There is a giant picture of a Stanley Cup in the Vancouver Canucks’ weight room with words painted underneath asking, “What is it going to take?”
Everybody knows that for now the answer is that it is going to take more than what the Canucks have put out on the ice for the first two games of round one against the San Jose Sharks. They are now behind two games in the series, having lost to San Jose 3-1 in Game 1 and 3-2 in overtime in Game 2.
Game 2 seemed to be within grasp of the Canucks after Ryan Kesler exploded onto the scene, scoring two goals to lift the Canucks to a 2-1 lead. But the possibility of tying up the series dissipated with Patrick Marleau’s game-tying goal, scored with 55.1 seconds left in the game. You can probably guess what happened next – ex-Canuck Raffi Torres scored the game winning goal 5:31 into overtime.
“A heartbreaker, but that’s what the playoffs is all about,” goalie Roberto Luongo told nhl.com.
Despite being unable to score in the first period for the second game in a row, Kesler and Luongo were the two most prominent players and the biggest difference makers for the Canucks on the ice Friday night, with Luongo stopping 30 of 33 shots and Kesler scoring the Canucks’ only two goal after declaring in a second intermission interview that things needed to change.
“He was our best player by far,” Luongo said of Kesler. “We’re going to need more of that heading into San Jose.”
As for Luongo, he impressed both his own team and the opposing team.
“Luongo has been great the first two games,” San Jose Shark Torres told nhl.com. “He’s given that team a chance to win. He’s a great goalie. He does a hell of a job blocking all the garbage that is said about him. You know he will bounce back.”
Besides the exceptional play of Kesler and Luongo, the Canucks improved in other areas too, such as physicality and face offs. There was concern before the series that the Canucks would not be able to handle the physicality of the San Jose Sharks, but they responded on Friday night with 45 hits for the Sharks’ 27. The Canucks also won 52% of the face offs.
“We play the same way we did tonight, it’s as easy as that,” Kesler told nhl.com of the game plan for Game 3 on Sunday in San Jose. “We deserved better. It’s tough the way it ended, but saying that, we got to move on and focus on Game 3. It’s 0-0 again and we can easily turn this series around with one game.”
While the Canucks saw little from Zack Kassian, Derek Roy and Kevin Bieksa in Game 2, Jason Garrison, Alex Burrows and the Sedins all improved their play from the first game. Garrison had a team-leading six shots on net and the Sedins and Burrows started the game with pressure and cycling in San Jose’s end, combining for 11 shots, which accounted for over one third of the Canucks’ shots overall. Burrows was a presence in front of San Jose’s net, taking a penalty for goalie interference on a weak call, but overall providing a lot of good opportunities for his team.
However, now in a must-win situation, the Canucks need all four lines to contribute in some way. While not every player on the roster is of the same caliber of Kesler, each player needs to play with the same fire and desire to win. Of course, it will be helpful for the team is Kesler keeps playing this way; once he starts scoring, the Canucks look like a different team. At the other end of the ice is the Canucks’ depleted defence corps, and veterans Kevin Bieksa and Alex Edler will need to bounce back from their minus-2 performance to provide a solid back bone for the team.
So what is it going to take for the Canucks to win the Stanley Cup? Although these two loses are “gonna burn for a couple more hours”, as head coach Alain Vigneault told The Canadian Press, it is time for the Canucks to focus on winning four games and making it out of of their 2-0 deficit – better to leave discussion of the Stanley Cup until after that happens.