On Sunday night at the Staples Center, the Canucks knew that in all likelihood, only a win could save their season. They came out with a good effort, but couldn’t solve L.A. netminder Jonathan Quick, dropping a 1-0 decision to the Kings.
There’s not much to talk about tonight. There was one goal, scored six minutes into the third by Dustin Brown (his fourth of the series). The goal came after he was eliminated on the wall, and Alex Edler failed to recognize he was there. Manny Malhotra didn’t get the puck out along the opposite wall, the puck came into the slot, and the rebound that came from the shot went straight to Brown, who fired it into the net.
Coach Alain Vigneault played his last card tonight by starting Cory Schneider, who played well in his first start of the playoffs. He wasn’t tested often but he made all the saves he was required to and gave his team a chance to win. Unfortunately, this may end up being Schneider’s last game in a Canuck uniform.
The game was reasonably physical with each team recording 31 hits. The biggest was a hit by Brown on Canuck captain Henrik Sedin early in the second period. At first, the hit looked dirty, but replays showed that Brown’s shoulder didn’t hit Henrik’s head. The puck was gone so it may have been interference. Henrik was severely rattled, struggled to get up, and went briefly to the dressing room. After the game, the captain said he felt the hit was clean, and that luckily he was just winded on the play. The game became a bit chippy for the balance of the second period, but nothing got too out of hand.
The Canucks dominated possession throughout the game and outshot the Kings 41-20, and were up 25-11 after two. They threw everything at the net, but failed to generate very many quality scoring chances, as many of the shots came from the outside. Quick was equal to the task, and held the impotent Canucks off the scoresheet. The Canucks avoided the slot, avoided the front of the net, and failed to get any traffic in front of Quick. That was really the story of the game – the Canucks just didn’t do what they had to do to score a goal.
- The Canucks played a good game tonight and it could have gone either way. They were the much better team at even strength for the second game in a row, but still failed to generate offense.
- This was a game that shone a light on how much the team is missing Daniel Sedin. Henrik played a great game, and after coming back from the Brown hit, he played extremely well. Unfortunately, his great efforts were for naught. There were a couple shifts so dominant, I have to think that if Daniel was around, the puck would have been in the net.
- While the shot totals were impressive, the Canucks really didn’t test Quick with any top-quality chances, and haven’t really done so thus far in the series. Their offense has completely evaporated.
- The third line has looked very average in every game they have played and there was no difference tonight. After looking good in the last 10 games of the season, Sammy Pahlsson has disappeared.
- Other players pulling a disappearing act: Chris Higgins, Mason Raymond, Max Lapierre, Manny Malhotra, Zack Kassian. Only the first line was good tonight, and Kesler and Booth were noticeable on occasion.
- I’d put fourth liner Dale Weise on the list, but he only played 1:54 in three first period shifts. I’ve liked Weise’s game all season and to have a player only on the ice for 2 minutes pretty much makes him useless.
- After being great this season, rookie Chris Tanev is struggling a bit on D. He looks a bit tentative and unsure of himself. He’s not making brutal errors, but he’s not looking as comfortable.
- The defense was pretty tidy tonight, not really giving up many good chances for the Kings. A much improved effort. That said, Edler is going from worse to more worse. He’s awful. He’s bad offensively and again gave the puck up a number of times tonight. He was also at least partially responsible for the goals against. To put the icing on the cake, he shot the puck out of the rink while trying to complete a cross-ice pass (of all circumstances) with only 1:37 left and the Canucks pressing. I’m dead serious – he needs to sit down.
- The Canucks’ power play was 0 for 4 tonight, putting it 0-14 for the series. If they had been able to score three times on the 14 power plays, those three goals may have been enough to change the course of the three games played. The power play is killing this team and is killing it quickly. Again – not an excuse – but you’d have to think that Daniel Sedin would make a difference in this area.
- Just further on that topic, since the PP went in the tank in mid-December, it’s 24 for 176, or 13.6%. Listening to Team 1040 tonight, there are some unbelievable numbers coming out of this – for instance, Henrik has one PP goal in 43 games; Kesler has two, and Edler has two. This is a shocking lack of offense from three of the team’s top scorers.
- The officiating was, at best, uneven. The officials in the league are completely amateur hour. There were two horrible calls in the first (one each way), and in a call I’ve never seen before, Max Lapierre was assessed two minutes for yapping at a player on the other team. However, it’s hard to complain about the officiating when you don’t score a goal. In general, the fact that it changes from night to night, game to game, regular season to playoffs, etc. is a joke. It’s the inconsistency that is the problem.
TAKING STOCK OF WHERE WE’RE AT
- I believe only three or four teams across all professional sports have ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit. It would be foolish to expect this team to do the same. That said, the Blackhawks pushed the Canucks to the brink in the same situation just last year, so they know it can be done.
- It’s a cliché, but the Canucks obviously just need to worry about winning one game at a time. I feel like in some ways they are so close in these games, but just nothing is going their way. I’ve been confident that eventually this would change, but it now appears it won’t change in time to make a difference this year. The Canucks need to be positive – it’s the only way that anything good will happen.
- Frankly, it’s very concerning that the Canucks put such a good game on the ice as they did tonight and came away empty-handed. That said, they have improved with each game this series, and I do expect them to get the win in L.A. on Wednesday night.
- GM Mike Gillis made a number of changes to help the team win the tough, close, playoff-style games. Down the stretch, the Canucks put it all together, winning a lot of low-scoring, tight-checking affairs. In short – the Canucks have come up against the Kings and have met their match in this department. I believe the Kings have allowed one goal or less 29 times this year. The Canucks scored twice in each of the first two games, but didn’t get a win. When the Kings score four times, they are likely going to win, and they did. Tonight, the Canucks matched the Kings defensively, but the Kings got the lucky bounce. That’s the danger with constructing your team in this manner.
- Coming into the series, I expected a number of close games with the Canucks winning in seven. We’ve had the close games, but nothing has gone the Canucks’ way. I’m sitting here rather shocked we are down 3-0 – I did NOT see that coming.
- There are a lot of questions being raised about this team as a result of tonight’s loss, many of them centering around Vigneault and what his future may hold. There are moments where I wonder if the team has quit on him.
- The other questions are being asked primarily about the leadership group – loosely comprised of the Sedins, Kesler, Burrows, Bieksa, Hamhuis, and Luongo. Of this group, I’m most concerned with Kesler – he wasn’t brutal tonight, but I do question his ability to lead. He’s not producing and he’s not leading. That’s what he’s paid to do.
- Regardless of what it is, something will need changing if this team fails to stage a miraculous comeback in this series. In many ways, the team has seemed a bit off all year long. Coming into the playoffs, most expected they would take their lessons learned last year and apply them, ideally parlaying that into more post season success. Unfortunately, it now appears they have regressed – and figuring out why will be GM Mike Gillis’ biggest challenge this off-season.
Broadcast Observation of the Night: In the second intermission, P.J. Stock (who I generally like) completely went after the Canucks for their response to the hit on Henrik – basically saying they didn’t like that they didn’t fight Brown. He drew a parallel between that response and the other lack of response to the Keith hit on Daniel. For one thing, Brown wouldn’t fight anyone and let Anze Kopitar fight in his stead – enough said. I’ve written about the NHL “code” before, and I will be updating my take on it shortly given the extend of the shenanigans that have been going on throughout the league. My point is: what good does fighting the player actually do? I believe the answer to that is: nothing.
So let’s say instead of tackling him to the ice, Bieksa fights Brown after the hit. That would take Bieksa off the ice for at least 7 minutes (he’d most certainly be assessed an instigator penalty), and no matter how tough someone is, an NHL fight rarely if ever causes damage or any pain. It’s just a fruitless endeavor – but because it exists in the “code”, all the old hockey establishment just goes on supporting it without thought. This isn’t the old days when Dave Sememko would beat the crap out of Ken Linesman (or something). All the players are now too big, too strong, too good and tying up the other fighter. The Code does nothing and trying to fight a guy after he’s taken out one of your top players also does nothing.
The Canucks are damned if they do, damned if the don’t. If they go after a guy, then they are undisciplined and “getting taken off their game”. If they don’t, then they are labelled “soft”, “sisters”, etc. etc. They are absolutely in a no-win situation.