Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Canucks try to deliver knockout punch

Categories: Conference Finals, San Jose Sharks, VAN vs. SJS, Vancouver Canucks

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Kevin Bieksa (3) of the Vancouver Canucks prepares to throw a punch at Patrick Marleau (12) of the San Jose Sharks in the second period in Game 2. The canucks can finish off the Sharks at home with a win in Game 5. (Harry How/Getty Images) Kevin Bieksa (3) of the Vancouver Canucks prepares to throw a punch at Patrick Marleau (12) of the San Jose Sharks in the second period in Game 2. The canucks can finish off the Sharks at home with a win in Game 5. (Harry How/Getty Images)
By Tim Wharnsby, CBC Sports

The Vancouver Canucks would like to avoid the late-series stress that skated their way in the first two rounds.

Up 3-1 in the West final against the San Jose Sharks and a victory away from advancing to their first Stanley Cup final since 1994, they would like to deliver the knockout punch to the Sharks on Tuesday and steer clear of a return trip to Northern California.

That wasn't the case in the first two rounds. They needed four attempts to finally finish off the Chicago Blackhawks and required two tries to eliminate the Nashville Predators. In fact, the Canucks arrived home to Rogers Arena against both the Blackhawks and Predators with a chance to clinch the series in Game 5 and failed to get the job done.

Did the Canucks learn anything from the first two rounds that they can apply against the Sharks?

"What is there to learn?," Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo said. "We didn't get the job done. I didn't think we wanted to lose that game by any means.

"At the end of the day, like I said, the last one is always going to be the toughest one to win. We want to make sure we treat tomorrow night like a Game 7 for us, we come prepared like it's that game."

Eight of the 12 series in the first two rounds of the 2011 playoffs were clinched at home. The Canucks have played their best on the road this post-season. They won a league-high 27 times away from Vancouver in the regular season and continued that success in the playoffs with five wins in eight road games.

But with the Eastern Conference final slated to go at least one more game, the Canucks know the importance of closing out the Sharks on Tuesday and get some rest to prepare for the final.

"I think it's key in any situations," said Canucks defenceman Sami Salo, who slammed home two 5-on-3 power-play goals in Vancouver's 4-2 win on Sunday. "We noticed from the series past, we just have to have the killer instinct to kill the other team off or it will give the other teams momentum and too many chances."

Although the Canucks penalty killing has gone a sound 12-for-13 after surrendering five San Jose power-play goals in its first five chances in the series, Vancouver would tempt fate if it continues a march to the penalty box like what happened in the two games in San Jose. The Sharks had 15 power plays in Games 3 and 4.

"I think right now, we're at a spot where we're one game away from the Stanley Cup finals, one win away," Luongo said. "The guys are excited about that. We want to obviously get there. We want to do whatever it takes to get there. I think today is going to be real important to get the right amount of rest, preparation, and make sure when we come to play tomorrow, we treat this like a Game 7."

Ehrhoff day-to-day

Canucks defenceman Christian Ehrhoff is listed as day-to-day with his upper-body ailment, but he did skate on Monday although he didn't want to speculate on his availability for Game 5 after he was knocked out of action in Game 3 in San Jose last Friday.

"Yeah, definitely feel better than Friday after the game, for sure," he said. "But I'm still day to day.

"If it's not ready to go, I obviously wouldn't go. That's a decision we got to make."
Vancouver did not provide an update on the condition of Aaron Rome's head injury that he suffered last Friday.

No respect

Luongo has come under fire in the playoffs for his penchant for allowing a soft goal every game. But Canucks coach Alain Vigneault asked reporters following his team's win on Sunday if there were any questions about his goaltending. He was asked about his actions on Monday.

"He played an outstanding game," Vigneault said. "He was one of the best players on the ice. He helped us win a game. I get tons of questions when some people question a goal he might have let in.

"For us, he's a great goaltender. One, if not the best, in the league. His preparation, his commitment to winning, his commitment to this organization is unbelievable. I was curious the way he played such a great game and nobody asked."

Entering action on Monday, Luongo has the most playoff wins this spring, but is third of the remaining five starting goalies in save percentage, if you include Tampa Bay Lightning's Mike Smith who started Game 5 of the East final. Smith was a perfect 29-for-29 in his limited action before Monday's game.

Boston's Tim Thomas leads the way at .929, followed by Tampa's Dwayne Roloson (.925), Luongo (.917) and San Jose's Antti Niemi (.895).