It is not very often in past years that an NHL team played two games in less than 24 hours.
The shortened schedule has made this almost a regular occurrence. The Vancouver Canucks had the rare luxury of three days between games after their loss to Phoenix last Tuesday. That loss was preceded by the debacle in Detroit. It had taken 17 games before the Canucks had lost back-to-back in regulation. Between February 15th and the 26th the Canucks played seven games. Kevin Bieksa got hurt in the fifth game and the team lost games six and seven. It is no coincidence that without Bieksa the team allowed 12 goals and their penalty killers were good on only three of six short handed endeavors.
The three days between games let the coaches have a rare chance to actually practice and work on line combinations and special teams. The days without games let those with nagging injuries and illness get back to full health. David Booth and Cory Schneider had touches of the flu along with a couple of members of the coaching staff. It is the only time in this 48 game schedule that the Canucks have that time and what better way to turn things around than to play the Stanley Cup Champions.
The Los Angeles Kings were the perfect tonic for a Canuck team that looked at times tired and disorganized. The Kings came into town on a five-game winning streak and were regaining their swagger of last spring. Jonathan Quick was looking like the Conn Smythe trophy winner and Jeff Carter was riding a five-game goal-scoring streak. The Canucks knew they had to be ready to play a 60 minute game. Cory Schneider had allowed three goals or more in four straight starts and had to be better. Without Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond was called upon to play center and use his speed up the middle. The Canucks responded with probably their best all round game of the year.
Now here we go on this Canuck wild weekend. The team was supposed to depart after the game Saturday and arrive in Calgary early Sunday morning. The weather in Calgary did not cooperate. The team arrived at the airport, boarded the plane and then were told to go home and come back at noon on Sunday. The fog and ice in Calgary on Saturday turned to snow and the Calgary airport was temporarily closed. As the players arrived they were told there was a possibility the game would be postponed, as it was still treacherous in Calgary. This scenario changed and the Canucks arrived about two hours before game time. It is never easy to play back-to-back and especially if you are out of your routine.
The Canucks also were without the services of Kevin Bieksa. Just back from a groin injury I am sure the Canucks did not want to take a chance in him hurting it even more. Without Bieksa in the lineup, Cam Barker made his debut and Andrew Alberts played in only his fourth game. The Canucks came out with lots of jump and looked good early. They had a 1-0 lead and Mason Raymond rang one off the crossbar. Mike Cammalleri came the other way and scored on a 30 foot wrist shot that eluded Roberto Luongo. The Hockey Gods had spoken.
The Flames needed this game more than the Canucks. They got a bounce on a Jarome Iginla shot off Jason Garrison and the goal they needed. Daniel Sedin had a chance to tie it, but his shot caromed off Jay Boewmester’s stick and went wide. Sometime they go in, sometime they don’t.
The Canucks deserved to win on Saturday. Did they deserve to win on Sunday? They have played more poorly and won, but sometimes it is just not meant to be. The key is to not let one loss turn into two and then into three.
The Canucks have played 21 games and lost in back-to-back games in regulation once.