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Playoffs 2013Canucks need to back up words with action

Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013 | 05:57 PM

Categories: Playoffs 2013, San Jose Sharks, VAN vs SJ, Vancouver Canucks

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Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, left, along with teammates Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis, right, sit on the bench during their loss to the San Jose Sharks during Game 1 Wednesday. (Andy Clark/Reuters) Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, left, along with teammates Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis, right, sit on the bench during their loss to the San Jose Sharks during Game 1 Wednesday. (Andy Clark/Reuters)

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It's strange that a Canuck team that so desperately wants to erase the memory of last year's first-round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Kings played the way it did in Game 1 against the San Jose Sharks. If history teaches lessons, the Canucks are very poor students.
By Jim Morris, special to CBC Sports

VANCOUVER -- It's a place the Vancouver Canucks have been before, but that didn't make it any more comfortable to be there Thursday.

The players anticipated the questions. They knew who would be held accountable.

"That's what happens when you lose games," shrugged Daniel Sedin the morning after the Canucks' 3-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks in the opening game of the NHL Western Conference quarter-final.

"If we had won yesterday there would have been different questions. That's the things we have to deal with."

The Canucks weren't necessarily bad in the loss to San Jose, but they certainly didn't look good.

"We were a little bit off," said captain Henrik Sedin. "It wasn't much, but it was enough to lose the game."

The Sharks won 57 per cent of the faceoffs. The San Jose power play created more chances. The Sharks moved the puck better through the neutral zone.

The Canucks created very little traffic in front of San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi. They couldn't stop the Sharks from circling in from of the Vancouver net.

All of this is fixable.

"I need more from the whole team, there's no doubt there," said coach Alain Vigneault. "All our players understand we have to get better. We're going to get better."

It's strange that a Canuck team that so desperately wants to erase the memory of last year's first-round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Kings played the way it did in Game 1. If history teaches lessons, the Canucks are very poor students.

"That's the playoffs," said Henrik. "You're not going to play 16 perfect games and win every one.

"There are going to be some downs and some games where you're not performing. It's about the response we have in here."

It was the fifth consecutive home playoff loss for Vancouver, dating back to losing Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup final to the Boston Bruins. The Canucks have also lost eight of their last 10 playoff matches.

Luongo starts Game 2

Roberto Luongo will start in goal again for Friday night's Game 2 as Cory Schneider continues to deal with an unspecified injury.

Vigneault also did some tinkering with his lines during practise, moving Ryan Kesler to right wing to play with centre Derek Roy and left-winger Chris Higgins.

If the Canucks hope to tie the best-of-seven series Friday they will need better performances from their best players.

Despite managing three shots on net Daniel Sedin was almost invisible in Wednesday's loss. Alex Burrows, who led the team with 13 goals during the regular season, didn't have a shot on net. Speedy Mason Raymond spent too much time on the perimeter. Big Zack Kassian can't take stupid penalties.

Some of the biggest questions swirl around Kesler's health.

Against the Sharks he logged plenty of ice time but looked to lack energy. Staff iced his neck between some shifts leading to speculation he's suffering from the flu.

"I was good enough to play," was all Kesler would say. "I suited up. I'm good.

"I'm healthy. Always been healthy."

Vigneault steered away from any talk about Kesler's health, saying "he was trying hard" in Game 1.

"It was a tight-checking game," said Vigneault. "There wasn't a lot of room out there. I think he, like the rest of our team, is going to get better as we move forward here."

When healthy, Kesler can dictate a game. Along with the Sedins and Luongo, he is part of the Canucks' leadership group.

Although Kesler spoke the right words about what needs to be done to win the next game, he didn't paint a picture of a player ready to put the team on his shoulders.

"You put a little more pressure on yourself," said Kesler, who needed wrist and shoulder surgery in the offseason, then missed 19 games with a broken foot.

"It's an opportunity. I'm going to put my best foot forward and rise to the occasion."

The Sharks, who had just eight road wins in the regular season, came to Vancouver hoping for a split. They know the job is far from over, but the task has become a little easier.

"We have a lot of work to do," said defenceman Dan Boyle. "We expect them to be better."

The Canucks talked like a team that wanted to be better. They just need to back up their words with some action.

"We have shown in the past we can answer the bell," said Henrik Sedin. "We know we have to play a lot better."

Follow Jim Morris on Twitter @jememorris

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