Here’s a video of a talking dog. Hockey game? What hockey game? I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Canucks 0 – 4 Bruins
12 goals against in two games? A hot goaltender shutting out the Canucks in one of those games? Luongo getting pulled and talk of a goaltending controversy? This all sounds very familiar. In Round One, the Canucks lost the plot after going up 3-0 against the Blackhawks, losing 7-2 and 5-0. The hope was that the Canucks would learn their lesson from these two collapses. Instead, in the Stanley Cup Final, the Canucks stopped playing their game, losing 8-1 and now 4-0 tonight. It’s frustrating. It’s infuriating. It’s unwatchable. Therefore, I did the impossible: I watched this game.
First things first: Luongo will start Game 5. There’s not a chance he won’t. If anyone thinks Schneider should start has a problem with their long-term memory. Has Luongo been good in the last two games? No. Has he been awful? No. Would the Canucks be in the Stanley Cup Final without him? Also no. It is absolutely shameful how quickly Vancouver fans turn on Luongo. Two games ago he was supposedly a frontrunner for the Conn Smythe and was receiving lofty praise for his calm, cool, and collected style. Two games behind some of the worst defense the Canucks have played all season and Luongo gets thrown under the bus. It upsets me.
Here’s an example: Canucks.com has a poll up asking what the most impressive stat was from Game 4: Ballard’s 6 blocked shots, Ehrhoff’s 7 shots, Lapierre going 7-for-12 on faceoffs, Schneider’s 9 saves and 0 goals against, or Kesler’s 5 hits. Idiotically, Schneider’s 9 saves is running away with it. Seriously? The game was already over.
Another example of long-term memory problems: after the two blowouts in the Chicago series, Vigneault brought in Cory Schneider, just like a lot of fans and “experts” thought he should. Schneider cost them that game with some rookie mistakes. Some people will try to re-write history and point out that Luongo let in the game-winning goal in overtime, but the Canucks would have won in regulation without the mental errors of Schneider. People seem to forget that he is still a rookie. You do not use a rookie in this situation in the Stanley Cup Final.
That said, Luongo needs to be better. He’s been hung out to dry in the last two games, but he is capable of stealing games when the Canucks are outplayed. Instead, he failed to cover his five-hole with his stick and got beat, over-anticipated a shot and couldn’t recover when it was deflected, and directed a rebound right into a player charging towards the net. The only goal he couldn’t be faulted on was the third, in which Ballard got tripped behind the net and didn’t recover in time to intercept a pass to the wide-open Marchand in front.
Offensively, there were some positive signs: the Sedins created a number of good scoring chances, particularly in the first period, but weren’t always able to get a shot on net. Henrik had a golden opportunity early but appeared to break his stick. The defense jumped up into the play more effectively than Game 3, particularly Ehrhoff and Edler. Unfortunately, all of this improved offensive play meant nothing: the Bruins were too effective at forcing bad angle shots from the outside and when the puck went into the Canucks zone, their previously strong transition game disappeared. The Canucks defensive play was absolutely atrocious
The Bruins’ first goal was the result of a poor decision by Edler and poor gap control by Salo. Edler stepped up into the neutral zone to make a hit, Salo was too far over and too far up ice to cover the gap, and Rich Peverley had a breakaway from the blueline in. To make matters worse, Luongo played it horribly: he clearly anticipated an earlier shot, dropping to his butterfly. As soon as he feared Peverley might deke, he began moving his stick for a pokecheck, leaving his five-hole wide open. Unlike the Canucks’ defense and goaltender, Peverley made no mistake.
The second period was once again ugly for the Canucks. After the two quick goals, the game was essentially over. The Bruins were able to clog up the neutral zone like Dynamic Edition and prevent any real goal-scoring opportunities throughout the rest of the game. Any hope of a comeback in the third period was cut short by a phantom slashing call on Henrik Sedin less than a minute in. Not long after Henrik got out of the box, Peverley went hard to the net and got a luck bounce to make it a 4-0 game, bringing in Schneider.
Ugh. Writing about this game is painful. I need a silly GIF break:
At the beginning of the game, Bobby Orr was in the house to wave a Nathan Horton flag. Boston crowd went absolutely haywire. Stephen Harper was also in the house. The Boston crowd took no notice. Maybe if he had been wearing a Canucks jersey the Boston crowd might have known he was from Canada.
After he was one of the worst defensemen on the ice on Monday, Ehrhoff bounced back and played very well. He was active down the boards and jumping up into the rush, but wasn’t caught out of position for any odd-man rushes the other way. He had a game-high 7 shots, was the only Canucks defenseman with an even plus/minus rating, and played 22:43.
Unfortunately, he didn’t do anything to help the Canucks powerplay, which has been absolutely awful in this series. There’s a trickle-down effect: if the powerplay can’t capitalize, the Canucks can’t punish the Bruins for their chippy play, which leads to frustration and dumb penalties born of that frustration. If the Canucks score a goal on one of their first period powerplays, this is a different game.
Was it just me or did Don Cherry seem more coherent? I suspect it was because he was wearing a normal-looking suit. Does the style of suit he wears influence his opinions and ability to speak like a normal person? Which came first, the crazy or the suit?
An interesting trend I’ve noticed in this series is that the Canucks are shooting the puck in from behind centre directly on Thomas and creating turnovers on the forecheck. Rather than gaining centre and sending in a more traditional dump-in, they’re using the time that it takes for Thomas to distribute the puck to his defensemen to close the gap. This is good, because they haven’t been able to carry the puck into the zone worth a damn and their normal dump-ins are creating nothing. It’s actually been one of their most effective tactics in gaining the zone.
If any Bruins fan wants to claim that the Canucks are the dirtier team, Marchand and Mcquaid handily disproved that theory. Up 4-0, Marchand horse-collared Ehrhoff, then low-bridged Daniel Sedin right next to the boards after the whistle. Kudos to Ballard for sticking up for his teammates by dropping the gloves — it’s about the only thing he did right in this game. Ehrhoff, who looked like he was originally going to challenge Marchand, backed off, then got sucker-punched by Mcquaid. After Ehrhoff got up, he attempted to skate away when Mcquaid dropped the gloves and went after him again. Completely classless and gutless actions from Mcquaid. He had 12 fights this season; Ehrhoff had none.
The altercation between Thomas and Burrows at the end of the game was an interesting one. It can be argued that both players had it coming. Burrows bumped the butt end of Thomas’s stick and it was clearly intentional. That doesn’t really excuse the ugly hack to the knee that Thomas responded with, but he claims that the Canucks have been doing that all series. Good. They should keep doing it. If it was in a closer game, I would have been upset at Burrows for retaliating with the crosscheck on Thomas as it would have removed a powerplay opportunity. In that game, I have no problem with it.
Ballard showed why Vigneault doesn’t trust him much with some bad giveaways. He also recovered from those turnovers for the most part and blocked 6 shots. He wouldn’t have to block that many shots if he didn’t give the puck away. He’s capable of playing better, but he needs to simplify his game. Too often he was trying to make pretty passes instead of clearing the puck or making the simple D-to-D pass. He also didn’t mesh well with Bieksa at all. Both players are puck-carriers, which led to confusion on breakouts and an inability to transition out of the zone.
Finally, when the Canucks win, fans seem to forget that it’s even possible for them to lose. After two narrow victories at home, the hubris in the Canucks fanbase was astonishing. CBC even showed a fan in Boston posing for pictures with a broom in hand. Then, when they lose, fans seem to forget that they have ever won a game. A friend of mine even suggested that Vigneault would get fired if the Canucks didn’t win the cup. Let’s get some perspective: yes, these were two ugly losses. They don’t erase the fact that the Canucks have won the President’s Trophy, gotten to the Stanley Cup Final, and have successfully recovered from terrible losses both in the regular season and the postseason. The Canucks didn’t suddenly stop being a good team, they just had two bad games.
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