Vancouver Canucks: The Curse Of The Trap Game
As Vancouver Canucks fans, we’re all familiar with the problem this team usually has: playing down to the level of the competition. I can’t count how many bad teams that the Canucks have just barely beaten, including the Maple Leafs earlier this season. It’s a quality that no Canucks team, no matter how talented and successful, can seem to get rid of. Add that quality to a third game in four nights (and an afternoon game, to boot), and many Canucks fans were worried about yesterday’s date with the Carolina Hurricanes. It had all the symptoms of the classic “trap” game. Carolina is the worst team in the league, with only 5 wins. They had only earned (and I’m going by memory of what John Garrett said here, so I could be a little off) 5 points in their last 25 games. Their #1 goalie is injured; their stars aren’t scoring (Whitney had no goals in 9 games, Cole something very similar, Staal the same). Have I mentioned that the Canucks are also famous for not only giving kids their first NHL goals, but also are quite adept at allowing the other team’s offensively slumping players to bump that slump?
And sure enough, that’s what happened yesterday in the 5-3 debacle that looked much closer than it was. Only a couple of things allowed the Canucks to even make it that close. First, the Hurricanes are truly an awful team right now. The Canucks, as horribly as they were playing (I can’t count the number of giveaways or bad passes that resulted in glorious Hurricane opportunities where Andrew Raycroft had to make great saves or the Hurricane player just made a bad shot), they still kind of controlled the first period. Two power plays helped, but even without that, the Hurricane’s weren’t doing anything. When Jannik Hansen scored against the flow of play to make it 1-0, it looked like the ‘Canes might decide to pack it in. If the Canucks had stayed focused and continued to play their game (however ineptly they were doing it at the moment), the ‘Canes may have folded right there. But no. Ray Whitney is given a glorious chance and Raycroft plays the shot badly, letting it go top corner on him. BOOM! 1-1, 20 seconds after Hansen scores, and they have life again.
I’ve criticized the Canucks’ lackluster play in 2nd periods of late, and yesterday was a perfect example. The ‘Canes came out flying, applying the pressure that the Canucks just couldn’t handle. They were just chipping it out of their zone and the ‘Canes would bring it right back in. Sure enough, they end up scoring. And then again, and again, and again. Suddenly, it’s 4-1 and the Canucks don’t know what hit them. They mount very little sustained pressure, and when they do manage to keep it in the ‘Canes zone for a little while, either Manny Legace stones them or they just don’t get the right shot off.
The second thing that allowed the Canucks to make it close is that, inexplicably, the ‘Canes just sat back in the 3rd period, allowing the Canucks to get their legs back underneath them. Goals from Bernier and Burrows made it 4-3, but the hole they had dug themselves was just too big. With Raycroft out for the extra attacker, Cole scored his hat trick goal to make the final score 5-3. Yes, you heard that right: Cole.
You see, yesterday was a big slump-bumper for many of the ‘Canes. Staal missed some wonderful opportunities, and I could tell he was getting really frustrated with himself, though he did have 2 points. Cole had a hat trick. Whitney had three points. The Canucks’ reputation for this was shown in full force!
The Canucks just looked horrible most of the day, even during their comeback. Errant passes to nobody. Pucks bouncing over sticks. Shots that were way off the target. Hansen sprung Kesler for a breakaway and he ended up putting it over the net. Daniel Sedin had a couple of close-in chances and couldn’t bury any of them. One great 2-on-1 opportunity, Daniel didn’t even get a shot off.
It was a game to forget. And the Canucks will have to, because Nashville is a much better team than the Hurricanes are. They can’t afford to play like they did yesterday.