Canucks/Avs: Struggles With The Bubble

You have to hand it to the Blues, Ducks and now the Oilers: those bubble teams can really take it to the plump daddies on the top can't they?

Two weeks ago the Blues (led by wunderkind T.J. Oshie) took two points from the Canucks because they were hungrier. And, on their current two game losing streak, they played an uncharacteristically sloppy defensive game and allowed Bobby Ryan and the Ducks to win in overtime. And last night? The Canucks played two strong periods (the first and the third) while the Oilers, again the more desperate of the two, scored within 30 seconds of the opening puck drop. Oh and Sam Gagner pulled an Oshie and schooled the entire team with a beautiful third period marker.

On a night they so badly wanted to win for Taylor Pyatt, they couldn't get it done. It was a pleasure to see Mats Sundin play an entire game and use his body. Perhaps his legs are finally where they would have been in December had he been playing all season. Wellwood and Raymond also played well in the loss.

But Roloson outplayed Luongo and the special teams fell apart again. Said Vigneault:

"They made us pay for our mistakes and we weren't able to do the same thing," Vigneault said. "Our power play ... it's got to find a way to finish and we didn't do that."

At least Rypien provided some entertainment:

 

 

These losses, if nothing else, are making the question of who wins the Northwest title last longer then we had hoped. The Canucks remain five points up on the Blue Jackets but did drop two slots with the loss - 3rd to 5th - so the hope now is they recognize half-hearted efforts aren't going to cut it anymore. Not now and not in the post season.

The regular season has a week left and their record in the final games (two against the Avs, one at the Kings and one against Calgary) will dictate what their opening round looks like. Of the three, only Calgary is playoff bound. So if Vancouver can't deal with desperate bubble teams what are they going to do against spoiler teams who are going to be icing kids and guys playing for contracts next season?

We'll see tonight. A strong rebound and the division title is in their hands again, setting up a beautiful game against Calgary on Tuesday. If they miss the mark, we all know the media is going to tear them a new one once the sun rises tomorrow.

An easier two points can't be had. In case you've been under a rock, the Denver Post would like you to know:

Unless the Avs get nine of a possible 10 points in their final five games and the Los Angeles Kings lose nine out of a possible 10, Colorado is guaranteed to finish no better than 28th overall in the NHL this season.

This is your Sunday game thread. Work off your Saturday night hangovers in the comments and see you tonight.

Game Notes

UPDATE 2:08 PM

Wojtek Wolski will play tonight after missing the past few days due to sickness.

Peter Budaj will start for the Avs.

----------------------

- Though Vancouver has coughed up nine goals and an empty netter in the past two games, Luongo is getting the nod tonight.

- Colorado has lost eight straight. In addition, not only are they without Sakic, Smyth and Stastny up front, but they're also likely down defensemen Brett Clark, Lawrence Nycholat (whoever the hell he is) and Adam Foote.

- Mile High Hockey reports the Avs have recalled Aaron Mackenzie, making him "the 10th player to make his NHL debut (six of them will be in the lineup on Sunday)." So expect a lot of new faces out there.

- Vancouver outscored the Avs 8-3 in two games last month.

- Vigneault was angry with the effort last night, especially on the Gagner goal. It's possible he'll tinker again, maybe with Vaananen on the blueline or Hansen up front. Once the lines firm up, we'll post them.

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