This has been anything but your typical playoffs. A historical first round followed by a somewhat quiet second, only to be blown wide open by a shellshockingly good Conference Finals. Iâ€™m quite sure that none of the four coaches (Vigneault, Boucher, McLellan or Julien) are too happy about the number of goals being scored, but this has been a really pleasant experience for your average fan. 56 goals scored in 8 games (7 per game) played, talk about a sudden rise in playoff scoring. Last nightâ€™s Vancouver â€“ SJ matchup was slightly below this yearâ€™s Conference Finals average but it was a telling game nonetheless.
They say that when the stakes are highest, you need your top player to play to their capacity. Iâ€™m not sure if 4 assists is Henrikâ€™s capacity but it was a pretty special performance. His twin Daniel had 3. Ryan Kesler scored a big goal early in the game and Roberto Luongo more than held his own end of the rink with 33 saves. Oh, and their PP is clicking. Yesterday evening, the Canucks scored three 5-on-3 goals which is the new NHL playoff record. Things seem to be coming together for the Canucks at just the right time. Kesler and Burrows might have carried them far but they needed the Sedins to make an impact. They have them now. It seems that, as predicted, the nail biting series win against Chicago proved to be the glue that finally brought this team together and gave them the confidence they needed to become Stanley Cup champions.
The Canucks are no longer the best regular season team in the league, but the best team in the league, a team that got over the hump and finally learned to win when it matters most. It’s a different story entirely when you look at the Sharks end of the spectrum. Dany Heatley, a highly paid and (usually) a highly productive winger, has crawled under a rock during these playoffs. On the other hand, some players, most notably Ryane Clowe and Dan Boyle, proved they can perform in the playoffs, Logan Couture has been a welcome addition to this team and will be a dominant player for years to come. Last but certainly not least, Joe Thornton proved he could lead in the playoffs, hell even Patrick Marleau, who has under the same rock with Heatley for most of the playoffs, played an excellent series so far. So, why such a collapse in the Conference Finals? It does seem that a very good performance against Detroit took more out of them than anyone imagined.
I didn’t intend this article as a premature eulogy for the SJ Sharks, but Raffi Torres might have just put the final nail in SJ coffin (as far as this yearâ€™s run is concerned) with a huge hit on Thornton that put Big Joe out of commission, his status for game five is uncertain. I have trouble predicting a SJ win in Vancouver, more so without the biggest Shark featuring in game 5.
What has contributed most to the Sharks Conference Finals collapse? What sparked the Sedins? Who do you think will win the Conn Smythe this year?