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THN.com Playoff Blog: Costly equipment malfunction puts Canucks on brink

Dustin Byfuglien is congratulated by teammates Niklas Hjalmarsson, Kris Versteeg and Brian Campbell after scoring during Game 5. The Hawks head home leading the series 3-2. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Dustin Byfuglien is congratulated by teammates Niklas Hjalmarsson, Kris Versteeg and Brian Campbell after scoring during Game 5. The Hawks head home leading the series 3-2. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Not sure why so many players are convinced the composite stick is the way to go in crucial situations.

We've all seen the one-piece graphite shafts snap at inopportune times in offensive situations. Every game it happens.

The winning goal for Chicago Saturday was scored because Willie Mitchell's stick broke in a defensive situation. With less than five minutes remaining and the scored tied 2-2, Mitchell took a slash at Dustin Byfuglien's stick during a Chicago power play. Mitchell's stick disintegrated. (He probably should have been given a slashing minor, but that's another story.)

Seconds later, Chicago's Patrick Kane controlled the puck skating in towards a stick-less Mitchell. The defender could do nothing but stand there and watch as Kane fed Dave Bolland, who connected for the winner.

Did Mitchell - or any other defender killing a penalty - really need a composite stick, known for its impressive whip and greater shot velocity? Why not a good, old, reliable wooden stick that can withstand contact without shattering?
 
SHUTDOWN STAR
The Canucks have the best penalty-killing team in the playoffs because they have the league's top penalty killer.

Goalie Roberto Luongo is exceptional at making the save through traffic and what separates him from a lot of other goalies is that he rarely kicks out a rebound.

The Canucks have such an aggressive penalty kill, forcing the Blackhawks to the outside and clogging the middle, that most shots are easily snared and held. Nothing increases a team's penalty-killing percentage more than a dominant goalie who rarely allows second chances.
 
ROCK 'EM SOCK 'EM
The Blackhawks were relentless taking the body on the older Canucks in the first period of Game 5 Saturday and as a result controlled the pace of play. In the second period, the Canucks returned the favor, most notably Rick Rypien and the fourth line. It made for the most physical game of the series, but how long can that last?

The Hawks are younger, quicker and more used to that sort of game. The Canucks have a handful of players who like that style, but can't afford to wear down the likes of Willie Mitchell and Kevin Bieksa on the blueline.

The longer the series goes, the bigger the Chicago advantage from a physical standpoint. The rough, physical play is taking a toll on the slight frame of Chicago's Patrick Kane. He's getting punished and the shame of it is seeing him complain to the officials in hopes of getting a favorable penalty call. That's really sad.

ALEX THE GRATE
What’s with Alex Burrows going after Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin with verbal trash talk during stoppages in play? The Vancouver winger skates to Habby's end of the ice during TV timeouts and feeds him a barrage of insults. Did it in both Game 4 and 5.

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That's bush league and unacceptable. What's really surprising is Burrows' coach and teammates haven't said anything to get him to grow up and that the refs haven't given Burrows a minor penalty (or 10-minute misconduct) for unsportsmanlike behavior.
 
LITTLE CHEATS
Teams are taking too many liberties on the rule that prevents them from making player changes when they ice the puck - and it's time the league amended the rule to issue more delay of game penalties.

Virtually every team feigns ignorance trying to figure out which players were on the ice when the puck was iced. A 20 or 25 second delay is all it takes to get some wind back in the lungs.

Case in point: Vancouver iced the puck shortly after killing a Kevin Bieksa penalty in Game 4. All of a sudden Bieksa is sitting on the bench and Mats Sundin is out for the faceoff. While the on-ice officials set about establishing the proper group of Canucks who should be on the ice - Sundin looking around in disbelief, then sauntering to the bench while Bieksa gets up and hops over the boards - the winded Vancouver players regained their breath. Mission accomplished by Sundin and the Canucks.

In the future, I'd like to see an automatic penalty for an offending team that doesn't have the same group of players at the faceoff circle within 10 seconds. They know who were on the ice.

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.

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can find his blog each weekend.

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