Still in a state of shock, Cory Schneider did what he did all season. He didn't hide from the microphones, he answered all the questions and he didn't cut himself any slack Sunday. That's what an accountable professional does, win or lose.
As much as the Vancouver Canucks goaltender didn't want to search for silver linings in dropping a 2-1 overtime decision to the Los Angeles Kings at Rogers Arena to exit the postseason in just five games — despite a 35-save performance sprinkled with sensational saves — the Presidents' Trophy winners found something in losing. They found a starting goaltender and depending on how the crease conundrum plays out in the offseason with Roberto Luongo, you can remove the backup label from Schneider. It was obvious that it was going to take something special to push a puck past Schneider, whose calm and structured neutral system frustrated the Kings. It had to be an extra effort, an outmanned situation or a perfect shot to get to him.
That didn't make it easier to stomach the loss when Jarret Stoll snapped a wrist shot short side over Schneider's shoulder on a 2-on-1 after Dan Hamhuis was bowled over by Trevor Lewis while trying to stickhandle across the blueline. So what did Schneider take from playing the last three games?
"Not much," shrugged. "You want to win games. It's nice to get some playoff experience and get comfortable in these situations but it's all about results. Playing pretty well doesn't cut it at this time of year. [Jonathan] Quick played a great series and it seemed like he didn't miss on a puck the whole series. We got a few odd-man rushes but we needed to execute on those."
Usually, when a team exits early the focus is on goaltending. It was for the Canucks and for the right reasons. You can't drop your first two games at home and expect to easily climb out of that hole. If not for Luongo, the Canucks get blown out in Game 1. If not for Schneider they don't win Game 4 and don't get to overtime in Game 5. On Sunday, there was the save off Stoll late in the third period and foiling Lewis on the rebound. There was getting his blocker on a shot from the slot in the second period after Keith Ballard had blocked a shot and then getting a glove on a Mike Richards rebound. And it all looked so good. Outside of some creativity from Drew Doughty early in the third period to fake a slap in the slot and get Schneider to go wide right and then slip the puck to Brad Richardson in the slot to make it 1-1, it looked like Schneider had all the answers until the winner.
"I saw the 2-on-1 develop and you've got to take the shooter, but he [Stoll] made a quick release and got the shot over my shoulder," said Schneider. "It was a big shot in a big moment."
The Canucks preached they were ready for these games, ready for the one-goal roll of the dice and hopefully you score before the opposition does or before a puck bounces the wrong way. And in the end it bit the Canucks because they couldn't bury a number of chances Sunday and left it up to their last line of defence to hold them in. Then again, Schneider didn't shy away from that pressure, even though Game 5 was tailor-made for the style the Kings employed all season just to squeeze into the postseason.
"We weren't nervous or afraid," added Schneider. "They capitalized on a turnover and made a good shot, so give them credit. But it's the worst. You want to win your last game and we had expectations and hopes to go far in the playoffs, but it seems like the reality of the league this year. The parity is running wild. You look at Pittsburgh, ourselves, Detroit and San Jose. I'm sure those were teams on the top of everybody's list to start the year. You can't take anybody for granted. We had to step up and play better."
The decision to go to Schneider in Game 3 wasn't a knock on Luongo. It was a feeling that a goalie whose game had been purposely groomed to win big ones on the road all season, was going to get the Canucks back in the series and perhaps become just the fourth team to rally from a 3-0 deficit. But the Kings won their first series since 2001 because they had the answer in goal and were more creative in trying to get to Schneider while the Canucks just kept launching long bombs on Quick. The Doughty fake and resulting Richardson goal was the proof.
"I may have gone down a little bit early, but you've got to take that shot away," reasoned Schneider. "Normally, they try to sneak it between your pad and post and I tried to seal that off and he [Doughty] almost threw it back behind me. I kind of got caught up at the post and I wasn't able to recover. It's frustrating."
In the end, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault should point to a lack of scoring and his club not mentally ready out of the playoff gate. But he knew one thing.
"Our goaltending was solid," he summed up. "The rest of our game wasn't good enough."
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