Without Bertuzzi, Canucks will stumble against spunky Flames
Posted: Wednesday April 7, 2004 6:53PM; Updated: Wednesday April 7, 2004 6:53PM
No. 3Vancouver vs. No. 6Calgary
Life without Todd Bertuzzi goes on for the Canucks, and they're running into a buzzsaw in the Flames. Calgary expends more energy per shift than any team, and it shows in the big hits they level on both ends of the ice.
Matt Cooke has shown first-line skills replacing the suspended Bertuzzi between Brendan Morrison and Markus Naslund on the top line, while the sound, if unspectacular, Sedin brothers -- Daniel and Henrik -- back up effectively. The Flames have one spectacular sniper in Jarome Iginla, whose 41 goals tied for the league lead, but they will be hard pressed to get scoring from elsewhere.
Smash! Boom! Pow! The Flames blueliners, led by 6-foot-3, 230-pound Robyn Regehr, hit as hard and as consistently as any group in the West. Toni Lydman and the underrated Jordan Leopold move the puck well, but Calgary's back-liners don't have the talent to match a Canucks corps highlighted by Sami Salo and Mattias Ohlund. Bruising Ed Jovanovski, 27, is Vancouver's best hitter and has cut down on the boneheaded plays that characterized his early NHL seasons
Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff should win the Vezina Trophy. In posting the NHL's lowest goals-against average (1.69) in 64 years, he has been unwaveringly spectacular since the Flames traded a draft pick to San Jose for him in November. Dan Cloutier has rounded into a reliable regular-season goalie for Vancouver, but has been spotty in the playoffs and can unravel.
Neither team has an elite power play and things don't get any better after the first units retreat to their benches. But the Canucks disciplined penalty-killing is exceptional. The Flames need to shoot often if they're going to generate anything with the man-advantage.
If there is any series where the coaches might climb over the glass and go after one another, this is it. Both Marc Crawford (Canucks) and Darryl Sutter (Flames) are passionate behind the bench, and both have white-hot tempers. Sutter, who is also Calgary's GM, is the man (along with Kiprusoff) most responsible for the Flames' turnaround this year. Crawford though, won a Cup in Colorado and is better suited to the playoffs than Sutter.
The rejuvenated Flames are back in the playoffs after seven years -- and in a season in which archrival Edmonton missed out, to boot! The Canucks will be dogged by "How much do you miss Bertuzzi?" questions as soon as they stumble.
Vancouver has the better roster on paper. But this series will come down to goaltending and who plays the edgiest in tight spots. The Flames are better on both counts. Calgary wins in six games
Sports Illustrated senior writer Kostya Kennedy takes sides each week at SI.com.