The Vancouver Canucks fly south Saturday afternoon to Los Angeles, reeling and down two games to none to the Los Angeles Kings - and Daniel Sedin will not be along for the ride to help the purportedly best team in hockey salvage an unfurling disaster.
The concussed Sedin, who seemed nearly ready to play last Monday, now could miss the entire Kings series.
Information is scarce but Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault on Saturday at Noon confirmed Sedin would not make the trip to L.A. He would not comment on Sedin’s prospects for later in the series.
“Nothing has changed, so that’s it,” said Vigneault after revealing Sedin wasn’t flying to L.A.
Asked whether he will join the team later, Vigneault said, of concussions in general: “There’s no timeline on these injuries.”
Then, prodding further, Vigneault was asked to compare Sedin’s health on Saturday with last Monday and Tuesday, when he skated with vigour.
“How would you compare the sun today to the sun a couple days ago - how am I supposed to answer that question?” said Vigneault. “Nothing’s changed, guys, I can’t tell you anything.”
Earlier on Saturday, a report stated Sedin was out for the series. Saturday marks Day 24 since Sedin took a vicious elbow in the head from Chicago’s Duncan Keith. Sedin has missed 11 games so far; Keith was suspended for five.
“I’ve been told not only will Daniel Sedin not travel to LA for Games 3 and 4- he will not be available at all in this series,” tweeted former Canucks TV reporter Kristin Reid on Saturday morning, before the Canucks practiced (without Sedin) at 11 a.m. PT. Reid has been right before, recently, having accurately forecast Sedin’s return to practice last Monday.
Laurence Gilman, assistant general manager, told The Globe before the practice, by text message Saturday morning: “No change in Daniel’s status. Continuing with [concussion recovery]protocol.”
The loss of Sedin, at least for Game 3, and possibly for the whole series, is a blow to a team in disarray. The Kings have delivered, and more, on all the hype about a team whose regular-season record belied a squad with far greater potential. Overcoming Vancouver twice, on the road, L.A.’s vaunted defence and goaltending was significant, and its offence was alight, as it has been since Jeff Carter showed up on the West Coast.
After practice on Saturday morning, Henrik Sedin joked to reporters that he had “no new answers” after speaking Friday night following the loss. He then launched into an idea he did in fact float a dozen hours earlier.
“This is a different group from a few years ago,” said Sedin. “If we would have been in a hole like this a couple years back, I would not have been as hopeful as I am right now. We’re playing well enough to win games.”
Mood at practice was tense, to start, and then loosened somewhat. Near the end, when some smiles were spotted, Sedin and Mason Raymond joked and jostled for a puck.
Sedin, almost blithely, said if the Canucks can stay out of the box (the problem in Game 1) and resurrect their power play (and not give up goals), hey, they’re set.
“Take care of that and I think we’re in good shape,” he said.
(Vancouver, thinking of Daniel Sedin, now might be lucky with the extended middle of this first-round series, with Game 3 Sunday, Game 4 three days later on Wednesday, and then Game 5 four days later back in Vancouver next Sunday.) A big question will be the potential play of stellar backup goalie Cory Schneider. Will Vigneault start Schneider in Game 3 in L.A. on Sunday, to spark his squad, even though Roberto Luongo has played well?
Vigneault said at noon Saturday that he had decided on his starter for Game 3 but had not yet told the goaltenders, so did not tell reporters.
“We’re obviously frustrated by being down two-nothing,” said Schneider after practice, “but, you know, it’s all about that next game, just have to win that next game. I don’t necessarily think it’s lack of effort, I thought we actually had a really good effort last night [Friday]”
Luongo said it was not about who starts, but the team - his standard line. He has adjusted this past season to the fact he is not the undisputed No 1 and that Schneider seeing significant playing time is normal.
Schneider said, if he potentially starts Game 3: “It would be a big, big game for our team, and a game we need to win.”
On the scoring front, the Canucks are without their top scorer, just as they desperately need goals, especially on the power play. It is difficult to describe just how bad the Canucks’ power play has become. The collapse is surreal. All last season, and through this past January, Vancouver had the deadliest power play in the NHL. Then, it is hard to explain, but the disarray has been complete, a scoring percentage that would rank last in the NHL - last! - and on Friday night, the ultimate humiliation: two decisive goals scored short-handed by Kings captain Dustin Brown.
Other Canucks not scoring are easy to spot. Hey, there’s Ryan Kesler, who scored 41 last season, and seven in 25 games last spring (including carrying his team past Nashville in the second round, scoring key markers against San Jose, but failing, while playing injured, against Boston, zero goals in seven games).
Today, Saturday, April 14, marks one month since Kesler scored a goal, his last one coming against Phoenix. He has gone 14 games, including two playoff games, without lighting up the red light behind opposing goalies.
Kevin Bieksa came as close as anyone to identifying the Canucks’ problems, talking about the power play, and the regularly rotating cast of characters (including and especially on Friday night).
“It’s been a bit of a revolving door there so, somehow, the five guys that are on the ice have got to find a way to communicate and get on the same page,” said Bieksa Friday night after the game.
A dreaded doom spreads among fans in Vancouver. Some people say they sensed it, that even as the Canucks ran to their second-consecutive Presidents’ Trophy, something was off. Of the last 15 games, 11 were one-goal games. People took no comfort in the fact the Canucks won eight of those 11, taking the top spot in the NHL. They saw a squad that seemed to have cracks.
Still, while Vancouver indeed is down 2-0 to L.A., and needs to win four of five, three of those on the road, it is not a radically unusual place for a strong team to be, even if it is far from ideal at this early stage in the two-month long playoffs. Last spring, Boston went down two to Montreal, losing both at home, like Vancouver. Boston won three straight, then lost, and then won, in overtime, at home in Game 7. Boston was down two against Vancouver, as well. Yes, last year, of course, Vancouver blew two 2-0 leads, salvaging a series against Chicago and eventually collapsing against Boston.
The mood in Vancouver is the same as Boston last year.
“With 10 minutes to play, the soft, murmuring Sound of Resignation had spread over the sellout crowd of 17,565,” wrote Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan after the Bruins lost 3-1 in Game 2, after losing 2-0 to les Canadiens in Game 1.
“The fans had not bailed physically, but they had bailed emotionally. The Bruins had let them down - again.”