Canucks Drop 3-2 Decision in Shootout to Kings

first_imgLeigh Ramsden lives in Vancouver and is an avid Canucks fan, having been a partial season ticket holder for over 10 years. He’s old enough to have witnessed all three Stanley Cup losses, as such, his prime goal is to remove those scars by seeing a Cup brought to Vancouver. Leigh is Fighting For Stanley’s (www.fightingforstanley.ca/vancouver) west coast correspondent, and will also blog after all Canuck games for The Nelson Daily.Coming into Tuesday night’s game at Rogers Arena, the Vancouver Canucks knew they had to be better than they were on Sunday night when the Los Angeles area’s other team, the Anaheim Ducks, schooled them.  Unfortunately, this knowledge didn’t help motivate the team, and they eventually lost to the L.A. Kings 3-2 in a shootout.For the second game in a row, the Canucks’ opponent scored first.  As bad as they were on Sunday, their first period tonight was worse, and the Kings broke through at 9:06 of the opening frame as “Mr. Pancake”, Dustin Penner, deflected a Drew Doughty point shot past Canuck netminder Roberto Luongo.  The Kings were absolutely dominant in the opening period, at one point outshooting the Canucks 14-4 before a late Canuck power play evened that statistic up marginally, the period ending with a 15-10 L.A. advantage.The Canucks played slightly better in the final 40 minutes of the game.  Vancouver tied the game up at one early in the second period on a Daniel Sedin power play marker, before Justin Williams catapulted L.A. into the lead late in the period with a power play goal of his own.  The Canucks stuck with it in the third, and David Booth tied the game again at the five-minute mark, as he converted a beautiful feed from Jannik Hansen. Overtime solved nothing, and the Kings bested the Canucks in the shootout as Mike Richards scored the game winner on the Kings’ third shot of the skills competition, roofing a wrist shot over Luongo.The Kings saw solid performances from Penner and Williams, who each had strong games for the visitors.  Kings’ netminder Jonathan Quick was sharp as well, especially in the deciding shootout.This game featured many similarities to Sunday night’s game, the biggest being the lethargy of the Canucks’ group and the top-notch play of Luongo, which kept them in it.  The first ten minutes of the game were brutal from the Canucks’ perspective, and Luongo was in a veritable shooting gallery.  He was equal to the task, making a number of show-stopping saves, some on odd-man rushes, to give the Canucks a chance in this game.  Also similar to Sunday’s game was the fact the Canucks were able to make average players look very good, evidenced by Penner’s strong game. The Canucks were just flat-out outworked as they continue to limp along to the all-star break.CANUCKS’ DEFENSE CONTINUES TO STRUGGLEVancouver’s defense has struggled significantly since Sami Salo was injured against the Bruins.  This trend continued tonight.  The entire six-man unit has had trouble containing the opposing forwards in each game.  Tonight, especially in the first period, the Kings were buzzing around the offensive zone unadulterated, with nary a body on them.  It was like L.A. was moving at twice the speed of the Canucks. Last game, I mentioned the “bottom three” (take your pick from Ballard, Alberts, Rome, and Sulzer) have struggled and this has led to increased pressure on Bieksa, Hamhuis, and Edler.I can’t honestly remember a time I have seen Dan Hamhuis play like he has in the past few games.  He seems unsure of where to go with the puck and has had his troubles moving it effectively.  He and his partner, Bieksa, have been more a liability in recent outings. For his part, Bieksa has been making some bad decisions with the puck and has had a number of bad pinches which have led to odd-man situations.  In addition, all these guys have had a horrible time tying up their checks.  Bieksa allowed dangerous King forward Anze Kopitar a crack at a rebound from right in front of the net in the overtime, while he was laying on the ice!  Luongo was forced to make a good stop to get the team to the shootout.  In the second period, Edler lost his man at the side of the net, who skated out and got another rebound, almost scoring.The team’s defensive struggles do not all lie with the defense corps, however.  It seems the forwards are also struggling with assignments and are not backing up the D when they pinch in an attempt to keep pucks in.  Tonight, this led to at least three odd-man situations against, in the first ten minutes alone.  In addition, they are not giving the defensemen good options on breakouts, which leads to neutral zone turnovers. Tonight, the team had 13 giveaways to the Kings’ three.SOME POSITIVESFor all the doom and gloom surrounding this team and its recent play, I’m going to go contrarian and mention a few positives – it’s too easy to focus on the negatives in a game like this. The Canucks showed some glimmers of hope in final 40 minutes. For one, Booth had another strong game in his second outing since returning from his knee injury.  He was dangerous at many times and his skating looks great – he seems to be moving faster than the rest of the team.  He has given the maligned Kesler unit a shot in the arm.  In general, that line had a slightly better game tonight, they generated a few chances to score and were noticeable.  Coach Alain Vigneault ended up changing this line in the third, as he moved Booth down to the third line to skate alongside Cody Hodgson and Jannik Hansen, swapping spots with Mason Raymond.  Both lines looked even better after this move, and it was Hansen and Booth who connected on the tying goal.  It is surprising to me that Hodgson and Booth weren’t featured more prominently in the overtime period, given their stong play in the third.The play of Luongo can’t be understated.  He was truly spectacular tonight at times, and the Canucks can thank him and him alone for their single point.  In general, he’s been on a roll since early December and is showing no signs of slowing down.  He’s given the team chances for points in recent games.The Canucks have also recently been getting beat in the faceoff circle on a nightly basis – not tonight.  They held a significant edge in this category, with 38 faceoff wins compared to 28 for L.A.Finally, the power play, while not appearing as lethal it was earlier in the season, was 1 for 4 tonight, right on their season average of ~ 24%.  After going 8 for 48 (17%) in its previous 15 games, it has clicked at a 30% success rate in the last three contests (3 for 10).  Hopefully this is a sign that the power play is getting back to top form.While overall the team isn’t going well at the moment, there are a few things going the right way.  And as bad as they’ve been in the past five games, the Canucks have come out of them with five points.  They are finding a way to at least get something out of these games.  A bigger test will be San Jose on Saturday afternoon.PARTING SHOTSChecking in on the Standings:  The Canucks again avoided the dreaded regulation loss tonight.  The SO loss leaves them with 60 points from 47 games, on pace for 105 (off last season’s pace, when they ended with 114 points).  The Canucks are third, points-wise, in the league, behind the Rangers and the Red Wings.  However, they have played between one and four games more than the other top teams, and as such, there are five other teams who could leapfrog over them if they got all the points available from their games in hand:  Boston, Philadelphia, San Jose, St. Louis, and Chicago.I believe the best way to gauge teams against each other is looking at their record in games decided in regulation – the four on four OT and the shootout are gimmicky and don’t represent “real” hockey.  In considering these records, these top teams would have the following point totals:NYR – 50Boston – 48Detroit – 48St. Louis – 48Philadelphia – 46Vancouver – 44Chicago – 40San Jose – 38If you take these results and extrapolate them over an 82 game regular season, given the number of games the teams have played, Vancouver is at the bottom of the list. Make no mistake about it – the Canucks performance this year has not met the standard that was set last year, when they won the President’s Trophy.  The Canucks are being forced to overtime or a shootout too often, and are leaving points on the table against some of the league’s inferior opposition.  Based on their play, this puts the Canucks near the bottom of the top 8 teams in the NHL – and that equals a second round playoff loss.Can the Canucks turn it around?  I believe they can, they have had some injuries to deal with (especially coming into the season) and their first 20 games were horrid.  They got hot in November but have come back to earth somewhat since.  If they can get the second line going and can shore up the defense, the goaltending appears good enough to win most nights.  Hopefully they can put something together here in the last 35 games of the season.Broadcast Observation of the Night:  I chuckled when I saw the fan behind the Kings bench had a bottle of Aunt Jemima syrup on the dasher on the other side of the glass, perfectly positioned behind the Kings’ Dustin Penner.  If you’re unfamiliar with this story, Penner missed a game last week with back spasms that he said flared up after he reached over the breakfast table to get a couple of his wife’s pancakes.Looking ahead: The Canucks continue their six-game homestand with a rare afternoon date with the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.last_img

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