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Chi-town letdown

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

No one knows what the whiteboard in the Vancouver Canucks' dressing room had written on it prior to their game against the Chicago Blackhawks, but it's a good guess that there was something about opening the scoring.


"Light the lamp," "put the biscuit in the basket," "take that little black circle and get it past goaltender Cristobal Huet." Take your pick.

The Canucks were 3-0-0 this season when scoring first going into this game, they used the momentum that came with putting one in early to beat the Calgary Flames twice and the Detroit Red Wings once in the last week and a half.

If they could muffle the Flames and clip the Wings by opening the scoring, surely they could shoot down the Blackhawks with the help of an early goal.

That was the hope after Pavol Demitra scored his second goal of the season as he finished off a quick tic-tac-toe passing play from Mason Raymond and Ryan Kesler midway through the first period to put Vancouver up 1-0.

Hope didn't mirror reality though as the Canucks did open the scoring, but they went into a five-minute lull right after that and it seemed like Vancouver had barely finished celebrating their own goal when the Blackhawks were hootin' and hollerin' about a pair of their own.

Vancouver put a lot of stock into beating Chicago to the scoreboard in this game, the Blackhawks put more in simply finishing with more goals overall than the Canucks and they did just that in a 4-2 win over their Canadian opponents.

So much for using early momentum to skate in and out of Chicago with a win.

"The first half we got bogged down a little bit and give the Blackhawks credit, they were really coming at us," said Canucks associate coach Rick Bowness.

"We struggled through and we took some penalties which added to their momentum, but in the end we started to skate a bit at them and push them back in their zone."

The Blackhawks led 2-1 after the first and by the same score through two periods, the Canucks weren't having their greatest game ever and this contest was still in reach after forty minutes.

Unfortunately for Vancouver they were forced to put their 22nd ranked penalty kill to work six minutes into the final period, and it cost them dearly.

Patrick Kane, already with an assist on the night, scored his fourth goal of the season with Taylor Pyatt in the box for boarding. The eventual game-winner highlighted Vancouver's struggles while a man down, which was nicely matched with their inability to score while on the power play.

The Canucks once again gave up a pair of goals while on the penalty kill, an ugly trend that started against the Washington Capitals last Monday. The Caps went 2-for-4 on the power play, Red Wings 2-for-5, Sabres 2-for-5 and the Blackhawks were 2-for-5. You don't need a calculator to know that that all ads up to trouble for Vancouver.

While on the power play the stats aren't much prettier, Vancouver was 0-for-4 against Chicago and is now 0-for-their-last-15 and 1-for-21 on their current six-game road trip, which thankfully ends on Tuesday in Columbus.

Bowness can't defend the Canucks' unimaginable power play struggles, but he does support the fact that his team basically scored on the PP against the Hawks.

"The power play actually scored, the guy had just stepped on the ice," said Bowness, in reference to Demitra's opening goal. It came four seconds after Dave Bolland returned from serving a two-minute slashing penalty.

"The numbers weren't great tonight but I liked some of the power plays and I didn't like some of the other ones where we strictly got outworked and it's as simple as that. Regardless of the structure you throw out there, you've got to be ready to outwork the penalty killing team. So we've got to work harder at it."

With the opposition having so much success while on the power play against the Canucks, Bowness and Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault have been taking pointers as to what other teams are doing and they intend on working it into their game plan from here on out.

"I'd like to see more point shots," Bowness said. "The power plays that are giving us the most trouble in this road trip are the ones that have had three high. We've been talking about that as a staff because they're getting some point shots through and they're finding their way into the net. So I'd like to see our defencemen get more shots. I'm not happy with the total shots from our defence and that's something we're continually addressing."

Vancouver, now in the midst of its first losing streak of this young season, has more to address than special teams following this loss to the Blackhawks.

For starters, three Canucks left the game and didn't return for action in the final period for undisclosed reasons. Sami Salo, Darcy Hordichuk and Demitra were all absent from the line-up for the final 20 minutes of play.

Also, the Canucks have scored two goals or less in their three losses this year and have now given up 21 goals in their last five games. Everyone shares the blame for the latter, but captain Roberto Luongo will certainly shoulder the majority as he has yet to look like the true Roberto Luongo following a shutout in his first game.

Louie started last season slow as well though, so the Columbus Blue Jackets should prepare to see an improved Luongo come Tuesday night when Vancouver finishes off this diabolical road trip.


1 – Goal for Henrik Sedin against Blackhawks, he leads the Canucks with 7 points (2-5-7)

1
– Game remaining for Vancouver on this diabolical road trip

2 – Or fewer goals scored by the Canucks in their three losses this year

8
Power play goals surrendered by Vancouver over the past three games

20 – Power play chances without scoring for the Canucks who are 1-for-21 during this road trip



They scored first, which was a must. They hit Huet with 30 shots, also important. But they just weren't in sync through two periods and the departure of Demitra in the second didn't help anything for the final period. No one line was better than the others on this night.



The Canucks have given up 21 goals in their last five games, that just isn't acceptable. Everyone on this team shares the blame, Roberto Luongo takes the brunt though as the last line of defence. He hasn't been himself of late.



No need to talk about it, but we will anyways.

Vancouver gave up another pair of goals on the penalty kill, make that 8-for-19 for the opposition in the last four games.

The Canucks also couldn't convert on the power play, they were 0-for-4 against the Blackhawks and are 1-for-21 on this road trip.
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