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Vancouver's kryptonite

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
Well, at least now it’s official.

The Vancouver Canucks were losers of their last seven games against the Colorado Avalanche as they wheeled into Sunday night’s tilt in Denver and wouldn’t you know it, the Canucks came out on the losing end for an eighth straight time.

Colorado’s 5-4 shootout win confirmed what many of us already knew, that the Mile High monsters are Vancouver’s kryptonite.

It really doesn’t matter what the Canucks do against the Avalanche anymore, they can lead, trail or be tied, score even strength, on the power play or shorthanded and give up or score anywhere from one goal to a hundred and the Avs are going to come out on top.

This is especially true for games played at the Pepsi Center as Vancouver has only three wins in its last 14 less-than-win-quenching trips to Colorado.

Now I hate to get all comic book nerd on you here, but Superman’s kryptonite is supposedly the remains of his home planet Krypton.

For Vancouver, kryptonite covers a lot more residence as it refers to anything and everything to do with the Avalanche, especially forward Milan Hejduk.

With one goal and two assists on Sunday, Hejduk now has 55 points in 57 career games against Vancouver.

Is there any explanation for Colorado’s recent domination of Vancouver?

“I don’t know,” said a puzzled Ryan Kesler before the game.

It was easy to see why on this night in a Mile High marathon that ended with the Canucks out of breath just trying to keep pace with the hardly winded Avalanche.

Darcy Hordichuk scored his second goal of the year, and second in the last four games, just 2:17 in as the Great Hordini, Jason Jaffray and Jannik Hansen chipped in with another offensive marker.

“He’s a warrior, what can you say,” said Hansen about Hordichuk, who has been playing with an injured foot. “He plays extremely tough and it’s huge for us to have a guy like that.”

An own-goal off the stick of Willie Mitchell tied the game at 1-1 early in the second, then Ryan Smyth gave Colorado its first lead of the game midway through the period.

A cowardly Cody McLeod hit on Kevin Bieksa fired up the Canucks and Daniel Sedin and Steve Bernier responded with goals before time expired in the second.

Hejduk and Bernier traded goals before Daniel Tjarnqvist sent the game to overtime and eventually a shootout with his second goal of the season with 2:50 to play.

Despite opening the scoring and leading 1-0 through 20 minutes and 3-2 after two periods, the Canucks let this game boil down to a few one-on-one battles and it has become crystal clear that this isn’t a strongpoint for the team.

In the shootout Kyle Wellwood was the only Canuck to beat Peter Budaj while all three Colorado skaters got the best of Cory Schneider, including Hejduk who ensured that a third Vancouver shooter wouldn’t be needed.

Vancouver is now 1-3 in shootouts this season with two of those defeats coming from Colorado.

As a result of the loss, Vancouver slips into a tie with the Calgary Flames for first place in the Northwest Division, while Colorado took another step out of the basement as only six points separates the team from the top spot.

“Across the conference right now there’s not a lot separating most of the teams,” assessed Alain Vigneault.

“If you take Detroit and San Jose out of the equation, everybody else is still right there. I think it makes it a lot of fun, very competitive and it makes every game very important so everybody has to be ready.”

“These games are very important, they’re four point swings,” said Kevin Bieksa of divisional games.

“I’m not saying the other games aren’t important, but these are the ones you’ve really got to win.”

A better effort in net and the Canucks would have most likely ended their losing streak to the Avalanche.

Cory Schneider started his second straight game and he was not the same player who shut the door two nights ago in Minnesota. He made 31 saves overall and although he was the victim of a pair of fluky goals, Schneider was also responsible for two easy ones that he should have had.

The Canucks have now allowed 20 goals in their last six games, none more painful than the fresh goals against wounds caused by the Avalanche.

Kryptonite is supposed to hurt, but not this much.

1 – Vancouver skater who beat Peter Budaj in the shootout

2 – Goals this season for tough guy Darcy Hordichuk

2 – Multi-goal games for Steve Bernier this year

20 – Goals allowed by the Canucks in their last six games

  31 – Saves recorded by Cory Schneider

They scored early and they scored often, but the Canucks came up short in the shootout.

It was refreshing to see another well-balanced scoring attack for Vancouver; 11 players had at least a point.

The Canucks outshot the Avalanche 38-35 so generating scoring chances wasn't a problem and it hasn't been in the last few games.

Forty-eight hours after going into defensive lockdown against Minnesota, Vancouver fell apart on the backend versus Colorado.

The play of Cory Schneider was questionable at best, two goals went in off Canucks' defencemen and the team overall put less aggression into helping out behind their own blueline.

Vancouver has been playing disciplined hockey and special teams is benefiting from that.

The Canucks only gave up two power play chances, stopping the Avs on both. That's two straight games without allowing a power play goal for Vancouver.

It's also two straight games that the Canucks have recorded a power play goal. They were 1-for-3 in Colorado.
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