Rick Morrissey’s column this morning is about how the Blackhawks finally re-discovered their killer instinct in beating Vancouver to move into the Western Conference finals.
That’s certainly part of what helped Chicago move past Vancouver, but the Canucks also looked slightly out of sync during the series.
Vancouver would control the puck for long stretches, cycling the puck, and finding shots, but they had trouble converting.
It could speak to Chicago goalie Antti Niemi’s skills. It could speak to Chicago’s defense in general. But mostly it seemed to speak to the Canucks being a step behind the Blackhawks in getting to rebounds.
It was almost like the Canucks gave up on certain sequences, figuring they could have the puck back in a little bit.
I’m sure the people of Vancouver will lay this loss at the feet of Roberto Luongo, their goalie, and while last night, and this series, wasn’t his finest work, he didn’t have much help in front of him.
Modern NHL coaches will tell you puck control/management is key, because it means the other team doesn’t have the puck, but if teams aren’t converting on their possessions, they’re keeping the other team in the game.
And allowing Chicago to stay in the game didn’t make Luongo’s job any easier.
Morrissey is right that the Blackhawks found their killer instinct last night, but he also should have mentioned that somewhere in the series, the Canucks lost their killer instinct. They had many chances throughout the series to put Chicago away, but while the Canucks would dominate play, all too often, the dominance didn’t lead to goals. Vancouver allowed Chicago to survive too many rushes and Chicago took advantage.
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault surely knows what his team needs to work on next season: urgency in getting to loose pucks, to help with second-chance goals. Also, as long as he’s developing a game plan for next season, he might want to work on the penalty kill. It wasn’t an issue last night, but Vancouver finishes the playoffs with a 68% kill percentage, which isn’t going to help anyone in the playoffs — except for opponents.