Canucks: Raymond not alone in the crosshairs
Canucks winger hasn’t scored in 11 games, but he’s not the only straggler to blame
SAN JOSE — When approached before the Stanley Cup playoffs for perspective on his post-season struggles, Mason Raymond initially recoiled.
He believed the reporter only sought out the Vancouver Canucks winger when there was indifference in his play or uncertainty about his future.
In the past, queries were directed at Raymond’s career-threatening back injury, a playoff goal drought that has reached seven goals in 54 career games — the last one coming May 18, 2011 — and his playing future as an unrestricted free agent.
Outside of regaining his health, other concerns remain relevant as the Canucks attempt tonight to avoid being swept by the Sharks in the first-round playoff series.
San Jose leads 3-0.
Raymond gets targeted because he has blazing speed and an underrated wrist shot, but hasn’t scored in 11 games and has but one goal in the last 17.
He’s not alone.
Everybody is in the crosshairs and you’d need a shotgun blast to spread enough shrapnel to hit the guilty parties. The Canucks don’t look disciplined or engaged.
Kevin Bieksa coyly played the embellishment card Monday and Alain Vigneault wouldn’t name his starting goaltender for Tuesday.
Aside from the gamesmanship, a lack of scoring, complete game and discipline are the real stories and have the Canucks on the brink — not Logan Couture or Joe Thornton embellishing to draw penalties.
Staying out of the penalty box and playing a full game could get the Canucks to Game 5 — if they don’t unravel.
“It (letdown) has been a tough question for us to answer,” said captain Henrik Sedin when asked to explain the third-period meltdown in Game 3.
“Last year, it was our second period and this year, it’s the third. I don’t know if it’s sitting in our heads because we’re sitting back too much in the third and afraid it’s going to happen again instead of playing the way we do in the second.
“It can be in our heads a little bit but we can’t think of that. We’re as good as them 5-on-5 or even better. Have their top guys play 5-on-5 instead of power plays and 5-on-3s, we’re the better team and we’re going to show that (Tuesday) and go from there. “
To get there, the Canucks will need more than just turning the other cheek. Chris Higgins didn’t even muster a shot on Sunday in a 5-2 loss and is far removed from effectiveness after he and Derek Roy were split up. Higgins hasn’t scored in eight games.
Jannik Hansen has two goals in his last 19 outings and nothing in this series — not even an empty-net goal in Game 2 that could have swung some momentum.
Factor in the ongoing lack of scoring support for Henrik and Daniel Sedin and you can also pull the trigger on management and the coaching staff.
That strange second-line theory of Roy between Higgins and Ryan Kesler in Game 3 didn’t produce a scoring chance. The blogger brigade even charted chances at 26-7 in favour of the Sharks.
That’s why attempting to become the fourth team in NHL history to rally from an 0-3 deficit to win a series seems so remote.
Even one win appears to be a stretch because the defence-first, chip and chase and a cautious game that lacks a true identity — especially with those 30-second Sedin shifts — and had them going quietly into the night Sunday.
“It’s a pretty big task, but we’re extremely confident and we feel that 5-on-5 we’ve been the better team and if we play like that I like our chances,” Kesler said, repeating the day’s mantra.
“We’ve just got to stay disciplined and keep them off the power play. It’s extremely good and that’s been our Achilles heel. We’re confident and excited for the challenge and ready. Guys in that room are very confident that we can do it. It just takes winning the next game.”
It’s a different message from Roberto Luongo saying after Game 3 that only two or three players are playing their hearts out. Eight power plays for the Sharks on Sunday and two third-period goals in nine seconds were telling. The Canucks have lost 11 of their last 13 playoff games and have scored 17 goals.
Where is that club that teased everybody with a 3-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on April 22? Can it show up Tuesday when it matters the most? The Canucks are 0-5-1 against the Sharks this season and being swept aside will usher in great change on and off the ice.
“All I can say is, we can’t do anything with what happened in past,” said Vigneault.
“There has to be a belief we can beat the Sharks in one game.”
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