Somewhere amongst the confetti, potential indecent exposure, and Teletubbies, we imagine the people of Vancouver are just now rolling out of bed after a night of jubilance. We’d warn against being overly confident and partying too hard before the real party begins, but it’s been 17 long years since the franchise’s last shot at Stanley Cup glory. You’ve more than earned every hangover, Canucks fans.
But with the dust now settled over 12 hours later after a game-winning goal that made a stanchion into a rock star, let’s take a brief look back at two of the main factors that determined this series.
Suffocating defence, and staggeringly poor offence
Sure, the equation seems simple enough, and the Canucks’ superior defence certainly wasn’t a secret weapon heading into this series. But that shouldn’t subtract from the remarkable shutdown job done on anyone not named Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau.
Led by last night’s overtime hero Kevin Bieksa–who has a +10 rating in these playoffs–and Dan Hamhuis, Vancouver squeezed the life out of San Jose’s primary offensive strength: secondary scoring. The Sharks ranked sixth in the regular season with 243 goals, and of the 626 total points scored, 289 of them came from the combination of Logan Couture, Dany Heatley, Ryane Clowe, Devin Setoguchi, and Joe Pavelski.
Those five players represented nearly half (46%) of San Jose’s regular season offence, but they’re the same five players who combined for just 10 of San Jose’s 36 points against Vancouver (28%). Marleau and Thornton pulled their weight with 14 combined points, but the supporting cast vanished.
However, the vanishing act of a player who’s usually a primary offensive contributor for San Jose was a far deeper problem. Speaking of which…
Dany Heatley’s nightmare post-season
For every spoonful of praise we throw on the Canucks’ defence and goaltending, a good helping of scorn for the San Jose offence should follow. This is a unit that failed to equal the firepower of the Canucks when it mattered most, and was outscored 14-6 in the third period. That drought included three third period goals during the only game San Jose won.
Despite the defensive dominance by Vancouver and the play of Roberto Luongo, it’s difficult to accept that a team with as much talent as San Jose couldn’t capitalize on their steep advantage in shots on goal. Over the final two games San Jose outshot Vancouver 91-47, with the Canucks incredibly registering just 13 shots in Game 4.
Heatley’s absence is especially glaring. We know he was physically present at the games because the boxscores say so, but that’s where the physical evidence ends. Heatley didn’t score once against Vancouver, and he registered only one point (an assist in Game 2). His disappearance extended beyond the Vancouver series, and this spring was the worst of his career.
Throughout his previous five playoff appearances over his nine-year career, Heatley has played 48 games. That’s also the amount of playoff points he had prior to this year, with the two-time 50-goal scorer averaging a point-per-game. This post-season that production was cut in half, and Heatley finished with only nine points over 18 games.