Wednesday, May 12, 2010

About those Canucks

Well, it looks like it's another wasted year for the Canucks. They couldn't follow up a fantastic season with a deep playoff run as both Hasan and myself foresaw. Ironically, each of us (Devils/Rangers) took them to the Cup Final with Has having them fall to the Ovechkin Caps while I had the 'Nucks winning it all over the Sabres. That collective thud you just heard was our predictions going right into the dumpster.

Hey. Who had the Habs over the Caps and pushing the Crosby Pens to Game Seven tonight? Did anyone take the Bruins deep and figured things were okay until the banged up Flyers woke up? Can they really comeback from 0-3 down?!?!?!?!?! You better believe the B's want no part of a deciding game even if it's in their building.

Yes indeed, these playoffs have been wackier than usual. At least the Sharks as Has accurately predicted are in their second Western Conference Final- not first Versus! Can they ever get their facts straight instead of making their talent look like morons? Almost as bad as having two games going at the same exact time in the East. Thanks for nothing NBC. Take your beloved golf and shove it. Especially Tiger. Thankfully, we won't have a repeat of Monday with the win or go home Montreal/Pittsburgh tilt going off at 7 while Boston/Philadelphia starts an hour later. Before I get to the original subject, let me just point out that the Bruins and Flyers are playing Game Six after the Canadiens and Penguins face off for their series conclusion. How does that work exactly? Okay. Enough about the Bettman-ization of the NBA errrr NHL.

Now to the latest Vancouver mess again proving what a fraud Roberto Luongo is. Like many including Puck Daddy Greg Wyshynski, who also had these Canucks all the way, I thought this batch were better. It all seemed lined up. A dominant top line that featured probable MVP Henrik Sedin, twin brother Daniel Sedin and fired up fellow Swede Mikael Samuelsson. Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, Mason Raymond, Pavol Demitra, Steve Bernier and Kyle Wellwood along with a balanced blueline that included Sami Salo (insert balls joke), Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff, Alex Edler and Shane O'Brien should've been enough to take them further. Even without top defender Willie Mitchell, this is a bitter pill to swallow for Alain Vigneault's crew which finished off a hat trick falling 5-1, dropping all three home games to the grittier Blackhawks in the series.

Make it two consecutive Springs Chicago has ended their season. Both in six. Last year as a lower seed highlighted by Patrick Kane's hat trick. This time, as a No.2 to Vancouver's No.3 coming back from a blowout home Game One loss to take four of the next five. Unthinkable. Not taking anything away from Joel Queeneville's talented bunch that prominently features Conn Smythe candidate Jonathan Toews (6-14-20), Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, series tormentor Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell and Antti Niemi. The Hawks are formidable and worthy of a second straight Final Four appearance where they'll battle the Sharks for the Campbell Trophy.

While it will be refreshing to see new blood vying for Lord Stanley, it doesn't take the Canucks off the hook. They lost to a more disciplined team who turned the series around thanks to Byfuglien. It was his first career playoff hat trick in a Game Three 5-2 win which shifted the momentum. The big 6-4, 257 pound American was moved up by Queeneville to the top line flanking Toews and Kane. Entering that pivotal game, he previously had no points in Chicago's first eight postseason games. From that point, Big Buff recorded four goals and two assists while racking up 10 penalty minutes. Even with it, he used his big frame to make life difficult on Luongo, doing whatever it took to get to the Vancouver netminder. Textbook screening, strong skating, grit that drove the Canucks crazy and finishing. It was in Game Four that the 'Nucks anger boiled over losing their heads by going after Byfuglien. The result was three power play goals allowed and an ugly 7-4 loss putting them on the brink. Though they responded with a 5-2 win in enemy territory, the Canucks couldn't follow it up with a first win in British Columbia. Instead, the 5-1 disgrace further teased their fans who roundly booed. In three home games, they were outscored 17-7. Just brutal.

So, what went wrong? Aside from Niemi outplaying Luongo, the Hawks got strong performances from Toews, Kane and Hossa who despite three points, was very effective on the forecheck. With Toews torching Vancouver for 12 points (4-8-12) including a five-point explosion that included a hat trick, it was one of the Olympic standouts who outshined The Sedins. They didn't get much help with Samuelsson and Daniel only netting one goal apiece, Kesler none and little from first round heroes Bernier and Demitra. Meanwhile, Chicago saw Byfuglien and Versteeg come to life while Dave Bolland also picked it up. Lineup addition Troy Brouwer notched his first goal starting it off yesterday followed by Versteeg 36 seconds later in the second. Louie had little chance on either but Bolland's shorthander with 45 seconds left was a back breaker. He was pressured from behind but still snuck the puck thru Roberto's wickets. One he definitely should've had. At that big moment, you expect a goalie of his caliber to make a momentum turning save. Instead, it flattened their chances.

Sure. O'Brien scored 3:44 into the third giving the league's best come from behind team life. However, despite tons of pressure, they couldn't get another past Niemi, who got help from his D. Before you knew it, there was Kane breaking in and beating Luongo with a change up, letting the air out of the balloon. Only 25 ticks later, Byfuglien broke in on the pedestrian goalie and easily whistled one upstairs for 5-1. On it, it seemed that Luongo gave up, totally off his angle. If he really did and only he knows, it was a sad display. He may have won Olympic gold in relief of Martin Brodeur on a stacked Canada but he was never the same afterwards. The five rebound goals he permitted in Game Three summed it up. For a goalie who always receives high accolades as one of the game's elite, Luongo has advanced past the first round three times. Three series victories before falling apart. Not the kind of playoff resume one would expect. Of course, it wasn't all his fault. His teammates didn't perform well. Perhaps this quote tells you everything.

"I don't think they're a better team than us, but maybe a smarter team."
In the playoffs, you can't just rely on talent. There's also work ethic and discipline plus consistency. Without those three, you morph into the Devils. The one team who didn't come to play. Though we're learning more about why they didn't bother. How is it that Jacques Lemaire resorted to text messages to inform players he earlier told were playing that he changed his mind? Is this the issue in Vancity? Hardly. Do they got the right mix? We believed they did. Was Mitchell missed that much? He sure wouldn't have allowed Byfuglien to run rampant. Right now, the Canucks are as much a mystery as the post-lockout Devs. Difference is one franchise has three Cups. When does it finally change for Vancouver? Will they ever make it back? 1994 is a long time ago. Try telling Dolan.

Until they get H-E-A-R-T, it looks like the Vancouver Canucks have officially replaced San Jose as playoff Tinmen. They sure had us fooled.


Hasan said...

Absolutely inexcusable that the NHL had both Eastern Conference games the same day, ergo the same time. You've just got to plan ahead a little better than that, have one West game and one East game per night.

What's odd about that Chicago-Nucks series is that the Hawks curbstomped them all three games in Vancouver, and the Nucks curbstomped them twice in Chicago with the Hawks lucky to win Game 2. So much for home-ice being a big deal anymore.

I am glad the Nuck fans who threw Marty under the bus and drove over him in it during the Olympics got a slice of humble pie with their great Bobby Lou's performance now that he doesn't have All-Stars on defense.

As far as the Devils go, nothing new there...all that piece showed was people who wanted to blame Lemaire were right, people who wanted to blame Langenbrunner were right and people who (like me) wanted them both run out of town and a few others besides were doubly right.

Derek Felix said...

Yep. You rarely see that in the NBA. I just can't believe how much it happens.

If you gave Lundqvist that roster, he'd reach the Final.

The Puck Stops Here


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