End of the Line
It was a disappointing end to an enjoyable season. The series could have easily gone the other way, but in the end, the Kings deserved to win.
The Canucks didn’t play very well in the second half of the season – they didn’t play as well as their record – so I don’t think Canucks Nation is nearly as shocked as the players themselves. I’m not really into the blame game, but if I had to point a finger at a single player who might have made a difference, it would be pointed at Ryan Kesler. Last year he was often the best player on the ice. This year he was seldom a force. He was good, but not an elite player this season and he was not a factor at all in the playoffs.
If there is a concern going forward, it is that the Canucks are playing a style that is clearly falling out of favour. Mike Gillis has a team that tries to play like Detroit, the proverbial “puck possession” game. If Phoenix holds on to beat Chicago, all four teams to go through in the West play the same defense first scheme, with a physical trap all over the ice and junkfest in front of the net in their own end. A junkfest, at both ends actually. When played well, even strength chances are few and far between and special teams become critical. (The officials, too. Playoff refereeing makes the Boston system – for want of another term – more effective now than in the regular season.)
Aside from that, the most unfortunate consequence of the loss will be the demands for Vigneault’s head. I don’t think Mike Gillis will toss him to the mob but if he does, my confidence in him will be shaken. Gillis has a number of interesting choices – starting with the goaltending – to make for next year and it should be fun watching him this summer.
The best thing? It isn’t always fun being on a gut wrenching emotional roller coaster that lasts about three weeks too long. Spring is here, the garden beckons, and playoff hockey is there for the taking or the leaving. I’ll probably watch all or parts of many good games without giving a fig about who gets screwed by the ridiculous officiating.
Postscript: As for the rest of the playoffs, I think Nashville is probably the best team in the West still standing and if I had to bet, I’d probably pick Boston to survive Washington and eventually come out of the East.
I don’t think they are very likely to win, but whatever (small) emotional investment I have left in this NHL season rests in Ottawa. Go Sens, I guess.