Slow start could spell disaster
Canucks fail to back up apology for lockout by winning opener for puck-starved fans
Sure enough, the team many thought to have the best one-two goaltending duo in the league gets ventilated for seven on opening night, with Cory Schneider's official debut as No. 1 in this town going about as well as the 7-3 final score might indicate.
Schneider spilled the anointing oil of his ascendancy to the throne all over himself on opening night, giving up goals that never go in on him, as this President's Trophy winning team once again proved that no matter how they prepare, they never seem ready to start a season.
Whether it's a nice easy training camp in an interior locale followed by a litany of meaningless exhibition games, or whether they try to make it a little more intense as they did this past week and get right into it the way this year's NHL schedule demanded, the results always seem the same.
And just as Roberto Luongo always used to get the blame for the October problems when he was No. 1 here, so it is with Schneider, the only constant being the members of this team are seemingly unable to make life easy on themselves with a quicker start.
Granted, one loss doesn't dictate this is a poor start to the season, but if this was a way to apologize to Vancouver hockey fans for the lockout it was a bit like saying: "I'm sorry I called you 'UGLY,'" with the last word shouted at the top of your lungs.
The game that seemed never to end in large part because it never seemed to begin certainly included some odd moves on the part of the Canucks.
After a first period in which Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis were the best Canucks on the ice, having been freed of the responsibility of being sent out against Corey Perry and Ryan Get-zlaf - who went pointless in the first 20 minutes - they struggled when for some reason the pairing of Alex Edler and Jason Garrison was switched off the big line for Anaheim in the second period.
Leading 2-1 in the first period, the Canucks were trying to win a faceoff to the right of Schneider to begin a penalty kill, with Manny Malhotra trying to beat a winger in Teemu Selanne in what would appear to be a faceoff mismatch.
But Malhotra lost the first draw. Then he lost the second one, both taken as a left-hander on the right side of the ice, something coaches often try to avoid. Rather than go with right-hander Max Lapierre after the first two losses, Malhotra was left to try for a third time, lost again and Sheldon Souray shot the puck into the net off the draw to begin a disastrous night on the PK for Vancouver.
Curiously, the stats showed Malhotra 2-2 in faceoffs after the first period.
The main Vancouver problem could be simplified by saying Schneider couldn't stop a Cheese Wheel the size of the Laughing Cow on this night. Pucks went over, under, around and through him, and while he easily had the worst night of all Canuck players, he wasn't alone as you might expect when a team gives up that many goals on home ice.
"It's unacceptable to play that way, it doesn't matter what market you're in anywhere in the world," said Schneider, who took more than full responsibility for his tough night.
"I was looking for that big save to get me going, and maybe if I'd made one of those saves, held onto the lead after the one period, it might have been a different game. But I didn't, and I started pressing for that save, and it didn't come, and in this league it doesn't take long to snowball.
"I've got a pretty short memory and if I'm tapped for tomorrow, I'll be ready to go."
"He's so strong mentally I'm sure he'll have no trouble bouncing back," Luon-go said of Schneider after confessing that he thought he should have had both the goals that beat him.
This team always bounces back after its poor starts, but this year, with the season as short as it will be, they'd better make it sooner than usual.
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Canucks' Cory Schneider looks on as Toni Lydman and Francois Beauchemin of the Anaheim Ducks celebrate Kyle Palmier's goal at Rogers Arena Saturday. The Ducks won 7-3 and Roberto Luongo finished the game in net for Vancouver.
Photograph by: Getty Images, The Province