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The Comeback Kids


Jason Chen

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No one can accuse the Canucks of giving up. The Avs struck quickly, with Matt Duchene and budding power forward Chris Stewart scoring just 28 seconds apart. Duchene added another powerplay marker 13:26 into the first period to give them a 3-0 lead heading into the first intermission. Roberto Luongo, who didn't mince any words about his first period performance, said the intermission was the turning point: "once we got back in the locker room, we said 'just keep playing.' We have the confidence. We've done it before."

And, boy, did they ever.

<img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/ap/20100310/capt.2b5baf1c6f6a40cea74e192c2b9328de.canucks_avalanche_hockey_codz106.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">

Mikael Samuelsson opened the scoring for the Canucks, but a turnover by Mason Raymond led to a Peter Mueller score for the Avs to regain their three-goal lead. Mueller has looked absolutely rejuvenated recently after his trade from Phoenix in which Don Maloney publicly stated that it was Mueller who wanted out. Interestingly enough, this is the second Breck High School, Minnesota player that did not want to stay with the organization. The first, of course, was Blake Wheeler, now in Boston. The Canucks responded quickly, however, with Samuelsson completing his hat trick before the end of the period, giving him 27 goals on the year, 3 away from 30. In Samuelsson's past two season with the Red Wings, he TOTALED 30 goals. Needless to say, I think Samuelsson's trying to prove a point to Bengt-Ake Gustafsson for leaving him off the Swedish team. Vancouver just keeps reaping those rewards, and that's not mentioning Ryan Kesler's hot streak of late. The Canucks have benefited from getting balanced scoring from three solid lines this year and they may very well finish with three 30-goal scorers (Henrik Sedin, Samuelsson, Alex Burrows), three 20-goal scorers (Daniel Sedin, Mason Raymond, Kesler), a 100-point man (H. Sedin), two 70-point men (D. Sedin, Kesler), and three 50-point men (Burrows, Samuelsson, Raymond). Alex Edler and Christian Ehrhoff may finish the season averaging more than half a point per game and Luongo could reach 40 wins, the first time he's done so since his first season in Vancouver.

No doubt that the comeback was entertaining to watch. There was a time when I was used to turning off Canucks games after they trailed because in the past they've always had a tendency to give up, and even when they had the lead, I've seen them blow too many of them. The Canucks' tenth comeback win when trailing after two periods is the most in the league, a winning percentage of .370. While the act is commendable, it's a little alarming to see that the Canucks have trailed after the second 27 times (10-16-1). Out of the top ten teams in that category that are playoff-bound (if they started today), Washington (17), Chicago (22), Colorado (17), LA (26), Pittsburgh (26), and San Jose (18), have all played less games than Vancouver in those types of situations. The Canucks are a third-best 19-3 when leading after the first and 25-1 when leading after two. They cannot play the same game last night in the playoffs because the margin for error is much smaller. Teams are going to be aggressive and staging a comeback when trialing after two periods will be that much more difficult. Credit to the Canucks for playing hard for 40 minutes, but let's not forget that the Avs also had 13 turnovers.

You could argue, however, that those numbers really don't mean anything. Washington and San Jose, two teams that rarely trail after two periods, had disappointing playoff runs last year and San Jose's playoff woes are particularly well documented. For Chicago and Pittsburgh, on the other hand, to say that they've been successful lately is a huge understatement. Both teams are considered to be Cup contenders.

I've noted before that should the Canucks wish to make the playoffs they have to finish their road trip with a winning record and even if they lose to the Coyotes tonight. The Canucks are now 18-16-1 on the road (started 10-11-1) and despite a small four point difference between them and the second place Avs, they've pretty much locked up the division title (woooo!!!!). Despite not having played at home for over a month, the Canucks' 23 home wins is still third best in the conference. With a strong home record and 10 of their last 16 games at home, the Avs would be hard-pressed to catch up especially if they play like they did last night.

Let's make it road win #19 tonight.

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Dittos to our Canucks being able to play come back hockey, as always.

However, being in a comeback situation can really wear a team down, espeically in the long term. It is amazing that we were able to play such comeback hockey when our top defense are down, by using firepowers from our forwards.

It worried me a bit when seeing they are playing this style of hockey as we all knew from the WCE + Crawford period. one goal, two goals down situation and then your forwards can put up 4 goals. However, this dynamic style of scoring did not take us far in the playoffs.

Luongo did not look sharp on the back of our already shaken up defense.

Chicago, the one team we couldn't do this Return of Jedi style come back, has pretty solid and strong defense. They did pretty good job on shutting down our top scorers. As we all know that once the playoff starts, every team will be playing solid shutdown hockey on their defensive side.

I will be cheering for Canucks in GM Place on their first game back after this long long long road trip!

best regards,

MK

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However, being in a comeback situation can really wear a team down, espeically in the long term. It is amazing that we were able to play such comeback hockey when our top defense are down, by using firepowers from our forwards.

It worried me a bit when seeing they are playing this style of hockey as we all knew from the WCE + Crawford period. one goal, two goals down situation and then your forwards can put up 4 goals. However, this dynamic style of scoring did not take us far in the playoffs.

Luongo did not look sharp on the back of our already shaken up defense.

Chicago, the one team we couldn't do this Return of Jedi style come back, has pretty solid and strong defense. They did pretty good job on shutting down our top scorers. As we all know that once the playoff starts, every team will be playing solid shutdown hockey on their defensive side.

best regards,

MK

You're right, MK, playing comeback hockey requires a high degree of mental toughness. The Canucks put themselves in this position because let's face it, it's been a rare time when the Canucks have played a full 60 minutes of good hockey despite their success. I think this team can be much better than it is right now and playing catch-up doesn't make their job any easier.

There were a lot of things that didn't go quite well with the WCE era, but I think a part of their playoff failures was their lack of mental toughness. Whether it's personnel issues or coaching issues or the players themselves, they lacked that extra gear in the playoffs. They had the swagger alright, but when things weren't going well they were prone to beating themselves up. I don't think you have to look any further than Dan Cloutier and Markus Naslund, who really put his team on his shoulders and when his wrist shot disappeared he was more critical of himself than anyone.

Chicago's defense is extremely underrated. Asides from Keith and Seabrook, another guy that people should watch more of is Niklas Hjalmarsson. He's going to be a great top four guy soon, probably by next year. The Hawks are young and have one of the better coaches in Joel Quenneville and perhaps the best young captain in Jonathan Toews. On a team full of all-stars Toews was absolutely vital to Canada's success and was singled out by the best coach in hockey. He can really play both ends of the ice and scoring on them will be difficult. He's composed and knows when to buckle down and make his shifts count. For the Hawks, age is an upside.

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