Canucks and Beyond

Not Such a Good Friday in Vancouver

04/22/2011 at 2:14pm EDT

“Hockey Playoffs” vs “Sticking Hand in Meat Grinder”: What might be most fun on a weekday night?

I’m torn.

“Hockey Playoffs” seems like a no-brainer… till you suddenly remember you’re a $%#@&! Vancouver Canucks fan, and unexpectedly the hand-in-meat-grinder thing sounds like it might have an upside.

God bless the Canucks—all that sheer talent, all of it unilaterally focused on some mission to terrorize their own fanbase.

The whole thing would almost be funny if it didn’t make me so homicidal.

Most of the team played poorly. (Maybe Cody Hodgeson didn’t completely suck. Any others? You’ll have to tell me—after a certain point, my Valium kicked in and everything went a bit fuzzy.) But no one had a more devastating impact on this game thannnn… (drumroll….)

Alain Vigneault.

What, you thought I was going to say Roberto Luongo? Oh, there’s certainly a special place in hell for your Vezina Trophy finalist after last night, but let’s start with Vigneault.

On what planet do you have to live on, as a coach, to NOT know that Luongo was in huge trouble at goal #2? And even if I can forgive the decision to leave him in till goal #3 (after all, Viggy deserves our patience as he may have blinked and missed several clusters of pucks flying into the net) I can’t begin to imagine how he justifies keeping Luongo in to allow goal #4.

Of course, you could argue we should appreciate the psychological side of dealing with goalies, and bear in mind the fact that sometimes a goalie needs to feel his team’s confidence to pull his shit together. But in this case, that ‘confidence’ was misplaced. For one thing, it seems very likely Luongo is injured. I mean, for godsakes, he couldn’t seem to lift his hands higher than his chest—as Chicago clearly exploited, flying pucks over his shoulders at a rapid rate. Maybe he thought he was okay to play, but after goal #2 (or worst case, #3) that should have been the end of it. Cory Schneider should have been in.

And more than than, why not have given Luongo the entire game off to make sure our star goalie is in good shape for the long haul? Cory Schneider is a NHL-caliber goalie, not some schlepp they hauled up from the the BCHL or something, praying he can stop a shot. Schneider’s earned his spot on the bench for situations exactly like this. Why not use him?

I feel pretty confident it would have been an entirely different game if the right goalie was in the net last night, and it’s why I hold Vigneault largely responsible for that game. However, there’s plenty of blame to go around, and Vigneault can share it generously with Luongo himself. There’s a lot of ego there, and I wonder how much of that ego gets in his own way so that he can’t even admit that the right decision—for the team if not himself—might be to rest his body. It’s hard to trust a player who can’t honestly evaluate his own limitations, especially when injury might be a factor.

God, I don’t want to think about that game ever again. I might not be able to even watch game #6 at this rate, unless Schneider gets the nod. Unfortunately Ed Willes in today’s Province mentions Vigneault’s knee-jerk reaction is to put Luongo back out on the ice on Sunday.

It’s the sheer madness of doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results, as the saying goes.

On the bright side (and it is just the tiniest bit of brightness) there IS a two-day gap in this series finally. Given the boatload of momentum Chicago’s managed to generate, anything that slows them down—even if only for a moment—is welcome.

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