Flames making Canucks feel the pinch


Jonas Hiller #1 of the Calgary Flames stops the shot of Alex Burrows #14 of the Vancouver Canucks.

Jonas Hiller #1 of the Calgary Flames stops the shot of Alex Burrows #14 of the Vancouver Canucks.

Photograph by: Derek Leung, Getty Images

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CALGARY -- The team with the best forecheck wins.

In simple terms, that is how this series has gone -- at least the last two games.

The Vancouver Canucks won that battle in Game 2, but the Calgary Flames returned the favour in Game 3 on Sunday night.

The Canucks, now trailing the best-of-seven series 2-1, know they must handle Calgary’s forecheck much better in Game 4 on Tuesday night.

The speedy Flames were on top of Vancouver’s defence most of the night on Sunday and forced a number of turnovers.

“It was more so the way we were moving pucks out of our zone, we weren’t clean,” Vancouver defenceman Kevin Bieksa said Monday. “A lot of the pucks were on the walls and we couldn’t get them in the middle. We have been a good team at doing that all year, moving pucks out clean and using your partner and hitting the centre with speed, hitting the wingers with speed.

“They are pinching a lot on us right now and we’re not clean, so when we do get the puck out it’s being jammed right down our throat. It is a vicious cycle and we need to get on the other side of it.”

The Canucks figure one of the main reasons the Calgary forecheck was so effective Sunday night was because theirs was not.

In their 4-1 win in Game 2, the Canucks had the pressure on the Flames most of the night. Those roles were pretty much reversed on Sunday night.

“It starts with our forecheck, I think,” said winger Daniel Sedin. “If we get up on our forecheck and really pressure them, they are not going to have three guys coming at us with speed like they did yesterday. That was the biggest problem.”

The Flames are clearly targeting the Canuck defencemen and trying to put them in vulnerable positions when they dump the puck in the Vancouver zone.

“With their D corps that are so good at skating and moving the puck, you have to put them in positions where they don’t have an opportunity to be facing the play,” said Calgary forward Joe Colborne. “We did a very good job of that and I thought lines 1 through 4 did a great job of getting in there and just bumping some of their d-men.”

The Canucks don’t have to be told how important Tuesday night’s game is. Lose it and they are down 3-1 and hanging by their fingernails. But if they win it, they head home all square with home-ice advantage regained.

“We talked about this before the series,” Bieksa said. “This is going to be a series of ups and downs. This team for the most part has gone through it before, and I think we are able to handle these situations and we know we have to respond with a good effort.

“We know how momentum can switch really quickly and we can go back to Vancouver for the next game. This is a big one. If we get this one, we go back with momentum and our last game at home we played really well. It would be huge for the series.”

To make that happen, the Canucks must find a way to ignite a slumping power play that has scored just one goal in 10 attempts in the series.

And they’ll need more production from Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who despite good possession numbers only have one point apiece.

Vancouver also needs an offensive push from their leading goal-scorer, Radim Vrbata, who has just one goal (an empty-netter) in his last nine games.

Vrbata said the Flames deserve some credit for containing the Canucks’ top guns. But he conceded that the Canucks are having difficulty not only finishing their scoring chances, but creating them.

“They have been on us and are making it difficult for us to do anything,” Vrbata said of the Flames. “The other thing is if there is a play that could develop into a scoring chance or some offence, we don’t make that final play, that final pass, the chip off the wall that could create a 2-on-1 or 3-on-2. So we have to find a way to start making those plays and I think that will turn into more offence.”

bziemer@vancouversun.com; twitter.com/bradziemer

Jonas Hiller #1 of the Calgary Flames stops the shot of Alex Burrows #14 of the Vancouver Canucks.

Jonas Hiller #1 of the Calgary Flames stops the shot of Alex Burrows #14 of the Vancouver Canucks.

Photograph by: Derek Leung, Getty Images

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