Canucks Dominated by Ducks, Lose 4-2 on Sunday Night in Vancouver
Leigh Ramsden lives in Vancouver and is an avid Canucks fan. He’s been a partial season ticket holder for 10 years, and is old enough to have cried after all three Stanley Cup losses. His dream is to see the Canucks bring the Cup to the west coast. Leigh is Fighting For Stanley’s http://www.fightingforstanley.ca west coast correspondent and will also blog after all Canuck games for The Nelson Daily.
The Vancouver Canucks had an opportunity to atone for their past few games on Sunday night at Rogers Arena by coming out and burying an underachieving Anaheim Ducks team.
Unfortunately, only one team came to play, and the Ducks left Vancouver with a dominant 4-2 victory, a score which flattered the home team.
Anaheim left-winger Jason Blake was made to look like an all-star, his two-goal, one assist effort providing more offense than the entire Canuck team could muster on the night.
Blake is at best a borderline NHL forward at this stage, and at worse he’s downright horrible. Not tonight, as the Canucks did everything they could to make him look good. Bobby Ryan also garnered a goal and an assist for the visitors.
The only Canuck forward who made any sort of impression was rookie Cody Hodgson, who roofed a nice wrist shot over Duck goaltender Jonas Hiller’s shoulder on the power play, a goal which gave the Canucks a shred of hope in the first period.
Vancouver’s defensive pairing of Aaron Rome and Alex Sulzer was… minor league? It’s difficult to think of a word that accurately describes their play tonight.
They continually gave the puck away in their own zone and, themselves, provided enough offense for Anaheim to win the game.
Roberto Luongo held the fort in the Canucks’ net and honestly deserved a better fate. This game could easily have gotten way out of hand early, as the Ducks were outshooting Vancouver, at one point, 22-6, with only 2:30 left in the second period.
Six shots in 37 and one half minutes, which included three power plays?!? That is unfathomable for any team in the league, never mind one in the league’s upper echelon.
This game was the second in a row, and third in the last four, where the Canucks were badly outplayed.
They came into the night with the most points in the league, partially owing to the fact they had played more games than any other team.
Fittingly, they basically gave this game back to the rest of the league. For my money, it was their worst effort of the year, and that’s saying something given what we have witnessed since the Boston game 8 days ago.
Let’s keep this game in perspective – the Ducks are in 14th place in the Western Conference; coming into the game, they had allowed the most goals and had the worst goal differential at minus-28; their goaltending has been brutal; their coach had been fired; and tonight, their two best players (Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf) had zero points and were minus-2.
IS THE TEAM JUST TIRED? OR IS SOMETHING BIGGER AT PLAY?
Tonight, the Canucks’ foot speed was bad, they didn’t get to loose pucks, they didn’t win battles, they were just outworked –this has been a common theme in recent games. It isn’t like Vancouver came out, played well, and it was just “one of those nights” – this game wasn’t really close, in fact, it would have been much worse if Luongo was off his game.
This was the kind of game that the Canucks have had a tendency to put on the ice from time to time (think: playing Chicago or Boston in an important playoff series).
The Canucks’ ability to play down to the level of their opposition has gone from “cute”, to “somewhat frustrating”, and is now verging on “absolutely maddening”. Not counting their early-season malaise, in their last 17 games the Canucks have now left 12 points on the table in dubious outings against the likes of the Carolina Hurricanes, the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Calgary Flames, the Florida Panthers, and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
I’ve recently written that the Canucks’ schedule seems to be getting the better of them. They have played the most total games in the league, they have the most road games in the league, and I’m sure (although I haven’t checked this fact), as a result, they have travelled the most miles.
Vancouver has three game left before the all-star break, when the team will get a week off. This break can’t come fast enough.
Of course, given what we’ve been seeing lately, it’s possible that this team is merely missing something. Realistically, the Canucks are VERY close to being on a four game losing streak – they were lucky to escape both Tampa Bay and St. Louis with wins after the games they put on the ice.
And given the fact they face the Kings and Sharks in their next two games, they might not get a win anytime soon. GM Mike Gillis is going to have to make a quick assessment after the All-Star break to determine whether it’s the schedule – and associated fatigue – that is dragging the team down, or if something more fundamental in the team’s makeup is at play.
After a game like this, I’m starting to wonder whether or not it’s the latter, as opposed to the former. An effort like this is just unacceptable for what is purportedly a top team in the league.
CANUCKS STARTING TO MISS SALO, AND VIGNEAULT MAKES NO SENSE
The Canucks’ defense tonight was horrible. Nobody played well, including the top pairing of Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa, who took three penalties. The second pairing of Alex Edler and Aaron Rome was serviceable, although, Rome finished minus-3 and gave the puck away a number of times.
Worst though was the bottom pairing of Keith Ballard and Alex Sulzer. At the end of the day, none of Rome, Ballard, Sulzer, or Alberts are good enough to play in a top 4 spot. And it’s likely not a coincidence that the recent Canucks’ swoon has coincided with the fragile Finn’s most recent injury, sustained in the Boston game.
Unfortunately for Vancouver, there is no timetable for Salo’s return as he’s not yet skated since the concussion.
That said, coach Alain Vigneault must be questioned for his decision to keep Sulzer in the lineup at the expense of Alberts. Alberts had been playing well in third-pairing minutes, and his size in the lineup was a nice asset. Two games ago, Vigneault benched Ballard in favour of Sulzer.
This situation seems patently clear to me – Ballard is a top four type of defenseman, with great skating and the ability to rush the puck, which seems a fit with the Canucks’ penchant for “getting the defense involved offensively”. I have no idea why he doesn’t slot in with Edler on the second pairing.
I realize that that both players struggle to play the right side, but almost anything would be better than having Sulzer in the lineup night in, night out. Sulzer isn’t horrible… but he rarely does anything positive. The NHL is now a league where you need players to make a difference – and he’s made none in his time in the lineup.
• David Booth returned to the lineup, playing alongside Kesler and Higgins. He easily was one of the best Canucks, appearing fresh and like he had a spring in his step. His play supports the theory that the rest of the team is merely tired.
• Kesler was again ineffective. I’m beginning to wonder if he’s nursing an undisclosed injury. He’s just not the same effective player we saw last year.
• Cody Hodgson’s wrist shot goal was world-class. He continues to impress offensively, in his limited role.
• Something’s wrong in Anaheim. Getzlaf and Perry did almost nothing tonight, although they were on the ice a ton. Linemate Bobby Ryan had an effective night.
• The Canucks were again one for three on the power play, but that is amazing considering how ineffective the first unit was.
• The Ducks were also one for three, however, Ryan’s goal came only five seconds after a Bieksa penalty expired. As such, this was “effectively” a power play goal – the Canucks’ penalty kill had its first off-night for quite some time.
• As bad as Vancouver was, this game was there for the taking, at least for awhile. The first line hit a post midway through the second period that would have tied the game up, and after that the Canucks started to play.
• Speaking of the first line – this was one of their worst games of the year. They were invisible most of the night and didn’t create much on the offensive end.
• In a sure sign of desperation, in an attempt to overcome their flaccid attack the Canucks pulled their goalie very early, with over two minutes left.
In-Arena Observation of the Night:
Maybe it’s just because the Canucks were so bad tonight that it put me in an ornery mood, but I have to say, I shake my head at many of the people that are attending the games right now at Rogers Arena.
It appears that knowledgeable fans, who are there to watch the game and cheer (or jeer) the hockey on the ice, is mutually exclusive with having anyone that is just there for a night out. I’ve gone on in the past about some of the problems I see with in-arena game presentation, but the bottom line is that if the paying fans demanded something better, they would get it, so obviously I’m in the minority.
For one: the whole “Ric Flair ‘Woo’” thing. The Canucks, as far as I know, stole this from the Carolina Hurricanes (hat tip to CH and CJ), but it’s been popular with the fans so I can understand why the team encourages it when appropriate.
Tonight, however, the Canucks see fit to get the crowd going on this after they had merely tied the game up 1-1, while stuck on three shots on goal – hardly the time to have a boastful cheer going around the rink. Shockingly, the crowd kept going with it – moreso than when the Canucks are comfortably ahead by a couple goals. This makes no sense to me whatsoever.
Secondly: the penchant of some people to “not care” how the team is actually doing. With the Canucks down 4-1 in the third period, there were other puzzling fan behaviours. For instance, some fans thought it appropriate to get “The Wave” going.
This was one of the Canucks’ worst performances of the year, there was absolutely nothing to cheer for or to be happy about, game-wise at least. Further, there was a man in my section who was happily dancing around with five minutes left, all in an attempt to get picked up by a cameraman (who was in the area), presumably hoping to get up on the big screen.
It should be noted he was there with his five-year-old son, so it was * somewhat * understandable – but that said, my approach would be different.
I guess my concern is the fact that there appears to be so many people attending the games that just don’t care how the home team fares, and are there for other reasons. Win, lose, or put their worst effort of the year on the ice – they are going to dance and cheer and do the wave and scream “Woo”.
There’s part of me that sees something noble in this; but the bigger part of me wonders why they come out if they don’t care what happens on the ice? There are a great many number of true hockey fans that can’t afford to attend these games, and it makes me somewhat sad that others, who don’t carry the same passion for the team, are in the building 41 times per year. Just like the team – our fans need to be better.
Looking ahead: The Canucks host the L.A. Kings on Tuesday night as they continue this stretch of home games.