There are no secrets why the Vancouver Canucks are behind the San Jose Sharks 2-0 in this series, why their season hangs by a thread heading into the toughest building in the National Hockey League this season.
It’s production — or a lack thereof.
It is, first and foremost, the waning Sedin twins. It’s Alex Burrows.
Whatever happened to Alex Edler? How about Mason Raymond?
Three goals in two games, from a high-priced, experienced lineup like this? It doesn’t win, and neither did the Canucks in a 3-2 overtime loss to San Jose, salted away by former teammate Raffi Torres 5:31 into the first overtime session on Friday night.
The opponent is worthy, but as the Sedins and their mates fail to deliver, this one has choke job written all over it.
“We’ve got to lay it all out there, every game, every shift,” said Ryan Kesler, who was finally the player he is paid to be, with a pair of goals and a beast-like performance in Game 2. “I felt we did that. I’m proud of the way the guys battled all night. We get more of that next game; we’re going to come out on top.”
On a night when Kesler finally showed up in this series, the Sedins still have not.
Jannik Hansen failed to close out the game with a 92-foot shot at the open net with just 84 ticks left on the clock. Burrows coughed up a clearing opportunity that led to the tying goal. And even Roberto Luongo’s brilliance will be forgotten by a puck that snuck through his pads, laying three inches from the goal line for Patrick Marleau to deposit for the game-tying goal at 19:04 of the third period.
San Jose’s top players have been good, and the Sharks have scored six goals in this series. Vancouver’s have not, and they have three — one chipped in by Torres himself in Game 1.
“Five-on-five, (the Sedins) need to find the score sheet. And I think they know that,” said head coach Alain Vigneault. “We should be disappointed. We were probably a couple of seconds away from getting the win. An empty net, a play in our end … It’s going to burn for a couple of hours, but when we get up in the morning we’ve got to focus on Game 3.”
It is amazing how a Stanley Cup window that was so wide open only 24 months ago looks today to be slamming with a thud. The Canucks will struggle to meet a falling cap this summer; they’ve still got that albatross of a Luongo contract to deal with; the twins are pushing 33 and suffering a third-straight lackluster playoff series; and there surely is no cavalry coming from among Vancouver’s recent draft picks.
On Friday, as the Sedins posted but an assist each on the same Kesler power-play goal, San Jose oldsters Joe Thornton and Marleau each scored.
While the injured David Booth cannot even be spotted in a support role around the team — and $4.2 million defenceman Keith Ballard is a healthy scratch — two traded-for Sharks combined on the OT winner, as Brent Burns fed Torres for an unstoppable 2-on-1 goal.
“They teach you as a young kid to go to the net with your stick on the ice, and your head down and be ready for anything,” said Torres, who was flying on Friday. “(Burns) made a great play. To be honest with you, I didn’t see it go in or anything like that. I got some good wood on it and it worked out well.”
“Burns made an unbelievable play,” said Luongo, who was chanceless on the play. “He was holding it and faking it. I was trying to stay patient with him and he ended up feeding it across for a one-timer that Raffi put upstairs. It was a good goal by them.”
On Wednesday night they were wondering whether Ryan Kesler was ill. On Friday, they wondered about whether he was human. His brilliance is lost in this defeat however, as the Canucks’ home woes continue.
They have now lost six straight post-season games at Rogers Arena, and have scored just 19 goals in their last 14 playoff games. It’s becoming a trend you can’t just chalk up to bad luck — when the going gets tough, the Sedins are not responding.
It pains us to say it, as both are the ultimate gentlemen. But numbers are numbers, and nobody here in Vancouver likes the numbers that are stacking up in this quarter-final series.
“If we plan on continuing here — and I believe that this group does — we’ve got to get some goals from more people,” said Vigneault.
“We’ve got to keep pushing, stay positive. We’re not out of this,” Daniel Sedin promised. “All we need is to win the next game and we’re back into it. That’s what we’re looking at — at the positives.”
He didn’t squint when he said that. But he might have had a magnifying glass in his locker.