With back-to-back home games against Canadian NHL clubs, the Vancouver Canucks asserted their continued mastery over visiting rivals to GM Place.
The Canucks didn’t reinvent the wheel in the process, but both victories over their Canadian neighbors were in convincing fashion. Perhaps one of the most noticeable connections in the back to back games was the way they moved the puck with panache. The Sedin twins continued to confound opponents with their down low cycle game, working the puck below the faceoff circle to an open man in the slot. You would be hard pressed to name any line in the NHL that is as effective at this type of control as they are at this point in time.
Against the Senators, Mikael Samuelsson showed his penchant for finding open ice in the slot. On the power-play, he opened the scoring with a nice passing play from Pavol Demitra and Sami Salo. Though Jason Spezza tied the game with a fantastic individual end-to-end rush, the Canucks regained control with Burrows’ league leading 5th shorthanded goal. Less than 2 1/2 minutes later, Samuelsson finished off some hard work by Daniel Sedin to increase the Canucks’ edge by 2 goals.
The Sedins essentially put the game out of reach on a power-play with four minutes to go in the second. Henrik found his brother cruising into the slot, who made no mistake. The Senators tried to apply more pressure, but Vancouver’s puck possession and back-checking gave Ottawa very little to work with. Vancouver more than doubled the Sens in shots, with 35 to Ottawas 14. Sami Salo capped the night off with another goal in the third, with Samuelsson picking up his third point of the night with an assist.
Utilizing momentum from their victory over the Senators, the Canucks shed their comeback identities and really took the play to the recently hot Flames. The Flames are in a foot-race with the Detroit Red Wings for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference. If not for Miikka Kiprusoff, this tilt would have essentially been over before it had a chance to begin. Only 73 seconds in, the Sedins controlled the play in the Flames’ zone, and Henrik spotted Daniel in the slot, who opened the scoring.
The Flames would eventually outshoot the Canucks 33 – 28, but Vancouver’s defense collapsed well in front of Luongo. He saw the majority of the shots, and the ones he didn’t see he was well positioned for. Though the Canucks sat back a little too much in the second period particularly, the Flames really only generated a small handful of chances. Luongo’s best save came off a Rene Bourque chance in close, leaving the Calgary sniper very little to shoot at.
Robyn Regehr would get Calgary a little closer with just over eight minutes remaining in the third period. But it was a case of too little, too late, as Luongo shut the door after the deflected Regehr point shot. Of note, the Canucks did a wonderful job with their first pass out of the defensive zone. If they failed to get out initially, they would circle back, regroup, and try the break-out again.
So the Canucks return home was a triumphant one, and they’ll have several more opportunities to improve their home record. With a bakers dozen remaining (13 games), Vancouver plays nine of those at GM Place. Two of the road contests are April 1st and 2nd, with a quick westcoast swing to Anaheim and Los Angeles.
Playoff implications: Of note, the Calgary Flames lost 2-1 to the Detroit Red Wings Monday night (in regulation), falling 3 points back of Detroit for the final playoff spot, with the same amount of games played.
Also, Vancouver finishes the season April 6th at home against the Colorado Avalanche, whom, if the playoffs were to start today, would be Vancouver’s first round opponent.
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