Some of you reacted strongly to posts on NM where we as writers expressed our frustration over seeing a very talented team once again on the verge of another embarrassing early exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And while this team can certainly spark reactions both positive and negative (and man, did we see that yesterday) it's not a bad thing. The beauty of SBN is that it's designed to be so much more than just a blog, but an actual community, geared towards discussion. And we value your input. All of you. Even those of you that are wrong. Heh.
It would be easy for me to just churn out another fist pounding condemnation of this team right now. It would be just as easy to give a William Wallace-like rally cry, trying to inspire feelings of hope. I am not gonna do that. What I say isn't gonna change your mind much, and I am not gonna insult your intelligence implying such. Sure, there may be times when we as writers try to do this, and good writers can. I think you also need to know when to just pull back and accept when a subject has had all that's needed to be said. That horse isn't going to get any more dead.
Can the Canucks win tonight? Of course they can. There have been times where they have gone toe to toe with San Jose. The margin of error tonight is so slim, though that they need to play without a doubt their best game of season if they want to win. The Sharks have executed their game plan to perfection. They've played relatively error-free hockey, and the few times they have messed up, the Canucks have not capitalized. If there's a reason to cling to hope, it would be that there's little pressure on the Canucks. The pressure to close out a sweep at home can do funny things to a team. Look at last year. Even the Kings, as good as they were, couldn't close the deal in 4. Sweeps don't happen too often. The problem is the Canucks used the inspiration of Daniel Sedin returning to the lineup to help battle back against the Kings in Game 4. What can they look at to get that spark tonight?
Maybe it's Kevin Bieksa's rant yesterday. On the surface, it looks like whining. Some media scoffed at Bieksa's comments, even while begrudgingly admitting that he was making valid points. While it's easy to just write off what he says as trying to blame the officiating as the reason the Canucks are down in this series (while the calls have been disproportionately in San Jose's favour, and it's been a factor, the obvious reasons why have been discussed to death here), I think Bieksa's rant was a veteran taking one for the team, putting some of the pressure on his back and letting the media discuss that instead of all the other things. Much like Brian Burke's famous 'Sedin is not Swedish for punch me in the head' rant against Detroit, which now seems so long ago, Bieksa was trying to raise valid concerns, but also deflect just enough to keep the hounds at bay and let his team focus on the task at hand. And good on him for calling out Logan Couture on the Henrik Sedin butt-end. The reaction by Henrik, one of frustration was stupid and could have been costly. But the way Couture responded to what amounted to a tap on the helmet was disgraceful, only surpassed by the gutlessness of media members to not call him out, when they savaged Ryan Kesler earlier in the game after the Patrick Marleau high stick. But the cowardice of Damian Cox and others is hardly a shock in this neck of the woods, right? And with word that Kelly Sutherland and Chris Lee are the officials tonight, expecting it to get better is a fool's game.
While the task is monumental, the way to go about seems shockingly simple. Battle. Win each shift. Don't look at it as having to win 3 games. Just try to win one. We know the cliches. The question is, can Alain Vigneault and his coaching staff make the necessary adjustments to allow this to happen? This is where my doubt comes from. AV has shown a shocking resistance to adjusting to the actions of the opponents, it really makes you wonder how he started the year as coach. Jason Botchford posted a pretty damning piece that looks at who to blame for the mess the Canucks find themselves in, and while Mike Gillis gets some of the blame, Botch hammers home the myriad of AV failings, from overplaying Kevin Bieksa, to running a system that actually restrains the Canucks top line by forcing them to play a more defensive style. If they don't take the restrictions off them, and let the Sedins and Alex Burrows have free reign tonight, there's no hope in making plans Thursday night. He also criticized bringing an obviously not 100% Cory Schneider back into play when the goaltending in games 1 and 2 Roberto Luongo had provided had been good enough to give them a chance to win if only they remembered how to score goals.
I want them to win. If they return to the kind of hockey that they played just a couple years ago, when they were the best team in the NHL, they can. But my gut tells me that Vigneault, as stubborn as he is talented, believes that his systems can triumph. If he had better components in certain spots, that may very well be the case. But this team is built a certain way, and it needs to get back to doing what it does best, or we are once again looking at a wasted season. Some of you have raised the point that it's just a game, and I can understand why some think that way. I suppose there's a bit to be envious of someone who doesn't let sport impact their lives the way it does the rest of us. The majority of us though, it does hit us. Hard. We live and breathe for this stuff. It's a primal need, to see our side defeat your side. War, that most human creation, played out through a game. And so many of us have given our hearts and souls to this team, hours of time and thought, not to mention money. And all we ask for in return is one simple thing. Just for this team, our team, to bring home what is by far the hardest trophy to claim in all of sport. It's not asking much, right?
BATTLE HYMN OF THE GAME
Nowhere to run indeed. Another rager from 3 Inches Of Blood, off Fire Up The Blades. Enjoy. Go Canucks Go.