Canucks 0 – 4 Bruins
Last night did not go down quite the way I had hoped. I watched this team win 54 games in the regular season. I watched Daniel Sedin win the Art Ross Trophy and Roberto Luongo win the Jennings. I watched this team vanquish their archnemesis in Chicago, then systematically do away with the Nashville Predators and the San Jose Sharks. I watched this team win 15 of the necessary 16 games a team needs to win it all. And then, rather than watching that last win — the win where the Canucks hoist the Cup — like I truly, madly, and deeply believed I would, I watched this game:
- Speaking of savage gardens, I was eight years old in 1994, when the New York Rangers hoisted the Stanley Cup in the Garden at Madison Square and the fans in Vancouver, overwhelmed with foolish emotion, took it to the streets. Without last night, I don’t think it would have been possible for me to fully understand the disappointment a sensible, non-rioting Canuck fan felt then. It must have been an awful feeling, I always thought, to watch a loss so disheartening, one win from the team I loved winning it all, then, in the instant you made up your mind that it could be okay — that you could console yourself because it was only a game — the city began to burn, and the consolation faded away. I used to think it was probably an awful feeling. Now I know.
- So what happened to the Canucks? The Boston Bruins outplayed them. Tim Thomas was amazing. Brad Marchand had more points in the final five games than the entirety of the Vancouver roster. Zdeno Chara shut down the twins like a greedy landlord looking to gentrify. We can complain all we want about an atrociously called and managed series by the NHL, and it was, no doubt, but it doesn’t even come close to explaining away the manner in which Boston won this Final outright. Sure, the Canucks were completely worn out, and maybe this series goes differently if the Canucks’ entire second line isn’t too injured to play (although Kesler played anyway, of course), but seven games took place and Boston won four of them. There’s your explanation.
- That said, friggin’ Boston is so charmed it’s stupid. A bunch of Massachusetts farmers managed to win a war against the eighteenth century British army. Every one of their major sports teams has won a championship in the last seven years. And the Afflecks continue to find work. It’s not fair.
- While most of the Canucks were worn down physically, and there will be announced surgeries aplenty over the next week or so, Roberto Luongo was worn down emotionally and his play on the Canucks’ second and third goals simply wasn’t that of a strong, sturdy goaltender. On Marchand’s wrap-around, he uncharacteristically (this season, anyway) shuffled out of his crease, then, after diving across to make the save (and taking out Daniel Sedin in the process), he knocked the puck into his own net. On the third goal, he stepped aside after Patrice Bergeron was hauled down, letting the puck get past him when he should have held his ground until he heard the whistle. These are mental errors that a goalie can’t make in a game seven.
- It seemed like Luongo simply didn’t have any more headspace to prevent them. I’ve been saying all year that he’s one of the most emotional players in the game; if there remains any doubt, watch his interaction with Tim Thomas in the postgame handshake line (at about 0:52). Thomas is trying to pay him a compliment, but Luongo’s not listening. Instead, he pats Thomas on the chest over and over, his face glowing with disappointment. It’s a strange moment, as I almost expected the congratulatory taps to turn into weakly thrown punches from an melancholy wreck. They may have.
- Truth is, Roberto Luongo wasn’t made for the playoffs. Without a doubt, he’s shown that he can win big games. He proved it at the Olympics. He proved it in game 7 versus Chicago. He’s no choker and he’s one of the world’s best goalies. But, for a guy as emotional as he is, the intensity of the long postseason just wears him out. He admitted how emotionally worn down he was after the Olympics, and he only started five games. After Round 1 of these playoffs, he had to be about that exhausted, especially when he admitted the win over Chicago meant more to him. And he played three more rounds. He was beat. People are going to call Luongo soft. Truth is, they’re right. That said, I hate the term; only in the chest-pounding, dick-measuring world of athletes is being an emotional person a character flaw. But, Luongo chose to live and work in this world, and he’s going to need to steel up if he wants to win big. He’s absolutely capable. Here’s hoping he learns from this year.
- Just as we learned, last night, that some Canucks fans were bad eggs, we learned that some Rogers Arena stanchions are too. The fifth stanchion in from blueline at the visitors’ bench? A hero. The second stanchion in from the blueline on the opposite side of the ice? The devil. Patrice Bergeron’s shorthanded breakaway comes after the puck takes a funny bounce off a rotten stanchion and gets past a flat-footed Christian Ehrhoff. Let this be a lesson, folks. As it says in the Book of Job, the stanchion giveth, and the stanchion taketh away.
- There was a short-lived debate over whether or not Chris Higgins meant to collide with Zdeno Chara on an open-ice hit near the end of the first period. It looked, to me, like an accidental collision. Most media guys tweeted that it was “another” intentional attempt to injure. Amazingly, Damien Cox said it looked accidental. He then asked for a cup of sugarwater and headed out to hide his spaceship.
- Is it possible that Gary Bettman is a killbot that feeds on boos like Scangrade uses lead from the no. 2 pencil? Considering his insistence on making a poorly-received speech, year after year, I think it’s a realistic assumption. Is it also possible, then, that cheers, rather, would make him all bloated and gassy? We should try this.
- Chris Tanev played fourteen solid minutes last night. He had three giveaways, but he was the only Canucks’ defenseman to finish with an even plus/minus rating and he had five blocked shots. Safe to say he’ll probably be a regular on the Vancouver blueline for awhile. Here’s hoping he comes back next year harder, better, faster, and stronger, although I’d be remiss if he were abducted and brainwashed like the Crescendolls.
- Meanwhile, you had to feel for Keith Ballard, who was acquired specifically so that the Canucks would have puck-movers if injuries piled up in the playoffs, and had to sit there while Vancouver dressed a raw rookie, Alex Edler with two broken fingers, and Christian Ehrhoff with a shoulder in desperate need of surgery. The latter two hardly looked capable of movement. You have to think Ballard would have been an improvement over, you know, the walking dead. Poor Hips. Looking around that dressing room, perfectly preserved, while everyone else was shambling about with horrible injuries must have been horrible for him. Next time he watches 28 Days Later, he’s gonna have a pretty good idea of what Cillian Murphy is feeling as he walks through London.
- Don Cherry suggested that the trainers made Mason Raymond walk off the ice in game six because, after all the embellishing in the series, they didn’t believe he was seriously injured. That’s ludicrous. Also ludicrous? Chris Bridges.
- Daniel and Henrik Sedin finished with identical minus-4 ratings, and this time, it was somewhat earned. On the opening goal, Daniel Sedin goes forward on the faceoff, leaving a wide open gap for the Bruins to pounce on the puck when it’s drawn back. At that point in a scoreless game 7, you don’t go forward on a defensive zone draw. Henrik then does nothing to tie up Bergeron’s stick on Brad Marchand’s pass into the middle of the ice. Also a poor play. At times in this postseason, the Sedins looked so intent on creating offense that they missed defensive assignments. It was a bit of a regression for players known for their two-way play. In some sense, I wonder if Alain Vigneault created this monster by excusing them from defensive shifts all season long. It may have changed their mentality a little.
- Give credit to Kevin Bieksa, who finished with a game-high 28:39 of icetime, 7 hits, and four shots. Hats off to a guy that looked on his way out of town at the beginning of the year, and finished as the Canucks’ big-minute man in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. He absolutely has to be re-signed. If he is, he and Hamhuis (who tore his groin in game 1 of this series and was sorely missed) look to be the backbone pairing of the Canucks’ blueline for the next five years.
- I really didn’t like some of that chippy crap at the end of the game. After Burrows is taken out on a nasty hit that should have been whistled for interference, he takes a run at Rich Peverley. After Hansen is butt-ended in the face by Tim Thomas and then high-sticked again by Zdeno Chara, he takes a run at Andrew Ference. Not cool. Granted, I understand the frustration. At the beginning of the season, the Canucks decided to cut out the garbage after the whistle and trust the referees to make the right call. It backfired on them in a big way in this series, as the refs simply didn’t make those calls. But their frustration was misplaced. They still got powerplays, and they simply didn’t convert when they had the chance. But it’s hard to hit oneself in open ice.
- All told, the real highlight of this game was Scott Oake telling Milan Lucic his mom was hot. Anyone else catch that?
- And finally, we at PITB have had an absolute blast covering the Canucks for you this year, and we thank you (seriously, so much) for your support. We’ll have a slightly reduced posting schedule during the summer, but make sure to check us every day, because there’s still plenty planned. We’ll be trying some experiments, riffing on any good stuff we find, and doing our best to pass the time until puck drops next September. Then, we’ll be right back in full swing, covering every bloggable moment from the 2011-12 season in the hopes that next year has a better ending. As Marvin Berry says at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance in Back to the Future, “don’t nobody go nowhere.”
, I Watched This Game
, Stanley Cup Final