When the late 19th century poet and philosopher George Santayana uttered his now-famous quote "those who can not remember the past are doomed to repeat it" he probably didn't have the 2006-07 Vancouver Canucks in mind. But he may as well have. Basically, Santayana was saying if you don't learn from your mistakes, you're going to keep making them.
Tuesday's Game 4 overtime defeat against Anaheim was crushing enough on its own and the sting isn't likely to go away unless the Canucks mount a three-game win streak to get out of the hole they're now in against the Ducks. But viewed in the broader context of the past six weeks and the Canucks are guilty of being multiple offenders when it comes to failing to learn from past transgressions.
Since the middle of March, the Canucks have watched two-goal leads slip away on home ice in five of the past 13 games played at General Motors Place. It happened against Minnesota (March 13), St. Louis (March 15) and Colorado (March 25) late in the regular season and against Dallas in the team's playoff opener (April 11). Now, they managed to beat both the Blues and the Stars in overtime, so it hasn't always ended as shockingly or disappointingly as Game 4 did. But the way the Canucks approach the third periods when in the lead is playing with fire and on Tuesday, once again, the home team got torched.
"A 2-0 lead going into the third. You figured that we could have kept going and kept it simple and kept going after them and keep it that way. But we sat back and invited them back into the game and we have only ourselves to blame," said captain Markus Naslund, who opened the Canucks scoring for a third consecutive game. "But it's disappointing when you're up 2-0 and can't pull it off."
Once or twice - hey, that kind of stuff happens to every team. But by the time the third and fourth occasions roll around, you get the feeling that the message should have sunk in. But for whatever reason it hasn't. And as a result the Canucks now have their backs against that very same wall they've been banging their heads against when up by a pair on home ice recently.
As much as the Canucks don't want to believe their style changes when they find themselves in that position, the numbers simply aren't there to back them up. In the five games mentioned above, the Canucks have been outscored 8-2 in those third periods. But even more troubling is the fact that in those games the Canucks have never once outshot an opponent in those third periods and collectively have been outshot 59-28 including 9-7 on Tuesday.
"The reason we lost this game tonight has to do with us. We come out for the drop of the puck in the third and we become spectators. We started watching," said Brendan Morrison whose first of the playoffs had given the Canucks the 2-0 lead late in the second period. "We stopped skating, we stopped hitting -- anything that helped us get the lead. So we can look in the mirror and question why we did that. We say all the right things. We knew they were going to come hard, we said all of that, we talked about it and we didn't adjust at all."
Tuesday's result leaves the Canucks - who were an impressive 26-11-4 on home ice during the regular season - with a disappointing 2-4 mark at GM Place in the playoffs this spring. They're also now just 3-6-1 in their last 10 games played before the towel-waving home fans.
The good news -- and the Canucks find themselves in that tough spot now of needing to draw on all possible positives - is that they are 3-2 on the road this post-season and won their most-recent game at the Honda Center.
Just as in Game 3 of this series, the Canucks could have, and perhaps should have won, Game 4. But the bottom line is they didn't. And now they head into Game 5 with the difficult task of trying to rally from a 3-1 series deficit. It won't be easy - but nothing ever seems to be for this hockey club.
Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org