Something about playing the Ducks just seems to bring out the worst in the Canucks.
After a 6-5 shootout win for the Ducks Thursday, you know neither coach was happy with his team, but both gave their guys a pass, at least publicly.
For Randy Carlyle, well, his team got a huge two points to stay in 7th place in the West by overcoming a two-goal deficit late in the second and the win was their 8th in their last 9 games … a stretch that appears to have salvaged their season and he was just happy that his team never gave up and got the job done.
As for Alain Vigneault, he talked about taking the 2nd hottest team in the league to a shootout and the fact the point earned officially clinched a playoff spot. Part of his taking it easy on the troops in the post-game comments certainly must have had something to do with playing the first game back at home after a long road trip (why the league schedules these games within 48 hours is waaaay beyond me!), and the simple fact that he's smart enough to know that you just can't be your best every night and if any team deserves a little slack it's his team right now.
No, the coaches wouldn't have been very happy with how their teams played, but those in attendance at GM Place certainly got there money's worth in an entertaining tilt with goals, hits, fights and odd-man rushes coming out the ying yang. Unfortunately, they have yet to see the home-side win a double-circus game this season on home ice as the Canucks are now 0-4 in Gary Bettman's contrived contraption, and the loss ended the Franchise-best 11-game home winning streak.
In the 4 games this season between the two teams there have been 36 goals scored (not counting shootouts) and both teams can claim winning records with the Ducks going 2-1-1 and the Canucks 2-0-2, but there is little doubt that the Canucks just seem unable to play “their game” versus Anaheim.
Coming off of two of their finest defensive performances of the season in road wins in Chicago and Minnesota, the Canucks looked like they had been time-warped back to the 80's in this game thinking they could run-and-gun 'em. Ya, they are a top 10 offensive team this year, but it is their team-defense that is their bread & butter and when they stray from that they are living on the edge.
I thought the gap between the forwards and defense was as bad as it has been all year and it was abundantly evident both when they had the puck, and when they didn't.
The forwards were way too far up ice on the breakouts which led to turnovers galore and quick counter-attacks by the Ducks which forced the D to back in too much.
Defensively, in their own zone they were a mess. The only forward I saw who seemed to be there for his Blueliners on a consistent basis was Kyle Wellwood, who has completely blown me away with his awareness and decision-making in his own end this year. Offensively he's been snake-bit a bit, but showed some great finish potting his career-best 17th last night at the end of a phenomenal 3rd line shift, which was nice to see for the guy who just seems to take everything, shrug it off, and keep on doing his thing, his way.
The Triplets continued their offensive dominance with another 8 points combined giving the Sedin, Sedin and Burrows trio 60 points in the last 16 games. The number one unit combined for 14 of the team's 30 shots on goal as Daniel got his 30th and 31st and Henrik hit the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career. As for Burr, he now has 101 career points after going 1 & 1 in this game … 27 goals and 22 assists adds up to 49 of those 101 in his magical season.
Everyone else? Meh.
Roberto Luongo started well, and made a handful of very nice saves throughout, but was also shaky on a couple and gave up too many juicy rebounds.
The bigger names on the back-end were far from there best, and other than Shane O'Brien who continues to surprise with very consistent play, there were too many mistakes. Again though, I'll throw a lot of that back at the forwards whose lack of “closing the gaps” forced the Dmen to make long passes coming out of their zone while keeping them on their heels when the Ducks had the puck.
I thought Pavol Demitra's lack of, whatever, were the key parts of the breakdowns that directly led to two of the Ducks goals in the 2nd that got them back in the game and Mats Sundin was, just useless period. I don't care how hard he works of the ice it is clear that he can no longer skate at the NHL level and Ryan Kesler can only carry him and Demitra so many games.
Now that I've roasted the Boys for some very sloppy sloppiness, it's time to say that they are tied for 1st with the Flames and this loss leaves them with a 20-6-1 record in the last two months. Perfection can't be expected every night, and I truly believe there is a lot of character in that room and they will come back with a much improved performance tomorrow night in Edmonton.
Besides, losing last night just sets the table even more for the game against Calgary on Tuesday.
The Grades …
A … Daniel
B … O'Brien, Henrik, Burrows, Wellwood, Rypien
C+ … Luongo, Kesler, Pyatt, Hordichuk
C … Mitchell, Salo, Edler, Ohlund, Bieksa, Bernier, Johnson
C- … Sundin, Demitra
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Written by Mark Gage