Friday, May 27, 2011

Lapses in Emotional Control Determined the San Jose-Vancouver Series

I heard more than one media person saying how they were somewhat disappointed with the SJ-Vancouver series. Game 5 finally lived up to the kind of tempo, speed, and play that was expected. I would have to agree. And, I think the main reason for the lack of tempo was the number of penalties that were taken. Both teams had players taking amazingly large risks which cost them.

I do not blame one player for a loss, but Ben Eager played a starring role when he went ballistic in Game 2 after Marleau fought Bieksa. Several Vancouver power plays later because of Eager's aggressive penalties and San Jose had not only lost moment, but were losing. They ended up losing their grip on the game in the third, badly. Eager was clearly unable to corral his emotions which ended up with him running several Canucks players.

So, you would assume that the Canucks got it together, they are emotionally in control, and would keep their cool and make good decisions. The bad penalties and meltdowns of playoff seasons past was finally happening to their opponent. Well, the poor decisions resurfaced for the Canucks in the first period of Game 3. The Canucks continually took penalties allowing the Sharks to control the game especially in the first period where the Sharks converted 2 of 3 power plays and at one point outshot Vancouver 15-1. Later in the game, however, the Sharks' Jamie McGinn took a 5 minute boarding penalty to give the Canucks a golden opportunity to get back in the game. Vancouver came up one goal of tying the game, but the Sharks really were holding on at the end.

This series was surprisingly affected by undisciplined play. In Game 4, Vancouver had 3 consecutive 5-on-3 power plays! When does that happen? And, they converted on all 3 taking a 0-0 game totally under control despite the Sharks controlling the play prior to that point in the second period.

The lack of flow and tempo in the series can be directly blamed on the number of penalties the teams were taking. And special teams made the difference in the outcome of the series. While San Jose relied on their potent power play through the first 3 games, the Canucks shut them down in Game 4 while scoring on their power play chances. Bad penalties made all the difference in this series. It was a physical series, but too many times guys crossed the line and were out of control .They were more focused on crushing their opponent than playing solid hockey. This is surprising in the Conference Finals, but it has happened in past years, too. Why did Zinedine Zidane of France headbutt an Italian player in the World Cup Final and put his team at a great disadvantage? Because he wasn't thinking rationally. And, the same could be said for the Sharks and Canucks throughout the series. They were acting off of emotion not rationale thinking. When this happens you will have bad decisions and penalties.

Vancouver definitely played with fire in this series by taking so many penalties. They were fortunate that the Sharks were willing to return the favor. If the Canucks continue to take penalties will it be their downfall? I believe this is one way that they are vulnerable, especially if they face the Lightning's effective power play. The Canucks need to manage their emotions better and stay focused in the Finals. If they don't it may be 0 for 3 in the Finals for the Canucks franchise. I do have faith that they will reel in their emotions and begin to play more disciplined in the Finals because they won't have the intense rivalry with either Boston or Tampa Bay that they have with San Jose. Ultimately, it comes down to each guy on the bench checking himself and making sure he is composed. Composure likely will be the determining factor in the outcome of the Stanley Cup Finals.

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