Best of April 18: Canucks happy to have twins back; Ilya Bryzgalov yanked
The Canucks got Daniel Sedin back for Game 4 and it really paid off as he fit right back into the picture and Vancouver grabbed its first win of the series with its back against the wall to the Kings.
|Daniel has an assist in his first game back. (Getty Images)|
Wonder Twin powers, activate!
Boy did the Canucks look glad to have Daniel Sedin back on the ice. Out since March 21 when he suffered a concussion, Daniel made his return on Wednesday night and it didn't look like he'd missed any time at all. Whenever he and Henrik Sedin were on at the same time and the Canucks had the puck, they were making things happen.
While Daniel, the goal-scorer of the twins -- didn't score in his return, he did notch an assist ... on a Henrik goal. It was the second of two power-play goals for the Canucks, again an area where they were clearly missing Daniel. They entered Game 4 without one goal on the man advantage but they picked up two in one night. Coincidence? Maybe, but not likely. The flow was much smoother and organized.
Some, like myself, worried that desperation from the Canucks was pushing Daniel back into the lineup too soon. Consider those fears unfounded now. He played almost 20 minutes in the game and that was after he said he wasn't in good shape after sitting out a few weeks. Well shoot, if that's not in good shape, I wonder what his definition of good shape is.
The Canucks in general played a good-enough game, particularly after the first period, to put some doubt into the Kings. I'm not going to try and tell you that the Kings should be too worried yet, they have three chances to win one more game. However when you start to look at it from the old player perspective of one game at a time, it doesn't seem so daunting for the Canucks.
Also, along with the Penguins' rout of the Flyers earlier on Wednesday, the Canucks ensured that there will no first-round sweeps in the playoffs this year. All of the other series have seen at least one win on each side. Competitive balance indeed, commish.
Balance would also fit the Canucks with Daniel back. The question now is if it's going to be too little too late.
Player of the night
Cory Schneider was the goalie the Canucks decided to turn to in an elimination game despite the fact that he had never won a playoff game in his career. Emphasis on the word "had." That's because Schneider came in and shut the Kings down, only allowing one goal on 43 L.A. shots.
And there were plenty that weren't of the garden variety. Chief among those was the game-saving (and game-changing) save he made on Dustin Brown's penalty shot after he was tripped on a short-handed breakaway -- see the save below. That kept the lead in the Canucks' hands and they scored just seconds later for the eventual two-goal winning margin.
Another good call, coach.
(Honorable mention: Jordan Staal and his hat trick.)
Goat of the night
Ilya Bryzgalov was run from Game 4 like he saw some bears in the building or something. The Penguins haven't had much of a problem beating him all series, they just were getting more on their own end. But they haven't beaten him as bad as they did on Wednesday night. He saw 18 shots, stopped only 13 of them. Ironically, his replacement, Sergei Bobrovsky, saw 18 shots ... and stopped only 13 of them.
I don't think this is what Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren in mind when he signed Bryzgalov up to a big deal in an offseason overhaul, now is it?
Goal of the night
His goal on Wednesday night is the honoree for the evening in this slot and it's not just because it was an overtime winner. That just adds some great context and excitement. But this goal itself? It's a thing of beauty, an absolutely perfectly placed wrister that beats Henrik Lundqvist.
Bonus points for using the defender to create a little screen and hinder Lundqvist's ability to find the puck.
Save of the night
The impact of this save from Schneider was magnified because it was on a penalty shot in a one-goal game in the third period at the time. It was mano-a-mano and Schneider won.
But what I really love is how Schneider stuck with the puck even after Brown's fake and managed to keep the 5 hole closed while getting both pads on the ice. That's painful to watch but awfully impressive.
Tweet of the night
Ted Starkey of the Washington Post and author had a pretty interesting observation to point out about that crazy Philly-Pittsburgh series. You can probably figure out who this tweet is referencing (hint: he was the goat tonight).
So. a goalie with a 3-1 playoff record has a 4.97 GAA. #makessense— Ted Starkey (@TedStarkey) April 19, 2012
Stat of the night
The road teams won two of the three games on Wednesday, keeping right along with the stunning average thus far in the playoffs. The visiting teams are now 19-9 in the postseason. The benefit of parity, I suppose, is home-ice advantage means little any more.
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