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Winger19

Member Since 05 Nov 2003
Offline Last Active Jul 19 2011 02:31 PM
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Vancouver Media already playing "wings too old" card

11 May 2011 - 02:05 PM

Fish or wings, either are just hors d’oeurves ahead of the main course that is the Stanley Cup final.

Still, what to recommend?

The wings are seasoned nicely, but the meat can be old and chewy, the bones brittle; the fish looks good in the display case, but always seems off by the time your plate arrives.

A Western Conference final matchup with the San Jose Sharks, a franchise as disappointing in the playoffs as the Canucks in recent history? Or a date with the Detroit Red Wings, veterans who know how to win but whose creaking bodies may not be able to obey their willing hearts?

Especially after a gruelling seven-game series.

Based on the Canucks’ season series with both, and hoping for an all-out war in Game 7 (preferably stretching into quadruple overtime), it’s a toss-up who the Canucks match up best against.

But historical performance, as your financial adviser will tell you if she’s honest, is no guide to future returns.

Ryan Kesler, for instance, in the regular season against the Predators had zero goals, zero assists and was minus-5 in four games.

Your provincial government-fronted bookie would have taken a kicking basing its props bets on that information, given Kesler’s 5-6-11 Round 2.

So it’s more complicated than saying the Canucks were 3-0-1 against the Sharks or that Vancouver was 2-0-2 against Detroit; because at the same time San Jose was 1-2-1 against Vancouver and Detroit 2-2-0 against the Canucks.

That’s Gary Bettman’s math.

So ignore the fact Kesler failed to score against San Jose this season (0-3-3), just as he failed to score against Detroit (0-7-7).

Kesler loves to play the Wings, the team he grew up cheering against in suburban Livonia, Mich., and most of his teamates feel the same way, since Kesler’s Detroit roots are just one of many ties the two teams have. There’s also the prominent Swedes on each side; Mikael Samuelsson’s connection; even Jeff Tambellini and Kevin Bieksa have ties to Joe Louis Arena through their college days.

A Sharks-Canucks final?

One team gets to keep wearing the choke collar, the other finally escapes its 21st century underachieving.

Here’s a look at some of the matchups either way.

Kesler vs. Clowe/Kesler vs. Datsyuk

Sportswriters love hyperbole to describe the depths to which teams will go to hide injuries in playoffs.

But in this case it’s literally true: It was easier to discover Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts than it is to find out if a player is healthy.

So who knows if Ryan Clowe will be ready to suit up by Sunday or just how badly Pavel Datsyuk is hurting (and just think if he wasn’t)?

Clowe is to the Sharks and Datsyuk to the Wings what Kesler is to the Canucks in these playoffs.

But when the Sharks showed up to fly to Detroit for Tuesday’s Game 6, Clowe was a surprise no-show.

And Datsyuk can’t take faceoffs.

The twins vs. the big three/twins vs. Lidstrom

Todd McLellan has juggled his high-priced regular-season superstars like bowling pins, but, as usual in the playoffs, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Heatley aren’t living up to their salaries.

Neither, of course, have the Sedins to date.

You can’t say the same about Nick Lidstrom.

But does Mike Babcock put him out against the Sedins, or against Kesler?

Arch-Niemi

We have seen the enemy and he is Antti Niemi.

The former Zamboni driver out-duelled Roberto Luongo last season.

In these playoffs he’s been inconsistent — he was chased by Nashville.

But Niemi also had a couple of awful games against the Preds two years ago when he was with Chicago.

He finds ways to bounce back.

As does Luongo.

Jimmy Howard is more inconsistent than either, and travel issues aside, most Canucks would probably rather face him.

D is for depth

The Canucks are better one-through-eight than San Jose is one-through-four.

Lidstrom is still one of the best in the league, even at 41, and the depth behind him is as deep as the Canucks’ blueline — in the Detroit zone, anyway.

Special teams

Power plays should be about equal, but give the Canucks’ PK the edge.

Intangibles

The collar has to be feeling really, really tight in San Jose, even if they win Thursday.

All three teams excel when they control the puck and forecheck hard. That might sound like Hockey 101, but these three are just about the best at that kind of game overall in the NHL.

Injuries to Clowe and Johan Franzen are more worrying for the Sharks and Wings than Samuelsson’s injury is to the Canucks.

And, while all three teams are used to a travel grind, being host of Game 7 is an important ace to hold.

Season stats

Kesler vs. Sharks: 0-3-3, plus-2, 3 hits, 5 blocked shots

Luongo vs. Sharks: 1-0-1, 0.96 GAA, .975 (Cory Schneider started both games at San Jose)

D/H Sedin vs. Sharks: 3-8-11, plus-5

Kesler vs. Wings: 0-7-7, plus-7, 11 hits

Luongo vs. Wings: 2-0-2, 2.66 GAA, .925 save percentage

Sedins vs. Wings: 6-7-13, plus-5.

gordshockey@hotmail.com

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