On the opening night of their newly-renovated NHL season, the Vancouver Canucks awakened every irrational fear in their following with a porous, distracted effort that led to a 7-3 beatdown at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks.
Sunday night, then, became about redemption for all the President's Trophy men, about convincing the faithful they can score, they can defend and that petty intrigue over their goaltending has no bearing on the locker-room.
And guess what? Afterwards, the Canucks said they did all that and more in a 3-2 shootout loss against the young and impossibly talented Edmonton Oilers.
“I liked what I saw on the ice,” said head coach Alain Vigneault.
“It's a tremendous improvement in our game, not just as individuals but as a team,” said Jannik Hansen. “It's going in the right direction.”
Lest you think those are isolated opinions, here's Daniel Sedin.
“If we play this way we're going to win a lot of games. There's no question about that. It doesn't have to look real pretty out there. But this is the way we're going to play.”
Yes, apparently, it was a big night for the Canucks. It just makes you wonder what they would have been saying if, you know, they'd actually won their second outing of the season.
One night after their perturbing effort against the Ducks, the Canucks did check off a few more boxes against the Oilers but if they think what they offered is good enough, they're delusional.
Oh the goaltending with Roberto Luongo was better, even if that juicy little storyline isn't going anywhere. The team game was also improved and, if the Canucks converted on a couple of third-period power plays, the conversation about this team has a different tone.
But two games in, a couple of patterns have emerged which, given everything that's going on with the goalies, Ryan Kesler and David Booth, is distressing. Prior to the start of this 48-game sprint there were questions about the Canucks' scoring after the Sedins, there were questions about their forward depth, there were questions about the awkward Schneider-Luongo partnership and how it would play out. And they haven't begun to answer any of those questions.
“We obviously had a major improvement from (Saturday) night so it was a good sign,” said Luongo. “I thought we deserved to win.”
Yes, there was a lot of that going around after the game.
Luongo, aka The Forgotten Man, stepped in for Schneider, who allowed five goals on 14 shots against the Ducks, and delivered the goods for the most part. He stopped 29 of 31 shots. He had the more difficult saves on the night. True, things changed when Jordan Eberle roofed a backhander from a sharp angle with three seconds left in the second period. But the goaltending was good enough.
That's more than you can say for the rest of the team. Two games in, there's still a disturbing flatness about the Canucks. Young Zack Kassian played with some emotion. Dale Weise had some moments. But the list gets real short after that.
This, we remind you, is supposed to be an elite NHL team and they now face the arduous task of digging themselves out of their early hole. Next up is Calgary at home on Wednesday night. The road beckons beyond that. For now and the next couple of weeks they will be under constant scrutiny until they prove they're not what they've appeared to be in their first two games. That's got nothing to do with who plays goal and what, if anything is coming in a trade.
It has everything to do with the makeup of this team and, sorry, losing in a shootout on home ice to the youngest club in the NHL isn't exactly a step in the right direction.
“I think every team is searching now,” said Daniel “But we have to find a way to win.”
That would help. It would also lend some credibility to this idea that they've got it all figure out.
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