Posts Tagged ‘Vancouver’
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.
After what must have felt like a week from hell – four straight losses, Roberto Luongo yanked in consecutive games, Brendan Morrison injured (and out for the season) and outscored 14-7 in those same four games – the Canucks came out looking like men on a mission in their game against Northwest Division rivals the Calgary Flames Sunday night. It was in stark contrast to their disinterested play of late.
It’s become a cliche to call every single Canucks game a “must-win”, however there are few other phrases that do justice to the magnitude of Sunday’s tilt: the Canucks had nonchalantly dropped into ninth spot in the Western Conference with just four games remaining, all against Northwest Division teams. With five games remaining, I’d speculated they’d need to win three, but more probably four, of their final five games; they promptly lost the first one 4-0 to the Minnesota Wild. Now, with four left, they were up against a team which had out worked, out shot, out muscled and out scored them just five days prior (a 3-2 loss in which the Canucks blew a first period 2-0 lead).
The Vancouver Canucks are certainly playing consistent hockey: at a time when they need wins more than they ever have all season, they’ve managed to string together a four game losing streak while playing with the intensity of a beer league club.
The Canucks’ indifferent play has, of late, even extended to the once ultra-competitive Roberto Luongo – once again, in a critical game against Northwest Division rivals the Minnesota Wild, Luongo made it to just past the half way mark of the game before being replaced by Curtis Sanford. It was the second straight game Luongo’s been yanked. Roberto Luongo gave up four goals on just 21 shots – that’s an 0.809 save percentage – better than the 0.783 Luongo recorded against Colorado Wednesday, but nowhere near his season save percentage of 0.920 – fifth best in the league. If Luongo is off his game, the Canucks flat out don’t have a chance – they’re a defense based team built around Luongo; they’ll never be a run-and-gun offensive power house. Lately Roberto Luongo’s play is reminiscent of the Dan Cloutier era, and just when you thought Vancouver finally had a goaltender they could rely on game in, game out.
The Canucks’ game against the Wild Friday isn’t worth spending too many words on – the Canucks failed in every aspect of their game. Their power play was an impotent 0-5 (Minnesota: 2-4). They were out shot 30-28. They were out scored 4-0. They fell out of a playoff spot and into ninth place in the Western Conference with 86 points, the same number of points Edmonton now has. They looked like a team looking forward to hitting the links, not the playoffs.
Next game: Sunday, March 30th, 7pm PST against the Calgary Flames. Needless to say, it’s a must win for Vancouver.
The Vancouver Canucks are playing like a team which neither wants, nor deserves, to be in the playoffs.
Over the past two games, in back-to-back nights against the Calgary Flames (a four-pointer that could have seen the Canucks in a tie with Calgary for second) and the Colorado Avalanche (a game in which the winner moves to the seventh spot in the Northwest Division), Vancouver went ahead early, only to blow the lead and ultimately lose the game.
Against Calgary, the Canucks scored two goals within 12 seconds before the half-way mark of the first period (Naslund with just his 24th of the season (and first in 15 games!) on the power play and Daniel Sedin with his 28th on an impossible-angle bank in from behind the goal line). Vancouver out shot Calgary by a whopping 21-7 margin. That should have left Calgary feeling a bit demoralized and ripe for the finishing blow. Instead, the Canucks took the rest of the night off and the Flames came out in the second and third periods looking like a team that not only wants a shot at the playoffs but is willing to fight, hard, to get there.
I read with great interest today the BC government’s soon-to-be-implemented ban on smoking in all indoor places and some outdoor places. Particularly noteworthy is the ban on smoking rooms in pubs, which aims to protect the workers from the dangers of second-hand smoke.
Putting aside the fact these pub owners spent upwards of $50K each to build these specially ventilated smoke rooms in order to comply with the government’s edict of a few years ago, it got me thinking: they’re on the right track here – why are we allowing people to put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of earning a living??? Read the rest of this entry »