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KELLEY: Canucks need to be physical with Wild

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Jim Kelley

 
   
 

No. 4 Vancouver vs. No. 6 Minnesota

The skinny: The and the are both going with the happy-to-be-here routine largely because they really are happy to be in the second round when both were facing 3-1 deficits in the previous round. The reality: They both earned their shot, Vancouver knocking off St. Louis and the surprising the haughty and now vanquished Colorado each in seven games. They'll say all the right things, but both know that the element of surprise is now gone and this will be a series about hard work and good execution. What the have to do to win: Play physical. It took awhile to get untracked against the , but once the combined their now legendary physical game with some offense, they won handily. Using that physicality on the blueline doesn't attract the same amount of attention as when or knocks someone senseless up front, but getting a hitting game from and some solid defensive zone play from turned the series as much as anything. The aren't a big team so they don't take a pounding well. They are, however an opportunistic team, so the can't afford the mental miscues that almost did them in against St. Louis. What the have to do to win: Clog the passing lanes, bring the defense up into the offense and get more shots from the blueline. The can hold their own up front, but Colorado kept getting surprised when coach Jacques Lemaire brought his defenseman up into the play in the offensive zone. The can overcome that with chip-out plays, knocking the puck out past the pinching defenseman and using speed to bring the play the other way with the odd-man rush. It's unclear just how injured goalie is and whether or not he'll have a role in this series, but that's not a problem with as the No.1A man. He was brilliant when he stepped in for Roloson. A little something you should know: The will be counting heavily on getting inside Vancouver netminder 's head. He had the worst numbers of any goalie advancing to the second round, but Cloutier has a knack of making the big saves when called upon. Now that he's put the talk of last spring's meltdown against Detroit (his team led two games to none but Cloutier fell apart down the stretch) he appears to be mentally tougher. The will want to test that theory. Something else: These are the only two coaches in the West — Marc Crawford (Vancouver) and Jacques Lemaire (Minnesota) who have Stanley Cup rings. They know what they are doing. Outlook: Two teams on the rise, but there's a difference. Vancouver has more depth, more size, more experience, equal to better goaltending and a coach who won't be outsmarted by Lemaire. That last part wasn't the case in the Colorado series. Prediction: Vancouver needs only to take the seriously, play its physical game and get the steady goaltending it has now come to expect from Cloutier to win in six games. Jim Kelley can be reached at his e-mail address: jkelley@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Avalanche, Canucks, Wild, Ed Jovanovski, Mattias Ohlund, Dan Cloutier, Brad May, Manny Fernandez, Dwayne Roloson

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