Despite being bounced from the playoffs by the Chicago Blackhawks in consecutive years, the Vancouver Canucks have had pretty good luck in the Windy City. Both of their wins in last year’s second round came at the United Center, and both of them came in convincing fashion. They go into tonight’s game, however, just 24 hours shy of an embarrassing performance in Minnesota. The Canucks were trounced 6-2 by a Wild squad that has underwhelmed its fans in every other game so far this season. The Wild, in fact, was so disappointing in its first four games – something Canucks fans have been chirping and tweeting about regarding their own team – that coach Todd Richards elected to bag skate the team just hours prior to the game. The message? “Hey, Wild? You suck.” And he was right.
Sadly, that sucky team managed to spank the Vancouver Canucks, who didn’t put up much of a fight. The Sedins scored 58 seconds in, but waited until the final three minutes of the game to put up their second goal. Roberto Luongo resurrected his panicky play of last year, allowing 6 goals on 18 shots in the first two periods. He was out of position, slow to move across the crease, and entirely sub-par through forty minutes of play. After giving up just two goals in his first two games this season, Luongo has now given up 14 goals in his last eight periods of play. This is particularly damning coming from me – I’m one of Bobby Lou’s biggest supporters: he has sucked the big one over the past week.
The performance last night has nothing to do with Keith Ballard being out of an NHL lineup for the first time in four seasons. None of it can be put upon Sami Salo still sitting at home in Finland with his leg injury, or Dan Hamhuis sitting out with a bruised ankle from the Canucks win over Carolina the other night. From top to bottom, the Canucks stunk the joint out in Minnesota. In Anaheim, the Canucks were the better team for 57 minutes and change, but lost to a sorry Ducks team; in Minnesota, the Canucks were the better team for approximately one minute, then decided to look forward to tonight’s tilt in Chicago. The Wild a-schooled ‘em.
The worst part of it all? Instead of coming out with all cylinders firing in the third period, the game all but lost with the Wild leading 6-1, the Canucks were even flatter to end the game. Alain Vigneault celebrating his 600th game as a coach in the NHL? Let’s get out there and at least win the period, right? Nah. They mailed it in. Ryan Kesler’s body language was defeated well before the final buzzer. When he missed an open net late in the second period, he skated to the bench like a petulant child, shoulders slumped and lips as pouty as the third runner-up on America’s Next Top Model. Like that show, the Canucks were painful to watch.
Even spark plug Rick Rypien shamed himself. Instead of winning a fight he shouldn’t and giving the Wild a reminder that hey, the Canucks will thump them right back on Friday in Vancouver, he sucker punched Minnesota forward Brad Staubitz, shoved a linesman and then decided it would be a good idea to go after a fan in the stands. The Canucks got rid of Darcy Hordichuk because he made bad in-game decisions, so Rypien gives us this?
The good news is this: Roberto Luongo was 6-1 following up these kinds of implosions last year. (Don’t get me started on the bad news that he had seven of these implosions last year.) He has a ridiculous record going head-to-head with Marty Turco. And Cory Schneider has looked strong in his four periods of work so far this young season.
I’m not pushing the panic button yet. Hey, it’s five games in, and Henrik leads the league with nine assists. Daniel is second in goals, with six. A win tonight in Chicago would sure help settle the growing unease in this city, though, wouldn’t it?