Friday, April 04, 2008

Can’t hold a lead, can’t come from behind, and can’t play anymore…

The second guessing can officially begin in Canuckland, as Vancouver fans return to the sidelines and will be without playoff hockey to watch at GM Place this spring.
There will now be much time to dedicate to the annual parade of questions about Naslund and the twins, Trevor Linden’s possible farewell and Roberto Luongo’s overworked schedule.
Questions will percolate about a coach of the year last year, that seemed to have lost the ear of this team somewhere after the all star break in this one and a GM that couldn’t pull the trigger on a trade deadline deal that would have propelled this team into the playoffs and towards the Stanley Cup.

All of that and much more will no doubt now go under the microscope in the premature end of the NHL season for Vancouver and its fans.

In a game where their playoff lives were on the line, the Canucks didn’t show any real desperation until the final seven minutes of play. It was as though nobody had given them the news that Nashville had secured a playoff spot just before puck drop, leaving the Canucks desperate to win over the Oilers and then deal with the Flames in a winner takes all showdown on Saturday night.

Instead the Flames who by now are more than aware that they are in for spring, will roll into town and try to avoid the Red Wings in the first round of the Western playoffs. If the Canucks couldn’t find the urgency to win against Edmonton and left the ice as a dispirited lot on Thursday, you have to wonder what motivation they’ll find to skate back onto it on Saturday.

Thursday night it was a case of Dwayne Roloson being a little bit lucky and a whole lot of good in the Edmonton nets as he turned aside 37 of 38 shots and faced down the Canucks on eight separate power play opportunities. Of those eight man advantage situations, the Canucks squandered the best opportunity of a five minute power play unable to score off Roloson.

When Roloson wasn’t stoning the Canucks, the Oilers were showing their fans that the future, seemingly not that far away is going to be a rewarding experience. A team made up mainly of youth, out skated and for the most part out hit the Canucks. Shutting down any kind of Canuck game plan and leaving the Canucks to mainly fire off low potential shots at the more than ready Roloson.

For the Oiler’s part it was a perfect road game, they took the play to Vancouver early on, faster to the puck, more eager to go into the corners and far quicker at releasing the shot when the opportunity came. They executed their passing plays with precision and found the way to keep the puck circulating much to the dismay of the Canucks.

The lack of secondary scoring, always a bone of contention in Vancouver proved to be the undoing once again for the Canucks. The first line, with some 13 million dollars of salary was once again held off the score sheet, sticks held too tightly couldn’t put the puck in the net and from that will come much discussion in what is now the official Canuck off season, once the formality of Saturday’s season ender with Calgary is taken care of.

On a night when desperation hockey was required, the game for the most part featured little of that atmosphere on the ice from the Canucks, only the Burrows-Kessler connection seemed to have any jump, and push and any desire to take the play to the Oilers. They were rewarded with a goal for their hard work thanks to a pointless penalty from the Oilier’s Joni Pitkanen, who briefly provided the Canucks with hope, taking a poorly timed penalty that provided for the Canuck’s only goal and a tease of hope for Canuck fans.

However, with time running out on the clock and the season, the Canucks took a pair of last minute penalties that sealed their fate. While many could question the timing of a hooking call on Henrik Sedin, especially considering the flagrant fouls that had gone uncalled in the four minutes previous, using penalties as an excuse won’t wash on this night.

In the end, the Cancuk’s could not overcome whatever dysfunction that sat in that dressing room on a night to night basis this season, far too often they threw away leads and let opportunities to climb the standings slip away.

Two weeks ago they were looking down at the bottom feeders trying to claw their way into the playoffs, fourteen days later they’re the bottom feeders and there will be no more chances on this season.

Globe and Mail-- Canucks bow out
Vancouver Sun-- Canucks Melt down
Vancouver Province-- Canucks playoff bid over
Edmonton Journal-- Oil spoil

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