VANCOUVER, CANADA - APRIL 22: The Vancouver Canucks salute their fans after losing 2-1 to the Los Angeles Kings in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Arena on April 22, 2012 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The Kings eliminated the Canucks after winning the series 4-2. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
So, a congrats to the L.A Kings. In a wild game where the refs called everything ticky tack at the start, and then nothing later on, the Kings rode a magnificent performance by Jonathan Quick to keep it within a goal, played hard in the third to get the tying goal, and then took advantage of a WTF moment from our most consistent defenseman to get the series winning goal.
As a Canuck fan, I can sit here and tell you several reasons why it should not have been, but how do you do that without sounding like sour grapes? One thing I can do, is send a hearty go #$@& yourselves to the entire passive aggressive CBC crew. I will be watching playoff hockey because I am a hockey fan, but I won't be watching CBC if I can help it.
Cory Schneider will be a wonderful goalie in the NHL, and he may be the man here next year. Thats for another time. But he made a mistake on the tying goal that was exacerbated by the mistakes of his teammates in front. The game winner? Well, maybe he lost his short side a little, but that was a helluva shot. He picked the corner, and that is something that the Canucks were trying to do on Quick and just could not cash them in.
- One last time on the refs though, just for old times sake. That was a good non call on the game winner, but I hope you enjoy clutch and grabfests the rest of the way in the 2nd round. Just a few mentions... the first penalty to Hamhuis? He was getting an elbow in the melon from Brown and got a little push back. Huh? The one on Hank right after was sort of light too ( he dove, one of the only times his team did that tonight, but he dove hard. It was disgusting that that got rewarded there. I have been putting a light on that aspect all series, because that team has a lot of them that embellish, and my team seems to get the stick from the media while they get a pass. They did not do it much tonight, but Scuderi sure did there! ), but what the hell right? Now, you may sit there and go, are you kidding me you selfish bastard? Your team got twice as many power plays! "Typical arrogant Canuck fan whining!" Yes, yes they did. But they should have also had a 5 on 3. Dustin Brown had a vicious two handed slash to the arm / wrist of Henrik Sedin. He was hunched over in pain. It was a ridiculous non call. That, added to the frustrating concept of "throwing the whistles away" in the third especially, is just maddening to a veteran hockey fan. You can see the penalties on the ice, and the fact is, it is not just in this series where the reffing is uneven. Its all of them. It will get called "playing hard", but once again, we are left to wonder why or what if. I know we get frustrated, and it seems fatalistic to assume that if the Canucks played that way, it would be called, but the Vancouver team either has to learn how to straddle the line better, play in the ditches more sneakily, and maybe get away from playing the pretty, offensive hockey that you would think the NHL would want to highlight, or just get used to being the best regular season team year after year. Because, even though they make the noises otherwise, anyone that has watched more than a few games can see that the type of hockey they were almost successful in eradicating, the clutch and grab fest, is back with a vengeance in the playoffs, and not just in this series Just look at the teams that are ahead in the West. Tell me how much fun it will be for the NHL to promote that as "entertainment" if the Coyotes take out the Blackhawks. Because, otherwise, its plain to see the that they let a chance fall away, and are stuck with a bunch of pikers playing the kind of hockey we were promised was going to be gone after the lockout. Lying bastards! Lets see you put lipstick on that pig Mr Bettman!
- That being said, whining about the calls is gauche, and its not the reason the Canucks lost tonight. I bring it up only to highlight the uneven and headscratching medium that is the one major factor in all hockey games. For a team that got their one goal on the power play, and looked so dangerous on the other ones, getting as many power plays as possible is important to this club. It was a major reason for the team being so high scoring the past two years, and was a major reason for them failing this year, its inability to score. That is why we note calls not made. Because on another night, with another tandem of striped shirts a two handed slash is rightly seen as an infraction, even when it would put a team down two men.
- It has to be acknowledged, the Los Angeles team played their grind game better than the home team played the style that got them to their current station. Its not their fault that something is called or not, and they played hard all series. Part of that had to do with the high scoring team, the Canucks, playing the defensive style after the trade deadline, as a prep for the playoffs. They should not have done that, and just played their offensive style. I accept that AV and his coaching style is that the offense comes from the defense, but you have to wonder. Thats for another day, and maybe with a first round loss, there wil be a change. Mind you, tonight, Daniel Sedin had a breakaway. There were other chances right from the top of the slot. Cash just one, and we are not having this discussion. Credit the Kings for their magnificent game of defending. They blocked 19 shots. Not only did Drew Doughty block 5, Willie Mitchell blocked 8. The latter was, for me, the major difference in this series. Big Stick Willie was magnificent. I wish him well, even if I will probably pick another team to cheer for when I watch playoff hockey now.
- For all the folks that will talk of the defensive style winning this series for the Kings, don't kid yourself. It helped, BUT...Jonathan Quick. It starts and ends there. He was a little lucky on the save on Raymond's wrapper in O/T that it did not trickle in somehow. He was the main reason the scoring was down for the Canucks. He was the reason that the penalty kill recovered for the Kings after giving up a Sedin goal. Yes, the Kesler line needed to produce more, despite the fact is that Burrows' stick got cold. The same with Chris Higgins , and others. Give credit to the Kings in this series for collapsing back and doing a great job clearing rebounds. But the reason a lot of the Canucks sticks went cold was because of the work of the the goaltender. He was the difference in the series.
- Now, the goals. The one goal for the Canucks was from getting Quick moving, and overplaying. That might be what is so frustrating for Canuck fans, that he was doing it at times all night, and they could not take advantage more than once. Yes, I know, everyone from Kopitar to Richards was playing hard in their own end. But the fact is, if the Canucks can just make the goalie pay one more time for overplaying, he would have had to back off a bit. A hockey themed "catch 22" perhaps, but like Henrik Sedin said afterwards, the rebounds were there.
- Cory Schneider will be haunted by his potentially last game in the Blue and Green for a while, however. On the first goal, there was just no reason for him to go after Doughty. He put himself way out of position. Sure, Hank, Edler, and the other two players back should have had the goalscorer's stick. Credit Richardson for getting his stick on the puck as well. But there is no excuse for the players that only had one responsibility there, checking his stick. Keith Balard played Doughty pretty well at the beginning of the rush down low. He was guilty of not picking up someone in front afterwards as well. But that goal, you hang on the goalie for the overplay, and the rest for the ineptitude.
- Now, the one that sent everyone home unhappy. Like Cheech said afterwards, he was maybe guilty of not knowing how good a shooter Jarrett Stoll is. That, in fact, is one of his best skills. The goaltender left him the short side corner and he took it. That being said, its hard to be too upset with the guy that was mostly going save for save with the Vezina likely nominee at the other end. The overtime was ridiculously back and forth for a playoff game, and it was a bad break / good play that gave the man a clean rush in to get the shot off. Once again, credit the winning team there. They played it hard. Lewis got a good check on the puck when he was pulling Dan Hamhuis down with him, and I don't think that should have been a call. It hurts though.
- So, I chose not to get too much into the individual players and such. We have a long offseason that will be full of highlights and headlines to do that. A goaltending "question" to answer. A possible coaching change. The folks that were playing with a nick or two will come clean soon. Just one guy though, for all the folks that will harumph and such. Ryan Kesler played so hard tonight. He had 4 shots, 3 blocks ( all big ones on the penalty kill ), a hit, and takeaway, while going 9 of 17 on draws, the best on the team on a night they were outdrawn. Yes, the second line needed to produce more. But tell me you did not think they were pretty amazing at a couple points in the game.
Credit the other team for a job well done. Basically, they played a little harder in spots. They played the "playoff style" I was alluding to above. Whether that is because of the makeup of the Canucks is something we will endlessly debate and kvetch about. We have all offseason. But don't be fooled by folks talking about "windows to win" and such in the coming months. This team will have top notch goaltending, no matter who it is. They will have a collection of talent that is deep and valuable to either trade, resign, or whatever. No doubt, in a hockey mad region, a first round loss, no matter how good the goalie was, how shitty they are calling games in the playoffs, or how many bad breaks happened, is something that will probably bring about change. But heads up. We can all adopt the Sens if they surprise the Rangers, the playoffs will be a good classroom on the kind of players we need to target to get deeper, bigger, and more playoff ready ( it does not look like the NHL is going to go back to the skill teams that our GM wanted us to become, no matter how many big name skilled teams go out ). and there are plenty of kids to consider as well.
All things to look forward to now that our team is out. Like Highlander, there can be only one, and its not our team this time around. GMMG tried to change his team's makeup on the fly, and still was the best in the regular season. He knew it was going to be tough, and next year will be a more complete team. Hell, Kesler should be better with a full year off the hip thing that people were still whispering about. The Twins are going to be stony faced all year working at learning how to handle this "grind" that the second season is all about. The Cup is all they want now. Don't despair Canuck fans. Your team is still amongst the elite, even with a loss in the first round. Its not rebuild, its reload.
In the mean time, congrats to the Kings players, a glove tap to their fans that needed this for that market ( a first playoff series win since 2001, or was it 2003 ?). Excuse me if I think that watching your team play the Blues will be akin to watching paint dry for a fan of entertaining hockey. The buildup and hype of playoff hockey should make it tolerable to watch...maybe! At least you get to continue watching games that matter, while all we get to do is debate which offseason acquisition will have the biggest impact!