Put away the calculator and get out the microscope.
After getting just enough offence and just enough help elsewhere to keep their postseason hopes hanging by a thread, the Vancouver Canucks unravelled in familiar fashion. They couldn't score first, couldn't connect on the power play and couldn't play catch-up in a 3-0 loss Monday to the Anaheim Ducks at Rogers Arena that dropped the curtain on this crushing campaign like the thud of an anvil.
In being mathematically eliminated from a Western Conference wild-card playoff position with three games remaining, you're going see Jacob Markstrom as a starter rest of the way. Probably Frank Corrado and maybe Mike Zalewski makes his debut. And maybe some ailing veterans get a night or two off. Whatever, all that doesn't really matter. What does matter is the manner in which the Canucks went quietly into the night, but it won't be quiet for long. The offseason noise will start Tuesday morning with rampant speculation about whether either coach John Tortorella or general manager Mike Gillis will be fired or whether they can co-exist and find common ground to ensure that a re-set, re-tool or whatever doesn't blow up in their faces. After all, the Canucks went 0-5-0 against the Ducks this season and were outscored 24-6.
The fans had their say, chanting 'Fire Gillis' as the clock wound down and then storming the exits.
"They were booing the players, too, which is understandable," said winger Daniel Sedin. "They're as frustrated as well are. We should be in the playoffs and that's the bottom line. If you can't take boos, you shouldn't be in this league."
On a night when John Gibson, 20, made his NHL regular-season debut for the Ducks, he barely broke a sweat in making 18 saves. It made him the youngest goalie to post a shutout in a debut since Darren Puppa in 1985. Gibson was more nervous at the 2011 entry draft where he was twice interviewed by the Canucks before being selected 39th overall by the Ducks. The Canucks took Nicklas Jensen 29th and Corrado 150th and they're part of the future. But they also took goalie David Honzik 71st overall, who was never signed to an entry-level deal, but that bust doesn't even register on the Canucks' worry radar.
It's whether Eddie Lack is the starter and Markstrom the back-up, or do they have to get unrestricted free agent Jaroslav Halak in the offseason? Is Ryan Kesler happy enough to stay? Can they get him a winger? Can they get Zack Kassian and Chris Tanev to sign franchise-friendly deals? And what about UFA Mike Santorelli?
The navel-gazing and second-guessing started early Monday because it didn't take long for the mistake-prone Canucks to set the wrong tone. In the end, they had 22 shots attempts blocked and another 21 missed the net. Jason Garrison didn't muster a shot but had seven blocked.
"It doesn't do anybody any good right now to be critical," said Tortorella. "Obviously, we didn't play well enough. We kept fighting through this and it was a tough hill to climb. Were we at our best tonight? No."
Andrew Cogliano sped by a falling Garrison after just 14 seconds had elapsed and forced Lack to stop the winger on a breakaway in his 19th-consecutive start. Henrik Sedin was then somehow handling the breakout on the 27th-ranked power play and had the puck stopped by Daniel Winnik in the slot. The centre calmly snapped a wrist shot stick side and the Canucks dug an all-too-familiar hole. Daniel Sedin would tip a puck wide and Kassian miss the net off a 2-on-1 break, but there was little sustained pressure.
"Our execution was off," said Henrik Sedin. "We were good for 20 minutes. We had 17 missed shots after two periods and losing pucks on the half wall. It looked bad."
It was. The Canucks had but six shots by 3:30 of the second period when Tortorella called a time-out. His team responded by doing nothing offensively the next five minutes before a crease scramble produced a chance for Alex Burrows. Daniel Sedin would fail to get a 2-on-1 pass to Jensen before Kyle Palmeri deflected a point shot home late in the second period to make it 2-0. And with the Ducks 37-1-2 when leading after 40 minutes and the Canucks 4-24-1 when trailing, the form chart didn't change. Matt Beleskey took a cross-ice pass early in the third period and buried it and buried the Canucks.
"It's already sunk in," said Kesler. "It's not a good feeling and I don't want to be standing here in April with meaningless games left. I've done this twice in my career and it's tough."
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