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Mitchell gives Canucks an offensive boost

by Larry Wigge
ST. LOUIS -- Willie Mitchell was the shutdown defenseman Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault wanted against the St. Louis Blues' two 30-goal scorers, Brad Boyes and David Backes. As it turned out, the 6-3, 210-pounder gave his coach much more in Game 4.

Never known for his skating or offensive skills, Mitchell assisted on both of Alex Burrows' goals -- including the game-winner with 18.9 seconds left in overtime that gave the Canucks a 3-2 victory over the Blues and a sweep of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

In his 538 regular-season games with New Jersey, Minnesota, Dallas and Vancouver, Mitchell has only 15 goals and 92 assists. Before Tuesday night, he had only 1 goal and 6 assists in 38 career playoff games.

"See, I told you I had skill," Mitchell joked with reporters.

For Mitchell and the Canucks, it was his and his teammates' attention to detail that shut down St. Louis' top line and the Blues' eighth-ranked power play -- which was 0-for-7 in Game 4, including three penalty kills in overtime, and 1 for 24 in the four-game series.

But numbers weren't on Mitchell's mind afterward.

"This is where experience comes in," Mitchell said. "In the playoffs, it's a battle. A battle of attrition. A mental battle. Battling for an inch ... game after game.

"I remember coming up to watch the New Jersey Devils for the 2000 playoffs. I remember watching Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko and Scott Niedermayer prepare for each game, how focused they were and how they left it all on the ice. I also remember them saying that when you get a team down like we did here, you finish them off when you can. That's how those great Devils players did. They finished them off -- and then got the rest they needed before the next series."

Mitchell's clutch defense and two surprise assists helped the Canucks get the team's first sweep ever -- and some time off before the next round.
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