Monday, May 23, 2011

Special Teams "Special" in Canucks 4-2 Win

If you get one 5 on 3 opportunity in a game that is pretty good. If you get two 5 on 3 opportunities that is great. If you get three 5 on 3 opportunities.... well your team might be extremely lucky. In Game 4 of the Western Conference Final between the Canucks and the Sharks the Canucks were given three 5 on 3 chances. This came a game after the Canucks were given two 5 on 3's in game 3 but failed to score on both of them.

With the game still scoreless and the Sharks controlling most of the play the Canucks  drew consecutive minor penalties to have a 5 on 3. The game was at critical stage in the hockey game and it was looking like the first goal would turn out huge. Early in the man advantage Ryan Kesler popped home his sixth of the post season to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead.

After a Sharks too many men call, the Canucks quickly went to work again on their second 5 on 3. The Canucks passed the puck around until Sami Salo blasted a puck home as the Canucks doubled their advantage to 2-0. The Sharks continued to take careless penalties. The Sharks were called for delay of game and the Canucks were given their third 5 on 3. Again, the Canucks made quick work with the man advantage, Sami Salo scored his second of the game to give the Canucks a 3-0 lead.

The Canucks lead spread to 4-0 when Alex Burrows scored a goal on a odd man rush to put the final nail in the coffin. The great think about the fourth goal was Hendrik Sedin made a great pass to find Burrows. Burrows had the easy job. All he needed to do was keep his stick on the ice so he could tap it in.

The Sharks put on the pressure for the rest of the period. They shot from everywhere to try to beat Reberto Luongo.  The Sharks managed to get two goals past Luongo but thats as close as they came. The Canucks showed in game four that they can win a game, when they get out played for the majority of game. In fact, you could make a case that the Canucks got out played  for 55 minutes of the game.

The win also puts the Sharks behind the eight ball, if they weren't already behind it. The Sharks will have to beat the Canucks three times in a row. To make matters worse they might have to win those three game without their star player Joe Thornton. He left the game after the clean hit on Canucks forward Raffi Torres. Thornton is questionable for game 5.

The Canucks have a chance to get to their first Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1994. The difference between this year is they will have home advantage. The key for the Canucks is to not look ahead. This playoffs the Canucks are 2-4 when they are trying to close out their opponent  and 6-10 since 2003. The Sharks will for sure bring it for game 5. They have had a great season racking up 105 points and are hoping to reward their fans with at least one extra home game.

The game starts at 6pm tomorrow and can be seen on CBC, RDS and Versus.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Canucks Advance to Western Conference Final for First Time Since 1994

When the Canucks-Predators series began, not many gave the Predators a chance to win the series. Six games later it was discovered that the Nashville Predators were a much better team them most people thought.

The bottom line is that the Vancouver Canucks have advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since their Cinderella run in the spring of 1994. The only difference between the run in 1994 in comparison to this years run is that this years run was expected. However, with the expectations of a cup run this year also brings in pressure. Pressure that the Canucks have shown that they can handle, game 7 against Chicago was maybe the most amount of pressure they have faced in the 40 years of being in the NHL. The question is do the Canucks have anything left in the tank to win eight more games?

The answer is yes. The Canucks during the regular season showed they can win in any situation. The Canucks in past years have been a very mediocre road team. This year is different. The Canucks were the best road team in the NHL going 27-10 4. That was a significant improvement from the Canucks road record in 2010 (20-19-2). If you add that to the Canucks 4-2 record  on the road in the playoffs this year, the Canucks have been superb on the road this year.

Why does this matter? Well the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions the Chicago Blackhawks won eight out of their 16 games on the road last year. Home ice doesn't mean that much in the NHL compered to other sports. In fact, it it is pretty easy to steal road games.

Furthermore, the best thing about the Canucks winning right now is Daniel and Hendrik Sedin are not producing like Art Ross Trophy winners. Despite Daniel's goal on Monday and Hendrik's empty net goal in game 4, the twins have been almost non existent. The Sedins will eventually get going. The truth is they are too good of players to not score. Daniel and Hendrik have been pretty consistent by averaging about a point per game.

If the Sedins every get going the Canucks might have a pretty deadly attack to move on to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1994. The play of Ryan Kesler has elevated the Canucks to the Western Conference Final possibly single handedly. In the Canucks Western Conference Semi Final the Canucks scored 14 goals.  That stat is nothing to brag about but Ryan Kesler has something to brag about. He has been in on 11 out of the 14 goals. If Ryan Kesler can continue his amazing play  Canucks
 fans should be in for a big party come the end of May.

Despite, the play of Ryan Kesler, I wouldn't be surprised either way if the Canucks season ends soon. The Canucks next opponent, the San Jose Sharks are a much better team then the Nashville Predators and the Canucks will have to be much more discipline. More Importantly, Luongo will have to play much better an eliminate the bad goal from behind the net.

All in all the series win is important but the Canucks haven't reached their main goal yet. Yes the Canucks have gotten the Chicago Blackhawks monkey off their backs and  the second round exit off their back a loss in the Conference final would still be disappointing. The Canucks are the Presidents Trophy winners so their bound to put up a good fight. The problem is their are so many good teams this year nothing is a given.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jake Locker Picked 8th Overall by Titans

When I found out that Jake Locker was taken 8th overall to the Tennessee Titans, I was really surprised. It wasn't that I thought Locker was a bad Quarterback or an immature Quarterback, it surprised because of all the talk I heard he could of been late first to early second.

Personally, I didn't think Locker would have gone in the second round. I  also didn't think he would have been on the board when the Seahawks were scheduled to pick in the 25th spot. My gut feeling was he was a pretty good lock to go the Vikings at #12. The reason why the Vikings would have been a good fit for Locker is because of the Vikings Quarterback situation. The Vikings started three quarterbacks last year, two weren't that good in Joe Webb and Tarvaris Jackson and one is likely to retire in Brett Favre. The Vikings might only be one player away from competing in the NFC North. The Vikings went 6-10 last and with another play maker on offense the Vikings could of gone from 6-10 to 9-7.

What made it more a shock was  I thought the Titans were in good hands at the Quarterback position. Kerry Collins played in ten games trowing 14 Ttouchdown passes and eight interceptions. The other Titans Quarterback was Vince Young. Young, like Collins had decent numbers throwing ten touchdown passes and only throwing three interceptions.

One would think that the Titans would be at an okay position at Quarterback. Do the Titans think that their not in a good position at QB? Or did they think that Locker is a bit underrated and has too much potential to pass up?

I think it's a bit of both. Jake Locker was one of the best recruits coming out of high school and could of gone to almost any school he wanted. He chose Washington primarily because it was the closet school to his hometown of Ferndale Wa. His Freshmen year was a good year. His passing numbers were below average but his mobility in the pocket and willingness to scramble made up for it. The Huskies finished 4-9 but would have done better if they had a good defense.

In 2008 Locker was given a crushing blow. In the Huskies Pac 10 home opener against Stanford, Locker broke his thumb. He left the game and didn't return the rest of the season and the Huskies finished 0-12.

In 2009 the Huskies were ready for a turnaround and so was Locker. Steve Sarkisian was the new head coach after the firing of Tyrone Willingham. Stats wise Locker had one of the best years during his time at Washington. He threw for 21 Touchdowns and only 11 Picks and almost getting to the 3,000 yard milestone for throwing the ball. The Huskies just missed going to a bowl game finishing 5-7.

In mid December Locker made it clear that he would return for his Senior season. Going into the season Locker was a possible Heisman trophy winner. After the Huskies 23-17 opening day loss to BYU, it became clear that he would not be winning the Heisman. Locker had an up and down season and so did the Huskies. They found themselves 3-6 with three winnable games left. The Huskies beat UCLA 24-7, then beat Cal 16-13 and WSU 35-28 both in the last minute to become bowl eligible. The Huskies found themselves in the Holiday Bowl against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. It was a rematch of a September game that Nebraska won 56-21. Jake Locker and fellow teammates Chris Polk and Mason Foster led the Huskies to a 19-7 upset win. It is important to note that Locker battled a rib injury for most of the season but still put up okay numbers.

My gut feeling is that this pick is a wait and see type of pick. Locker is a player that makes every player on the field better. He is the player that will break a tackle and make something out of nothing. He has a chance to be a franchise player for the Titans. On the flip side he has the chance to be a wasted pick if he gets rattled by the big stage. The bright side is that Locker changed the Huskies program around, so maybe he can do that to the Titans.