Canucks 1 - 7 Blackhawks
Vancouver played tonight with a degree of poorness that I can only partially explain. Apparently misinformed about what was supposed to happen tonight, the Canucks showed up for a slumber party. Then, undeterred by the fact that their guests were playing ice hockey, our boys decided to go to sleep anyway. When they awoke, they were being soundly embarrassed by a Chicago team you'd think they would have gotten up to play.
But they did not get up; they slept. And unfortunately, both PITB and the Chicago Blackhawks were wide awake the whole time, thinking they must be dreaming when it became apparent how easily the Canucks were going to let this one go. Ugh. Yuck. Blech. We watched this game:
- I've talked in the past about how the Canucks' defense is in complete disarray, and it showed tonight. Bieksa was getting all the blame at the Forum Sports Bar (where we watched the game with fellow bloggers), but this monstrosity was a team effort. Every defenseman finished minus-2 or worse. I was remarking, on the drive home, about how nobody on the back-end is playing in their established position of strength from last year. Everybody's playing the wrong side, with the wrong type of partner. It's maddening.
- An example: in the absence of Sami Salo, Christian Ehrhoff has been asked to become the Sedins' third passing option, but he's much better playing off the rush with Kesler and Raymond. His blueline pinching isn't as heady, and his choices aren't as sound. Furthermore, he's not receiving the twins' passes cleanly even when he does it right. In the Every Goal series, I detailed how many of his goals came with the second line. He's better there. This is just one of many examples of how the defense can't seem to find a groove.
- The problem with Ehrhoff's struggles is that they affect everyone else--most notably, Kevin Bieksa, who has effectively become our no. 2 defenseman. He began the game paired with Alex Edler. Bieksa is better at pinching and keeping the Sedins' cycle game alive, and since Ehrhoff isn't scoring, Vigneault's been using Bieksa as the defenseman on the ice with Hank and Danny. The problem is that Bieksa isn't a two-way defenseman; he's a one-way defenseman that can go both ways. If he's focused on defense, he doesn't play offense, and if he's focused on offense, the puck is going into somebody's net. He seems to be playing unsure of how he's playing. But that goes for most of the defenders.
- Even Dan Hamhuis is playing poorly, and he started off the year playing so well. His foot injury came at a terrible time, and it's clearly still bothering him. It's frustrating because it's been long enough now since he's been playing well that fans are beginning to wonder if he ever was. He was. He's no has-been. He might again.
- It's hecka easy to complain after a night like tonight, so let's rag on the Sedins. Shocking pronouncement: they're underperforming. Don't let their impressive point totals, uh, impress you. The Sedins are scoring, but they're not getting any sustained offensive pressure. The problem with that is that if you can't hem your opponent in the offensive zone, the party's coming to your house. The Canucks' strength over the past few seasons has been 5-on-5 play (remember the LA series, where they outplayed the Kings 5-on-5 drastically) , but that strength is borne from two lines that cycle the puck and retain possession. The Sedins used to do it the best. Not so much lately. They're still scoring, but the puck is coming back to the defensive zone far too quickly, and that's putting too much pressure on a defensive unit that can't handle it right now. People said the Sedins were invisible tonight, and they were. But they're invisible on nights when they score if they can't establish their cycle game and eat the clock with sustained pressure.
- People were taking shots at Henrik for being a poor captain tonight. Is this fair? Here's my thinking: if we're seeing evidence that wearing the C for the Canucks makes you play worse, we should give it to Peter Schaefer. Nobody will notice. Or better yet, give it to the other team's captain, so he'll play really terribly against us.
- I was relieved when Luongo got pulled and Schneider played just as poorly. Thank you, Cory, for your part in mitigating the potential goaltending controversy. That's just teamwork. When nobody's playing well, it's best to go with the flow.
- The good news is that Luongo usually plays fabulously in the game after he gets pulled, so we should expect a win tonight in Phoenix. I was thinking to myself: if he plays so well after getting yanked, the Canucks should yank him in games before big games, so he'll win them. In fact, they should just yank him all the time, even when he's not playing. On off days, Vigneault or Melanson should call him and tell him he just got the hook so he'll play well next game.
- You know things are going awfully when people's expectations have been so tempered they're just praying the Canucks don't get shut out. Samuelsson's goal was a little like salvaging three hubcaps from a totalled car. It's completely meaningless, but it's something. And good on Ryan Kesler, the only Canuck who didn't finish the game in the minuses, for the inside-outside move he made to get that scoring chance. He was the best Canuck tonight.
- I wrote myself a letter before the game asking my future self to come back in the time machine he invents (that's happening), to warn me if the Canucks were going to get whooped. I thought we were going to win tonight because I didn't show. That said, it was probably for the best that Future Harrison stayed away. I was actually planning to murder him and steal the credit for his work. Know thyself.
- There were green children at tonight's game. The green men have reproduced, and this merits a discussion. We know there are green women after one appeared on CBC last postseason and Ron Maclean told her to take her top off. But, despite being gendered, green people are without sex organs, so how do they reproduce? I suggest asexually. Green men are like earthworms. It's possible, in fact, that one of them is actually Earthworm Jim and the green spandex is actually his next generation robotic suit.
- There is good news: the garbage play from the whole team meant Alain Vigneault could play his fourth line more. That's a minor victory, right? More ice time for Tanner Glass?
- Poor Joel Perrault was probably sitting on the bench thinking, Oh man, I am so gonna get blamed for this.
- More good news: a loss like this, at home, might be the wake-up call the Canucks need. They were bad on the road trip, but they were also playing poorly before that, when they were winning. The excuses (road trips, winning) have been quietly filtering out the evidence that they're in a genuine slump. It's patently clear now. Let's hope they get things turned around before we find ourselves in a situation where they're playing well and losing.
- And finally: how many goals do you think Alex Burrows is capable of netting this season? He has one so far. Richard Loat (@mozy19) believes he won't even hit 20. I'm not sure either. My concern is that Burrows spent two seasons in a golden zone, and this shoulder injury might knock him back to earth. My concern is that injecting a bum shoulder into the equation is a little bit like when Earth, Wind and Fire brought elements of disco to the funk.
- That last joke, translated for a non-black audience: my concern is that injecting a bum shoulder into the equation is a little bit like when John Lennon brought Yoko Ono to the Beatles. Also, The Mentalist. White people like The Mentalist, right?