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Break Out

Wednesday, 18.04.2007 / 12:00 AM / News
Vancouver Canucks
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Break Out
There's much about the first four games of this opening round against Dallas that hasn't made a whole bunch of sense from the Canucks standpoint.

But that silence you hear isn't just Mike Modano in this series - it's also the sound of absolutely no Canuck fan complaining. Think about it for a second, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison have all been on the score sheet in only one of the first four games. The Canuck power play is 1/22 in the series and has gone 17 straight chances now without putting a puck in the net.

The team has one first period goal in the series and two in the second - and hasn't scored a goal in the first 45 minutes of any of the past three games. The Canucks scored five goals in the series opener and have just four goals in the past three games. Since the midway mark of the third period in the marathon series opener, the Canucks have held the lead for all of eight minutes and 14 seconds - (8:14 out of the last 250 minutes of hockey).

And the opposing goalie has been a star in three straight games and made 51 saves in the only outing he wasn't.

If you didn't know better, you'd have no choice but to conclude from that evidence that the Canucks were staring at another long summer instead of setting their sights on the second round of the playoffs. But things like grit and determination and sacrifice can't be found among the statistics; but they've been out there on the ice in abundance.

Hey, both teams are playing hard. It's just that the Canucks are doing all the little things right and those little things are adding up in big ways. And right now, nobody's taken on a bigger offensive role than the biggest forward in the series.

After assisting on both Canuck goals in Game 4 and scoring the overtime winner in Game 3, Taylor Pyatt has been in on the last three Vancouver goals and has grabbed the series scoring lead with 1+3=4. Aside from Roberto Luongo, Pyatt is the only other Vancouver player who's been on the ice for all three of the Canucks game winning goals in the series. In other words, when he's out there, things are happening. And that's a terrific sign from a guy whose consistency has at times come into question throughout his career. But there's no questioning the way Pyatt is playing right now. The big winger has four goals and four assists in his last 10 games making him as productive as any other Canuck over the past few weeks (Daniel has 3+5=8 and Henrik has 1+7=8 in the past 10 games).

Again, however, this isn't all about statistics. It's about the way Pyatt is using his size and getting in on the forecheck. It's the way he's reading the play and finding the right spots on the ice to give or get a pass. And it's that he's creating offense on his own on that newly-formed unit with Trevor Linden and Bryan Smolinski and not merely waiting to be fed goal-mouth passes by the Sedins.

Hard work by the Pyatt-Linden-Smolinski line led to both Canuck goals in game four. And both came in the third period which, statistically, has been the Canucks worst scoring period all season. The Canucks scored just 65 third period goals in the regular season (well under a goal a game average), but have four third period goals in the four games of this series - and have added two more in overtime. So they appear to be getting better as the games go on.

And nobody has been better than Roberto Luongo who made 27 saves for his third win of the playoffs. It's interesting to note, that Luongo has as many victories in his first four stabs at playoff hockey as Marty Turco does in his last 15 post-season games (3-12). Now, it's not fair to hang the Stars' current predicament on their netminder. For the most part he's done his job and given his team a chance to win each of the first four games. But these games have been decided on the little things. And just as they've done throughout the second half of the season, the Vancouver Canucks are finding ways to win.

It's not always pretty and quite often it's hard to explain. But most of all - and really all that matters right now - whatever the Canucks are doing, it's working. And now they have to find a way to do it one more time.



Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. E-mail him at jeff.paterson@team1040.ca