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Breaking Even

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks

By Jeff Paterson

I've seen the replay about 100 times and I'm still not exactly sure how that first Edmonton goal went in on Monday night. I know there was a shot and a couple of deflections and before Roberto Luongo even realized it, he was fishing another strange goal out of his net.

And sure, it had to be tough for the Canucks to watch as they'd outplayed the Oilers to that point and then the first Edmonton shot of the night takes the scenic route into the net. But, as bad a bounce as that was for Vancouver, it wasn't that 1-0 goal that did the Canucks in. Not by a long shot. It was what happened in the 10 minutes after that goal that lost the hockey game for the Canucks.

Now, there is no doubt that the Canucks have seen their fair share of strange goals get past Luongo this season - Niklas Hagman's knuckle-ball off the stick of Kevin Bieksa in Dallas, Alexander Radulov's centring pass deflected off Mattias Ohlund and in for a Nashville goal on Hallowe'en, Niklas Lidstrom banked one in off Luongo and then off the back of Ohlund's leg in Detroit and then last night's double deflection credited to Shawn Horcoff who's blast first went off Bieksa's stick and then off a ball of Willie Mitchell and Petr Sykora who were locked in battle on their way to the net. And those are the ones I can recall off the top of my head and I'm sure there have been others and the season is only 28 games old.

So, yes, the Canucks have had to deal with a healthy dose of bad breaks already this year. But the players can't cling to that as any kind of excuse for the struggles they're going through. Bad breaks happen and so do good breaks and while it's probably tough for Canuck fans to admit, this team has been on the receiving end of several of those, as well.

Markus Naslund having a puck bounce in off his head on opening night in Detroit was a good break. Kevin Bieksa scoring from centre against Dallas in a 2-1 hockey game was a good break. Having Jose Theodore, who'd played so well for Colorado in three previous meetings with the Canucks, taken out of the game on Saturday with a minor hip problem was a good break. People can point to the disallowed goals the Canucks have run into recently with Markus Naslund having one called back on video review and Alex Burrows thinking he may have potted his first of the year before the video goal judge stepped in and said otherwise. But keep in mind it was just last week that the Canucks scraped past Columbus 1-0 and video review worked to the Canucks advantage in that one.

Sergei Fedorov and the Blue Jackets still think they scored when Roberto Luongo got a piece of a Fedorov shot and the puck then trickled to the goal line. Luongo reached back, got his glove on the puck and we'll never know just how close it really was. All we know is that the video replay officials deemed it no goal and the Canucks held on for the victory.

The bottom line is this - fans, and even the players sometimes, remember all of the bad breaks, but fail to recall the good ones. At the end of the year, the breaks really do even out. And besides, ultimately it's not breaks and bounces that will determine teams' playoff fates. It's how they respond to the bad breaks and capitalize on the good ones that will determine where they finish.

The fact the Canucks watched a strange goal go in against them on Monday night was a bad break; no one will quibble with that. But Alain Vigneault has to look at the three days off until his team plays Carolina on Friday as a good break because it will give the Canucks time to work on all those things that truly influence the outcomes of hockey games.

Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. E-mail him at
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