With one more game to play, and a losing streak to break, the Vancouver Canucks certainly had the incentive to win a nationally broadcast Saturday night game. Yes, there are injuries, and yes, Daniel Sedin is still struggling to score. Watching Alexandre Burrows try to play with that face mask on is like what I would imagine it is like to see a medieval knight try to knit.
The young defenders are playing a lot of minutes. The scoring has dried up, and the goaltending has been good, but getting no support. It has been one of "those" seasons ( and for the wags, yes, the Pens have way more man games lost. The Canucks lost five starters, and their coach part of the way through this dismal stretch. Each team is different ) as far as crucial injuries at crucial times.
So, it was no surprise when, after recovering well from a slow start in the first period, and getting a goal late in the opener, they proceeded to, at least in the third period, to "sit on a lead" like an AV coached team would. This is a fragile team in need of a break. None was coming in this one...
I have to say it here and now, I hate Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts. The idea of ANYTHING different from these relentlessly vapid, parochial, biased, and just plain full of shit narrative spinners is a welcome thing to look forward to in four years for me, and I think Rogers broadcasts hockey even worse than CBC. But my tax dollars aren't paying for those ones.
Maybe it is just personnel. Replace Glenn Healy and his blowhard act, banish PJ Stock to somewhere without sharp edges, so he doesn't hurt himself ( and then just forget him there ) salvage Friedmann before he is corrupted by these buffoons, and move on. Oh, if it was only that easy.
Look, I know the Canucks are struggling. I can see it, and I have watched enough hockey to catch that. But these guys willfully, and probably with higher ups direction, make it a programming thing to just be brutal at any time they are struggling, to talk down any good thing on the ice, and amplify the little things. You know that the players and organization feel that way, ever since 2011. ( with good reason ) I'd gotten used to it in the past, but the way they have totally corrupted Jim Hughson really brought it home tonight. So, go ahead guys. The 'Nucks are only on your dying enterprise four more times this year, and maybe the editorial changes promised will start occurring soon after.
I sure hope so. Because HNIC Sucks.
So, even with the broadcaster's playing their usual games, there was still a spectacle to watch before the real spectacles get going in Sochi. The Leafs came out with the first 7 shots, had a 7-1 edge early ( helped along by two dumb early penalties by the Canucks ), and were the better team territorially. Both teams were trying to play "low event hockey" all night, with dump ins and outs the order of the day, but even with that, the Canucks were by far the better team in the second half of the opening period. They finished this period with a 12 - 8 edge in shots, the Leafs had given the puck away 8-1 ( 11-3 through two, 16- 6 through full time. )
That is a lot of giveaways the Canucks didn't take advantage of ), and with the home team was ahead in draws ( 13-7 ) and hits ( 13 -7 ), but not on the scoreboard, it was Ryan Kesler who pounced on a lose puck in the high slot, got the puck on net ( maybe tipped, it looked tipped ) and through the goaltender ( who the HNIC guys proceeded to make excuses for at a furious pace, calling the goal "lucky" twice in the five seconds after it was scored. Amazing )
So, the Canucks actually got a bounce, and then went to the room with a lead? What is happening ?
The second period was easily the "low event hockey" poster child, as far as this game went. It seemed that everyone was already planning their 10 days off, and which beach sounded the best. Sure, there were a few things that happened. Mainly the dumping in and out of the puck. The goalies faced 11 shots TOTAL, with the Canucks having a 6-5 edge. There was a "fight" with Burrows deciding his full face shield wouldn't stop him, as he and Kessel slashed each other with abandon first.
he wags will tell you that Burr' "pulled Kessel's hair", but it looked more like he was just reaching for him, and more a hand "tousling" his locks more than anything. Burrows ended up with the extra one ( for a high stick...ignoring the fact that Kessel had hacked away on Burrows as well. Perhaps Burrows is just the better hacker... ) , and the Leafs had some pressure late around the net, as Clarkson tacked Stanton late ( another guy injured, but he kept playing. You can heal for the next two weeks Ryan ! ) to make the game 4 on 4 to start the third.
The shots were now 18-13 after two, Luongo looking good, and the hits had evened up a bit too, now 27-22. Faceoffs had gotten closer, with the Leafs having a 23-19 edge. The Corsi and Fenwick that had looked horrible after one ( 84.2 -15.8 % and 87.5 - 12.5% in the home team favour ) were now 56.4%- 43.6 # a Leaf advantage on the Corsi side, and the FF ( Fenwick for % ) was now 51.0% to 49.0 % in the Canucks' favour. The Canucks had blocked 16 shots to 5 after 40 minutes, were somewhat in control of a game that was there for the taking, and only had twenty minutes left to get those two points.
Unfortunately, there was to be no reward for the visitors, and it was all their own doing. Well, maybe a bit of help. On two of the three goals the Leafs scored in less than five minutes of playing time, two were scored with the arm in the air for what looked, both times, to be pretty phantom-like calls. One had Phil Kessel squealing like a stuck pig in the slot from contact that was all stick and no hands ( to be fair, they were hacking him all game ), before taking the puck on the delayed call and sniping a wrister high glove on a shot Luongo still hasn't see, for what would be the eventual game winner.
The Raymond goal. he made a nice shot too, and the Canucks were chasing on both of them. But when the crucial 3-1 goal that put the game out of hand ( and woe is us, huh? This team used to score so much that a 2 goal deficit was nothing, but now, a third goal is a killer ) is a bounce off of Edler's face and in, you know the bounces aren't going your way.
The rest of the way, the Canucks just couldn't do much. They tried. They had zone time. But, whether confidence a "here we ****ing go again guys" fatalism, or just a bouncy puck, it was too many bounces over sticks, passes not completed, shots waited on too long, and the game wound down without any real scary chances to tie it up, or even get close. They outshot the Leafs, and some of them were tough ones ( a screened shot from the point hit Bernier on two occasions on the pads, instead of finding a hole, and he moved not an inch on one of them, and got lucky on the other ) but they outshot them 33-24. The shot attempts were a bit closer, with the Leafs having the edge. The Canucks had 33 shots, 11 blocked, and missed 13 more, for a 57 total, while the Leafs had 24 shots, had 22 blocked, and missed 16 more for a 62 attempt total. The Corsi For % ended up 56 -44 % in the Leaf favour, and the Fenwick For % ended up 50-50. A winnable game with some more bearing down on the shots, and a bounce here or there...
But this is more than the numbers now. The break is needed, not just to get healthy, but to get the minds healthy too. We demand a lot of our teams and players in Canadian cities, and, I guess even CBC is just picking up on the massive hyperbole that comes along with a losing streak of this length. Getting tanned on a beach somewhere and just forgetting it all might not be a bad idea.
Your Canucks are now just below the playoff bar, the amount pending the night's results. But it is no more than a point or two, and that is easily made up with a run. I still believe that the team that only lost once in December is lurking in these guys. I also think GMMG will make a deal before the deadline ( there are two games, the Wild and Blues, at home, and then the Heritage Classic before the deadline ), and that will provide a jolt.
But that is just me. I get that folks will "take a break" from the team, and that the bandwagon is empty. That is fine.
Leaves more room for me to stretch my legs out then...