Allan Maki wraps up the previous night’s NHL action and looks at the early news of the day Monday through Friday during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Oh, the unmistakable irony. The first team to be eliminated from the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs is the Vancouver Canucks. The team that came within a win of lifting the Cup two years ago. A team whose smugness face-washed outsiders the wrong way. A team accused of embellishing hits to draw penalties until, finally, it tossed the same accusation at the San Jose Sharks; a laughable turnabout that smacked of desperation.
Well, that team is done and about to face significant change. It has to. Losing 4-3 in overtime Tuesday in San Jose sealed a four-game ousting and offered proof the Canucks are no longer good enough or deep enough to challenge for the Cup.
They didn’t get any effort worth applauding until Game 4. Key players were lost for too long; secondary players never showed up. The goaltending was a mess. When defenceman Kevin Bieksa chided the Sharks’ Joe Thornton and Logan Couture for being un-Canadian by trying to draw penalties, it was more than a weak ploy. It was embarrassing.
Equally embarrassing was who was in the penalty box when San Jose’s Joe Pavelski scored the tying goal to force OT. It was Bieksa, for cross-checking. Then it was Daniel Sedin penalized in OT for a boarding call that might have gone unpunished at another time. But not last night when irony ruled and Patrick Marleau scored on the ensuing power play to give the Sharks their first playoff sweep in franchise history.
If you’re looking for someone to blame for the Canucks’ failings, start with general manager Mike Gillis. He dithered with goalie Roberto Luongo and should have traded him for help at forward but didn’t. Instead, Gillis acquired Derek Roy at the Trade Deadline and thought that was enough. Gillis’s decision to get Zack Kassian doesn’t look good, either, but the GM will survive.
The same can’t be said for head coach Alain Vigneault. He’s spent seven years with the Canucks and the team, with its aging core and limited prospects, is in need of new direction, new leadership. It’s that time.
Undoubtedly, no one suspected the Canucks were going to get past either Chicago or Anaheim in the Western Conference. But few were thinking Vancouver would be beaten four straight in Round One. That it happened the way it did with all those penalties going against them, and all their stars out of sync, just made the ending seem all the more deserving.
There may be no joy in B.C., but the rest of the NHL is feeling pretty good about that.
Plus ça change c'est la même chose
It was wild and it was crazy, but in a whole different way.
The Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens kept their sticks down and their gloves on but Game 4 of their tempestuous series took a wicked turn all its own Tuesday.
It began with a goal that led to another that led to the overtime winner in a stunning 3-2 Ottawa triumph. Down 2-0, Ottawa’s Mika Zibanejad got his team on the scoreboard when the puck deflected off his skate and past Montreal goalie Carey Price.
Officials reviewed the play and consulted NHL rule 42, which allows for a puck to be scored off a player’s skate providing there is no distinct kicking motion. Zibanejad made no such motion so the goal counted. Montreal officials said they respected the decision but were angered by where the face-off was held prior to the goal.
The puck was dropped in the wrong circle with the Canadiens saying they had the wrong personnel on the ice. “Little details matter,” Therrien insisted. RDS later reported the league acknowledged a mistake had been made and apologized to the Canadiens.
With 22.6 seconds left in regulation time, Cory Conacher tied the score for Ottawa. Price injured himself in the final moments of the third period forcing Montreal to start Peter Budaj in OT. A shot by Kyle Turris deflected off Montreal defenceman Raphael Diaz past Budaj for the winning goal guaranteeing that, whatever happens in Game 5, it won’t be routine. Nothing is in this series.
What’s that smell?
When Marc-Andre Fleury goes ripe, he goes bad. He’s near rotten now.
After posting a shutout win against the New York Islanders in Game 1, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ goaltender has been victimized by soft goals, bad bounces and poor decisions. He looked especially weak on the final goal in the Islanders’ 6-4 win Tuesday. Casey Cizikas drove to the net then had his weak shot deflected into the Pittsburgh goal by Fleury.
In the last three games, Fleury has allowed 14 goals and seen his save percentage plummet to a sour .750 in Game 4. He and Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo now share a dubious distinction among active goalies: most times having allowed six goals in a playoff game with four.
That’s the kind of number that gets a goalie benched, especially if the goalie had a foul showing in last year’s playoffs, which Fleury did. If Pittsburgh was smart, it would turn to backup Tomas Vokoun and say, “You’re in.” This is why they acquired him from the Washington Capitals, after all – for veteran relief. And it’s needed.
Now this is an insult. Canada’s team at the 2013 world hockey championships in Sweden/Finland is not packing them in. Oh no, it’s not.
According to the IIHF’s Tuesday attendance figures, Canada, with stars Steven Stamkos, Taylor Hall and Matt Duchene, is drawing an average crowd of 5,120 fans through three games. That’s about as many fans as the Edmonton Oilers drew when they opened their practices to the public after the 2012 lockout.
Even more insulting are the countries proving to be a better draw than Canada. Excluding the two host nations, try Slovakia, France – FRANCE! – Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Germany, the U.S. and Belarus. That makes Canada the 10th-best attraction, in hockey, a game we invented.
France? It’s a good thing we’re not into embellishing our reaction. That would be un-Canadian.