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Power play in disarray

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
It’s a good thing Mats Sundin decided against watching one final Canucks game before rendering his verdict.

Had the power forward, who signed with Vancouver on Thursday, come to a conclusion on where to play based on the performance of the Canucks against the Chicago Blackhawks, he may have picked to play elsewhere.

On Saturday night Vancouver put forth a less than sensational effort in a 3-1 loss to Chicago, a team that ripped into town having won six straight games and seven of its last eight.

These birds don’t fly south for the winter, far from it.

The Blackhawks, backed by a stifling 30-save performance from Cristobal Huet, were simply too fast, too aggressive and too much for the Canucks, but the story of this game wasn’t the play of the Hawks, it was that the Canucks bumbled the game away.

Leading 1-0 thanks to a first period goal from Daniel Sedin - his team-leading 15th of the season, Vancouver stormed into the second intent on doubling its lead.

In the opening two minutes Kyle Wellwood and Danny Sedin had that opportunity, but were unable to produce.

Wellwood whiffed on an empty net off a hard pass from D. Sedin moments before Jannik Hansen, skating in front of the team benches, hit Daniel with a pass that sent him on a partial break away. He went in and let loose a fluttering low shot that Huet simply kicked aside with his right pad.

While Daniel misses scoring opportunities from time to time, Wellwood does not. With the best shooting percentage in the NHL, Wellwood is usually money from anywhere.

“I just missed the net,” he explained. “Huet wouldn’t have been ready for it. Danny made a nice pass and I just missed the net going top corner.

“I had the shot, I was hoping to score and it didn’t go in.”

That pretty much sums up Vancouver’s night.

As is the case much of the time after a goaltender makes a few great saves, the offence marches down to the other end and scores. The Hawks did just that as Patrick Kane scored just 2:51 in and Patrick Sharp put Chicago on top with the eventual game winner at the 6:17 mark.

Jonathan Toews added an empty net goal with 39 seconds remaining to ice this game, but in the minds of the Canucks, they never should have trailed in the first place.

“We had some good opportunities in the second to make that game 2-0, we weren’t able to and they made us pay for two mistakes and couldn’t get it done in the third,” said coach Alain Vigneault.

The opportunities that Vancouver failed to take advantage of included three power play chances that could have drastically altered the score and tipped the ice in Vancouver’s favour.

The Canucks were 0-for-6 on the power play overall. The team had previously scored on the man advantage in seven of its last eight games.

“We had a couple of chances in the second on the power play and every time they just put their sticks in the right spots and we just didn’t have the luck to put the puck in the net,” said Pavol Demitra.

“We had good chances but obviously we lost so it’s frustrating. It’s always tough because you want to beat a team exactly like this that plays a lot of offence.”

Having won two straight games coming in, the Canucks were in line for their first three game winning streak since they rattled off four consecutive W's from November 19 to 24.

Curtis Sanford certainly carried his share of the load in net for Vancouver. Sandman made 31 saves, none more spectacular than his absolutely miraculous stop on Dave Bolland with 3:50 to play in the second.

Bolland collected a rebound to the right of Sanford off a Blackhawks point shot, the puck was gift wrapped on the line all he had to do was tuck it in. Sanford was quick to react with a complete body thrust that helped him get his paddle in front of the puck.

“He played really well for us, especially when we did have a breakdown or two, he was there to stop it,” said Ryan Kesler.

“He’s been great all year for us and he’s got to step in and carry a load here and we’ve got a couple more tough games against good offences and two goals against isn’t too bad,” added Wellwood.

Sanford showed up and gave the Canucks a chance to win. According to Vigneault, the same can not be said for everyone on the team.

“Their game is real good and I mentioned to the guys before the game that we all needed to bring our best game on the ice, which we didn’t do.

“Some guys had good games, but some other guys, their games were off a little bit and when you’re playing against such a hot team you need all 20 players to be on top of their game.”

Vancouver will now fine-tune what needs tweaking on Sunday before back-to-back games against the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks on Monday and Tuesday open the Christmas week.

0 – Power play goals for the Canucks on six attempts

1 – Goal for Daniel Sedin, his team-leading 15th of the season

– Losses for the Canucks when allowing three-or-fewer goals to the opposition

25:37 – Ice time for Kevin Bieksa who was a beast on defence for Vancouver

31 – Saves by Curtis Sanford in his second straight start

Missed opportunities plagued the Canucks as they failed to take advantage of a few glorious scoring chances.

As a whole the team was unable to score on three empty nets and hit two posts.

The Sedins with Jannik Hansen was Vancouver's best line generating six shots and the lone goal for the Canucks.

Vancouver was outshot 34-31.

Giving up only two goals is great any night, but the offence has to step up and produce.

The Canucks gave the Blackhawks a little too much room and allowed them some open ice, but as a whole the D-unit was solid.

Curtis Sanford was a rock with 31 saves on 33 shots.

For the second time in four games the Canucks failed to score on the power play and for the second time in four games, they lost.

Vancouver has power play goals in seven of its last nine games, but the unit just couldn't click despite a few nice chances on this night.

The Canucks were 0-for-6; the Blackhawks 0-for-4.
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