It had already been widely accepted by the entire fan base, all that was needed was the final nail in the coffin. That nail came courtesy of the Anaheim Ducks who officially eliminated the Vancouver Canucks from playoff contention with a 3-0 win at Rogers Arena on Monday night.
John Gibson delivered the shutout in his first NHL start, stopping all 18 shots he faced. The Canucks may have made his job easier with their inability to generate any offense all night, but a shutout in your first NHL start in net is impressive no matter what.
This year marks the first time since the 2007-08 season that Vancouver failed to reach the playoffs. That year, Vancouver finished three points out of a playoff spot as Trevor Linden ended his career a couple months earlier than he had hoped.
The game got off to an ominous start just 10 seconds in when Jason Garrison attempted to clear a puck while skating backwards. Garrison reached out to knock the puck away from Andrew Cogliano, but it was Cogliano who came up with possession and a breakaway chance. Luckily Eddie Lack was on his toes and ready to make the stop.
With the Canucks on the power play, Henrik Sedin attempted to slide the puck through the skates of Daniel Winnik, but it was Winnik who managed to come up with possession. There was no one left back to stop Winnik, who managed to beat Lack with a top-shelf shorthanded goal to give the Ducks the early 1-0 lead.
Late in the first period, Brad Richardson was sent off for roughing. After colliding into the boards with Stephane Robidas, Richardson climbed on top of Robidas, trying to instigate a fight. I wonder what Keith Olbermann will have to say about that one?
Shortly into the power play, Ryan Kesler came up with a shorthanded breakaway chance on net, but couldn’t handle the puck well enough to get a shot off. Hampus Lindholm came in behind Kesler and managed to poke the puck away before Kesler could manage a shot, and the Ducks would go into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead.
The second period saw a slow start from the Canucks offensively, who managed just one shot in the first half of the period. Things finally picked up when Alex Burrows and Brad Richardson found themselves with the puck right in front of the net. Burrows tried to knock in a shot from the point, and Richardson was hacking away at the rebound, causing a scrum between the two sides and finally pumping some life into the period.
Late in the period, the Ducks extended their lead when Lovejoy sent in a wrist shot from the point that was tipped in by Kyle Palmieri to give Anaheim a 2-0 lead. It was a fitting end to a period in which Vancouver mustered just three shots. Yes, three. The first was a sharp angled shot from Chris Higgins four minutes into the period. The second was Burrows’ close chance at the front of the net along with Richardson. The last being a slap shot on net by Jannik Hansen with 9:28 to play in the period. The Canucks went almost 10 minutes without taking a shot to end the period.
The third period started in similar fashion to the first when the Ducks came up with a two-on-zero breakaway that was created after a wrist shot attempt by Jason Garrison was blocked. Cogliano rushed down ice for his second breakaway chance of the night, but once again Lack was able to come up with the stop to keep the game at 2-0.
Moments later, Ryan Getzlaf came up with a turnover at center ice off a bad pass from Kevin Bieksa. Getzlaf found Cory Perry with a drop pass who in turn found Matt Beleskey off to his left. Lack couldn’t adjust in time as Beleskey beat Lack for his seventh goal of the year to give the Ducks a commanding 3-0 lead.
The Canucks had their best chance of the night when Nicklas Jensen nearly beat John Gibson. The play began when Ryan Kesler managed to get a pass of while down on the ice to Jannik Hansen, who quickly found Jensen in front of the net. Jensen’s shot was unable to get enough air to beat Gibson, who came up with an impressive diving kick save with his right pad.
In the final minutes of the game, the remaining fans in the arena began a "Fire Gillis," chant that grew louder and louder, representing a tipping point of frustrations the fans have suffered through all year long. As the clock wound down, the boos rained down, and with the final horn came the culmination of a disappointing year. No more holding onto a glimmer of hope, as faint as it was. The past few games of the season were like an ex breaking up with you, and then telling you that if you can change, they’ll take you back. You’re left with a false sense of hope that inevitably comes crashing down on you.
The Canucks still have three games left on the schedule, so it will be interesting to see how the team responds against the Avalanche on Thursday knowing there isn’t much left to play for aside from a moral victory. But hey, they’re the best in the league at those, so who knows? Maybe there’s a silver lining in there somewhere.