Forty-eight hours have passed since the Vancouver Canucks slipped quietly into the night and the city exploded into a kaleidoscope of chaos, and already the team has been dissected, eulogized and buried a few thousand times by a few hundred thousand people.
So, naturally, here’s one more take.
If you head to some of the more
casual witless corners of the internet, the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 because of karma: Aaron Rome perpetrated the most heinous act in the history of hockey, every Canuck player dove on every single play and never for any legitimate reason, Roberto Luongo said a handful of words about Tim Thomas, Daniel Sedin failed to come out and say he honestly felt the Canucks would lose Game 7, and, most fantastically, because the city rioted:
With the example they set, is it any wonder there were some fans among them reveling in the destruction they wrought on their city?
Brilliance, it’s a quality rarely understood by those who are not. And I must be not.
But when we put our brains to at least an ounce of uneducated use we can identify three main causes of death, which compounded onto one another and exponentially impacted the on-ice product that this team was capable of mustering: injuries, an inert power play, and goaltending.
(Notice the lack of things which require a writer to construct his or her own narrative, and which may or may not be attached to what can actually be found in reality — see “Roberto Luongo said,” et al.).
None are legitimate “excuses” unto themselves, but together… well together they form a grand apparatus of grim and unavoidable failure.
It’s actually sort of a wonder they made it to Game 7 at all.
Every team battles them, and the Boston Bruins were no different, but let’s put this into proper context: The 2011 Stanley Cup Finals pitted the high-mobility, high-skill, high-speed Vancouver Canucks up against the simple and hard-working “designed to withstand heavy impact” Boston Bruins.
One, a team dependent on a quick puck-movement speed game to win; the other, a team dependent on a “stop everything and wait” game to win.
As the series found it’s legs, the Vancouver Canucks were without Mikael Sameulsson, Dan Hamhuis and Manny Malhotra.
Playing at half-mast were Ryan Kesler (groin tear, hip problem), Henrik Sedin (back problems since Round 1), Chris Higgins (broken foot since Round 2), Christian Ehrhoff (shoulder, since Round 3, may require surgery), and Alex Edler (back, since Round 1).
As the series wore on, all of those same injuries (logically) grew worse, and were joined by Mason Raymond’s broken back, Alex Edler’s two broken fingers (same hand), Kevin Bieksa’a bruised MCL (from a Peverely two-handed slash behind the play, and behind Bieksa’s back — “Stay classy Boston”), Sami Salo’s (rumored) groin and Andrew Albert’s something-undisclosed.
All totaled: 12 skaters (of 18 a game) with injuries which extended beyond the simple confines of “pain management.” These were physically hindering injuries for a team which was never designed to
play win a “gut it out” style of game, driven by brute force instead of efficient, surgical skill.
The Boston Bruins are not without their credit here; they smelled blood and took full advantage, like a bear in the woods with a [reference deleted].
As the second major cause of death (a stunningly inert power-play) began to become dangerously self-aware, the end was turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Boston Bruins knew that they could pulverize and antagonize with impunity — accelerating the individual effects of injury, solidifying their already suffocating team defense with extra liberties and interferences, and taking advantage of an overwhelming Vancouver frustration level.
Official reports are sketchy, but this is (roughly) around the time when Alain Vigneault dropped his pants and bent over, never to be seen or heard from again as a “man in control.” As was stated here previously:
…facing a red-hot, confident goaltender, and a Norris-finalist defenceman with the wingspan and brute strength of a large and unnameable dinosaur, the Canucks decided to try their hand at unleashing a torrent of weak, patient, and long, peripheral point-shots with very little traffic in front or anyone doing fly-bys
That statement was in reference to the offense as a whole, but it applies nicely to the power-play specifically as well.
From Game 1 to Game 7 the Canucks power-play defied Darwin, refusing to adapt or evolve and instead only reinforcing it’s own inadequacies.
We’ll say only this: The Vancouver Canucks were not going to win any series against any team scoring 8 goals in 7 games. And they weren’t going to win any games 0-0, despite their best efforts at doing so in Games 1 and 5. And if it weren’t for Roberto Luongo in those same games, they wouldn’t even have won 1-0 anyways.
So there’s all that.
But then there’s Game’s 3, 4 and 6, wherein the Luongo-backed Canucks were outscored five-hundred and something to it-doesn’t-really-matter-at-all-now-does-it.
There’s two schools of thought: Roberto can’t be blamed because his team didn’t score, and Roberto can be blamed because he let in
a few a fuckin’ shitload of bad terrible goals aircraft carriers.
But here we can propose a unique third school of thought: Luongo is taking flak for the embarrassment of defeat, and not necessarily the defeat itself, which most are now conceding was probably unavoidable when you don’t score anyways.
The rest of the summer will be filled with blame, with most or all of landing on the face of Roberto Luongo, and as the ten million dollar man that’s entirely fair. But as the goaltender for a team which refused to score, and as the goaltender for a coach who made zero adjustments to a struggling power play, and as the goaltender for a team and defense that was broken and battered, it’s also not entirely fair, in that he’ll be held to account for why he didn’t steal Game 3, 4 or 6, rather than simply giving them away entirely.
Though he did really gave those ones away. As the face of disaster and the only player left on the team in a position to miraculously make the series closer than it otherwise should of been, Luongo (for better or worse) is one of the three major causes of death.
* * *
In the end it might not have mattered.
Luongo stole Games 1 and 5 and the Canucks were still in danger of losing those as well. He’s being blamed for embarrassment, for blowouts, rather than for the binary win-loss result — which might surely have been the same regardless.
The Boston Bruins were the better team, the Vancouver Canucks the more broken one — the team which made zero adjustments to its
safety net power-play, and the one whose goaltender only stole two, maybe three games, and was certainly nowhere close to a fourth, giving the rest away like he’d been slipped a roofie at a frat party.