Canucks series against Kings comes to crashing end
The game was there for the taking but not really.
The overtime goal was scored on a play that might have been penalty except it wasn't.
And, just like that, the series that never quite was for the Vancouver Canucks came to a crashing halt.
In the end, you could turn this one over 79 different ways but it all came back to the same place. The L.A. Kings, the eighth seed, had better special teams, better goaltending, better performances from their best players and a better overall team game. Add that up and, let's see, that makes them the better team which they were over the life of this series; a series which seemed close.
But it wasn't.
“No one envisioned this,” said head coach Alain Vigneault.
But it was there on Sunday night, the dream broken, the awful reality setting in.
“To be honest with you it doesn't matter,” said Daniel Sedin. “You lose in the seventh game of the final or you lose in five in the first round, it's devastating.”
No, it doesn't matter. Except it does because so many people in this province care about this team and they'll want answers. They'll want to know why the back-to-back Presidents Trophy winners would flame out in five games to the Kings. They'll want to know how the Stanley Cup finalists from last season could lose three straight on home ice. They'll want to know what happened to the poise and confidence which seemed to be the cornerstone of the Canucks' game; and what happened to Ryan Kesler and Alex Edler and the team's other key figures.
And they'll want blood. There will be repercussions from this one which could claim Vigneault, that will likely claim Roberto Luongo and maybe some others. But it won't change the simple facts of this series or the dismal failure of the Canucks in so many critical areas.
Sunday night, in fact, told you all you needed to know about the two teams in the Western Conference quarter-final and why the Kings are moving on and the Canucks are going home. The Angelenos weren't especially artful but they didn't deviate from their game plan for one micrometer. They were strong in their own end. They forechecked like demons. At times in the series they lived off their best players. In Game 5 it was goals by Brad Richardson and Jarret Stoll but the constant was the team game and goalie Jonathan Quick.
The Canucks? They had moments in Game 5, just as they had moments in the series. But there were never able to gain traction, never able to demonstrate control for more than one or two shifts. Afterwards they were talking about the near-misses – Daniel in alone twice when it was 1-0 being principal among them – and you could allow them that.
But the disturbing thing about the loss was the breakdown in composure, particular in the back end where the Canucks' blueline folded under the Kings' pressure. From Game 1 to Game 5 the nightmare image for the faithful was Alex Edler turning over the puck, or Kevin Bieksa turning over the puck, or Chris Tanev turning over the puck. Most of the time the mistakes were made when they were wearing a Kings' forechecker but there were times when they simply coughed it up.
Stoll's series-clincher, for example, was the direct result of an over-ambitious rush by Dan Hamhuis, who'd been the Canucks' best player by a mile on this night. Hamhuis was checked by Trevor Lewis and went down. Maybe it's a penalty in the first period of a game in November. It's not a penalty in overtime of the playoffs and Stoll would beat the estimable Cory Schneider cleanly, a dagger in the heart.
“It was a good play by him,” Hamhuis said.
“It comes back to playing every game and and giving yourself a chance,” said Henrik. “When you do that, you're not going to notice Hamhuis losing the puck, you're not going to notice (Edler) making a few mistakes.
“That's what happened last year. We were in every game and we're the kind of team that's going to win four out of seven when we're in the game.”
But they weren't in this one. Not ever. Not really.
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