That was easy.
The Vancouver Canucks couldn’t have asked for a more straightforward, check-in and check-out playoff series than its four-game sweep of the St. Louis Blues in Round 1.
Granted, the series was much closer than “sweep” suggests – all four games were effectively one-goal contests; Game 2 might’ve ended 3-0, but it was 1-0 midway through the third period and the Canucks added an empty-netter. Besides that, it was 2-1, 3-2 and 3-2, with Game 4, of course, featuring nearly 20 minutes of overtime before Alexandre Burrows scored one more Luc Bourdon dedication goal. But it goes into the books as a one-sided 4-0 series and the Canucks go into the second round.
Simply put, there’s plenty of praise to go around after the first four-game sweep in franchise history. And there’s no better place to begin than goalie Roberto Luongo, who was phenomenal from start to finish and the main reason the Blues didn’t win a game.
The Sedin twins, with Burrows, provided constant pressure and plenty of scoring opportunities and performed exactly the way coach Alain Vigneault hoped they would.
Ryan Kesler continues to be a force all over the ice. Ryan Johnson will drop in front of a freight train if he thinks he can deflect it wide of the net. Kyle Wellwood, it turns out, not only can score, but backcheck, bodycheck and play defense, too.
The defense corps, led by 11-year Canucks veteran Mattias Ohlund and fellow Vancouver vet Sami Salo (six seasons), was solid. With Willie Mitchell, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler and Shane O’Brien also back there, Vancouver’s blueline has a nice mix of finesse, familiarity and brute force.
The fourth line, with bangers Rick Rypien and Darcy Hordichuk, hits harder than a hungry tyee. (Of course, they score about as many goals as a salmon, too. But that’s OK.)
Secondary scoring? You want secondary scoring? Well, actually, the Canucks could use a little more of that, but it’s not as if Pavol Demitra (two assists), Steve Bernier (one goal) and Mason Raymond (eight shots) were invisible.
And then there’s Mats. Sundin, that is. Ably replaced by Jannik Hansen while sitting out Games 3 and 4, Sundin will have a week to 10 days to rehab a “lower-body injury” that is most likely a groin problem.
Good news that he gets the time off, but bad news that an old, nagging injury has returned (if it ever went away). Considering Sundin wasn’t particularly fleet after coming back in January in the first place, the Canucks might be considering someone else for the second line.
Kyle Wellwood, playoff hero?
Show off your hockey knowledge by entering The Hockey News’ FREE Playoff Challenge!
THN.com's Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.
Sam McCaig is The Hockey News' senior copy editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears every weekend and his column, From The Point, appears regularly.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.