Welcome, Vancouver Canucks, to the second round.
What? Did you just beat the Stanley Cup champions, a big, experienced St. Louis Blues club?
Awesome. Now you get the Vegas Golden Knights, which are just as tall, probably faster and surely deeper, with a better goalie and a visit to the Stanley Cup Final two springs ago. There they lost to Washington. They are therefore also hungrier than St. Louis.
“They’re a fast team, they’re a good team,” said Canucks head coach Travis Green after Game 1. “We just need to play better.
Accurate in every way, certainly. The “fair,” however, suggests a certain simplicity in taking a bigger bite of Game 2 than the Canucks were able to get in Game 1, a 5-0 affair that at no point looked like it could go into. the other way.
Vancouver will have to increase its commitment tenfold if that happens. Really, the Canucks just dipped their collective toe in the waters of the second round on Sunday night, while Vegas had 20 guys who were overwhelmed and recovering after the hockey quarterback greater than what Vancouver brought to the table.
“I just don’t think we were good enough tonight. I just don’t think we’ve reached our level today, ”admitted defenseman Alex Edler, one of only two Canucks players made available to the media after the game. “It’s a good team, they are fast. We just need to play our game better. We have shown that we are a good team and that we have to show it in Game 2. ”
In a 5-0 game, we have yet to assess how much of the outcome was Vegas dominance, and how much was due to an emotional deficit from a Canucks team that polished St. Louis just two nights before.
Was Vegas that good? Was Vancouver that bad?
Well, most would agree that Vegas is bigger, deeper, and sharper than the Canucks. Knowing that, you knew they would play with the confidence and conviction of a big favorite, traits that are found in a team that has rolled four lines, each having beaten their counterpart on the boards of Vancouver.
The Golden Knights are an excellent front-controlling club, forcing several failed out-of-zone attempts out of the opponent, then securing a change that creates a new Vegas unit against a tired opponent. Then they block you in your own area for another 30 seconds, before the dam breaks.
“It’s our game, something we’ve built on,” said Vegas head coach Pete DeBoer. “Hang on to the pucks… and try to tire the teams with our depth. When we play like this, we are a tough team to face.
The well-known statistic is that the Golden Knights have never lost a game to Vancouver, going 8-0-2 in the regular season and now 1-0 in the playoffs. What we don’t know is how the Canucks react after being beaten so deeply in Game 1 of this series.
“We’re definitely not just going to rinse it off and move on,” Green said. “Whether we played well or not, (we) will analyze our game. We have to be better with the puck, that would be a start.
“Tonight was a different type of game than any we’ve played so far,” he admitted. “It was probably our worst game (of the playoffs) tonight.”
It was, without a doubt, the most difficult night of young Quinn Hughes ’embryonic playoff career, ending up on the ice for Vegas’ first three equally strong goals. Hughes has only been a negative player twice in those playoffs – interestingly, in Game 1 against Minnesota and St. Louis – before rebounding defensively in each series.
Hughes therefore becomes a microcosm for the macro situation the Canucks find themselves in, having arrived for the second round missing in almost every department. Can he bounce back like he did in each of the qualifying rounds and the first round?
Or, having become an obvious focal point of DeBoer’s game plan, has Hughes’ year-long rise finally hit too big a hurdle – even for such a talented young defender?
That’s not a prediction we’re prepared to make, having seen him play his way to becoming a Calder Trophy contender.
Many made the same mistake with the Canucks as a whole, after the Blues tied their first-round streak 2-2, predicting the fun was over for Vancouver. It was a great race, but the big players had now found their rhythm and the Canucks were about to experience what a true Cup contender looks like.
Yeah, how did that prediction go?
Well, we’re Canucks fans there again, with a team from Vancouver that will have to prove they are in this series. From Tuesday evening.
Fascinating, isn’t it?