I’ll admit I was one of those ‘bad’ fans who left GM Place early last night. I left early, not because I stopped supporting the boys, but because it hurt to watch them get pounded into submission.
In the end it was hard to watch. A Vancouver Canucks team which had entertained so royally all year literally ground to a halt, virtually every forward with any capability of an impact either injured or paralyzed with fatigue.
Yes the Chicago Blackhawks were the better team and deserved to win but that most certainly doesn’t explain what happened to the Canucks Tuesday night, a team which simply ran out of gas like a truck with a leak in the fuel tank and parts falling on the road as it slowed down.
In the end, only Roberto Luongo was there doing his job as the players around him dissipated and were again physically bleep-kicked as they were for stretches of the series.
The fact is, the Canucks were beaten by a bigger, better Blackhawks team. There’s a reason Chicago finished 9 points ahead of Vancouver in the standings. There’s a reason they ranked near the top of almost every significant team statistic: 3rd in GF, 5th in GA, 2nd in goal-differential, 4th in PK, and 3rd in FO%. They were better than the Canucks in each of these categories except in GF, where the Canucks scored one more goal than they did. They had an average PP (ranked 16th), but made up for it by scoring the 2nd most ESG after the Washington Capitals. Yes, the Canucks were a good team this season; unfortunately, the Blackhawks were better. When you consider the extent of the injuries on the Canucks’ blueline, perhaps it shouldn’t be much of a shock that the Canucks bowed out in the second round.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about this loss is, despite all this, the Canucks still had a chance to win still series. I know the final scores of each game might say otherwise, but the Canucks, for as bad as they looked on some nights, also looked good in others. Despite the adversity – I want to see how the Blackhawks would’ve done if three of Keith, Seabrook, Campbell and Sopel were out of their lineup – a favorable bounce here or there and the series could just as easily have been tied 3-3 today.
Today, I’m actually at peace with the results of this season. After seeing Sami Salo play with broken balls, and Ryan Kesler (shoulder) and Mikael Samuelsson (back) gut through their own injuries, I can’t question this team’s willingness to compete. After seeing Kyle Wellwood, Mason Raymond, Michael Grabner, and even Shane O’Brien take on bigger roles than they’re accustomed to, I can’t question their ability to play in the playoffs. Even the Sedins, as banged up as they were, chipped in at an average of 1.17 points per game. They fought back from a 2-1 first-round series deficit against the Kings. They won two games in the Madhouse at Madison. Against all odds, they hung around against the ‘Hawks and still had a fighting chance until the 2:36 mark of the second period of Game 6. Obviously they need to get even better – and I have a few posts coming on what I think they need to do to get there – but last night, I walked out knowing they simply lost to a better team.
Sometimes the better team wins.