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Road Woes Continue


Jason Chen

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And so the Canucks' road woes continue after a third period collapse in which Antti Miettinen was the Wild's spark. The loss drops Vancouver to two games below .500 on the road and a chance to claim top spot in the division. I think it bears mentioning that the Canucks must finish above .500 on the road to make the playoffs. The face their biggest challenge in February and March and the Canucks have yet to play with any form of consistency. The recent 4-win surge was nice, but it has been followed up with 3 straight losses and another tough match-up Saturday night against Pittsburgh. The poor scheduling (@ Min, vs. Pit, @ Edm, vs. Dal) should not be an excuse - it is what it is. Same goes for the reffing. Like I said before, teams that finish with a sub-par road record rarely make the playoffs. Case in point, the 2005-06 Canucks squad, despite boasting two 30-goal scorers. The Canucks may boast as many as four of those this year (Henrik, Daniel, Alex Burrows, Mason Raymond) but it would be all for naught if they didn't qualify for the postseason.

I don't think anybody was on their game last night. Willie Mitchell and Sami Salo, usually the two most dependable on our blueline, made some bad turnovers that resulted in some good Minnesota chances. Antti Miettinen was left wide-open in the slot for his first goal and I'm sure Roberto Luongo would've liked to have some of those back. He was pulled mid-way through the second and Andrew Raycroft stepped in, but the game was lost long before that. The Canucks lacked any sort of aggressiveness or bounce in their step that had served them well in their previous three games. Christian Ehrhoff missed the puck on an icing call but I think he was afraid to get hit. We've seen our share of bad hits by players racing for the puck but Ehrhoff has to make sure he touches it.

<img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/ap/20100114/capt.61415ef94a1347d0ac2b8f101e6e8681.canucks_wild_hockey_mnjm114.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed"> A big deal was made of Minnesota's coaching change after fans were tired of Jacques Lemaire's trap. Todd Richards, hired from San Jose, has promised a more up-tempo and aggressive forecheck that emphasizes offense. It was pretty clear to me that the Wild were the more aggressive team and repeatedly put the Canucks defense on their heels. Their use of speed and relentless forechecking caused problems throughout the night. However, an aggressive forecheck doesn't necessarily translate to success. The Wild's deficiencies are well-documented, allowing 2.89 goals per game compared to 2.40 last year, 2nd best in the league. However, their offense has only marginally improved, from 2.61 to 2.70. I think a huge reason for this is Marian Gaborik. Last year, the Wild were able to play defense and take care of their own zone first and really capitalize on opposition turnovers, and with a finisher like Gaborik they placed quality over quantity (the '09-'10 Wild average 1.2 shots more per game than last year). Martin Havlat, the Wild's big splash this year, has thus far been a disappointment. What sort of personnel you have should dictate what sort of style you play and I think in the Wild's case, Richards' system isn't really working, especially without the offense of Brent Burns from the back end.

The trade-off with this more aggressive offensive strategy is a less stingy defense. I have never seen the Canucks be able to walk into the Minnesota zone so easily. The second period was the Canucks' best and they were routinely able to skate the puck in, something that almost never happened with Lemaire. The Sedins' usual dump-and-chase cycle game wasn't necessarily because they could hang onto the puck past the blue line but somehow they got away from that and started dumping it in again in the third. Kudos to Darcy Hordichuk and Alexandre Bolduc trying to spark the team with fights, but the Canucks still remained lethargic.

I expect the Canucks to respond appropriately Saturday night against the Pens with a struggling Evgeni Malkin and up-and-down Marc-Andre Fleury.

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Y'know....im actually liking your blogs...its refreshing to actually see that someone is actually watching a whole game and taking in the team as a whole.

If anything about last night.....the Wild were absolutely beating the Canucks at their own game/style.....kinda funny, if you ask me.

The only thing i disagree with is that the Sedin's ("Burrdins") rely solely on the dump and chase.....its not that they dont use that tactic...but they seem to read the defensive posturing well enough to know when to sakte the puck in...or chip/dump and chase.

Besides the flat road effort....im getting increasingly alarmed at Raymond's play with the puck.....he seems to be, in the last few games, falling back into the old habit of holding on to the puck too long and missing chances with his open linemates.

We all know the Canucks can play a road game.....they just have to fully execute...and Lui has to be mentally ready....i thought he was very average last night...though its nice to know historically, that when he does crap out...he always comes back with a strong game.

Cheers.

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Thanks for the support, BedBeats.

The Sedins definitely don't always rely on the dump and chase but most nights it's their most effective strategy. They're so great with their support in the forecheck and once they get the puck, it's game over, they're not going to give it up. They're very intelligent players to be sure, but I'm just wondering why they strayed from a winning formula.

I don't think Raycroft's head was in that game either. He's been a good backup but he's not going to get many games in and for a lot of goalies that's tough, not seeing consistent game action. A lot of people ride backups for their play poor but what can you do? You can't possibly believe that a goalie can find his rhythm in an instant when he hasn't played in a month. The most successful backups, the Brian Bouchers, the Michael Leightons, the Antero Niittymakis, have all had stretches in which they've played at least a full week of games. They're not bad goalies, they just need an opportunity.

But all's good, a 6-2 win over the Pens makes everything right again.

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