The last time the Canucks lost 4-0 and were shut out by a seemingly unbeatable Eastern Conference goaltender wearing number thirty, the city skyline was on fire within minutes. That in mind, Tuesday night could have gone a whole lot worse.
Of course, it also could have gone a whole lot better, say, if the Canucks hadn’t completely fallen apart in the third period. Or, say, if the Canucks could have capitalized on one of the seven consecutive powerplays they were gifted by an undisciplined Rangers team. Ideally, Vancouver could have headed into the third with a lead rather than being locked in a scoreless draw, especially since they outshot New York 28-9 through two. Heck, had they managed to put any one of their forty shots on goal past Henrik Lundqvist, this would be a much more joyous recap.
Unfortunately, the Canucks did none of these things, and as a result, they lost this game. Also unfortunately, I watched this game.
- Henrik Lundqvist was fantastic, stopping forty shots for the shutout and frustrating the Canucks into a full-scale third-period collapse. It didn’t matter where Vancouver shot from: he swallowed everything, like an unsupervised toddler.
- That accounts for the lack of scoring from the Canucks, but how about the Rangers’ offensive outburst? That’s on the Vancouver defense, which looked confused and downright disorganized in the third, as blueliners pinched at inopportune times and forwards blew coverage assignments in the defensive zone. It’s pretty tough to blame a goaltender for goals against when the five guys in front of him forget to defend.
- Of course, tough does not equal impossible, and if any fanbase could find a way, it would be this one. After allowing three goals, Roberto Luongo played a routine puck at the side of his net and was greeted with a bronx cheer by the Rogers Arena crowd behind him. Seriously? Just how good does a scoring chance have to be for Luongo to avoid blame? This is getting ridiculous. The puck could be beamed into the net by the Enterprise transporter and Canuck fans would blame Luongo for failing to activate a transport inhibitor.
- Still, I can understand some of the frustration, especially after the Rangers’ first goal. While Henrik Lundqvist was gobbling up every shot, Luongo kicked out a juicy rebound off a Michael Del Zotto wrister, putting the puck right on Mike Rupp’s stick. At its most basic level, that’s a frustrating contrast. But, before you blame Luongo, consider that Rupp’s stick is unchecked because Alex Edler, who should be all over him, has to cover Del Zotto instead. Del Zotto, the trailer, would normally be Lapierre’s man, but Lapierre had to turn and chase Kris Newbury. And Newbury is streaking to the net all by his lonesome because Dan Hamhuis gets beaten entering the zone at a crawl. If Edler’s on Rupp, this puck squirts out to the wall, the Canucks take it back the other way, and the only thing we’re talking about is how Luongo saw through Edler’s screen to make the original spiffy pad save. This one’s not his fault.
- How about the second goal, which comes after Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows blow the zone, hoping Henrik Sedin will spring them for a 2-on-1 pass? The puck never crosses the blueline. Instead, the Rangers force a turnover, and turn back the other way on what effectively becomes a 3-on-1 down low after Alex Edler gets caught napping. Luongo has no chance on Ryan McDonagh’s shot, which comes on a one-timer in the dead centre of the zone.
- Pretty tough to fault Luongo on the Rangers’ third goal too, when Kevin Bieksa makes an obscenely ill-advised pinch, allowing the Rangers to turn back the other way on yet another 3-on-1. Ruslan Fedotenko’s cross-ice pass to Brian Boyle is perfectly placed, as is the top corner of the net, which sits right where Boyle’s shot goes.
- And if you think that Luongo making a save at 3-0 was going to make a difference, you’re crazy, but let’s take a look at the Rangers’ fourth goal as well. First, Ryan McDonagh completely undresses Cody Hodgson, who gets caught about as flat-footed as an ancient dwarf. Then, Dan Hamhuis loses a battle with Marion Gaborik like the Vancouver Realtor that almost sold him that house. It’s a 2-on-0, and McDonagh takes Luongo completely out of position before feeding the puck to Gaborik for the tap-in.
- That’s four goals, each the result of egregiously blown defensive assignments, and the goalie is at fault? Asinine. You’re going to hear about how, regardless of whether Luongo was to blame or not, it’s clear that the city of Vancouver’s relationship with him has become toxic. It’s hogwash. If we can’t reasonably determine who to blame tonight, we aren’t smart enough to avoid running the next goalie out of town either. If I’m Cory Schneider, the starting job in Vancouver is a do not want scenario.
- The worst defensive pairing on the evening? Dan Hamhuis and Alex Edler. That did not work at all, as both men finished a minus-3, or, if you really want to gasp, a combined minus-6. Gasp!
- Let’s move on to happy things. After screening Roberto Luongo on the Michael Del Zotto shot that led to the Rangers’ first goal, Alex Edler tried to make amends all on his own, taking the puck end-to-end, then right at Del Zotto, undressing him beautifully before being stopped by Henrik Lundqvist. I’ve never seen Alex Edler’s dangly side before, but I like it.
- Hmm. That’s a gross sentence. Forget I said it.
- By the end of the game, it was a negative, but the fact that the Canucks’ second powerplay unit looked more effective than the first at times on Tuesday night was originally a promising sign. Not to be confused with a signed promise.
- Kevin Bieksa had another rough game tonight, making a handful of poor pinches, including one that led to the Rangers’ third goal. He’s crucial to this team, and right now, he’s playing frustratingly mediocre hockey. He knows it too, because he chose to take out that frustration on Brandon Dubinsky. Someone should tell Bieksa that, in Vancouver, there are easier ways light up a Duby in order to relieve stress.
- Apart from drawing a penalty in the third period, Jannik Hansen was again invisible tonight. I’m not asking for the guy to score a million billion goals (especially since nine is far more likely), but even a hit would be nice. We used to call Hansen the Danish ninja but, considering how hard he appears to be working to avoid meaningful contact, he’s more hermit than ninja these days.
- Oh how I hate when the TSN feed cuts out and they have to use the road team’s feed instead. The lighting is different and the announcers are biased in the wrong direction. It’s strange. I’m used to everyone sticking up for Alex Burrows, but the MSG crew didn’t seem to like him at all. Wait. Is Alex Burrows unpopular?
- I sincerely hope that Cody Hodgson’s massive defensive blunder doesn’t get him removed from Ryan Kesler’s wing, because I thought those two looked pretty good together. Granted, there wasn’t much Kesler did tonight that I didn’t like, save maybe play harder than everyone else, and I came around on that pretty quickly. At first, I balked, because I had hoped he might ease himself into the lineup somewhat, but eventually I realized that Kesler doesn’t ease himself into anything. This guy does cannonballs into hot tubs.
- And finally, in addition to the 40 shots on goal, the Canucks had another 23 shots blocked. Do you see how the defensive effort of a team tends to be reflected in the goaltender’s performance?
, I Watched This Game