Why The Vancouver Canucks Lost…
In their NHL Western Conference semi-final match up with the Chicago Blackhawks, three compelling items stand out in the Vancouver Canucks four games to two loss:
- The Canucks had the league’s leading point scorer in Henrik Sedin, their highest scorer in Alexandre Burrows, the Olympic gold-medal winning goalie in Roberto Luongo, the Olympics’ highest scorer in Pavol Demitra, the best player from the US Olympic team in Ryan Kesler and one of the highest plus/minus players throughout the regular season in Christian Ehrhoff.
None of this matters.
The playoffs feature a completely different brand of hockey than the regular season, and even the Olympics.
How many fancy between-the-legs passes from one Sedin to the other did you see in the playoffs? How many pretty, four-player plays did you see? How many precision cycles? These are all nice things, and certainly entertaining during the regular season, but they do not win playoff hockey.
Likewise, Roberto Luongo is a fine goalie for ordinary games. But when the pressure is really on, Luongo loses focus. The Olympics were taken as validation that Luongo can play, and win, the big games. But really, it wasn’t Luongo that won the gold medal for Canada so much as it was the rest of the players that won it. Luongo played just good enough (but not exceptionally) to allow the players to win. Chicago’s Antti Niemi was, on the other hand, good enough (but not exceptional) to allow his players to win. Chicago’s players were, quite clearly, superior to the Canucks.
Alexandre Burrows, Pavol Demitra and Ryan Kesler were invisible, not only in this round against Chicago, but during the Canucks’ entire playoff run. Burrows, with 35 goals during the regular season, managed just three goals, two of which were empty-netters. Kesler scored just once in 12 games, Demitra scored twice, and there were ten players in the playoffs who put up more points than regular season leader Henrik Sedin. Christian Ehrhoff was a mere plus one.
- For the three games in Chicago, two of which the Canucks won, the Blackhawks had last line change (as the home team always does). When Vancouver had last change for their three home games, they lost. Perhaps Canucks’ coach Alain Vigneault ought to have matched up lines according to Blackhawks’ coach Joel Quenville’s designs.
- The Blackhawks were, quite obviously, the better, hungrier team. They expected to win, and already had their bags packed for the next round against San Jose.
The Canucks, on the other hand, played like they did not quite realize that the entire year, and perhaps their individual careers, were at stake. They deserved to lose tonight. And this series.