May 7, 2011, 5:33 PM EDT
Tonight’s lone game in the playoffs takes place in Vancouver where the Canucks look to finish off the Nashville Predators in Game 5 (8 p.m. ET, Versus). Vancouver’s slowly taken control of this series thanks to the work of Ryan Kesler and Roberto Luongo. Kesler’s work in scoring big goals in Games 3 and 4 have helped them swing momentum in their favor. Luongo’s play in goal has managed to have him outduel Pekka Rinne in this series and that’s saying a lot given how great Rinne has looked.
A couple of guys having a hard time in this series just happen to be related. Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin aren’t quite looking like their MVP-like selves. Henrik Sedin has a goal and two assists while Daniel Sedin has just two assists. Compared to Kesler’s three goals and four assists, their efforts aren’t looking nearly as good. Having to deal with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter shift in and shift out probably has a lot more to do with that than anything else. Getting them going tonight wouldn’t be the worst idea.
For Nashville, they’re already going without Steve Sullivan and now they’ll be without checking forward extraordinaire Jerred Smithson. In Smithson’s place will be veteran power forward J.P. Dumont as he’ll hope his savvy and experience will help the Predators overcome the Canucks stifling defense and attack. The Predators just flat out need goals to stay involved in this series and the combination of injuries and Luongo in goal won’t make that any easier.
If Vancouver is able to lock up the series, it’ll mark their first appearance in the Western Conference finals since 1994 when they went to the Stanley Cup finals and ultimately lost to the New York Rangers in seven games. Nashville wants to put Vancouver in the same uncomfortable position the Blackhawks put them in in the first round and force a Game 7. They’ll need to win one now and send it back to Nashville to make that happen though. With how things are shaking out lately, confidence isn’t very high that that will happen.
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