|ESPN.com: NHL Playoffs 2011||[Print without images]|
BOSTON -- Roberto Luongo was pulled. The power play looked the worst it has all season. They were physically beaten up. And they were outscored 12-1 in two games.
Yup, it went just swimmingly for the Vancouver Canucks during their sojourn in Beantown.
They head home with their confidence shaken, their goalie perhaps rattled and their passionate fan base unquestionably believing 40 years of misery will continue with one more giant heartbreak headed their way.
"Obviously, we lost 12-1. That's a concern," Canucks star Daniel Sedin said. "They've scored a lot of goals, and we haven't been able to get by [Tim] Thomas. That's the difference right now."
Oh, it's a little more complicated than that, Daniel.
Luongo will take the brunt of the Boston massacre this week, and he certainly deserves some of the blame after being lit up two straight games and being pulled Wednesday night after giving up four goals on 20 shots.
|"You got to give that team credit. You know, they're playing a smart game. Right now, they've been able to shut us down offensively here for the last two games," Alain Vigneault said.|
If only Vancouver's issues right now were simply about their much-maligned goalie. Unfortunately, they are much deeper than that.
The problems all start on the back end, where the injury to top defenseman Dan Hamhuis has created a gaping hole on Vancouver's top shutdown pair and has had a dramatic trickle-down effect on all three pairings.
Not only do they miss Hamhuis' quality minutes, but his partner Kevin Bieksa hasn't been the same player without him. So call that a double-whammy effect.
The suspension to Aaron Rome meant the return of Keith Ballard to the lineup Wednesday night, and he again struggled. It also resulted in three brand-new defense pairings. It's usually not a great sign when you line up for a June hockey game with three new blue-line pairs. That means something has gone horribly wrong.
As a result, a blue-line corps that was so adept at keying the transition game with a fluid passing game from their own end is now in shambles, bottled up by an aggressive Bruins forecheck and unable to get the puck up to their speedy forwards.
"Right now, it seems like our gap is a bit loose and that's one of the reasons we're not able to turn those pucks over," Bieksa said of their transition game. "It basically comes down to working as a five-man unit, and we're not doing that right now. We're not doing that in our end, their end and definitely in the neutral zone. We got to get back to doing that."
No question Henrik and Daniel Sedin have to start producing in this final for the Canucks to turn this back around in their favor. Two points combined in four games isn't going to cut it. But for the twins to start scoring again, they need someone to get the puck to them. That wasn't happening a whole lot in Games 3 and 4.
"A lot of times we're turning pucks over and they're coming hard at us," Henrik Sedin said. "We need to do a better job through the neutral zone and put pucks where we want them. Right now, they're turning over pucks at us and they're coming at us real hard."
The Sedins actually had a terrific first period Wednesday night. Then like the rest of their team, they faded once again in the final two frames.
"They spent a lot of time in the other team's end tonight with no results to show at the end," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said of the twins. "But it's not from lack of effort, not from lack of playing the right way. They did a good job. You got to give that team credit. You know, they're playing a smart game. Right now, they've been able to shut us down offensively here for the last two games."
Daniel Sedin insisted he and his brother had plenty of chances Wednesday night.
"But if you can't solve Thomas, it doesn't matter what we do out there," he said.
Thomas has been the best player in this Stanley Cup finals through four games. And he might just be in the Canucks' heads. They need to find a way to make his life more difficult, and no, that doesn't mean literally fighting him like a frustrated Alex Burrows did late Wednesday night.
"They're in shooting lanes, they're doing a good job of blocking shots. Let's give them credit first," Bieksa said. "But maybe we don't have that shot-first mentality and we should. And there's times when we're putting pucks on net, and we're making it easy for him, putting it right in his glove and allowing him to kick it in the corners. Definitely need to make his life a little harder."
And they need more saves from their own goalie. Luongo has had back-to-back stinkers just like he did in the first round against Chicago.
"You don't pull a goalie all the time because it's his fault," Bieksa said. "Sometimes you do to give him a rest or shake up the team. You can't read too much into that. It's definitely not Roberto's fault. It's a team loss."
"We have a lot of trust in Louie," added the captain, Henrik Sedin.
"He's shown up for us all playoffs long, and he'll show up again for us next game."
The head coach also backed his goalie. Mind you, nobody saw it coming when he started Cory Schneider in Game 6 against Chicago.
"Louie is going to be fine," Vigneault said calmly. "He's one of the best goaltenders in the league. We've got a lot of trust and faith in him, in his ability to play well."
The coach remains confident in his goalie, but is his team confident in itself?
"We've been resilient all year long," Bieksa said. "We've come back from big losses. There's no reason we can't do it again."
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.