Or at least the Vancouver Canucks thought so.
Whether the Canucks took the Western Conference bottom feeders for granted, assumed they’d be pushovers with 10 regulars out of the line-up, or simply expected a team that had lost eight straight games coming in to hand over the win, something went haywire in Vancouver’s plan.
The Avalanche were everything the Canucks were not on this night, they were aggressive, they were tough, they were determined and for the second consecutive game Vancouver gave way to a team with tee times and fishing trips planned for next week, this time by a score of 4-1.
Like trying to tippy-toe between raindrops, it’s tough to pinpoint exactly how the Canucks lost this game; as they say on Facebook, ‘its complicated.’
It started with bad defensive play and ended with the inability to put pucks in the net, all the while Roberto Luongo
once again ho-hummed his way through the game, he’s now allowed 14 goals in the last three outings.
“There’s no excuses tonight, that was a game we needed to have and we all need to give a bit more starting with myself trying to make one or two more saves,” said Luongo.
With three consecutive losses now engulfing the team, take solace in the fact that Luongo and company weren’t making excuses for themselves after the game because there are a few that could have surfaced.
With all the Canucks have gone through emotionally over the last four days, pointing a finger to the turbulence the group has experienced would have been an acceptable explanation.
With heavy hearts it’s tough to be overly cut throat, even in such an important game, but Luongo scoffed at that thought.
“We’re not a team that’s going to make excuses, there’s no reason to use that as an excuse, if anything you want to play harder for Taylor and get a win for the guy. I don’t believe in that stuff, it’s an easy way out.”
Take Vancouver’s hectic schedule of eight games in eight different cities over the last two weeks coming into this contest, surely that’s got to account for a little of the lack of energy the Canucks displayed.
Shane O’Brien said otherwise to that and even rejected the notion of being tired because this was the second of back-to-back games.
“You don’t want to make excuses, we’re all professionals and this is our job and we’re paid to perform on the ice, but we are human as well and it has been a grind and that may have played a little factor into it, but like I said we’re professionals and our job is to win hockey games and the last two or three games we haven’t been doing that.
“We didn’t get the effort we wanted tonight, but this group has bounced back all year, so we’re going to put this behind us and look forward to Calgary on Tuesday,” O’Brien added.
Replacing thoughts of this lackluster performance with anticipation of the gargantuan divisional battle on the horizon would be great, but this loss was troubling enough that it would be wrong to simply sweep it under the rug.
There has to be some explanation for it – coach Vigneault, you got anything?
“We’re not giving up more chances or more shots, we just seem to be making some bad mistakes not at the right time and they’re finding the back of our net right now.
“We didn’t look like we had a lot of jump or a lot of legs tonight for whatever reason, we’re played 10 games in 10 different cities and that might have taken its toll.
“I understand and I know that our guys are a very tight group and their wives and girlfriends are very tight and obviously the Taylor situation there is a little bit challenging, but I know we’re stronger than what we showed tonight. Even though it’s 10 games in 10 different cities and a very personable loss to one of our family members, I know that we’re stronger than what we showed tonight.”
In the end this loss is best understood in the stats: the Avalanche outshot the Canucks 26-23, outhit them 10-7, they won the blocked shots battle 21-3 and had four fewer giveaways.
There’s no solid reasoning for why Vancouver didn’t show up, but the stats make it clear every player was flat, not just the big dogs.
With the Calgary Flames in town Tuesday and the division crown most likely on the line, maybe it’s a good thing the Canucks unitedly mailed it in against the Avs.
With only three games remaining, better now than later.