Tag: Sharks-Canucks

Alex Burrows, Antti Niemi

Special teams makes the difference for Canucks; Vancouver takes 4-2 win and 3-1 series lead

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Every once in a while, pre-game storylines end up being justified by in-game results. The Vancouver Canucks’ 4-2 win over the San Jose Sharks accomplished that task in such a dramatic way that the two games at the Shark Tank seem like point/counter-point columns.

The Canucks’ penalty killing and 5-on-3 power play units failed miserably in Game 3, but they absolutely won Game 4 for Vancouver. After killing five penalties through today’s first 24 minutes, the Canucks did what the Sharks couldn’t: they made their opponents pay for their mistakes.

In fact, they did so in a way we may never see again by scoring three 5-on-3 powerplay goals in less than two minutes. The Sharks didn’t totally give up after falling into that 3-0 hole, but you can’t blame them for being a little stunned.

Vancouver 4, San Jose 2; Canucks lead series 3-1

Much like Joe Thornton before him, Henrik Sedin is silencing his critics in a dramatic way. He earned four assists to take first place in 2011 playoff scoring with 19 points. Henrik has been on a blistering streak since Game 4 of Vancouver’s series against the Nashville Predators, scoring two goals and 12 assists for an astounding 14 points in seven games. His brother Daniel Sedin had a strong game himself, earning three assists to hit the 16-point mark.

Roberto Luongo’s strong game shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle, either. He made 33 saves throughout the game and shut down the Sharks power play when it mattered the most. San Jose scored on Luongo twice during a third period in which they out-shot Vancouver 17-3, but that ultimately just made it a more respectable outcome.

Canucks played strong all-around game, despite stats

Many people will make a big deal about the shot discrepancy (the Sharks out-shot the Canucks 35-13), but in a game with nine penalties in the first two periods, special teams efficiency was more important. Besides, the Sharks’ shot advantage was a more reasonable 18-10 through the first two periods before the Canucks focused primarily on defending their lead.

For the most part, Vancouver kept San Jose’s chances to the perimeter until the Sharks started dominating late in the third period. The Canucks simply capitalized on their golden opportunities and pressured the Sharks enough to make them squander their chances.

A lot of people will blame Antti Niemi for the loss, and it’s true that he did allow a weak goal or two. Niemi would like to have that final goal back in particular, but he didn’t have much of a chance on those 5-on-3 goals.

Jumbo worries for San Jose

If the outcome wasn’t bad enough, the Sharks also must be concerned about the health of Thornton. The big center didn’t return to San Jose’s bench after landing awkwardly on his shoulder thanks to a clean hit by Raffi Torres. As much as people rush to call Jumbo Joe a choker, losing his sublime passing and big body would be a huge blow to the Sharks’ hopes for a comeback.

Special teams dominance is the lasting memory of this game, but if you want to summarize the emotional impact of the game in one clip, watch Keith Ballard’s hip check on Jamie McGinn.

Much like Game 3, this contest ended a bit ugly. Ryan Kesler was on the worst end this time around, then, as a Ryane Clowe punch sent him sprawling in the final seconds after the two exchanged slashes.


Will the Canucks close out the Sharks and get a nice break before they try to win their first-ever Stanley Cup finals? Could San Jose continue to build up their growing reputation as a surprisingly resilient team by fighting hard to stay in this series? We’ll keep you updated about reactions, injuries and highlights as Game 5 approaches on Tuesday (which you can see on Versus at 9 p.m. ET).

Here’s the complete recap of Game 4 from NBC

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Here are the highlights of Game 4 from NBC

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After the game, Darren Pang spoke to both Sami Salo and Henrik Sedin

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Sharks hope three trends continue against Canucks in Game 4

Patrick Marleau, Willie Mitchell, Roberto Luongo, Mikael Samuelsson

Vancouver @ San Jose (NBC) – 3 p.m. ET; Canucks lead series 2-1

Final scores don’t always tell the story of a game. That was certainly the case in the San Jose Sharks’ 4-3 Game 3 win against the Vancouver Canucks. If you look at that final tally, it looks like it was a lot closer than most of the contest really was. The Sharks starkly outplayed the Canucks for most of that game, building 3-0 and 4-1 leads before a bonehead Jamie McGinn major penalty allowed Vancouver to make a late surge in the third period.

For the Sharks to tie up the series, they want at least three trends to continue.

1. They hope to continue their red-hot special teams play, particularly if the Canucks’ power play struggles like he did during Game 3. In an odd way, San Jose’s advantage has probably been a bit greater than their already considerable edge on the PP. The Sharks are 6 for 13 while the Canucks are 6 for 18 in the series, but two of Vancouver’s goals came on that McGinn major while San Jose started the series 5 for 5. At times, it seems like San Jose’s power play can almost score at will.

2. The Sharks hope that Patrick Marleau continues his hot streak. After going pointless in the first six games of the team’s second round series against the Detroit Red Wings, Marleau has been on a tear. He scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 and has five goals in his last four games. He has six points in that four-game span and also had five points in a four-game streak against the Los Angeles Kings in the first round. In the last two playoff runs, Marleau’s offense seems to come in random waves. The Sharks hope he keeps that current flowing in Game 4.

3. San Jose hopes that Roberto Luongo keeps losing at the Shark Tank. As NHL.com points out, Bobby Lou hasn’t won a game in San Jose since April 7, 2007. That sounds like a considerable amount of time since the two teams play in the Western Conference, but it’s a bit misleading. He’s only played in four games at HP Pavilion since that ’07 win, going 0-3-1 in that span. Still, the playoffs are all about small samples anyway, so another road loss against the Sharks could make this a more troubling trend.

When it comes down to it, the Sharks want one trend to continue above all else: they want to win again. Going down 3-1 might be too big of a burden for San Jose, especially against a team as talented as the Canucks. We’ll see if San Jose stays hot or will be forced to shoot for a tougher streak: three consecutive wins.

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

Jordin Tootoo, Keith Ballard
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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.

Has Joe Thornton really ever been a ‘choker’ since he came to San Jose?

Joe Thornton

More than a few people will be shocked to learn that Joe Thornton is currently tied for the playoffs scoring lead with 17 points. A lot has been made about Thornton destroying previous old notions about his supposedly inferior postseason play, but a breakthrough at this level still must raise a few eyebrows.

It’s not wrong to say that he’s dispelling old myths, but here’s the rub: those notions were shaky – if not totally inaccurate – in the first place.

Yes, it’s true that Jumbo Joe struggled in a few series earlier in his career with the Boston Bruins. Going pointless in two different series will give critics plenty of firepower and Thornton’s care-free attitude probably didn’t help matters. That weak-in-the-playoffs perception ultimately polluted any good feelings the Bruins held about the over-sized playmaker, leading to the lopsided deal that sent him to San Jose.

Since then, he’s actually been quite strong in each playoffs run with the Sharks, unless your only barometer for success is a Stanley Cup victory.

Thornton has been a steady playoff performer since being traded from Boston.

The Sharks were a middling bunch in their first post-lockout season until Thornton came along and powered them to a powerhouse level with his peerless passing. While linemates and opponents have changed over the years, two things haven’t: the Sharks/Thornton are still without a Stanley Cup victory and people still assume that Big Bird goes Fun Size in the postseason.

There’s little doubt that the 2011 playoffs have been the greatest, most demonstrative set of postseason games in Thornton’s career, but the difference is subtler than one might expect. Thornton has 12 goals and 52 assists for 64 points in 72 playoff games with San Jose, with the only “troubling” number being his -16 rating. (I think his 24 power-play points dulls the bitterness of some of that 5-on-5 play, anyway.)

Sure, Thornton seems more comfortable on the ice this year, but he’s also getting some fortunate bounces (for once?) and can rely on his teammates for more offensive support this time around. His increased luck might be best exemplified by the goal he scored against Roberto Luongo in Game 1.

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Now it’s true that Thornton’s playoff numbers typically pale in comparison to his regular season pace, but most high-scoring players see their averages drop in the playoffs. That’s what happens when every goal is much more crucial, defenses key on your tendencies and players clog up lanes by blocking shots with much greater frequency.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to take anything away from how special this postseason has been for Thornton. My point is simple: his improvement hasn’t been nearly as drastic as many would believe.

In the long run, it might come down to how we perceive his body language. To some, it would seem like a playoff monkey has been lifted off Thornton’s back. Then again, when it comes to the way people depict Thornton, it really has been all about perception. Perhaps we’ve just been imagining that monkey the whole time.