The Vancouver Canucks will face elimination on Thursday night when game five of their opening round series against the Calgary Flames takes place in the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. The Flames set themselves up for victory in the series following very strong play in their home rink.
Game three saw Calgary break a bit of a scoring slump as the Flames tallied four goals from four different players. In game four, Vancouver held Calgary off the score sheet in the final two periods however the Flames made three goals from the first period stand up, including one from youngster Sam Bennett.
The star of the series so far has been Calgary goaltender Jonas Hiller. The Swiss netminder entered the 2015 playoffs with some experience to draw on as he had previously appeared in 26 playoff games, all with the Anaheim Ducks. But entering the 2015 playoffs, Hiller had an even record of 12-12 in the post-season, a record that he has improved on thus far in the series against Calgary. That is largely thanks to a 93.8 save percentage and a corresponding goals against average of just 1.79.
But the story heading into game five is not so much about how well Calgary have played to put themselves into the position they are in. The Vancouver Canucks, as any hockey fan in the lower mainland of British Columbia painfully knows, have not enjoyed any kind of playoff success since winning game five of the 2011 Stanley Cup championship series. Game six of that series went Boston’s way, game seven did too, the Los Angeles Kings nearly swept the top-seeded Canucks in 2012, and the Sharks did sweep the higher-seeded Canucks in 2013.
Now the Vancouver are in danger of going out in the first round again as a potential changing of the guard looms in western Canada. Vancouver have been the best team in those parts for several years but Calgary – and Edmonton – both appear to have better futures now.
Down 3-1 in the series, Vancouver are not without hope. Plenty of teams have come back from 3-1 down to win in the Stanley Cup playoffs and Vancouver, playing from home in game five, could turn things around. A win from Vancouver on Thursday night in front of their home audience would put a lot of pressure on Calgary in game six. A potential game seven would come from Vancouver again and that would give the Canucks a breathe of hope.
However the Canucks will not have Alex Burrows in any game remaining in their Calgary series due to what Willie Desjardins, Vancouver’s coach, called “kind of a comfort thing.”
The explanation for not playing Burrows is kind of weird, especially heading into a must-win game. Usually in playoff hockey you, kind of, challenge players to play through injuries that are not career threatening.
In fact, you have to wonder if the “comfort thing” is little more than a problem with Desjardins grinding his teeth at Burrows too much. The forward, arguably a healthy scratch, may be receiving time off due to poor play so far in the series. He has just two assists, no goals, and a whopping 21 penalties in minutes.
Barring a change in play from the Canucks that actually play, Burrows could find himself quite comfortable soon. If the Canucks don’t win game five then look for them on some sunny beaches or a local golf course. With Calgary overachieving and possessing some young talent and with Edmonton holding the option to draft Connor McDavid, don’t be surprised if Vancouver’s Sedin-twin-era cup chances end quite soon.