Clearly, there is no easy path to the glory. And if there is, the Canucks mostly refuse to follow it. And when they do, they get dragged into the alley.
Yes, there is plenty wrong in Canuck land right now. Roberto Luongo seems incapable of making a big save to bail out a team that has its hands full at the other end. The NHL is allowing the Bruins to turn this series into an after-the-whistle mugfest. And the Canucks, for their part, are allowing it by choking on the power play chances they do get. The suddenly depleted Canuck back end appears, for the first time this season, to be shell shocked. And their two best forwards seem to be missing in action with crippling injuries.
But before all you Luongo bashers continue with the group pummel, consider that the Canucks scored one measly goal in two games in Beantown, and that one came in garbage time. Last we checked, Luongo was not the quarterback of the power play. And just like game three on Monday, despite strong first periods, once the Canucks fell behind, Luongo got thrown under the bus by his teammates. Witness Sami Salo’s and Keith Ballard’s antics on goals two and three respectively, not to mention the ever present purse swinging of Christian Ehrhoff.
Once again the NHL has no idea how to showcase its product. Putting aside, for the moment, an allegiance to either team, it’s difficult to see how last night’s contest ranks as elite entertainment. From all the after whistle scrums and soccer-like-embellishing that went mostly unpenalized to the horrible playing conditions to shots of NHL Director of Operations, Colin Campbell, cheering on his son (and presumably his son’s team). We’re sure this fits with the league’s business plan. Wait, there is no business plan.
Which brings us to the Canucks’ now depleted defense, which was seemingly addressed all season long by Mike Gillis’ commendable vision of having eight NHL caliber defenders at his disposal. But the pairing of Keith Ballard and Kevin Bieksa was just toxic last night. Without the stable Dan Hamhuis at his side, Bieksa appears lost – completely unable to be at his freestyling best. And Ballard is only dragging him further into the wilderness. There clearly must be reasons why Bieksa isn’t playing with either Salo or Andrew Alberts. We’re just not sure what they are.
In the end though, the only reason this series is now stalemated at two games per side is the sudden collapse of the Canucks’ power play. Hell, having converted on only one of twenty two tries (and allowing two short-handed goals), the Canucks are fortunate this series isn’t already over.
So on that basis alone, this ship has not sunk. Just like after games four and five of the Chicago series, the sky is falling on the Canucks’ faithful. But we know it doesn’t have to. The Canucks played two very impressive first periods on the road in Boston. The Canucks, despite the labouring Kesler and Hank Sedin, are the more skillful team. To succeed will require a commitment and focus on playing their game in their rink on Friday. We expect they will.Tags: Boston Bruins, Christian Ehrhoff, Colin Campbell, Henrik Sedin, Keith Ballard, Roberto Luongo, Ryan Kesler, Sami Salo, Stanley Cup Finals, Vancouver Canucks