Let’s not set cars aflame just yet. On Wednesday night, the Canucks played host to a tough game full of hits against the San Jose Sharks. Goaltending, defense and offense were quite evenly matched throughout the game save for some blunders, making the result dependent on some good ol’ garbage goals. In the end, the Sharks beat the Canucks 3-1, and took the best-of-seven series lead 1-0.
Surprise starter Luongo began the game with a bang, revealing his inner kleptomaniac. The sorta-second-sorta-first string goalie made some clutch saves on a San Jose team that owned the first period, forcing the Canucks to play at the mercy of the Sharks. Luongo was far from the reason that this game went San Jose’s way by two goals after stopping 25 of 28 shots, but if Schneider is fully healthy by Friday, its likely that we see Bobby Lu on the bench come puck drop.
Offensively, the Sharks outplayed the Canucks through all of its lines, with exceptional performances by Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture driving the play. The two combined for four points created on three goals that bested the Canucks defense. As for the home side, the top two lines disappeared throughout the 60 minutes.
The Sedins-Burrows line didn’t impress anyone except for one play early in the second, and the scramble in the last minute; as well, Ryan Kesler, whose conditioning and health was deeply questioned today, was hobbling out on the ice early in the game.
Solid shifts were put in by the checking lines, leading to a dirty unassisted goal in the second period by
Raffi Torres Kevin Bieksa, that put the Canucks ahead until they let in three unanswered. Logan Couture scored on an ensuing powerplay off a Zack Kassian elbowing call. Dan Boyle scored in the third to make it 2-1 right on Luongo’s doorstep, with a classic Kansas City Shuffle – the D looked right, and he went left – straight into an open net. To ensure the win, Patrick Marleau scored five minutes later on a pass from Couture to make it 3-1.
Despite the score, the Canucks defense went at a reliable pace. Each goal against them was scored as a result of a mistake that involved more than just the defensive pairings, so the fingers can’t be concentrated on one side of this team. Even the Alberts-Corrado pairing looked good tonight with the rookie placing effective point shots early in the first.
A positive that the team can take from this is the way they played the body. After 60 minutes, the home side registered 40 hits, 37 of which came in just the first two periods.
The key to the rest of the series lies within the offense. As Vigneault put it in the post-game presser, the Canucks forwards need to begin producing, especially in the top two lines.
“There were some good moments in terms of playing fast and wearing the D down, but I know our guys can be better”.
As for Luongo: “Roberto gave us a chance, and he got a little bit unlucky in the third.”
This game should speak for the rest of the series, with the two physical teams preventing free-flowing offensive production. For Game 2, expect more of the same, and more goals to be scored right on the doorstep of the two elite goaltenders protecting their net.
The Canucks play host to the Sharks again at Rogers Arena on Friday at 7:00 p.m. PST, with the game once again broadcasted on TSN and the TEAM 1040 radio. Stay tuned with Vancity Buzz’s Canucks coverage for more throughout this series.
Vyas Saran is Vancity Buzz’s Canucks Columnist. Follow him throughout the playoffs here, and at @vyassaran.
Image: Jeff Vinnick / Getty Images.