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What Went Wrong: Vancouver Canucks

Jun 16, 2011, 11:39 AM EDT

Boston Bruins v Vancouver Canucks - Game Seven Getty Images

Of all the profiles done here to cover what caused the demise of a team in the playoffs, there hasn’t been one so plainly simple to draw up and point fingers at what went wrong. The Canucks issues were ultimately easy to figure out, their failure in the Stanley Cup finals was one that saw them go down without so much as a fight in Game 7.

What went wrong for the Vancouver Canucks? The paint-by-numbers crime scene investigation is pretty simple to follow.

1. Offense? What offense?
Eight goals in seven games in the finals. That’s all the Canucks could muster against Tim Thomas and the Bruins defense. Sure there was some bad luck and shots off the post but there were fanned on shots at open nets, inability to corral the puck in scoring opportunities and no wherewithal to fight harder against the Bruins to go for the goal.

The struggles of Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin in this series are going to haunt them until they’re able to win a Stanley Cup for themselves. Henrik finishes the Stanley Cup finals with just one goal and no assists while Daniel had one goal and one assist. For one former MVP and a current MVP candidate that’s patently inexcusable.

When you’re two of the best players in the game and your team’s fate rests on your production – you have to do better. The intimidation factor Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg threw at them with their physical play and positioning made them shy away from corners and pull back on their attack. Someone has to remind them that there is no fear in the Stanley Cup finals dojo.

2. Oh, Roberto
When your team isn’t scoring goals, your role as a goalie is to hold down the fort flawlessly to give your team that slight opening of being able to win games by scoring just one or two goals if possible. Roberto Luongo was able to do that twice in the finals shutting out the Bruins. He was able to hold things together well enough in Game 2 to open the door for Vancouver to come back from being down 2-1. In the other four games he lost, though, things did not go so well.

Luongo was pulled from two games in Boston while allowing a total of 15 goals on the road in parts of three games including a full 60 minutes worth of allowing eight goals in Game 3. Coming up that small in a road game is just not the mark of a championship team. Seeing Luongo get beaten in Game 7 by a great shot by Patrice Bergeron in the first period and then subsequently beaten thanks to a pair of freaky goals helped serve up all the psyche crushing a goalie needs to lose.

While no one will recall Luongo’s great games thanks to the team losing, his effort in the games he lost just was not on par with his play in Games 1, 2, and 5. That brand of inconsistency, even in spite of the Canucks inability to score, is maddening.

3. The disappearance of the vaunted power play
The Canucks power play was one of their strengths all season long scoring 24.3% of the time during the 82-game haul of the regular season. In prior rounds of the playoffs they were solid again scoring 28.3% of the time with the man advantage. In the Stanley Cup finals though, things changed for the worse.

Vancouver went a paltry 2-33 on the power play in the finals helping drop their power play percentage overall in the playoffs to 20.4%. While that number will still look gaudy their 6% effectiveness in the finals is what will stick out like a sore thumb. In three different games in the finals their power play was morbidly terrible.

In Game 1 they went 0-6 but still won. In Games 3 and 4 however, their misery with the extra man hurt them badly. In Game 3 the power play was 0-8 and in Game 4 it was another 0-6 performance. In games where they needed goals by the bunches, they were afforded the opportunity to score them and failed miserably. That lack of execution and inability to produce was their ultimate undoing.

4. A lack of defensive cohesion
Coming into this series the Canucks defense was one of their points of pride and strength. As the series wore down, it began to be a microcosm of what they dealt with all through the season as injuries and suspensions took their toll. Dan Hamhuis‘ Game 1 injury proved to be a killer as his defensive ability as a top four guy was lost and forced others into roles they’re not accustomed to.

Aaron Rome‘s foolish hit on Nathan Horton not only ignited the Bruins but further weakened his own team’s depth forcing coach Alain Vigneault to figure out whether Keith Ballard or Chris Tanev was going to hurt them less. Having to rely on Andrew Alberts for key defensive stopping minutes isn’t really anyone’s ideal solution to winning games.

Add in Christian Ehrhoff‘s bum shoulder and turnovers all over the ice as well as Alex Edler’s two broken fingers he played with in Game 7 and you’re left with a blue line corps that was stretched to its limits and gassed when it was all said and done. With so much shuffling even the Canucks’ tremendous depth was tested to the limits. Having these things come up in the finals where even the smallest mistakes get magnified made life impossible for Vancouver against a very tight and dedicated Bruins team.

***

We know everyone will be eager to blow up parts of the Canucks and will be quick to throw certain big name players under the bus for not performing, but vast changes aren’t needed here. This team will learn by losing on this stage. Whether or not they’re psychologically capable of dealing with such a crushing defeat is the question here. Professional athletes should be able to bounce back from this but sometimes getting back to the Stanley Cup finals can prove to be just as hard as winning it. Coming out of the Western Conference, that road is always a bit trickier and physically demanding.

Vancouver will again be a top team, but until they get a bit tougher mentally and learn to knock it off with the overly dramatic play to win calls from the officials, life will be that much harder for them.

  1. homelanddefense - Jun 16, 2011 at 3:25 PM

    “Vancouver will again be a top team, but until they get a bit tougher mentally and learn to knock it off with the overly dramatic play to win calls from the officials, life will be that much harder for them”

    You said it all right there. I will first say that I am a Bruins fan. But I totally believe the Canucks are a more skilled hockey team than the Bruins are. I will told many of my friends that the Canucks would have won this series if they just came out and played clean, hard nosed hockey. But they took maybe cheap shots, bit players, dove, dove, dove repeatedly, and continuously whined about the Bruins players, the league, and the refs.

    They literally poked the Bear until it got so pissed it fought back. The Bruins had their best games this year when teams tried to take liberties against them. They completely blew out teams like Dallas, Montreal, and Nashville in regular season games where their opponent tried to get tough with them.

    I firmly believe the extra motivation from guys like Burrows, Lapierre, Luongo, etc propelled the Bruins in this series.

  2. nhlbruins90 - Jun 16, 2011 at 3:39 PM

    The Canucks are a great collection of players. They all have great resumes. A great regular season. They took the B’s to seven games, which suggests the series was closer than it was, IMHO. What they lacked was the intangible X factor that any championship team has to have. Call it heart, courage, grit, determination or any and all of that. The B’s had it, the Nucks didn’t. That’s clear on the morning after.

    The three games that the B’s lost in Vancouver were lost by one goal. If not for the momentary mental lapse by Thomas in the OT loss, the series probably wouldn’t have made it to seven. The losses by the Canucks in the TD Garden were blowouts, all three. The B’s were clearly the better team, and under-estimated by so many.

    Anybody who closely watched them all season long gradually saw the X factor develop in them. Although they had an irritating habit of turning in bad performances when expectations were highest, which was a concern, they also had brilliant stretches along the way. The team had all the pieces in place, from Thomas on out. Chara and Seidenberg are fearsome and McQuaid is just beginning his long run here in Boston. And that’s just three on the backline.

    Across four lines, the B’s impressed from night to night. The big names of course, but get a load of that rookie Marchand. Emotional, a little wild at times, an instigator, but damn he makes it work. Especially when it counts. He’ll have a long run in Boston. The opponents will hate him, the faithful will love him. And he won’t bite anyone’s finger. I guess the B’s saw the X factor in Marchand when they drafted him. Somebody did their homework.

    Campbell, Paille, Thornton … what can you say about these guys. They had an amazing game seven. Campbell has been disparaged over and again, only because of his last name. And yet, he just plays through it all like a pro. Thornton is the heart and soul of this team, and Julien knew exactly when he was needed most. Paille did some incredible pk work out there. Your best players have to be their best (thank-you Tim Thomas) , but you can’t win a championship without these guys.

    Who needs a short, balding, 43 year-old graybeard on their team? Thirty teams do. Pity the rookies and young players thrown into rough and tumble of an NHL season without the influence of a Mark Recchi. Here’s hoping he finds a management spot here in Boston. If not next season, then maybe down the road.

    Patrice! When they gave him his big contract, there were a few mumbles that they over-paid. BAH! If you ‘over-pay’ one player on your team, then make it Patrice Bergeron. There can be no better successor to the great Ray Bourque than Bergeron. That was obvious from the first day he got here. Did he play his best when it mattered most? Damn right.

    I could go on and on, from what this meant to Cam Neely and everybody else, but it would take too long. This is a special group of guys, and a real team from top to bottom. It’s gonna be a fun parade through Boston.

    What did the Nucks lack? Well, if one piece of video summed it up, it would be the shot of Marchand wiping the face of Sedin over and over while he just took it like a rag doll. What was he thinking? The twins are great players, but they just lack a certain grittiness to play the North American game in the playoffs. The need to take some lessons from the great Peter Forsberg. Now there was a guy who knew what it took to win.

    Luongo? Well, the problem begins and ends with his contract. From a business standpoint, that is sheer insanity. Find the management guys responsible for it, and fire them (because you can’t fire the owners, and they must have signed off on such a deal). Your stuck with him. He can’t win the big games. What do you do? Hope for the best.

    Burrows has a lot going for him, and I can see why any team would want his skills, but he needs to grow up some. Flopping for penalties is embarrassing the league as a whole, biting is … oh geesh, enough’s been said. The Nucks should wake up tomorrow and see that this sort of player is not championship caliber.

    Seeing the shot of Ryan Kesler just after the game was over made it clear, this guy is a winner. This is the character around which you build a champion. Clearly, he should be the captain of that team. The courage and heart that it took to play injured, and at the level he did … well, that’s what it takes.

    From top to bottom, it’s gonna take some work to fix the Canucks. A collection of skills don’t win championships. The B’s have it, and this team will be around for awhile. We are lucky here in Boston.

  3. homelanddefense - Jun 16, 2011 at 4:29 PM

    I agree completely about Kessler, he manned up in this series and I gained a lot of respect for him. Malhotra impressed me too.

    • dongaudreau - Jun 16, 2011 at 5:06 PM

      Yes, Kessler showed up. He should have been given the “C”. I think the Canucks got lulled into a false sense of security and couldn’t adjust to a team who played shut down defense. They had no space to use their speed and no there was a Bruin right on them before they could gain the initiative on offence. They hadn’t paid for all the flopping and questionable hits until this series. The biggest mistake they made was sending out a message of arrogance looking down their noses at the lunch pail, blue collar, not flashy Bruins. There couldn’t have been better bulletin board material than Luongos dopey comments which only motivated a team that was already feeling disrespected by comments coming out of Vancouver to make him eat his criticism of Thomas. I also know Horton is highly liked and respected by the team and they were enraged that he would be on the sidelines due to a 2 second late hit. So the Bruins basically said “so, you want to play a physical style eh Vancouver?” The Bruins don’t play well unless their backs are against the wall EXCEPT when they face a team that thinks they’re superior like Montreal or Vancouver. Then when you add the biting, late hits, vicious hit when “touching up” on an icing call, flopping trying to get a penalty, whining to the refs, saying “I’d hit Horton the same way” if the chance came up….. well, they were easy to hate I would guess if you were a Bruin. Hey Luongo, take your elite attitude and put it up your………

  4. apostasyusa - Jun 16, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    I think this series turned on the NHL not suspending Burrows for biting. He came back to score in game 2 and that was the last the B’s were having of it. The B’s were forced to take the series into their own hands and they came up big.

    I say leave Luongo out of it. It’s not his fault the Canucks couldn’t score. If Luongo wasn’t in the crease for the Canucks then they wouldn’t have made it to the finals in the first place. Luongo has a incredible save percentage and is gold medal winning, can’t argue with that. I’m tired of the talking heads blaming the goalie for losses on a team that can’t score.

    The B’s took it to the Canucks and the Canucks were skating in circles. Can’t block shots when you are dizzy!!

    Thanks to both teams for an awesome playoffs! Congrats to the B’s for the win, you all deserved it!

  5. warpstonebc - Jun 16, 2011 at 6:08 PM

    I suspect the only reason they didn’t give Kesler the C is because he doesn’t make the best frontman during a media scrum. He’s better off not having to shoulder Henrik’s post-game load. He’s still a leader without the C.

    Give Henrik and Daniel a break. They were accountable after every game and answered every question thrown at them.

    • nhlbruins90 - Jun 16, 2011 at 7:08 PM

      You could make the same case against Chara being captain. He’s not as animated in front of the cameras either. Like he said though, he wasn’t the only leader in that room, they shared the leadership role (Patrice, Thornton, Recchi). Maybe that’s what the Nucks need to do.

  6. justinleon - Jun 16, 2011 at 11:05 PM

    It’s simple. Defense wins championships. The Bruins proved that, They basically shut down all of the Vancouver scorers.

  7. Chris Ross - Jun 17, 2011 at 3:55 AM

    The game was just not a good one for the Vancouver Canucks. I think it showed in the end that the Bruins really deserved the cup more than the Canucks even though Vancouver was supposed to be the better team. If they were the better team they sure didn’t show it by getting shalacked in 4 out of the 7 games. Not being able to score any goals, no matter how good a goalie is playing, is absolutely inexcusable. Canuck fans at Rogers Arena wanted a reason to cheer in game 7 and they didn’t get one. It was a sad way to end an unbelievable season for the Vancouver Canucks. It’s going to be interesting to see how they react in the off-season.

    http://chrisross91.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/one-and-done/

  8. dirtydog57 - Jun 17, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    I have a different view of what really happened in the Stanley cup playoffs!! What is the end result for the owners of the teams; the cup; nooo; the all mighty dollar.!!! How much can they make by stretching each series to seven games. Could a team like the Canucks who played so well through the year be blown out in a lot of the games like they have been. Keep placing Luongo between the pipes when he kept letting the pucks in. Give Schnieder a try. They did once and he did great but nooo; back to Luongo. If you noticed when showing the Canucks in the change rooms there was no excitement . There is more to it why they didn’t play to there expectations.

    • warpstonebc - Jun 17, 2011 at 4:31 PM

      This is silly.

      Schneider has about 30 games on his NHL resume. This is just a case of everyone thinking the backup QB will be better because he comes into the game with no pressue in mop-up time.

      Luongo is a Vezina candidate and was the second best goalie in this playoff. Tim Thomas played like Superman. This just means that Luongo is human, not that he’s suddenly a crap goalie. No doubt it wasn’t his best series, but have some perspective. The only way he gets that final win to take the cup is if his team shows up in those 4 losses too.

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