Iain MacIntyre: Canucks mix new feeling with old memories

 

 
 
 
 
Calgary Flames centre Sam Bennett (63) goes head over heels as he tries to get a shot past Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31) as Vancouver Canucks centre Shawn Matthias (27) and Vancouver Canucks defenceman Dan Hamhuis (2) look on.
 

Calgary Flames centre Sam Bennett (63) goes head over heels as he tries to get a shot past Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31) as Vancouver Canucks centre Shawn Matthias (27) and Vancouver Canucks defenceman Dan Hamhuis (2) look on.

Photograph by: JONATHAN HAYWARD, THE CANADIAN PRESS

More on This Story

 

VANCOUVER — The great guitar philosopher Johnny Cash, who had seen and done some things, once said: "You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space."

And yet the harder the Vancouver Canucks try to skate away from their recent playoff failure, the nearer they draw that dispiriting history to them with each new loss. They don't want it to have any of their space, but seven straight defeats on home ice takes up a lot of it.

But they'll be damned if it's going to occupy their energy, too.

"I was wondering when someone was going to ask this question," Canucks defenceman Dan Hamhuis said Thursday, the morning after a 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames re-activated the almost unfathomable losing streak. "I think it's a silly question because we've lost one in a row. We've never had this group together before, so we've lost one in a row and we're looking to win Friday."

But Dan, nine players have been on the roster since the Canucks last won a home playoff game on June 10, 2011.

"Our team has lost one in a row," Hamhuis said through semi-clenched teeth.

Yes, and the other Canucks teams Hamhuis has been on have lost seven straight playoff games in Vancouver, six in a row overall, and are 1-11 since Max Lapierre's goal won Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final nearly four years ago.

No team in National Hockey League history has lost eight straight home games in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Of course, the league was organized only in 1917, so perhaps we should wait a full century before applying context to the Canucks' futility.

You cannot escape your past any more than you can escape your DNA, any more than you can escape your skin.

You can learn from it for sure, overcome it and be better for it. But as long as the Canucks keep losing the way they are losing, the way they lost Wednesday in Game 1, that past looks pretty recent and relevant.

Leading 1-0 nearly halfway through the third period against the Flames, the Canucks surrendered a tying goal on Yannick Weber's giveaway, then a winning goal with 29.6 seconds remaining when Canuck zone coverage weakened, starting with Bo Horvat and ending with Jannik Hansen, and Kris Russell scored from the blue line.

It is absolutely correct that every team is different. No mix of players and coaches is ever identical to another and this year, especially, the Canucks have less flash and more grit than in previous seasons.

But they keep losing the same way in playoff games, working tenaciously to build or share leads into the third period, only to lose on critical mistakes at critical times.

In their six-game home-and-away losing streak, for instance — since beating the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 in Game 4 of the first-round on April 18, 2012 — the Canucks have led in the third period in four them and were tied in another. They went on to lose three of them in overtime, one in the final minute of regulation.

In the seven-game home-ice losing streak, the Canucks have only nine goals and been outscored 13-3 in the third period and overtime.

Wednesday's loss was only one game against Calgary. But it continued a trend for defencemen Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler and Chris Tanev, and forwards Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Alex Burrows, Jannik Hansen and Chris Higgins.

Hamhuis missed most of the 2011 final with an abdominal injury, Danny Sedin sat out the first three games of the 4-1 elimination by the Kings due to a concussion, and Tanev did not play in the 2013 sweep by the San Jose Sharks.

But everyone has played a majority or all of the games in the 1-11 playoff free fall the last 46 months. Higgins does not have a point in his 12 games while Hansen, who had an assist on Wednesday, has only one goal. Daniel hasn't scored in the nine games he has played, but has seven assists.

Despite Hamhuis' insistence, it's hard to believe that none of this matters now and that the holdover Canucks are not mentally encumbered by any of it.

"I think that's the past," new head coach Willie Desjardins said after Thursday's practice at the University of B.C. "The only year we're worried about is this year, and I don't think we're focused on (the past) at all. I think our focus is the Flames."

The Flames looked a lot like the Sharks and Kings as they surged past the Canucks in the third period.

"That's hockey; that's in a market like this," Henrik Sedin said when asked about having to deal with the past. "We have a totally new feeling around the team, in the locker room. It's not the same as two or three years ago. It's not the same as when we went to the final. We've been through some tough times this year and it's been a fun ride."

Imagine how much more fun it will be if they win tonight in Game 2, then actually win the series. That would put a lot of distance between now and 2012 and 2013. The Canucks are the only ones who can push their past away.

"Absolutely," Henrik agreed.

As Cash said in that 1993 interview: "My advice is, if they're going to break your legs once when you go in that place, stay out of there."

imacintyre@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/imacvansun

 
 
 
Font:
 
 
 
 
Calgary Flames centre Sam Bennett (63) goes head over heels as he tries to get a shot past Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31) as Vancouver Canucks centre Shawn Matthias (27) and Vancouver Canucks defenceman Dan Hamhuis (2) look on.
 

Calgary Flames centre Sam Bennett (63) goes head over heels as he tries to get a shot past Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31) as Vancouver Canucks centre Shawn Matthias (27) and Vancouver Canucks defenceman Dan Hamhuis (2) look on.

Photograph by: JONATHAN HAYWARD, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles and blog posts. We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, and please keep your comments relevant and respectful. If you encounter a comment that is abusive, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report spam or abuse. We are using Facebook commenting. Visit our FAQ page for more information.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Your voice