CANUCKS LOOK TO IMPROVE
The Canucks got the win in the opening game of the second round last night at GM Place, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-3, but there is no doubt that both teams can play better.
The team was solid for the first two periods, before the Blackhawks battled back from a three goal deficit to tie the game in the third. This morning as the players skated onto the ice, the focus was on fine tuning their game and preventing similar breakdowns.
Kyle Wellwood known for his soft hands and puck skills was sporting some serious battle wounds, that head coach Alain Vigneault joked make him look more like a hockey player.
High sticked twice in the face, Wellwood’s his toughness on display yesterday, as he tallied two assists and helped the Canucks establish their 3-0 lead.
“Wellwood’s overall game has improved considerably from the beginning of the season,” said Vigneault. “I do think that being in better condition has a big part to do with it. And Kyle’s a pretty bright individual, there are certain things that we demand at both ends of the rink that he’s picked up on and that he’s applying. And with a more consistent effort at both ends of the rink he’s become a very dependable player.”
Defenceman Sami Salo
back for Game 1 after missing the last game in the first series against the Blues hammered home the game winner with only 1:13 remaining in the third, before Ryan Johnson added an empty netter.
“Sami without a doubt, when he’s in our lineup the team both offensively and defensively benefits,” said Vigneault. “He’s such a powerful one-on-one player that defensively his really dependable. And his first pass breaking out of our zone is one of the best that I’ve seen. Obviously a lot of people talk about his shot, he does have a great shot which we’d like him to use a little bit more often. When he does use it, it is a cannon.”
Despite the exciting heroics, the players know they can play at a higher level and will need to, to advance past the young, skilled Blackhawks squad, that also did not play their best game last night.
“We had a quick meeting this morning and almost to a man there our players know we can play better than we did last night,” said Vigneault. “We had a better practice today than our game yesterday so we intend to put a better game on the ice tomorrow. We know that obviously [the Blackhawks] are going to want to put a better game on the ice and we’re going to be ready for it.”
“It worked out and we found a way to win, that’s the key obviously,” said Salo.
“Nobody was really on their A-game, so there’s a lot of room for improvement for our team. For sure [the Blackhawks] are going to be better so it is going to be a good game tomorrow night.”
“It is a bit of mixed emotions, but the bottom line is we got the win, that’s all we need and we’ve got to make sure there is no letting up,” said Roberto Luongo
. “Especially with these guys the talent they have, the speed, they’re relentless. So it’s going to take sixty-minute efforts to win hockey games and we might have gotten away with one last night and we’ve got to put that in the bank and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”COWAN BACK IN VANCOUVER
Left winger Jeff Cowan was back at GM Place this morning practicing with old teammates after he was recalled from Peoria of the AHL yesterday.
“It was a little bit of surprise, I had it in the back of my mind that it was probably a possibility,” said Cowan. “But I wasn’t really that ready for it, I wasn’t sure it was going to happen, but I got a call the morning after we got knocked out of the playoffs. And I’m glad to be here.
“Alain Vigneault called me and said they talked about it a little bit with the captain Luongo and they just discussed it and said they’d love to have me here to join the team.
“It was a little different playing out there I felt like I was away from everything. A little bit buried, but I tried to stay focused and keep plugging along the whole year and I’m just fortunate to be here and happy to join the team.