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Shock to the System

by Kyle Harland / Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks have lost a fair share of their games lately, but in most of those games they’ve put up a good fight. You have to go back seven games to January 21 when they lost a game by more than one goal, and that was to Minnesota who scored an empty-net goal to make it 4-2.

Tonight against the Avalanche though, the Canucks were taken out of the game early, and this year’s Hockey Day in Canada gave the Canuck Nation nothing to celebrate. Colorado tripled them up 6-2, the widest margin of defeat the Canucks have suffered since that unspeakable 8-2 loss to Philadelphia in early October.

“We had a poor outing tonight. In my mind, it was the first one in a while, but it was a very poor outing,” said coach Alain Vigneault after the game. “Tonight we were out-executed and out-worked, especially in the tough areas in front of our net and in front of their net. We had glorious opportunities in the first there, and they got to all the pucks.”

The post game press conference was a 180-degree turn from the rest of what we’ve heard from the coach in 2008. Despite the Canucks’ losing record in the New Year, Vigneault has always been optimistic about his team’s play. Win or lose, the coach said it was the Canucks who were always able to out-work their opponents and put in the superior effort. Entering the contest against Colorado, Vigneault had high hopes as well.

“All the indications today seemed to indicate that we were going to come out and have a good game. Spirits were good; the energy in the room was good,” he said.

Things did go well for the first five minutes of the game, but when the Canucks didn’t score on their early chances, Colorado took three first period goals.

“We didn’t do a good job in front of our net,” said Trevor Linden. “We gave them way too many opportunities there and didn’t give Louie enough protection. That was pretty much the game in the first period.”

With Aaron Miller, Lukas Krajicek, and Kevin Bieksa out, it’s easy to wonder if things would have been different with them in the line up. But when asked about it, Roberto Luongo didn’t want to hear any of it.

“We’re going to stop talking about injuries. It’s not a crutch, okay? Everybody can play hockey in this dressing room. So we’re going to stop talking about injuries,” he said emphatically. “We know guys can step up and play the game, so there’s no reason to use that as an excuse and use it every time we lose a game.”

Saturday’s contest was an important one because the Northwest Division is so tight, and it was only the Canucks’ second game against a division rival since January 1. The loss against Colorado dropped the Canucks’ record against the Northwest at a still respectable 10-5-3. Last season, the Canucks had the most trouble against their own division, posting a 16-13-3 record. They were 25-12-3 against other Western Conference teams that year.

But, save for their loss against the Avalanche, they seem to have bucked that trend this year, having lost in regulation just five times to the Northwest with just 26 games to go. And they have a chance to bolster that record as they meet division rivals four times in the next five games.

“We gotta bounce back right away,” said Luongo. “It’s kind of a good thing that we play tomorrow and we’ve got to make sure we come ready to compete hard and work for 60 minutes.”

1st – minus game of the season for Luc Bourdon, at minus-1

2 – games played against Northwest Division teams in 2008

2 – shots for the Avalanche in the third period

4 – hits by 5’9” Mike Weaver

50 – career games played against the Avalanche by Mattias Ohlund

The Canucks had an excellent first five minutes and a good third period, but in between they couldn’t get much going. Even when they did have good chances, it was rare that they found rebounds or took passes in the slot. Colorado was effective at shutting them out of the danger area.

The defense was outworked, especially behind the net and in the slot. Miscues in those areas led to three Avalanche goals within a 10-minute time frame, and the Canucks couldn’t recover.

The power play was the most successful part of the Canucks’ game. They converted two of three chances, needing just 21 seconds to score on their second power play and 14 on their third. The Avalanche also had success with the man advantage, going 1-for-3.
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