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What I Watched April 17

I missed most of the early hockey because I was out playing (two years can make you forget how hard it is to play) some pick-up but we finished just in time to catch the third period of the Flyers-Penguins' series. The Flyers played a much better game but in the end they were victimised by one of the worst penalties in the rulebook:

The first was a cross-check by Mike Knuble while the Flyers were, believe it or not, on the power play. He wasn't trying to do anything cheap or dirty, but in trying to gain position, he knocked a Penguin to the ice. Less than a minute later, Claude Giroux made things a thousand times worse for the Flyers as he slashed the stick out of the hands of Chris Kunitz. Again, given the rules it was an impossible penalty not to call (we'll be touching on this on Saturday, trust me).

Undisciplined? No. Untimely? Definitely. And that's a tough pill to swallow.

Considering how fragile the poorly made composite sticks are I think it's hardly fair for a slashing penalty to be called when they break but not when they don't shatter like a balsa wood plane. It doesn't exactly take a baseball swing to break those pieces of crap break on wrist shots and when people are trying to make passes. Then again, it's the Flyers so you can see why anyone would be torn about how to feel. The real highlight was the stunning save that Fleury made on Jeff Carter when the score was 2-1:

To make amends, Fleury buckled down and shut the door from that point on, including an absolutely fantastic point blank save on Jeff Carter (2nd leading goal scorer in the league) from from right in front when Carter had the most of a full net to slam it in. Game changer.

In the late game the Canucks rode some great goaltending and no shortage of luck to take a 2-0 lead in the series. They've found some fighting spirit from an unlikely source:

I'm going to go ahead and paraphrase PPP from tonight's GDT (where he was consoling a shut-it-down-it's-over Blues fan, of all things) when he said something to the tune of, 'the series isn't in trouble until you lose one on home ice.'

Sweet sassy molassy that's good stuff.

I might have been a little hasty. Turns out, that the odds are not very good if the home team wins the first two games in a series. Game three is essentially a toss up - the team leading 2-0 is 28-33 (.459) - while the series is essentially a lock - 55-6 (.902) - for the team leading. Having said that, the Canucks are no strangers to blowing series leads. The Blues again failed to pile on the pressure on Luongo and their powerplay again fizzled. Unfortunately, the west coast whiners (wah wah it's not HD!) are doing their best to make their good fortune (three crossbars!?) stand up through hard work:

It's amazing to watch this Canucks team play like this. We had a hard time watching them "play down" to weaker opponents as the season wore on and I'm sure that bore question marks in our minds as to how these guys would play in the playoffs. Well, those questions have been answered. Vancouver is hardly letting up on the Blues at all. Where doubt would possibly enter our minds when being up by a goal or 2 after 2 periods in the regular season, that simply is not the case now. It's the playoffs, baby, and this Canucks team means business!

They've also managed to align some dirty play with that hard work. Bieksa, who reminds me of the missing link, was deservedly jumped by BJ Crombeen after Bieksa swiped the legs out from under the Blue. Hopefully the Blues can make him apy for this antics tomorrow night.

Keep up with everything playoffs-related at SBN's playoffs hub:

NHL Playoffs Blog Coverage, Schedule and Scores - SB Nation