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Rough ride

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
Needless to say, the return of Roberto Luongo was supposed to go down much differently than it did.

With Captain Louie back tending twine for the first time in 24 games, the Vancouver Canucks were a lock to skin the Phoenix Coyotes and send them limping back to the desert.

That plan was as flawed as Luongo’s first game of 2009 as the Coyotes took down the Canucks by a score of 4-1, extending Vancouver’s home winless skid to six games.

Nothing is going right for the Canucks these days. Up is down and black is white, and on this night the misery began the same way it did Tuesday against New Jersey, with the opposition scoring the first goal.

Just 1:05 into the first period, Joakim Lindstrom snuck a shot underneath Luongo. Like a sucker punch to the gut, the Canucks were wounded from there on out.

Phoenix scored again before the end of the first and twice more in the second. Vancouver managed to beat Ilya Bryzgalov midway through the third, but that was all she wrote for the Canucks.

“Obviously I think we all struggled a little bit out there,” said Luongo, who stopped 28 shots. “We seem like a team that’s thinking too much out there, we’ve just got to go out there and play.

“For myself, it was a rough start and these next couple days are really going to be important for me in practice to sharpen up as much as I can.”

Luongo is characteristically a slow starter at the beginning of the season as it takes him a few games to get his rhythm going. That may be the case right now as well with Luongo returning from injury; he allowed Phoenix to score on its first shot on goal.

“The guy was up top for the one-timer and he kind of fanned on it and then there was a guy in front of me so I lost it, then I saw it squirt out at the last second. When I moved across the net I missed the shot and it went five hole.”

Luongo was not his usual self to start this game, far from it. It didn’t take him long to get into the game though and as soon as he did, the Coyotes had no response.

After Peter Mueller beat Luongo with just over 11 minutes to play in the second, the Louie of old returned with a number of what - in a closer game - would have been considered momentum-changing saves.

His best of the night came just before the second intermission when he reached back with his glove to take a goal away from Shane Doan.

“I wasn’t feeling that comfortable to start the game, but I think halfway through the second period I started feeling a bit more comfortable and reading the play a bit better,” said Luongo.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen over the next few days, obviously this is the first time I’ve dealt with a long injury like this, so it’s just a matter of making sure that I work hard in practice and get better as soon as I can.”

Luongo’s show stopping save on Doan was one of the only times all game that the fans were yelling LOUUUUUUUU instead of BOOOOOOOOOOO.

Not surprisingly, the Canucks were once again booed numerous times during the game as the frustrated crowd aired out its grievances.

“I understand the frustration of the fans, they believe that we have a good team, we believe we have a good team and we need to show it and obviously right now we’re not showing it,” said Alain Vigneault.

“Our confidence is being tested right now, our character is being tested, our leadership group is being tested; I understand the frustration that our group is going through right now. I think it’s very important that we all try to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

It’s tough to put your finger on what exactly the Canucks are doing so wrong, but trust was a common factor brought up by the players.

Everyone seems to be playing their own game instead of buying into the team system that led them to success earlier this season.

“We’re working hard, we’re just not doing the right things,” said Daniel Sedin, Vancouver’s lone goal scorer.

“We have forwards doing the D’s job and Ds doing the forwards' job, so we’ve got to get back and trust each other and do our job out there.

“Right now we’ve got five guys skating out there by themselves and that’s not how you win.”

When it rains, it pours in Vancouver and despite this torrential down soak of poor play, the Canucks aren’t hanging their heads.

The only way out of this is to play though it so it’s onward and upward with two days of rigorous practice before the Columbus Blue Jackets hit town on Sunday.

“We’re going to try and work on things right now that are causing us some issues,” said Vigneault.

“Too many outnumber situations, which is not our forte, better decisions in our zone with the puck so that we can break it out with more speed, better execution.

“If we work on three or four things that we already know, that we’ve identified with our group, if we stick with the process then over trying become smart trying and we’ll get it back on the right track.”

The return of Roberto Luongo certainly didn’t go as planned, but that doesn’t mean his second game back won’t.

0 – Wins for the Canucks on their current five-game homestand

– Game for Roberto Luongo in 2009, his last action came on Nov. 22, 2008

– Goal given up by Luongo on his first shot against

6 – Consecutive losses for Vancouver on home ice

28 – Saves for Luongo in his return

Chemistry is more than just a class I cheated in to pass in high school, and the Canucks didn't have it on this night.

Vancouver's offence was all over the place, no line combination was working, the Canucks were getting shots on goal but no dangerous chances.

There was once again a lack of drive and desire by the home team and they paid for it again.

Vancouver and Phoenix tied with 32 shots each.

For the second straight game the opposing team walked into GM Place and scored an early goal to suck the momentum out of the building.

It was Luongo's first shot in 24 games, yes, but it was a weak goal and the defence was nowhere to be found in helping him out.

Louie made 28 saves in his return, he wasn't himself yet he came alive late in the game.

Too bad the offence didn't.

Phoenix owns the NHL's 29th ranked power play, so the fact that the Coyotes were able to score on two of their four chances says quite a bit.

Vancouver is simply struggling in every facet of the game, including on the power play going 0-for-2 on the night.
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