Showing posts with label Canucks / Ducks April 2007. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Canucks / Ducks April 2007. Show all posts

Thursday, May 03, 2007

For Vancouver it’s, Game, Series, Season…

It was a most improbable ending to a most bizarre game. Roberto Luongo who had stared down the Anaheim Ducks for almost all of the 84 minutes, took his eye off the puck for a nanosecond, and before he knew it, his and the Canucks season had come to an end victims of a self inflicted 2-1 loss to the Ducks.

Perhaps expecting a penalty on a hard hit by Rob Neidermayer on Jannik Hansen, Luongo seemed to not expect the long distance shot from the point by Scott Neidermayer which zoomed by the Canuck goaltender and registered in the back of the net, much to the surprise and delight of even the Duck who shot the puck.

In a way it’s not fair, not because Vancouver deserved the win, as they clearly didn’t. Rather because we won’t be able to watch any more goaltending clinics from one of the most exciting goaltenders to put on a Canucks sweater.

Game Five in Anaheim was all Duck in the chances department, 63 shots were fired at Vancouver goaltenders, 58 at Luongo and 5 at Danny Sabourin in what must have been a terror filled 3 minutes and thirty four seconds of emergency work. For fifty minutes of the regulation time of this game, Vancouver could provide little in the way of offence. They displayed an innate ability to not clear a puck, unable to force the Ducks out of the defensive zone, free to fire at will at Luongo who single handedly kept his team battling for a win that they probably had no right to expect.

Vancouver skated as though in quicksand, they had no speed, and could find no positioning. Far too often they were beat to the puck in their own end, far too often they had it taken away as they crossed into the neutral zone. Far too often they couldn’t get more than a shot away in the Anaheim end. By the games end, Giguere would have faced 27 shots, compared to Luongo's workload JS was hardly called to action.

And yet, as the last ten minutes of regulation played out, there was every indication that they might very well steal one away from the Ducks, take the series back to Vancouver and launch an unlikely run for a game seven victory.

When Alex Burrows put away the tying goal, there seemed to be a renewed energy on the Vancouver bench, a sudden realization that Luongo’s remarkable performance would not be for naught.

The game which seemed as lopsided as one could find for fifty minutes, suddenly turned into a back and forth dash for a winning goal. Anaheim lucky to claim victory in a way as the Canucks finally found the range of the Duck net, only to have J S Giguere show that he too could make a difference when the time came.

The first overtime presented one of the most bizarre incidents seen in a hockey game in a long time or at least since the last Domenik Hasek incident, as the two teams took to the ice Vancouver sent back up goaltender Danny Sabourin into the nets. Luongo still ensconced in the dressing room suffering some kind of “equipment problem”. One must wonder what kind of terror might have flashed through Sabourin's head, having been used sparingly in the regular season, suddenly the season was on the line and he was the last man between victory and defeat.

To his credit, Sabourin stood tall, knocking back five Duck shots refusing to be the historical footnote to a rather strange game. With Luongo’s equipment issues resolved he returned to the nets, taking a few seconds to talk to his back up and express his gratitude and maybe respect of a tough job at a tough time.

From that point on he Luongo was back on track, a few close calls came and went, just as many stellar saves denied the Ducks their opportunity to win.

When the second OT began, there were no more equipment problems to worry about; both starting goaltenders took their place. The Canucks slipped into a few bad habits for a bit, letting the ducks gain control of the game. But then Vancouver would break out and have a few memorable chances to end the game and start the Ducks to thinking.

As things turned out, the Ducks won’t need to contemplate anything other than who is to be their next opponent.

The better team won the series, the Ducks outplayed, out hit, out shot by laughable measures and outscored the Canucks. When the need for key players to step up their game arrived, too many Canucks sat out the invitation. While Trevor Linden seemed to turn back the clock and compete as though it was game seven against the 94 Rangers again, too many others turned the other cheek or the other way, allowing too many Ducks to have too much space and too much time.

There will probably be no more disappointed Canuck on the way home than Roberto Luongo, who carried this team as far as he could only to see a cruel fate played out on a mistake.

It’s not the way a season should end, but most figured the season ended two days ago anyways, when the Canucks threw away a two goal lead and then lost in OT. Game five was supposed to be just a formality, in the end that’s what it was, but not before Luongo gave his team one more chance to get untracked and deserve a win.

Vancouver will continue to rebuild this team; Luongo is the foundation for the future. There were glaring needs this year, a more seasoned defence is required, a bit more desire to go into a corner and take a puck away as well.

Changes will come, players will leave. Every team grows from disappointment, but once they look in the mirror the Canucks will realize that without their goaltender, they wouldn’t even have been close in either one of their 2007 playoff series.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A mournful Moen in Vancouver

It was the one that got away and with it may go the playoff hopes for the Vancouver Canucks.

Travis Moen scored just minutes into overtime to lead the Anaheim Ducks to 3-2 victory over Vancouver and a 3 game to 1 clutch on the series , which is heading back to Anaheim on Thursday night.

It will be a bitter one for Vancouver to swallow, they had one of the best team periods in the first and jumped out to a quick and what they thought was a secure 2-0 lead, paced by Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison.

But in one of the great comebacks of these playoffs so far, the Ducks continued to battle along the boards, slowly taking the play away from Vancouver and knocking them onto their heels in the third.

Vancouver couldn’t hold on in the last twenty minutes, far too often the Ducks would beat them to the puck, control the play from behind the net and fire shot after shot at Roberto Luongo. The defence played far too tentatively in the third, unable to clear the zone giving the Ducks new life one goal at a time.

As the period progressed you could see the game starting to slip away from the Canucks, fans no doubt wishing that the clock would move faster, a race that would not be won by Vancouver on Tuesday night.

Duck goaltender JS Giguere gave up those two early goals, but as his team gained confidence on the way to their eventual victory it would be Giguere they would thank. He refused to let the Canucks get what may have been the pivotal third goal, knocking down the Canuck attack at key points of the game.

In the end it was a broken play at the Canuck blue line led to the tying goal, Sami Salo had his stick knocked out of his hands while pressing at the blue line. As he streaked back to his position all he could do would be to watch Teemu Selanne finally get a reward for his hard work this series.

Teemu Selanne, a battered and bloodied Duck throughout this series, once again took high sticks to the face and faced punishment near the net during the game. Yet when the clock was winding down in the third, it was his swat at the puck that sent the game into overtime.

The goal set the stage for a short lived fourth period and a celebration on the Duck’s bench as Moen pounced on a rebound and fired it past a devastated Luongo.

While it’s a cliché to never to say never when it comes to playoff hockey, a loss like this can get into a teams head. The Canucks were the better team in the first period, but when the Ducks made their modifications by the second period the took control of the game if not the scoring. Assisted by another amazing round of goaltending by JS Giguere, it proved to be only a matter of time that the Ducks would take the win.

Many will say that much the same could be said for a series that now has the Canucks in a very deep hole. A few of the Canuck faithful will remain just that on Thursday, pointing to a similar situation against the Stars which the Canucks pulled out.

But for most, tomorrow morning will prove to be a period of mourning for an opportunity that definitely was allowed to get away.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Canucks powerless at GM Place

The Vancouver Canucks can only look at the state of their anemic power play, to understand the kind of hurdles they have ahead of them in their series with the Anaheim Ducks.

The Canucks have been woeful when given the man advantage, compiling a horrid 1 for 20 record in this series thus far when offered the chance to go on the power play, a strange situation that seems to render them incapable of finishing around the net, providing the puck actually makes it that far.

Once again the Canucks seemed to have the Ducks where they might like them, only to let them off the hook. Shots whistled wide, went over the top of the net or were routinely handled by J. S. Giguere, whatever the reason, few of them found a spot behind the Duck goaltender.

At the other end of the rink, Roberto Luongo gave proof that he is mortal after all, while still a major presence for the Canucks he found the Ducks troublesome on a couple of instances with goals he no doubt wishes he could have back.

Anaheim’s 3-2 victory gives the Ducks home ice advantage back and it’s an edge that may come in handy, as the play from the last two games dictates that these two teams may need all seven games to settle up accounts.

The loss will be a frustrating one for Vancouver, who controlled a good portion of the play for a fair amount of the game, despite giving up an early goal they battled back and gave the sold out crowd at GM Place cause for hope that a home ice win was in the cards.

But credit to the Ducks who not only killed off a high number of penalty situations, but who also took the play into the Vancouver end and as is the case were rewarded for their efforts in fore checking and facing the abuse that comes with play in the trenches. More importantly they took full advantage of their man advantages, scoring two goals on the way to their 3-2 victory Sunday night in Vancouver.

While Vancouver will have to learn to not take costly penalties at key moments of a game, the real work tomorrow at practice will be on the power play a portion of the game, a most important aspect of the game that has gone missing in Vancouver.

All the big defensive plays and stellar goal tending will help with the goal of advancing in the playoffs, but without goals that advance stands a very good chance of being sidelined.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Canucks earn well deserved victory

It was a result that not only seems fair, but gives hope to any team that plays the game. Hard work and guts will in the end provide you with a favourable result. For the fourth time thus far in the 2007 playoff season, the Canucks took a game into overtime, another double OT affair that showcased Roberto Luongo’s talents and left Duck fans silent.

The Vancouver Canucks evened up their best of seven playoff series with a 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night, thanks mainly to a never say die attitude and an ability to keep the pressure on the Ducks even as the roster looked ready to add more names to the injury list.

Vancouver came out flying much as they did two nights ago, the only difference is that they kept that pace for all of the sixty minutes of regulation time, and while the pace slowed a bit into the second overtime period, they still managed to keep pressure on the Ducks and collect the victory.

Roberto Luongo and J S Giguere battled hard through the four and a half periods of play, staving off attacks, making amazing saves and suffering the bashes of opposing forwards straying top close to that blue paint.

In the end it was an ugly little goal that settled the game, a redirection at 7:42 of the second overtime by Jeff Cowan of a Trevor Linden pass that deflected off of Giguere’s skate and into the net. Considering some of the earlier opportunities that the Canucks had and the ones that Giguere turned away, it must have been a relief for the Canucks to finally sneak one by the Duck goaltender.

Game Two showcased the Canucks as their fans remembered from earlier this year, an attacking squad that created many chances to score and began to hit again in the corners, creating turnovers and opportunity.

After Game one, many had already conceded the series to the Ducks, Friday night the Canucks provided an answer that maybe they’ll play out the series anyways just for fun.

It was a gut check for Vancouver, already down by two defencemen; Alain Vigneault must have had his heart in his throat when Willie Mitchell appeared to twist his knee in the second period. Mitchell went under the stands to walk out the problem, and while it’s suspected he wasn’t playing at full potential, he did return to the ice and played a pivotal role in the Canucks battle for the win.

Once again though, it was the goaltending of Roberto Luongo that provided the Canucks with the platform to take the win. He held off waves of attacks from the Ducks and suffered more than a few skate bys that the Ducks used to try to knock him off his game.

It didn’t work out for them however, as Luongo stymied many Ducks over the course of the night.

The win for Vancouver should do much in changing the momentum of this series towards them, in what seemed like an impossible situation, they kept to their team approach, the fourth liners contributing as much as the first line, a patchwork defensive corp, playing for their lives and sending a message to the Ducks that any thoughts of a four game sweep just weren’t on.

Game Three in Vancouver should be much of the same, two teams trying to build on previous success; Vancouver’s a little more recent and much more dramatic.