Cullen: Canucks Impressive in Game One vs. Nashville

Scott Cullen
4/29/2011 8:48:22 AM
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There was no doubt which team was better in the first game of the Vancouver-Nashville series.

If Game One represents a fair indication -- and who knows if it does? -- of what to expect in the Vancouver-Nashville series, the Canucks ought to be well-rested by the time the Western Conference Final begins.

While Nashville was thought to be in a position to take advantage of a Canucks team possibly coming off an emotional high from their Game Seven overtime win against Chicago two nights earlier, it was the Canucks that showed up ready to play and the Predators who came out flat.

At the midway mark of the game, for example, Vancouver was outshooting Nashville 23-7.  The Predators closed the final gap to 30-20 on the shot clock, but there was only one game this season in which Nashville registered fewer than 20 shots on goal: March 29, at home, against Vancouver.

Part of the reason that the Canucks owned the shooting advantage was that they were also dominating in the face-off circle.  In the end, Vancouver won 61% of face-offs but, again, that number regressed after the midpoint when Vancouver was closer to 70% on the draws.

The lone goal in the game was provided by a pair of trade deadline acquisitions, as Maxim Lapierre set up Christopher Higgins, who was wide open in the slot, for a wrist shot to the top shelf midway through the second period.

Nashville's best chance to equalize came with 14:40 remaining in the third period, but Mike Fisher's breakaway was thwarted by Roberto Luongo.  A 20-save shutout isn't the most difficult night's work Luongo has faced and it most likely will get more difficult for him as the series goes on, but it was an efficient start to the series for Vancouver.

Luongo had to be sharp, however, because Pekka Rinne was on top of his game in the other net, stopping 29 of 30 shots, including several high-quality chances.  It figures that, with two Vezina nominees in net, there will be some low-scoring games in this series.

Offensively, the Sedin Twins continue to be stymied, as neither registered a point despite combining for a dozen shots on goal in Game One. 

Interestingly, at least to me, is that the Predators didn't clamour for a defensive matchup against the Sedins, as both the top pair of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber as well as Kevin Klein and Jonathon Blum saw the Canucks' top line a similar amount at even strength.

Nashville's leading scorer during the regular season, Martin Erat, played 18:42 in his first game since getting leveled by the Ducks' Jarkko Ruutu in the first round and finished with no shots on goal.

Because of a final scorer that belies how lopsided this game was, both teams can come away optimistic for Game Two.  On Vancouver's side, they dominated the game and won despite getting nothing offensively from their top three scorers (Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler). 

From Nashville's perspective, they were thoroughly outplayed and still had an opportunity to tie the game with the goaltender out in the final minute.  The Predators surely can't show up as flat as they were in Game One, so if Pekka Rinne is still sharp in goal, he will give Nashville a fighting chance in this series.

Scott Cullen can be reached at and followed on Twitter at For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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