Spector on NHL: Can the Canucks still deliver?
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May 2, 2013, 3:00 AM
VANCOUVER – Who says the movie industry is pulling out of B.C.? It’s May in Vancouver, and once again there is much drama.
Today’s goaltender? Uh, he’s not ready yet after all, we find out on the morning of Game 1 of the playoffs.
Yesterday’s goaltender? Not only was Roberto Luongo starting for the Vancouver Canucks, he was starring for them in a first period that could have ended 3-0 in the San Jose Sharks favour.
Oh, and that former Selke winner (Ryan Kesler) who has been hurt for much of the season but is back and ready for a long playoff run? He’ll, uh, be the only regular not to take part in the morning skate.
Yes, there was much ado again with the Canucks, as they embarked on the second “Let’s Get It Right This Time Boys” tour, since falling one game short in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
And perhaps that is the place to begin with this club, the morning after a 3-1 San Jose victory that ran the Canucks’ home playoff losing streak to five straight games, dating back to Game 7 of the 2011 Cup Final.
Are there too many things going on around this team? Is there, perhaps, not enough going right WITH this team anymore?
“A lot of us have to put in that extra five per cent, to get those better scoring chances,” said Daniel Sedin, who was ineffective again in Game 1 of this series, as was his brother Henrik.
Does he have to bring more?
“We didn’t have enough great chances. It takes a little more, yes. Not much, but yes. At this time of year? More,” Daniel concurred.
San Jose dominated a first period that ended – thanks to Luongo’s heroics – in a 0-0 score. The Sharks lost the second period to Vancouver, but took the play away in the third by some margin on their way to a 3-1 victory. There was no question which the better team was Wednesday night at Rogers Arena, it was the visitors.
And that, Canucks fans, has been the case on too many playoff nights since that run-in with Boston two springs ago. Vancouver is now 2-9 in its last 11 playoff games, and has absolutely lost its dominance on home ice.
“The only goal we scored, they (Raffi Torres) pushed in their net. We have to find a way to be better,” head coach Alain Vigneault said. “Not just with the twins, with everybody. There were some good moments … but I think – I don’t think, I know – our top guys can play better than they did tonight.”
Read: Ryan Kesler.
After the Canucks assistant captain missed the morning skate there was much concern over whether or not Kesler was again injured. He did not help speculation with his proclivity to coast to the bench post-shift bent forward, as if it is all he can do to make it off the ice.
Was he hurt? Does he have the ‘flu’?
He wouldn’t say he was afterwards, but there had better be something wrong with Kesler. Because this team needs him, and he delivered just two power-play shots on goal and a hit Wednesday, in an effort that was wholly lack lustre.
“All year, the road hasn’t been kind to us,” Sharks centreman Joe Thornton said. “So to come in here and win Game 1 is huge, and hopefully grab some confidence on the road from here on out.”
They talked about the goaltending all day, with Cory Schneider “not ready to play” according to Vigneault, who described his goalie’s injury as “a body injury” a few days back.
But in the end, goaltending was the least of Vancouver’s problems. Perseverance, gritty play, consistency and the act of delivering the goods by their top players is a far bigger issue heading into Friday’s Game 2.
“Lou played great early on,” Thornton said. “He made some great saves on that first power play, but we just stayed calm and kept going. We’ve got some goal scorers that can finish and they did that tonight.
“It was a good effort, staying relaxed and waiting for our chances to go in.”
Relaxed? We’re not sure that’s a word they’ll be using around the Canucks dressing room much this week.
In every team’s evolution there comes a time when it can’t deliver anymore. The Canucks playoff record, coupled with their indifferent Game 1 performance, begs the question if this team has reached that point.
Stay tuned. If it’s still there with this group, the best is yet to come.