“It’s only fitting that in Vancouver’s worst game of the season, the Canucks gave up their worst goal of the season. That goal, the one that will have Canucks fans cringing for decades to come, was a prime example of how much puck luck Vancouver had on this night in a 5-1 loss to Phoenix.”
Those are the words of the most over-dramatic hockey writer I have ever read, one Derek Jory on the Vancouver Canucks very own website who, A) rarely knows what he is talking about and B) always tries to do it as if he’s auditioning to be a Harlequin Novelist. That’s as far as I’ll go on critiquing others who do what I do (those of you who have read his stuff, I assume, know what I’m alluding to) but his words are a perfect lead in to what I want to say about last night’s loss in Phoenix.
It wasn’t nearly as bad as the final score made it look and how the HNIC announcers portrayed the game … sometimes I wonder how people who are supposed to be more knowledgeable than most of us actually get paid for what they do.
The Canucks got thumped by a team that was 20 points behind them in the standings, and when you have a team that has shown a nasty tendency to play down to it’s opposition over the years, it is easy to come to a knee-jerk conclusion that it’s just the same old Canucks.
Call me crazy or some spin-meister if you want, but I didn’t see it that way. Did they perhaps take their opposition a tad lightly? Ya probably, but this was no where near the no-shows that we have seen in the past and as recently as less than 2 weeks ago in LA and Anaheim.
I felt the Canucks not only came out of the gate strong, looking to discourage the Coyotes early, but when they kept falling further and further behind they still played hard and pressed for goals every time, even when they were down 4-0.
I didn’t see any folding of the tent or shrugging of the shoulders, or as Marc Crawford kept repeating over and over (as he always does with something in every game he works)), “They didn’t respect the Coyotes and couldn’t have been much worse.”
Obviously the Canucks were far from their best but to intimate that they didn’t even show up for the game is just plain wrong, and in my mind, irresponsible for someone who supposedly, after coaching in the league for years, should be able to dissect a hockey game.
After the first the shots were 15-11 Canucks with numerous shots either missing the net or being blocked, and the Canucks had won 71% of the face-offs. The score was 1-0 for the home team who rode the momentum of back-to-back power plays, the second of which was a complete phantom too-many-men call, and got a fortunate bounce off of Mattias Ohlund’s shin pad.
The Canucks came out of the intermission carrying the play once again only to have Roberto Luongo give up a softy to Shane Doan and then Shane O’Brien took a bone-head penalty after the whistle on an icing call against the ‘Yotes, which was caused by another strong Canucks’ shift in the offensive zone.
Ed Jovanovski scored 22 seconds later when he was all alone and it was 3-0 just like that. Again, I say that was a shot that Luongo should have stopped. Yes Jovo was all alone in a prime scoring area at the bottom of the face-off circle but I felt the way he slid across the crease following the pass gave him little or no chance to stop the puck.
The pass from Steven Reinprecht was a diagonal one back towards the point yet Lui slid from post to post on his knees as if it was a back-door chance to someone on the edge of the crease instead of staying on his feet, which is what he normally would do on such a play. Skating towards his right would have allowed him to be aggressive and challenge the shooter but instead he was little more than a sitting duck leaving a ton of room short-side and looked extremely awkward trying to get his blocker on the shot.
Down by 3 I still saw lots of effort from the guys and then the goal that O’Brien is wearing the goat-horns for (which I fully place on Henrik Sedin shoulders who looked as if he was practicing his pirouettes for the next Figure Skating competition coming to a rink near you) is the one that will supposedly “haunt us for decades” happened. I don’t know about you, but I laughed hard seeing that one go in and had nary a nightmare as I slept soundly last night.
My last Blog praised Lui and defended him against the criticism he has faced while his team was winning. When the Canucks win and don’t deserve it or were lucky I say it loud and clear. I may be naive in this, but I strongly feel that I call ‘em as I see ‘em with absolutely no regard for what I may have said previously and with very minimal bias towards the team that I love … I aint no homer and I’ve never owned a pair of rose coloured’s.
Phoenix was the better team on the evening and was deserving of the win, but this was far from a 5-1 hockey game. If Luongo had played as well as he has of late and if they had gotten a break or two around Ilja Bryzgalov, who had a very strong game, I think the outcome would have been far different, maybe even completely opposite.
It wasn’t, and now they are 16-4-1 versus being 17-3-1 over the last 7 weeks. This was a huge opportunity missed to be sure, as they had a chance to get two points ahead of the Hawks and creep within one of the division-leading Flames, but is was far from the debacle many are portraying it to be.
The Grades …
B … Mitchell, Salo, Burrows, Bernier, Raymond
C+ … Bieksa, Ohlund, Kesler, Demitra, Daniel, Wellwood, Pyatt
C … Luongo, Edler, O’Brien, Henrik, Sundin, Johnson, Hordichuk
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Written by Mark Gage