Vancouver Canucks losing battles — and series — all over the ice
Down 0-2, there isn’t much to feel good about going to Los Angeles to face Kings
Vancouver Canucks Henrik Sedin gets his stick between the legs of LA Kings Willie Mitchell as they battle for the puck in the first period of game 2 of the NHL 2012 Western Conference quarter final at Rogers Arena, Vancouver, April 13 2012.
Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG
VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks have lacked for many things over their history, but rarely in the last 20 years have they been without hope.
They looked fairly close to it Friday night after Game 2 of their first-round National Hockey League playoff series, down 0-2 to the Los Angeles Kings, who are far better than people reckoned when the visitors were being picked to lose to the Canucks in five games — six, max.
In 17 previous series that started with two games in Vancouver, the Canucks had never lost both games. They've never won a series after losing the first two games. They hadn't lost the first two — home or away — since 2001, when they were swept by Colorado as the Avalanche was on its way to the Stanley Cup.
There are lots of ways for the Canucks to rationalize the deficit.
Vancouver just needs Daniel Sedin back from his concussion. If only the power play would wake up. All the Canucks need is a bounce. Even playing poorly, they've been close in the third period of both games.
But for 120 minutes, the Kings have been stronger on the puck and won more of the battles for it. They've looked quicker and better organized. And as good as Roberto Luongo has played, the Kings' Jonathan Quick has been the stronger goalie.
The Canucks played better in Game 2 than they did in the opener and still lost 4-2 — the same score as Game 1. They had 48 shots on goal Friday and still lost. There isn't too much to feel good about, and the Canucks haven't a road map to get back in the series because most of the players have never been in this position.
“I think the big thing is to not panic,” veteran Sammy Pahlsson said. “Everyone wants to win so badly, and now that we've lost two it's easy to panic and just try to do it yourself. That's not how you win games. You have to do it as a team. We have to try to play our game, and not try something else because it's not working.
“We knew they were a good team. We knew they had a good defence and a good goaltender. But we're making mistakes and that won them the game today.”
The Kings scored twice short-handed and once on the power play. And their other goal was from power-play pressure.
Los Angeles is 3-for-12 in the series with the man-advantage. Vancouver is 0-for-10, minus the killer short-handed goals it surrendered Friday.
Of course, Sedin, the concussed winger who led the NHL in scoring last season, is brutally missed on the power play. But four goals in two playoff games, though meagre, is not an offensive crisis by post-season standards. It's the eight goals against that is more of a concern.
L.A. was 29th in scoring this season. Vancouver was fourth in goals-against. Nobody expected the problems to be in the Canucks' zone.
The fact that the Kings' franchise lost the only series it ever led 2-0 is inconsequential because it occurred in 1968 and we're pretty sure there was still a “rover” in the lineup back then.
It may be more pertinent that the Boston Bruins trailed the Canucks 0-2 in the final last June before winning the Stanley Cup, although that oddly isn't a comforting thought in Vancouver, which has lost six of its last seven playoff games.
“I'm not in the mood right now for examples,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “We're going to sit back tonight and get a good night's sleep and tomorrow come to work and do what needs to be done. Any team in our situation, what you have to do is stay in the moment. You've got to stick with the game plan, stick with the process and play with the urgency a situation like this dictates.
“You've got to build on the positive things and adjust where there needs to be adjustments. Right now, specialty teams have been the difference in this series. They've been the better team.”
Canucks players were citing “positives,” too — mostly Vancouver's sharper focus and superior even-strength play on Friday.
But as Jannik Hansen, arguably the best Canuck so far, pointed out: “A loss is still a loss.”
Since we're ignoring the '68 Kings, who played home games in three arenas and were led in scoring by Eddie Joyal, maybe we should point out that Los Angeles had fewer points at home this season (49) than Vancouver had on the road (53).
Does that make you feel better?
“There are a lot of things we did right tonight,” Canuck defenceman Dan Hamhuis said. “We had 48 shots; there were a lot of positives. And we've got the confidence that we were the best road team in the league.”
They'll have to be almost perfect Sunday in Game 3.
• You can click here for a photo gallery of Friday's game or look under "More on this story" on this web page.
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