six) on the power play as the San Jose Sharks produced through three games. Yet when you dig a little deeper, it’s an area of serious concern as the two teams prepare for Game 4 (which can be seen today at 3 p.m. ET on NBC).

First and foremost, the Canucks must find an answer for the stout Sharks’ power play. They were lucky San Jose only received one man advantage in Game 1 and two in Game 2 because the Sharks converted on all three of those chances. San Jose continued that stunning trend of efficiency by pushing that mark to 5-for-5 with two goals early in the first period of Game 3. Ryane Clowe scored that fifth goal on the front end of a high-sticking double-minor before the Canucks finally managed to earn their first successful kill of the series. (Although there was still an eventful moment or two.)

The Canucks penalty kill kept the game from getting downright embarrassing in the second period, but Dan Boyle scored what (surprisingly) ended up being the game-winner on a 5-on-3 in the third. The Sharks finished the game 3 for 10 to push their total mark to an outstanding 6 for 13. When you consider the lower level of urgency of some of those power plays, they were probably even better than the stats would indicate.

Vancouver’s power play was disappointing in Game 3, too.

On paper, the Canucks power play isn’t lagging too far behind, with a 6 for 18 overall mark. Yet that stat doesn’t capture how disappointing the team’s man advantage was in Game 3. The Canucks had a chance to cut into what was then a 3-0 lead with two 5-on-3 power plays. It seemed like they were bound to get a goal when Sharks forward David Desjardins took another penalty right as he left the penalty box to put the second 5-on-3 in motion, yet Vancouver failed to score. All the Canucks managed was three combined shots on goal in that span.

Daniel Sedin admitted to NHL.com that squandering that opportunity sealed the deal in many ways.

“That was our chance to come back in the game, I thought,” Daniel Sedin said in regards to the failed 5-on-3s. “They blocked a lot shots. I thought we played it pretty good, but they blocked a lot of shots so we need to maybe hold on to the puck even more and move it around, but we got the shots we wanted. They just didn’t make it to the net.”

On the bright side, Vancouver created two goals on their last unusual power play opportunity. Jamie McGinn received a five-minute major and game misconduct for a boarding hit on Aaaron Rome in the third period, handing the Canucks five minutes of uninterrupted power play time. Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa scored goals on that major advantage to make it 4-3, but the Sharks held on to win the game.

Those two goals helped Vancouver get back into the game, but ultimately all that did was make the contrast between the two teams’ power plays less jarring. When you place the results in the proper context, it’s difficult to shake the notion that the Sharks can stop the Canucks power play when they must while San Jose can score goals on their own opportunities almost at will.


Simply put, the Canucks cannot expect to win this series if the Sharks continue to score on nearly half of their power plays. It’s a small sample so Vancouver shouldn’t go into full-on panic mode, but it remains a genuine concern regardless. Whether it means changing up their strategy or personnel, Alain Vigneault and the Canucks must find a way to clear up this issue or they could be in big trouble.

Video: Mike Milbury provides a preview for Sharks-Canucks Game 4

Vancouver Canucks v San Jose Sharks - Game Three

The San Jose Sharks knew that Game 3 wasn’t a do-or-die contest, but they still took it to the Vancouver Canucks to make a series of the Western Conference finals. The team’s collective efforts really stood out to me, whether it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic sprawling over the puck to drain precious seconds off of a second period 5-on-3 or Douglas Murray using his sizable frame to block some hard shots.

Sure, Patrick Marleau received a lot of the credit thanks to three-point performance, but almost the entire Sharks squad seemed on top of things during Game 3. They took a 3-0 early lead and survived an epic Jamie McGinn blunder to cut Vancouver’s series lead in half by winning 4-3.

While they did the “little things” better than any other game in this series, the biggest difference between the Sharks and Canucks was discipline. When you gather two highly talented teams like these, mistakes will often make the difference. Vancouver ultimately made more than San Jose in Game 3.

That’s the main topic of discussion in Mike Milbury’s breakdown of Game 3 and preview for Game 4, which you can watch in the video below.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

Your San Jose Sharks-Vancouver Canucks Game 3 primer

Roberto Luongo
1 Comment

As we discussed before, the San Jose Sharks aren’t going into an important Game 3 match against the Vancouver Canucks in panic mode. They know that it’s a big game, obviously, but both teams know from experience that the tone of a series can change even when a team falls behind 3-0. (Not that the Sharks would enjoy being in that scenario themselves, mind you.)

Vancouver @ San Jose (Versus) – 9 p.m. ET; Canucks lead series 2-0

If the Sharks want to get back into this series, they’ll need to keep a lid on their resident knucklehead Ben Eager. It’s not often that a low-level fighter such as Eager draws a lot of attention, but his mistakes made a tough third period that much worse for San Jose in Game 2.

The Sharks have downplayed their overall struggles in third periods, but there’s little doubt that the team would gain some confidence from finishing a game strong. Wednesday’s third period featured some awful lows, but up until that point, San Jose had been giving Vancouver a solid fight.

The question is: will San Jose be able to utilize their home ice advantage and final change to generate better results this time around? Even if they don’t outright shoot themselves in the foot like they did on Wednesday, they still must find an answer for the Sedin twins and that Canucks power play. So far, their efforts haven’t been very successful.

Meanwhile, the Canucks must hope that they can simply maintain the status quo. It’s too early to ponder the kind of impact a Stanley Cup win would have on the city of Vancouver, but it’s still pretty fun to think about. They’ll need to earn six more wins without struggling veteran Mikael Samuelsson, who is out indefinitely after hernia surgery.

A game like this could decide if this series will be long or if the Canucks will get a brief mini-vacation, although both teams obviously know the pitfalls of assuming a series is over at 3-0. (Even if they didn’t look past their opponents.)

Here are a few other scattered bits that might be of interest.

Sharks know Game 3 is important but a loss wouldn’t be a ‘death-hammer’

Todd McLellan

People tend to throw around the term “must-win game” around even when a game is merely important. Ultimately, elimination games are the only clear contests that merit that title.

The San Jose Sharks know that tonight’s Game 3 matchup against the Vancouver Canucks is important, but they’re also aware that a 3-0 series deficit doesn’t mean automatic defeat. After all, both the Canucks and Sharks saw 3-0 leads evaporate into Game 7 nail-biters. Obviously the team needs to play more disciplined hockey and get their act together, but head coach Todd McLellan downplayed the team’s perceived struggles in third period situations.

Many wonder if the Sharks’ late game troubles stem from inferior conditioning or a “lack of killer instinct” but Mclellan told CSN’s Ray Ratto that those final frame follies might just be a matter of coincidence.

“The first period wasn’t good to us in Los Angeles,” he said, “and now it’s a not very good third period. That’s the nature of the game. If we’re good enough to play beyond this, it might be the second period that gives us problems next.”

Hard-hitting defenseman Douglas Murray reflected on this important (but not quite “do-or-die”) Game 3 contest.

“Game 7? No,” he said with a smile that could have turned smirk with a few more muscle twitches. “Detroit lost three in a row, and they came back and made it a pretty tight series.”

Of course, banking on the healing powers of going down 3-0 in a best-of-seven series makes little sense, but Murray’s greater point is taken. Game 3 is very important, but it is not the death-hammer.

The Sharks just need to approach it as closely as possible to being a death-hammer.

“This is a huge game in the series, no question,” he said. “We’ll prepare for anything, and treat this game that way. But we need to treat every game that way. Everyone’s seen what happened. We just have to go out and do what we’re capable of doing as quickly and consistently as possible. We don’t want to be down 3-0, obviously.”

The Sharks are obviously not approaching tonight’s game with a sense of panic, but they hope to bring plenty of urgency nonetheless. We’ll see if they can get back into this series or if the Canucks will dig them a bigger hole beginning at 9 p.m. ET on Versus.