THREE GAMES IN

As some of you might know, the Canucks tonight dropped the third game of their opening round series against the Blues by a score of 3-1.

After my dire prediction, I waited until a few games in to make another comment on it. Sadly, I don’t feel inclined to change my prediction. While they won game two, I feel that game was an abberation in the flow of the series. The play of the Canucks is more in tune with seems to be the norm for the series.

If you watched the third period of tonight’s game, the Canucks didn’t play with the desperation that I thought they needed. Granted, the crappy officiating broke up the momentum of both teams, but the Canucks failed to mount anything resembling an attack. During the critical third period, the Canucks failed to get any quality chances on net. Shots were being deflected by the Blues at will it appeared. Nothing was getting through to Osgood. The only quality chance I saw was when one of the Sedins fed Linden in the slot. Agonizingly, Linden whistled it high and wide. Apart from that, the ‘Nucks were no where near tying it up. In the playoffs, the teams that advance find a way to do what they need to do. They adjust, they fight through adversity, and they get to a higher level of performance.

If you’re a Canucks supporter, it must alarm you to see that once again, the big line of Naslund, Bertuzzi, and Morrison was effectively shut down for the entire night. The line has combined for two points over three games. I know Naslund is being focussed on by Blues defenders and I know he’s receiving special attention, but superstars find a way to get past that. As captain, Naslund has the extra responsibility of leading by example. The team looks to him for confidence and leadership.

The best captains in the league accomplish this. Yzerman last year rallied his entire team against the Canucks on virtually one leg. When you think about the Avalanche in the playoffs, you think about Sakic (ok, maybe Forsberg too). When Linden was captain during the ’94 run, there were some nights where he pulled the whole team with him. Remember the apprehensive game seven of the finals? Linden scored both goals and gave it all he had.

Now, I’m not saying Naslund shouldn’t be captain or he’s the only reason why the Canucks are losing. The whole team could be playing better. We have, however, reached an important milestone in Naslund’s career though. How will he adapt and react to this adversity? Will he find a way to be the goal-scorer he was in the regular season? Or will he be unable to fight off the tight-checking and remain a non-factor in the series?

That whole line had problems last year with the Wings and it appears those problems continue this post-season with the Blues.

I feel bad for writing this, but my prediction seems more likely than ever now. A part of me even wants to revise the prediction and say Blues in five.

It goes without saying that game four is a must-win for the Canucks. As far as I’m concerned, with the Canucks in mental state they are in now, they do not have the resiliency to come back from three games down.

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