Look, I know the strangely demanding, and bipolar fans of the Vancouver Canucks will be wringing their hands after the latest 2-0 loss to the thirtieth place Oilers, their second straight.
But after the best season of the franchise, shame on you.
That is not to say the young Oilers do not deserve some credit for the past two games. Of course they do. They beat the President’s Trophy winners in back to back games.
One could argue that the first one was a classic letdown game that resulted in the 4-1 home ice loss. But please, Vancouver hockey fans, do not read too much into this one, on the heels of that one.
The Oilers did come out with a better start against the visiting Canucks tonight. They were fast, and obviously skating with the legs of kids trying to impress, and knowing their season is over in a week. When you know you cannot play the game you love anymore for the year, those last games are always ones where you play your best.
The best Canuck early was Roberto Luongo, stopping shots from all over, and keeping his slow starting team in it. Maybe the Canucks were still in “rest mode”, even after Coach Vigneault’s tirade at practice. But credit the young Oilers for their jump.
About eight minute left in the first period, the Canucks pushed back, and took the run of play. Even after a Kesler wrister broke the glass, and the resulting delay, the visiting team were the one’s pushing the play. Devan Dubnyk stood tall when he had to, and then the referees got involved for the first time tonight. A “soft” hooking call on Jannik Hansen brought the home team the late power play.
The penalty kill looked to have everything in order, and on the only shot of that last minute, in the last second, an Eberle shot just directed at the net went off Ryan Jone’s skate and behind Luongo, over the shoulder. A lucky goal with a second left.
The second period was much better for the Canucks. They were pushing the play, and getting shots and good chances. The Oilers, seemingly picking up on the way the referees were calling it, saw that they were allowed to play more “physical”, shall we say. A Kesler chance was negated by a tackle. Other plays that would see the arm rise in the past were not.
For one of the few times all year, you could see AV at the bench, steaming and arguing calls. It would get much worse.
At 8:42, Ladislav Smid was allowed to punch Burrows in the face in front of the net, and instead of getting called, there was somehow an even up call for a high stick on Burrows that I still can’t see from rewinding on the PVR. A minute after that, in front of the net on a similar scrum, Burrows gave a light tap on the shinpads to someone, and found himself as the only man off.
The Canuck penalty killers and Luongo handled that deftly, and had to again when Bieksa was caught up with his check, had his stick held, and then called for high sticking when the stick being held caused him to fall, striking his check. Throughout that all, the Canucks were still pushing the play, and though they could not score, they outshot the Oilers 14 to 6 the second period, and seemed to be in control.
So, when the Oilers were whistled for a penalty just 32 seconds into the third, it looked like the Canucks were in business. Daniel worked himself to a perfect shooting position, and then fed a beautiful pass to Kesler. He just had to direct it into the open net. Instead, it trickled off his flailing stick and harmlessly away.
When Canuck pressure drew another call, it seemed almost inevitable the visitors would score. But good penalty killing by the Oilers, and a bad penalty by Daniel Sedin a minute later put an end to that threat.
The Oilers were clearly in the desperate defend mode of dump and back off to the centre line from that point on. The game was getting progressively chippier, but not anything strange.
Thats why, at about seven minutes left, and after the referees had made some dicy calls, it was a surprise. Let me say that I understand why, in today’s “head shot” climate, that Raffi Torres got a major and a misconduct for his hit on Eberle.
But really, Eberle is reaching for the puck. Torres came in from down the boards, not behind him. He kept his elbow down and drove through his check like you are taught. Last year, that is a huge, clean hit. This year, its a player in a vulnerable position, and worthy of a huge penalty against.
The visitors continued to kill the penalty well, but not one but two calls on Rome and Burrows, respectively, gave the Oilers most of the game to have a two man advantage.
Luongo made several wonderful saves, and the Canucks cleared well. But the luck ran out, and Paarjarvi was able to poke a rebound home for the second goal.
The Canucks pressed, and AV took the opportunity to have Schneider get that extra appearance for a possible Jennings Trophy out of the way.
But the number one team fell to the number thirty for a two game losing streak.
Oh my. It will be interesting in this hockey mad city now. I, personally, am not too worried. After an admittedly ( and one of the very few) bad no show at home on Saturday, this Tuesday loss should piss them off more than anything else. That is not a bad thing.
Of course you always want your team to win. But this was more a case of one team with, still, little to play for. They were not coasting tonight, and lost to some bad puck luck, questionable calls, and a stupid play by Torres, in today’s NHL, at least.
Still have the Canucks as the Cup fave. Crazy, I know. Must be a homer.
( Sorry, no links. I beat them to the punch today. We’ll see Thursady! )