THN’s Take: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky.
Unless my nostalgic memory is misleading me, Gretzky was an OK player. He also knew what he was talking about and as we saw in Game 5 of the West final, just putting a puck on net can pay off at any unpredictable moment. For all the game plans that are out there, perhaps the best plan of attack is also the most basic. KISS – Keep it simple, stupid.
For all the glorious chances the Sharks got with their 56 shots, it was a deflection off the outstretched hand of Keith Ballard that got them on the board and a bad-in-hindsight decision by Roberto Luongo that got them the lead.
As time was ticking down in the third with the Sharks leading and looking all set for a return trip to San Jose with comeback on the brain, you could hear the entire city of Vancouver yell “Shoot the puck!” as Alex Edler and Henrik Sedin moved the disc around the perimeter. Instead of waiting for that high-percentage shot too long, as the Canucks are often guilty of, Sedin made the smart choice and just easily tossed it on net, where a determined Ryan Kesler got in the way and tipped it home.
With all the star power on the ice you’d think at least the winner would be a rocket to the top shelf or a tic-tac-toe finish, but again it was a fluky bounce and a frantic, disorganized shot from the point. I’m not sure anyone besides Kevin Bieksa knew where the puck was after it took a wild ricochet off the stanchion, but rather than hesitate at all, the blueliner just took a whack at it in the direction of the net. The result was Vancouver’s first trip to the final since 1994 – 17 years to the day.
This is why it’s important to cover your point man and get traffic in front of the net. All it takes is a fluky bounce to change fortunes and alter history. If the Canucks don’t toss the puck on net and pray, they’d be heading back to San Jose with a banged up roster and an uncertain future. With Kesler and Burrows having a rough night physically (along with who knows how many other hurting players), the Canucks will be hoping for the East final to drag on a little longer so they can rest up. With the Stanley Cup final on the horizon, the big question facing Vancouver is simply its health and how much of a toll it took to get through the tough Western Conference.
As for the Sharks, the same off-season questions will be asked once again: Are they a playoff team? Does this roster need a shakeup? Surely all you can ask of your squad is to make it to the final four when anything can happen, but even though San Jose got to this point twice in a row, the team is just 1-8 when facing the prospect of a berth in the final.
But those points can be debated in the summer. Right now, it’s Vancouver’s time to let its hair down and celebrate. Just as long as they don’t touch the Clarence Campbell Bowl.
1. Roberto Luongo – There’s no point in giving him a hard time for allowing the second goal because Luongo was incredible at so many other points. It’s tough to pick out one highlight, but his stellar play when killing off a 5-on-3 in the first period was fun to watch.
2. Ryan Kesler – The only reason he played less than 30:00 was because he had to sit down for a little after tweaking his groin or something in his leg on a nothing play. Despite that, Kesler scored the shocking tying marker and was as ferocious as ever, even after the injury.
3. Henrik Sedin – Had two assists, one off a beautiful pass, the other off a smart shot towards the net, but Sedin had a few nice defensive plays as well that can go unnoticed.
The Black Hole
Dan Boyle – This was a really tough call because there wasn’t a goat who stood out over the entire game. Aside from his minus-2 rating, the reason why Boyle was chosen for this spot is a little chintzy, too. His icing in the third opened the door for Vancouver’s tying mark after the faceoff. Thing is, Boyle’s icing appeared to hit a Vancouver player (cue the conspiracy theorists).
The NHL Game Night Recap will get you caught up with all the playoff action. THN will name our Three Stars for each game and tabulate the results after each series. First Star = three points, Second Star = two points, Third Star = one point.