Torey Krug #47 of the Boston Bruins falls on Roberto Luongo #1 of the Vancouver Canucks.
Photograph by: Jim Rogash, Getty Images
BOSTON –After five weeks of losing the same way, with the same culprits, the Vancouver Canucks are starting to point fingers. Fortunately, it’s at themselves.
Canuck goalie Roberto Luongo said it was “100 per cent on me” that Vancouver was beaten 3-1 Tuesday by the Boston Bruins. What a selfish jerk. Luongo can’t have all the blame because winger Danny Sedin said the loss was his fault for not burying a second-period breakaway to make it 1-1 on the shift the Bruins went up 2-0.
But there are a lot more to blame than them — like all the missing-in-action forwards whose last goals may have been scored with straight-bladed wooden sticks against a goalie called Gump.
There’s the Canuck power play, which seems to operate on a dare most nights. There are, of course, seven injuries, five of them on defence, which is why Raphael Diaz — acquired in a Monday trade from the Montreal Canadiens — became the Canucks’ 11th defenceman in 58 games.
And in case you haven’t been on Twitter or talk radio, there’s lots of blame on general manager Mike Gillis for not doing more last summer to refresh or “reset” the lineup, and for handcuffing the team with a pile of no-trade clauses.
Then there’s blame for coach John Tortorella, who got himself suspended for six games during this crisis and whose heaping of so much ice time on so few players in the first half of the season must be at least partly responsible for the Canucks’ inability to surge when needed late in games — like on Tuesday when they trailed by two and managed only two shots on net in the first 10 minutes of the final period.
Everyone’s to blame. National Hockey League teams don’t go 4-11-3 over five weeks because one goalie isn’t making enough saves and one or two forwards aren’t scoring enough goals.
Blame is the easy part. It’s the solutions that are tricky.
Losers of five straight, the Canucks have finally played their way out of a playoff spot, on winning percentage, for the first time in two months. They have two games until the Olympic break and just need to survive. Find a way to win Thursday in Montreal or Saturday in Toronto, then try to regroup and recover.
They’ll have seven weeks after the Olympics to play their way back into playoff position.
“I don’t have a complaint about our team tonight,” Tortorella said. “We don’t win. But I don’t have a complaint because I thought our team gave everything they had. This is a club that is tattered as far as injuries. I am not using it as an excuse, but I also have to be a realist.
“As a team, I thought we improved in a lot of areas. I thought we gave some really good efforts. Third period, it just looks like we can’t amp it up for the full 60. Is that because of the lineup? Or is that because we just don’t know how to do it? We’re still trying to search through that and figure it out.
“We need another big offensive play. Danny has a chance to make that. I think we need another save from Louie. I don’t think one person determines winning or losing a game, but that, to me, is the game tonight. We don’t get one or two more big offensive plays, and we don’t get one or two saves. They do. That’s where we’re at.”
And that’s where they’ve been since December. In 17 of their last 22 games, the Canucks have scored two or fewer goals. Initially, they were able to keep winning on outstanding goaltending and defensive play.
Not anymore. Not with Luongo not quite in the form he was before he missed time with groin and ankle injuries. Not with top-five defencemen Kevin Bieksa, Chris Tanev and Dan Hamhuis injured.
Hamhuis joined the list during Monday’s 2-0 loss in Detroit, as did winger Chris Higgins, one of the few Canucks with any goals recently. Tortorella gave no indication how long they’ll be out.
“We can’t win right now,” Ryan Kesler said, although it wasn’t a declaration of defeat. “We’ve got to play better. Everywhere from the goaltender on out, we’ve got to be five-10 per cent better. We’re banged up, but the games don’t stop. We’ve got two more games before the Olympic break and those four points are key.”
Tuesday’s pivotal sequences were during a 10-minute span in the second period.
With the Bruins up 1-0 on Milan Lucic’s first-period goal, Sedin had the chance to tie it on a short-handed breakaway 7½ minutes into the second period. Goal-less in 17 games and pointless in seven, the 2011 NHL scoring champion telegraphed his five-hole shot and Bruin goalie Tuukka Rask made the save.
On the ensuing counter-attack, Luongo couldn’t get across his goalmouth in time to stop Jarome Iginla scoring from Zdeno Chara’s pass at 7:59. Then, after Diaz’s tumbling slapshot fooled Rask to make it 2-1 at 11:28, another shift the Canucks dominated ended with Bruin checker Daniel Paille beating Luongo on a backhand after a terrific, 100-foot breakaway pass by Johnny Boychuk0.
That was the game.
“This one is 100 per cent on me,” Luongo said after his first game in Boston since his road meltdown in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. “I wasn’t on my game. I didn’t feel like myself.”
Sedin was close to being on his game, attempting 11 shots and forcing six saves from Rask. But with a chance to make a difference on his breakaway, he didn’t.
“I was trying not to think, trying to look for the net,” Sedin said. “It’s tough — 1-1 there (and) instead ... it’s 2-0. That’s where I need to step up and score.”
One save and one goal short has become the story of the Canucks’ season.
Same old, same old for the Canucks, who'd have made it to overtime with one more save and one more goal. Milan Lucic, Jarome Iginla and Daniel Paille scored for Bruins and Raphael Diaz had the Vancouver goal in his Canuck debut. The Vancouver power play was dismal on a late chance, and the Canucks yet again failed to muster a surge or sustained pressure while trailing in the third period.
The Canucks learned after Monday's 2-0 loss in Detroit that top defenceman Dan Hamhuis and winger Chris Higgins would be unable to play in Boston. Their injuries raised the Canucks' current total to seven missing players. Forward Pascal Pelletier was recalled from Utica, and Tuesday's defence included minor-league callups Frankie Corrado (NHL experience: 12 games) and Yann Sauve (seven).
The Canucks had one win, beating an incoming New England storm with their post-game flight to Montreal. They play the Canadiens Thursday and Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday before starting the NHL's Olympic break. There was no word from the Canucks on Hamhuis' injury, so no way to tell his status for Team Canada. Bruin Zdeno Chara is skipping his next two NHL games to carry the Slovakian flag in Sochi.
New Canuck Raphael Diaz, acquired in a Monday trade from Montreal, merely led the Canucks with 25:26 of ice time, 13 shot attempts and his first goal in nearly a year. He hadn't played since Jan. 16. “Of course, if you don't win a game, you can not be happy,” the Swiss defenceman said. “(But) it helps to play and find a good rhythm. Every shift helps you, every game helps you and I was really happy to play.”
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