Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Canucks & Blues Playoff Game Day

Last game day skate for both teams this morning as they prepare to open up Round 1 of the NHL Playoffs tonight. No major changes are expected to either squad in preparation for opening up their series in Vancouver.

In my opinion, there will be a couple of key areas to watch out for as this series progresses that could likely determine which team moves on to the Western Conference Semi Finals:

1. Special teams. The Canucks finished 17th ovearll in the NHL on the power play while going 16th on the penalty kill. The Blues were 8th in the league on the man advantage and 3rd in the league short-handed. Ryan Kesler and Kyle Wellwood each scored ten power play goals for the Canucks while Brad Boyes (16) and Keith Tkachuk (14) led the Blues. Vancouver scored seven short-handed goals this year, four coming from Alex Burrows. Meantime St. Louis scored ten times when they were down a skater, with Jay McClement leading the way with three.

2. Goaltending. It would be interesting to see what Roberto Luongo's stats would have looked like if he didn't miss a few months due to injury. The same could also be said if Chris Mason had been the Blues starting goalie from the beginning of the season. In 54 games, Luongo went 33-13-7, had a 2.34 goals against average, a 0.920 save percentage, and collected nine shut-outs. Mason appeared in 57 games, going 27-21-7. Not far off Luongo's numbers, Mason had a 2.94 GAA, a 0.916Sv%, and six shut-outs. It's no surprise that the performance of these two goalies was instrumental in the way their teams finished down the stretch drive. For what it's worth, there isn't a huge separation gap either in playoff experience either. Luongo has appeared in 12 post-season games while Mason has dressed in five.

3. Offense from the Defense. The Canucks blue-line combined for 36 goals and 176 points this season whereas the Blues d-men racked up 15 goals and 113 points.

Here's how the line-ups should look when the teams take to the ice at GM Place this evening:


D. Sedin - H. Sedin - Burrows
Demitra - Sundin - Kesler
Raymond - Wellwood - Bernier
Hordichuk - Johnson - Rypien

Mitchell - Salo
Ohlund - Edler
Bieksa - O'Brien



Andy McDonald - David Backes - Brad Boyes
T.J. Oshie - Patrik Berglund - David Perron
Brad Winchester - Keith Tkachuk - Dan Hinote
Alex Steen - Jay McClemment - B.J. Crombeen

Barret Jackman - Roman Polak
Jeff Woywitka - Jay McKee
Carlo Colaiacovo - Mike Weaver

Chris Mason
Ben Bishop

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