Sometimes, it is a struggle to find the words to describe the games in this star crossed season. Acronyms ? Sure. "SMDH" and "WTF?" were the predominant ones on this night.
There were so many "what ifs" in this one. Sometimes the bounces just do not go your way, and the game of hockey can be cruel. I don't know, maybe Robers Arena is built on an ancient burial ground or something. It makes as much sense as anything else at this point.
Consider. In the first period the Canucks, while certainly not the better team, had some chances to score, a power play that had some merit, and looked to be playing a hard working period where they probably were owed a scoreless tie after the first period.
Thing is, when the best scorer in the NHL is allowed to set up camp in front of the net while killing a late power play, and is given all day to shoot, that is not going to give any goalie a chance. Shawn Matthias got caught puck watching, while his three mates were checking the puck in the corner, the puck squirted to Palat, and he fed Steven Stamkos in front for an inevitable result to that defensive miscue.
But, all things considered, it's only one to nothing, and you are playing OK. Get out there and get it back in the second, right ? Sure...
The next two tallies have to be filed under the #WTF category. Both came on plays where the Canucks had chances that, in years past, end up in the back of the net. The first was while the teams were playing 4 on 4, and after Kevin Bieksa jumped up into the play, and was all alone with Ben Bishop. So, of course he whiffs entirely, and is caught up the ice. The Bolts came back the other way, and what looked like a pass instead of a shot on a two on one went off of Stanton and into the net behind Lack.
The Canucks certainly did not get any favours from the referees on this night either. The Bolts were put on a power play in the second on a play where Sportsnet could not even find the play ( honestly, I was yelling #WTF to the TV when Bieksa made a clean hit on a guy with the puck, thinking that was the call. Evidently Henrik's evil stick was to blame instead, as he was called for hooking ), and then taken off of it by Filppula a minute later, for a hook on Alexandre Burrows. That power play was not the best on the night, but did have some zone time and a chance or two to get on the board.
Another penalty late in the second, this one on Zack Kassian, for a slash that the producers at Sportsnet again could not find a replay of, gave the dangerous Lightning power play another opportunity. Eddie Lack stood tall on this one though, making some great saves to keep the game within two. Unfortunately, when it looked like the Canucks would get out of the period down only two, once again, the fates worked against them. This time, it was a Filppula shot that went off of Ryan Stanton's leg and behind the goalie, for a goal in the last ten seconds that made it 3-0, and looked to have put the game to bed.
I am sure there were TV's all over the Lower Mainland that switched over to Monday Night Raw, Rachel Maddow, or whatever else was on. 3-0, against a pretty good goaltender like Bishop, that has to be curtains, right ?
Well, not so fast, as it turns out. The Canucks came out flying in the third. At one point it was 7-0 in third period shots, and 4 of them, at least, were bonafide scoring chances. After a well deserved goaltender interference penalty ( seriously NHL, you want to stop guys running the goaltender like Tom Pyatt did, blasting the Canuck goalie without anyone even touching him into the area, tell your refs to give out majors for the most egregious of those fouls, like this one was. Unless you LIKE goaltenders getting hurt all the time. Then, by all means continue with what you have going... ), the Canucks finally cashed in on the man advantage on a play that was clinical in its execution. Henrik Sedin won the draw, Jensen tapped it back to Bieksa, who set up the Edler shot that was saved. Alexandre Burrows had a perfect screen for the initial shot, and slammed home the rebound. It brought the game back to the realm of, at least a possibility of a comeback, and was a just reward for all the hard work in the first five minutes.
The Puck Gods are a cruel and vengeful lot sometimes though, as just three minutes later, the guy that callously ran the Canuck goaltender took a shot from a bad angle that Eddie Lack really should have had. He didn't have it though, and the spread was once again three goals, with little more than 11 minutes left to get their barely alive playoff hopes breathing again.
Credit the team again though. The hill was steep, but they kept coming. On some great pressure, Niklas Jensen took a shot that was saved, stayed on the puck, and swept it on net from the corner, and had it go off of Alexandre Burrows for his second of the game. Suddenly, it was a 4-2 game.
Alexander Edler took a penalty, with 6:30 left, and it looked like that would pull the curtain down. But Burrows does not have any quit in him, and when he battled the puck out of the zone, and made a great pass to spring Jannik Hansen in the last 30 seconds of the Bolts' power play. Honey Badger was saved by Bishop, but he stayed on the puck, and put the rebound in to make the game 4-3.
Alas though, it was not to be. Not when the Puck Gods have decided to not cut you any slack whatsoever. Not when the referees decide not to call a fairly obvious hook against Edler with about 4 minutes left, a play that had the Canuck bench screaming for a call.
Not when you pull the goaltender, and a long pass to Jensen by Henrik Sedin looks to have gone off his stick, but is called icing, with about 45 seconds left, to put a stake in you on this night.
The Canucks had a chance, even with all of that. Just before that icing, in fact, on a well executed set play that got Garrison a chance to shoot with traffic. It did not get through though, and the other half chances that they had with the goalie pulled obviously did not turn out well either.
So, instead of a rallying point, tremendous comeback game, your Vancouver Canucks were left to wonder "what if", and bemoan the chances they had, the shitty luck that happened, and the goal that got away. We can't neglect the fact that a one time defensively awesome team is basically a tire fire at times on that side of the puck, but we shouldn't let that consume us either.
Such is the way it has been going this season.
Noticeable Contributors :
- Niklas Jensen. Probably the best Canuck on the night. Had a breakaway from the blue line in that was stopped in the third, on one of his 6 shot attempts ( 4 on net ). Ended up with an assist, a +1, 3 blocks, and made the canucks best line of the night go with his physical, smart play.
- Henrik Sedin. Also had an assist. 1 of his 2 shot attempts on net, a swing and a miss on an airborne puck with an open net, and 1 block and 1 hit. Two penalties taken did not help, although one of those was for roughing, and only cost a 4 on 4.
- Alexandre Burrows, of course. Two more goals, and an assist, as he seems to be making up for lost time on the scoresheet. 4 of 6 shot attempts on net, competitive every shift, and in all situations. Mr. Everything indeed.
- While the defenders were not the best as a group, and had to deal with a Christopher Tanev injury screwing up the pairings, Kevin Bieksa was at his gambling best. He was up ice on one of the off of Stanton goals, but that is a play he has to make. Finished with a +1, 5 of 7 shot attempts on net, and a game high 7 hits.
- Stop it twitter. Yes, I saw Alexander Edler running around on one of those goals. He wasn't the only one. Eddy was strong on the puck, had an assist, was a +1, had 2 shots, 2 hits, and a block. The penalty sucked, of course, but I feel the need to give the man some positive feedback, in light of the fact that he seems to have become ( not totally without merit of course ! ) the "whipping boy de jour".
So. on a trip that they really needed to go 3-1, or 4 -0 on, the Canucks come back 2-2. Unfortunately, it is the games in hand by virtually the entire NHL that is the problem. Take solace in the fact that your team never gave in, went down fighting, and are probably a better team than the "experts" are telling you.
Reload, not rebuild. The Predators are here on Wednesday, and then the open practice. I know the pain makes descending into negativity pretty easy. Don't give in, regardless...