Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo and teammate Dan Hamhuis have eyes only for San Jose Sharks winger Raffi Torres during Game 2 of their NHL Western Conference quarter-final series on Friday, May 3, 2013 at Rogers Arena. The Sharks, courtesy of a Torres goal in overtime, won 3-2 to take a 2-0 series lead.
Photograph by: Steve Bosch, PNG
VANCOUVER — Hockey coaches will tell you it’s all about the process. Except in the playoffs, when it’s all about wins.
But since the Vancouver Canucks don’t have any of those, let’s look a little at the process that is leading them to a second straight first-round elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
It was a very poor sign Friday night that with their National Hockey League season hinging on preventing the San Jose Sharks from sweeping two games in Vancouver, the Canucks couldn’t hold a lead in the final minute of the third period and lost 3-2 in overtime. A very bad sign.
It was not a good sign that the Canucks wasted a mighty, inspired final 30 minutes from Ryan Kesler, who scored twice in the third period and played with the physical abandon and head-to-the-net determination rare among teammates.
It was not a good sign that on the winning goal in OT, Kevin Bieksa, second among Canuck defencemen in NHL experience, was badly beaten by Brent Burns’ pass on a 2-on-1 when it looked so obvious that the Sharks’ converted defenceman was looking to pass to Raffi Torres.
It was not a good sign that Torres, whose heft is always felt in the playoffs, is playing for the Sharks instead of the Canucks, who never replaced Torres in their lineup and continue to lack heft among their forwards who play.
It was not a good sign that the Canucks scored twice and still lost because in their 1-8 playoff hibernation since Game 5 of the 2011 Stanley Cup final against the Boston Bruins, they had scored only 11 times in eight games before Friday.
It is not a good sign the Canucks must hold the opposition to one or fewer goals to win.
It is not a good sign that the Canucks, for all their other flaws, seem to generate so little luck for themselves and the last favourable playoff bounce they had was 15 games ago when the stanchion set up Bieksa’s series-winning goal against the Sharks.
It is not a good sign that even when Vancouver defenceman Alex Edler plays well, as he has through two games, bounces still go against him as they did when his blocked shot led to the winning 2-on-1 and a ricochet off his skate set up San Jose’s first goal.
It is not a good sign that Daniel and Henrik Sedin have not been difference-makers.
It is not a good sign that we haven’t noticed Chris Higgins in the first 125 minutes of this series.
It is not a good sign that goalie Roberto Luongo, who couldn’t find the puck after making a point-blank save seconds before Patrick Marleau’s tying goal, seems always to be more glorious in defeat than in victory.
It is not a good sign that the Canucks have no one like Marleau, who can drift through games invisibly until suddenly re-appearing to score a big goal.
It is not a good sign that Canuck Derek Roy matched the invisible part Friday.
It was not a good sign that Roy was the only trade-deadline acquisition by general manager Mike Gillis.
It’s not a good sign when Roy moves the puck off his stick the moment it arrives, as it gives the impression he’s either really, really nervous or just wary of getting hit.
It’s not a good sign – ever – when Mason Raymond button hooks with the puck. Unless it’s in a shootout.
At this point, it’s not a good sign for the Canucks there are no shootouts in the playoffs.
It’s not a good sign that Max Lapierre, although working hard, has been unable to elevate his play like he did during the Canucks’ run to the Stanley Cup Final two years ago. Back then, Lapierre solved the third-line crisis caused by Manny Malhotra’s eye injury, but he has been unable to fill the void this year caused by Manny Malhotra’s eye injury.
It’s not good the organization fills the intermission void with deejays spinning records because there aren’t many club kids at Rogers Arena when the cheapest ticket costs the same as a week’s worth of groceries for a family of four.
It’s not a good sign the Canucks can’t score or, on the rare occasions they do, hold leads.
It’s not a good sign that one of the reasons the Canucks can’t score more is they are smaller than the teams putting them out of the playoffs and the need, apparent two years ago, for more size and grit among the top nine forwards has gone unaddressed.
It’s not a good sign that even when Vancouver’s skill players make it to the front of the net, every goalie they play looks like some kind of monster Transformer with supernatural powers to destroy the Canucks.
It’s not good that even when Danny Sedin, the Canucks’ most talented finisher, calmly gathers a rebound and shoots behind stranded goalie Antti Niemi, the puck hits the back of the leg of defenceman Justin Braun, who had his back to Sedin and accidentally saved a goal in the second period.
It’s not a good sign that the NHL, which struggles to fully staff the regular season with competent, consistent officials, can’t even seem to find enough referees for the playoffs. Or as objective Finnish hockey correspondent Juha Hiitela observed on Twitter: “This should be the best league in the world and every night in the playoffs we’ve seen beer-league quality officiating.”
On the bright side, the Sharks did lose twice at home in regulation time during the 48-game regular season.
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