Plain & Simple … Only 1 team showed up
To start, let's make one thing perfectly clear: even if all the Canucks were at their best in St Louis last night they might not have won this game.
The Blues, who have scrapped and clawed their way into the playoff hunt (now 1 point out in a tie for 9th) by producing a sterling record of 14-6-3 with an injury depleted line up in their last 23 games, were that good, and fully deserving of the precious two points they gained in the 4-2 win.
T.J. Oshie, who missed the morning skate because of the Flu was both a physical and offensive force (goal and an assist) the entire game and is going to be one hell of a player. David Backes, who Mike Gillis gave an offer-sheet to in the summer that was immediately matched, came away with just one goal in the game but could have had 3 or 4 more. If Backes could have had that many then Brad Boyes could have had double that, as he was all over the ice on every shift and was robbed by Roberto Luongo over and over again.
The Blues wanted this one far more than the Canucks did and the final score flattered the visitors. When you're playing a desperate team if you fail to match the intensity you will get bowled over in this league, and Thursday's effort from at least half of the Canucks' roster was unacceptable.
“It’s really hard if you don’t have everyone on board every game,” Ryan Kesler said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, you need a full 20-man roster from the goalie out. We didn’t have that tonight. We looked tired. It looked like we had no energy out there after the first period. We had the start we wanted, but after the first period we looked tired. We took too many penalties and that was obvious. What can you say? They outworked us and I don't think everybody showed up tonight. We all know that.”
When Roberto Luongo was asked about guys not showing up he was just a tad more reserved in the number of words spoken, but none- the-less, his answer said it all …
“I don't have to answer that, I think. You know the answer to that.”
They are pretty much free and clear as far as making the playoffs go, but this no-show was very maddening to watch as a win would have not only tied Chicago for 4th in the West, but would have gotten them within 1 point, with a game in hand, on the division leading Flames who lost 5-0 in Columbus. The Canucks could have been in first place in the North West after tonight's game in Colorado, instead they'll be just trying to regain confidence in themselves … and don't look now, but the Blue Jackets are only 2 points behind for 5th.
They'll be playing the 2nd night in a row with some tough travel in between (flight delayed due to a foot of snow in Denver) and having to “flip the switch” to avoid going 1-3 on this 6-game trip, and 1-5-1 in their last 7 road games … the Jekyl & Hyde season for your Vancouver Canucks continues: Forrest Gump would be proud as you just never know what you're going to get with this team.
Against Dallas two nights earlier, an equally as desperate team as the Blues, the Canucks were strong in all areas of the ice and throughout the entire roster, matching the home-side stride for stride and battle for battle, while maintaining their composure by staying out of the box. And then they come out in St Louis and had way to many passengers to get anything done and were extremely undisciplined … not just in taking too many penalties, but in all three zones of the ice with, and without the puck.
No team can win when only half the guys even put their skates on and the performance last night was 100% inexcusuable, especially considering the opportunities they had to put immense pressure on the teams in front of them in the standings.
Luongo was phenominal, making at least 7 glorious saves on the Blues and his handling of the puck behind the net was the best it has been all year.
Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows weren't at their peak, but were, as always, the hardest working players … the question has been asked a gazillion times, but can you imagine where this team would be without these two guys?
Mattias Ohlund, who has been playing his best hockey of the last 2 years recently as his decade as a Canuck appears to winding down, was by far the best of the Blueliners.
Unfortunately, that's it. There were others who came to play and tried, but overall, didn't perform nearly up to their capabilities.
Then there's the rest of them, with the ring-leaders being the team's highest paid skaters in Mats Sundin and Pavol Demitra, who were beyond bad. Penalties, stupid decisions and just a lack of awareness and effort were their calling cards on this night and both were called out publically by the coach afterwards.
“They were not good enough obviously and we need them to be on top of their games,” he said. “You prefer them being a non-factor than ending up in the box and not doing anything on the power play. It wasn't a very good game for them.”
In other words, the Canucks would have had a better chance to win if they had been invisible, or better yet, not even playing.
Heading into the game I'm sure Alain Vigneault was hoping for an easy night for Bobby Lu so he could play his 2nd night in a row, and 4th game in 6 days, after giving him a very rare day off on Wednesday. Now what does he do?
He knows they need to win tonight and the best decision, with all due respect to Jason LaBarbera, is to put his best player between the pipes so his team doesn't fall into another one of those funks … if he does, then Lui will have played 5 times in 8 days by the time they play in Chicago on Sunday
Will the real Canucks show up tonight in Colorado or did we just witness them?
The Grades …
A … Luongo
B … Ohlund, Kesler, Burrows
C+ … Salo, Vaananen, Pyatt
C … Mitchell, Henrik, Daniel, Wellwood, Bernier, Johnson
C- … Bieksa, Edler, Sundin, Demitra, Hansen, Hordichuk
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Written by Mark Gage