SAN JOSE — “I just whiffed on it. I wish I could give you a better explanation.”
Quiz time, Canucks fans. Was that:
A — Cory Schneider, talking about the back-breaking, 45-foot wrist shot by Logan Couture that eluded him early in the third period of Game 3?
B — Canucks general manager Mike Gillis, on his handling of the Roberto Luongo trade? Or his work at the trade deadline? Or the acquisitions of David Booth and Keith Ballard? Or the Cody Hodgson deal …
Or, C — One of a host of Canucks forwards, from Derek Roy, to Alex Burrows, to Mason Raymond, to Chris Higgins, to the twins, to Ryan Kesler — none of whom have done enough in this series?
The answer is, of course, A. The goalie who, sadly but fittingly, has the Vancouver Canucks poised to enter an off-season as utterly flummoxed about its goaltending situation as it was 12 months ago.
Inserted in place of Luongo for Game 3 — just because he was the No. 1 before his injury, not because Luongo’s play was lacking — Schneider choked in the third period of a Game 3 loss that leaves Vancouver’s season on the brink.
Clinging to a 2-1 deficit early in the third period, Schneider blew a 45-foot wrist shot off the left-wing boards by Couture. Nine seconds later, Patrick Marleau sifted one five-hole. Then 2:18 later Couture filleted Schneider five-hole again, and this series came to a screeching halt for Vancouver, losers by a 5-2 score.
“I felt fine. No excuses,” Schneider said. “You’ve got to perform, got to execute. I just missed it. I just whiffed on it. I wish I could give you a better explanation. It’s not a good feeling to let the team down like that.
“Then I caught myself leaning. Anticipating instead of reacting. Got beat five-hole.”
The 24-year-old Couture was the best player on the ice, with two goals and two assists — more points in one game than any Canuck has managed in the entire series. Joe Pavelski was also remarkably good, with two goals and an assist.
The two San Jose centremen have six points apiece in this series. There is not a Canucks player with more than two points through three fruitless games, as the scoring has absolutely dried up for a Canucks team that “unraveled” with six third-period minors, according to head coach Alain Vigneault.
“We’re too a good a team for that,” said Daniel Sedin. “(Penalties) cost us the game.”
San Jose scored three times during the 12:40 of power play surrendered by an undisciplined, frustrated Vancouver team. But in a Canucks roster full of no-shows — against a San Jose team that nobody could have predicted would be this much better than Vancouver — the futile return of Schneider will get most of the ink after this 5-2 loss.
The host of Canuck disappointments is not exclusive to either goaltender however, as Schneider’s third-period meltdown only served to allow the scoreboard to accurately reflect the flow of the play.
This team that has scored three goals in just one of its last 13 playoff games. It doesn’t score enough, and the Sedins have set up just two goals in three playoff games this spring. That is the definition of underperforming.
Outscored 11-5 through three games and losers in each, make no mistake: It is over for the Canucks this season.
The only question left is: Is it over for this Canucks group as we know it?
It is difficult to envision Vigneault surviving a second straight first-round whitewashing. Surely the Luongo trade gets made this summer, a deal that, history declares, Gillis has absolutely botched this season.
The Canucks are in a tight spot with the cap going down next season, and several of UFAs Raymond, Roy and Max Lapierre will likely be forced to depart. None of the three have had even the slightest impact in this series, so perhaps the expiration of their contracts should serve as impetus for a much-needed remake in Vancouver.
“There’s not much to draw from right now,” admitted Luongo, who came in relief and was perfect. “Being down 3-0 is not good enough. There are not many positives in the first three games. There are a couple of guys who are playing their hearts out. Other than that …”
Luongo is right. Being down 3-0 in this Round 1 series isn’t good enough. And being in the exact same predicament after three games of Round 1 last season against Los Angeles wasn’t good enough either.
So what we are discovering, then, is that the Canucks themselves aren’t good enough anymore, and the time has come for a roster overhaul.
The window has closed, Canucks fan. It’s over.