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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final

Canucks' goal to start generating more chances

Friday, 05.08.2009 / 8:38 PM / Conference Semifinals: Vancouver vs. Chicago

By Derek Jory - NHL.com Correspondent

Although the Vancouver Canucks managed to beat Chicago Blackhawks netminder Nikolai Khabibulin only once in Game 4, they haven’t had trouble scoring in the playoffs -- a fact their coach was quick to raise on Friday.

"Unless I’m mistaken," Alain Vigneault said, "of the 16 teams in the playoffs, aren’t we the fourth highest scoring team in the league?"

While Vigneault was a little off with his numbers – the Canucks are currently sixth in scoring through eight games, averaging 2.88 goals per game – the point he was making is a valid one.

Vancouver has found the back of the net 23 times so far, including 12 times in four games against Chicago, yet somehow the sky is now falling around the Canucks because of one lackluster effort on offense.

Goals shouldn’t be the main concern, shots should be.

The Canucks have been outshot in six of eight games in the postseason and even though they’re 4-2 when trailing in that category, it’s not a stat the team wants to see becoming a trend.

"When you look up at the scoreboard and you see six shots in a period, it’s not good for your confidence," said Daniel Sedin, who had three shots in Game 4 but hasn’t scored in five contests.

"I think overall we have to take the shot when it’s there; it’s going to create rebounds and that’s when we’re going to get our goals."

Vancouver has been outshot by Chicago in every game of this series, and if there’s one area the Canucks are looking to improve in heading into Game 5, it’s making Khabibulin earn his paycheck.

The Canucks sat on their slim 1-0 lead in Game 4 and relied too much on Roberto Luongo to make the big saves, instead of trying to double the score. Khabibulin was forced to stop a combined five shots between the third period and overtime, and other than on Alex Burrows’ one-timer in the extra session, the "Bulin Wall" barely broke a sweat.

"The first two games I think we showed that we have the firepower to score and last night we didn’t have it offensively," Ryan Kesler said. "Our execution was terrible, we couldn’t make a tape-to- tape pass and we’ve got to be better."

Kesler and the Canucks don’t feel they struggled to produce chances in Game 4 because of anything the Blackhawks were or weren’t doing; it was merely a lack of execution from Vancouver.

Content on sending one man in on the forecheck and simply dumping pucks instead of creating rushes down the ice, the Canucks struggled to find the balance between offense and defense that made them so dangerous all season.

Vigneault is adamant that his team could have had more chances, if the game would have permitted more. That’s just the way things played out, but he still believes from here on out the Canucks need to take a page from Dave Bolland’s book of "just throw it on net."

"They obviously generated more than we did, but it’s not like it was fire hockey out there on the ice," Vigneault said. "They weren’t giving us room and we weren’t giving them room. Sometimes those are things that are going to happen."

As Burrows pointed out, at least the Canucks can take solace in the fact they’ve opened the scoring in every game of the series.

"We were a pretty good team all year with the lead and that’s how we want to play," Burrows said. "We don’t want to play catch up hockey, that’s not our style.

Vancouver Canucks Playoff Gear"We want to defend the lead, we want to make sure we keep pushing the pace, but last night we might have sat back a little too much."

Even though Vancouver wasn’t peppering Khabibulin with shots in the late stages of Game 4, Burrows managed to rattle Chicago’s goaltender a bit with some sharp words after a whistle.

"I was just trying to get in his kitchen. I asked him how it felt to be on the waiver-wire earlier this year and he didn’t like that," said a laughing Burrows, who was cross-checked by Khabibulin for the remark.

The Canucks held an optional practice Friday morning with only five players taking to the ice. Sami Salo was one of them and, although he’s still "day-to-day," according to Vigneault, he was skating at high speeds and rifling shots without any grimacing.

Kevin Bieksa opted out of practicing, but not because he’s seriously hurt. He skidded hard into the boards late in Game 4 and was rumored to be injured. Bieksa jokingly called it a "lower body injury," adding that it’s "nothing serious." He’s expected to play in Game 5.



It's hard to walk into that locker room and look those guys in the eye when they've played -- clearly, that was our best game we've played in the series -- and I thought we deserved a better fate tonight.

— Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper on his team's 3-2 loss to the Canadiens in Game 3 on Sunday