With 35 seconds left in the game, they’re down a goal, with an empty net. Their defence dives to stop the puck from going in and then later takes a bouncing puck and wrists it into their opponent’s net, over the goalie’s shoulder, sending the game into overtime. But they are unsuccessful in sudden death and must face the shootout, in which their goalie stops every shot and a once-injured left winger scores their lone shootout goal.
This type of game, with a heart-stopping finish, extreme determination and passion shown by the players, is one every kid dreams of. This type of game just happens to be reality for the Canucks – but with one catch. All the things that happened before those 35 seconds were pretty disastrous.
Since the all-star break, the Canucks have been out-shot 128 to 87, but have still managed to go 2-0-1. In fact, ever since their meeting with the Boston Bruins on January 7, the Canucks have looked out of sorts. They have struggled to score, specifically in the second period. However, they have often managed to fight back in the final minutes, either winning or sending the game to overtime.
Their second period slump has hurt them the most. In their last 10 games the Canucks have scored five times in the second period. Why this happens remains a mystery. The theory that they play this way to fool their opponents into thinking they’re tired in the second, and then attacking in the third, is highly unlikely. They slow down and fall apart both defensively and offensively as soon as the first 20 minutes are over. Despite the fact that this is something they need to change, Ryan Kesler is not looking at the negative aspects of their game, and is instead focusing on what they have done well.
“Obviously those first two periods aren’t the way we want to play, but I thought we battled back hard in the third and it was a lot of character by us, we didn’t let anything affect us and we kept battling and we got a point out of it,” he told Canucks.com about the game against Detroit on February 2. “It was just one of those things where we really couldn’t generate much.”
As well as not being able to generate, the Canucks have continued to struggle defensively, showing their need for someone who they can depend on as a defenceman.
“We’re giving up a few chances, but we’re just not quite there in our zone right now,” Kevin Bieksa said to Canucks.com after the game against Colorado on February 4. “We’re not sharp enough, we’re trying to place a little bit more of an effort on that and coming out from there. We were a bit better tonight, but obviously we can be better.”
Yes, the Canucks have looked like a disaster in their second periods and many of their star players, such as the Sedins, have been unable to find the back of the net. However, they have brought back memories of the days when they were “ the comeback kids,” as they have showed their ability to score during the final 20 minutes.
Perhaps this is because of the line changes head coach Alain Vigneault has made. During the games against Detroit and Colorado, Vigneault juggled the forward lines and split up the Sedins in the third period in an attempt to produce some goals. His method worked. The Canucks tied up the games and were hopefully sent the message that they need to stop putting the brakes on in the second. The Canucks should be praised for their ability to comeback from not playing up to their usual standards, but this play should not be encouraged, especially when it has led to multiple games in overtime and shootout.
Seven of the last 10 Canucks games have gone to overtime, and five of those seven games have been shootouts. It is intense, stressful and frustrating. Shootouts put a lot of stress on the goaltender, who has a very mentally taxing role.
Speaking of goalies, while the Canucks have been out-shot and outplayed, Luongo and Cory Schneider have shined. If it was not for them, the Canucks would be losing games at the score of 10-1. They have made highlight reel-worthy saves, like when Schneider dived in front of the net after giving away the puck toChicagoon January 31. At the same time, they make it all look so easy. Never has Luongo looked more cool, calm and collected then during the shootout againstColorado.
“Lui made three big saves and we got the goal we needed,” said Bieksa of the shootout. “Let’s do that more often.”
“You’re going to go through peaks and valleys throughout the season,” recognized Luongo as he talked to Canucks.com. “I think that’s normal, but you don’t want this to go on forever. Obviously we know that we’re a much better team than that.”
If the Canucks can keep winning games they do not deserve to win without scoring goals, just imagine, or remember, what they are like when each line is playing to their full potential. Think about it for a moment.
They do not seem so bad anymore, do they?