Canucks believed but did not see it through

 

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canucks goalie Ryan Miller, right, and \Alexander Edler, centre, from Sweden, looks away as Calgary Flames Michael Ferland celebrates the teams’ winning goal during third period NHL first round game six playoff hockey action in Calgary, Saturday, April 25, 2015.
 

Vancouver Canucks goalie Ryan Miller, right, and \Alexander Edler, centre, from Sweden, looks away as Calgary Flames Michael Ferland celebrates the teams’ winning goal during third period NHL first round game six playoff hockey action in Calgary, Saturday, April 25, 2015.

Photograph by: Jeff McIntosh, THE CANADIAN PRESS

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CALGARY -- It wasn’t just the fact their season had ended, but the way it ended. That’s what really stung.

The Vancouver Canucks had a 3-0 lead and blew it. That’s not supposed to happen to teams in the playoffs. Not good teams.

They scored on three of their first four shots and it looked like the Canucks were on their way to forcing a Game 7 -- seventh heaven everyone would have called it -- in their series with the Calgary Flames.

Instead, all hell broke loose and the Canucks face yet another long summer.

“A 3-0 lead early on and even later 4-3, we should have closed it out,” winger Radim Vrbata said inside a somber Vancouver dressing room after the Canucks lost 7-4 at the Scotiabank Saddledome. “I don’t think we could ask for a better start to this game than we had. They change their goalie, everything is going our way, and then we’re not able to close.”

That figures to be the most lasting memory of this season. Not the 101-point regular season, but the fact the Canucks once again could not get it done in the playoffs.

“It’s just so disappointing,” said forward Shawn Matthias. “We were up by three, we were up again and they just found a way. It’s disappointing. It’s not the way we wanted to end our year and it hurts. Everyone is really disappointed in there. It’s a tough one.”

The Canucks were defeated by a Flames team that just has no give-up in them. Surrender is not in their vocabulary.

“They are a team that never believes they are out of a game,” defenceman Dan Hamhuis said of the Flames. “They have proved it all year long and obviously you knew they weren’t going to back down at all.”

One of the differences in the series was the Flames’ relentless forecheck. Calgary’s forwards, most notably Michael Ferland, punished the Vancouver defence throughout the series and it took its toll. Turnovers were forced as the Canucks defencemen skated into corners in an attempt to retrieve pucks with one eye looking over their shoulder.

“They are really hard on the forecheck,” defenceman Luca Sbisa said as he sat slumped in his dressing room stall. “They didn’t give our Ds much time to break out.”

Saturday night’s game was like so many others in the series. The Canucks carried the play for long stretches. They dominated the possession stats in the series, but the Flames have been confounding the analytics folks all season.

“We had a stretch again in this building of five or 10 minutes where we didn’t play up to where we can play,” said captain Henrik Sedin. “I think in every game where that has happened, we haven’t just given up one goal, we have given two or three. In playoffs that can’t happen.”

The Canucks, who were so good on the road this season, could not win in Calgary. They lost all three games at the Saddledome by a combined score of 14-7.

“That was the difference,” coach Willie Desjardins said. “I thought there was one game that we kind of took ourselves out of and that was it. We needed to find a way. We won some big games (on the road) through the year but that doesn’t make you feel any better now.”

Desjardins will face questions about the way he deployed his players in this series. He stuck to his guns, rolling four lines as he did during the regular season.

He did not appear to make much of an attempt to find mis-matches for the Sedins and under-utilized promising rookie Bo Horvat.

Horvat finished tied for the team lead with four points in the series, but averaged only 12:40 of ice time per game. He played only 12:24 Saturday night, despite the fact he was winning practically every faceoff he took (he finished 11-3 in the circle).

Vrbata, the team’s leading goal-scorer in the regular season, combined with the Sedins for a first-period power-play goal that gave Vancouver its 3-0 lead, but it wasn’t until late in the third period that Desjardins played him on a line with the twins.

Desjardins defended that decision, saying he thought Jannik Hansen had been a good fit with the Sedins after Alex Burrows was injured prior to Game 4 in Calgary on Tuesday.

Hansen did have a goal and an assist on Saturday night.

“I am proud of our guys, 101 points this year is a good run,” Desjardins said.

The Canucks took Sunday off and will gather on Monday to say their goodbyes and have exit meetings with coaches.

There will undoubtedly be changes. How many will be determined by general manager Jim Benning and president of hockey operations Trevor Linden.

“It’s tough to see this end,” Hamhuis said. “We have got such a great group of guys, a coaching staff we all believe in and who believe in us. It has been so much fun coming to the rink every day with this group. We worked hard all year, we had some real exciting games, went into some tough buildings with our backs against the wall and found ways to win.

“We had a real strong belief in this group and that is not something that just happens. That is a special thing and it doesn’t happen every year. This certainly ranks in the top two or three teams that I have played on in my career.”

bziemer@vancouversun.com

twitter.com/bradziemer

 
 
 
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Vancouver Canucks goalie Ryan Miller, right, and \Alexander Edler, centre, from Sweden, looks away as Calgary Flames Michael Ferland celebrates the teams’ winning goal during third period NHL first round game six playoff hockey action in Calgary, Saturday, April 25, 2015.
 

Vancouver Canucks goalie Ryan Miller, right, and \Alexander Edler, centre, from Sweden, looks away as Calgary Flames Michael Ferland celebrates the teams’ winning goal during third period NHL first round game six playoff hockey action in Calgary, Saturday, April 25, 2015.

Photograph by: Jeff McIntosh, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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