The Paper Feature will run every Wednesday in the Vancouver Sun’s print edition, as well as online here at Pass it to Bulis. (It’s called the Paper Feature for what we hope are obvious reasons.)
Good hockey teams tend to outplay their opponents, and over the Canucks’ most recent six-game homestand, they did this regularly. But good hockey teams also tend to win with some regularity, and this, the Canucks are not doing.
It’s bewildering. Attempts to analyze what’s wrong have us all looking about as dense as Homer Simpson failing to recognize his wife’s fear of flying: Marge, what’s wrong? Are you hungry? Sleepy? Gassy? Is it gas? It’s gas, isn’t it?
Heck, I wouldn’t rule out gas with the Canucks. We just don’t know.
So you’ll excuse me if I forgo any attempt to get in there and analyze this most recent homestand for its systemic failures, which seems like a fool’s errand, and instead take a step back at marvel at this masterpiece of tragicomic theatre.
This was, in my estimation, the worst homestand in Canucks history.
I’m not talking about raw points, because it’s certainly possible to reap fewer points from a six-game stretch. With one win and three loser points, the Canucks skate away from the homestand with 5 out of a possible 12. But it’s not so much that the Canucks left seven points on the table. It’s about how they left seven points on the table, the emotional rises and falls, the way they toyed with us, with our hearts, and found creative and unique ways to bring us to the verge, to leave us devastated and agape.
It began with the San Jose Sharks, in a game that the Canucks played well enough to win. They’d beaten San Jose the week prior, and they looked poised to repeat the feat, clutching a 1-0 lead heading into the final minute.
Then everything fell apart. At 18:55 of the third, Tomas Hertl sent the game… Hertling into overtime. There, the Sharks scored again, and suddenly, the 1-0 win the Canucks had earned was a 2-1 loss. A heart-breaking twist. You couldn’t have written it better.
The next game, an angry Canucks team stormed out demanding a victory versus the Dallas Stars, and outplayed Dallas from beginning to end, outshooting them 43 to 23. But they couldn’t score. In a reversal of the previous outing’s fortunes, the Canucks found themselves trailing 1-0 heading into the third, and with the devastating Sharks’ loss fresh in our minds, all we could think of was how the Canucks might soon pay it forward, transmitting the weeping to Dallas fans like some sort of facial infection.
Nope. Two minutes into the final frame, the Stars scored the insurance goal. Yet another unexpected turn. The Canucks lost again, and by the same 2-1 score. Dramatic consistency!
Then Tim Thomas and the Panthers visited, bringing with them a shot at redemption. The Panthers are terrible, after all, and the way the Canucks had been playing, results aside, this looked to be the cure for what ailed them.
Nope. They flipped the script again, playing down to the Panthers and forcing us to relive a scenario where the Canucks take a lead, but can’t beat Thomas to put it away. Then Thomas’s team storms back to tie things up and force a final, deciding moment, and then, in that moment, he shuts the door, and when Roberto Luongo can’t do the same, he skates away a winner.
That’s right: after two devastating losses, the Canucks treated us to a microcosm of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Just what we needed. What climax.
Suffice it to say, that sort of emotional gut-punch calls for a brief, light reprieve. Fortunately, the Columbus Blue Jackets were willing to play jester, surrendering 6 goals in a blowout. Comic relief!
But that game also served to raise our hopes so that there was something for the Chicago Blackhawks to dash the following night. Once again, the Canucks outplayed their opponent, and once again they lost in dramatic fashion, as their one-goal third-period lead turned into a deficit in a span of 9 seconds. Suddenly, what had the look of Vancouver’s first consecutive wins in the month was a back-breaking loss to the team’s archnemesis.
Finally, the Kings came to town for the grand finale, and it was everything one could have hoped for in a final, devastating act. Again, a visibly desperate Canucks visibly outplayed one of the league’s best teams, taking the lead and coming within shouting distance of the win.
Then, beyond seemingly all reason, it happened again. The Canucks completed a circle that began against San Jose, surrendering the game-tying goal achingly late in the affair and the game-winning goal in overtime. It was a homestand that ended exactly the way it began — a loss that was brilliantly foreshadowed.
As a fan, I’m flabbergasted at this homestand. But as a fan of theatre? Wow. It was tragic. It was comic. I laughed, I cried. I am spent.
Well done, Canucks. Well done.
This feature takes a moment to recognize the best tweets of the week, because we’re online-type writers and Twitter is an online-type thing. If you see a great Canucks-related tweet, send us a link. Or plagiarize it and bask in its glory.
List of Vancouver Canucks defensemen that have more points than Ryan Stanton this season: Kevin Bieksa.
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) November 23, 2013
Ryan Stanton for Calder.
Canucks fans have a negative comment buffer that builds up while they play well, so we’re always ready to let 15 fly when they play bad
— Schneider’s Teeth (@SchneidersTeeth) November 24, 2013
It’s funny because it’s true…
Don Cherry looks like a Ferrero Rocher. #earlyholidaythoughts
— Justin Tillyer (@JustinTillyer) November 24, 2013
Don Cherry’s gold foil suit jacket was one of his more sane outfits, actually.