For the second straight year, on the same exact day, in the same exact scenario, the Canucks fell flat on their faces. I think if you could point to one determining factor in the series, it was that the Canucks just couldn't match the Blackhawks' drive and talent. Despite Shane O'Brien and Kevin Bieksa stepping up their games, they still couldn't quite match the impact Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and even former Canuck Brent Sopel had for their teams. Jonathan Toews' drive to win was unmatched, Patrick Kane couldn't be contained, and Antti Niemi was just good enough to beat the Canucks.
In my previous post I said the number one to watch was Game 6. I kind of regret writing that now. I finished the game in its entirety, from the national anthem to the post-game interviews (more on that later) and I can't help but feel dissatisfied about the Canucks' effort. Asides from Kyle Wellwood, I don't think anybody brought their A-game. You could point out that several key players, including Sami Salo and Ryan Kesler, were playing with a considerable amount of pain, but both of them even said it's not an excuse. You play hurt in the playoffs. Yet, somehow, we dealt less mental and physical damage to the Hawks - if not, they certainly didn't show any weakness. Had we peppered Niemi with 50 shots I would've been a little more satisfied, but in an elimination game the Canucks only managed 30 and lacked the same intensity the Hawks showed all game. I don't like how the Canucks responded after a convincing win to force another game at GM Place. And that brings me to the post-game interviews.
I was never one of those that particularly liked Mike Gillis and Alain Vigneault's decision to make Roberto Luongo captain. I certainly was skeptical and noted how it was perhaps a sign that no one in the dressing room was fit to wear the 'C'. A little concerning, to say the least. After Luongo backstopped Canada to a gold medal and Henrik Sedin elevated his game to set a new franchise record in points in a season, a lot of questions about the Canucks were erased. But after last night's performance, the same questions are raised again. Is Luongo a big-game player? Are the Sedins too soft? Is our team deep enough? Is Luongo the right choice as captain? For me, at least, I know the answer to the last question is a resounding "no."
<img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/ap/20100512/capt.d97d09ba4ee34ce2be0fddfb75f3c7e9-d97d09ba4ee34ce2be0fddfb75f3c7e9-0.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Why do I say that? Asides from a logistical perspective, having a goalie as a captain really limits the role of a captain. Because goalies cannot cross the red line, communicating with referees and other players can be quite difficult. For the most part, ceremonial face-offs and communication with the referees have been assigned to a committee of leaders rather than one singular individual. But I think the most telling part of the Canucks' playoff run were the post-game interviews. When bombarded with a plethora of questions regarding the Canucks' play, Luongo's most common answer was, "I don't know." Kelly Hrudey on CBC was highly critical of Luongo at his (apparent) refusal to comment on how poor his game was but that's not the reason I'm more than a little annoyed. As a captain and face of the franchise, an "I don't know" answer tells me that this team obviously lacks any clues as to why and how they lost. I realize that it takes days, even months, to digest a loss as devastating as this one, but certainly "I don't know" is not an answer. 94% of voters on The Province website said Luongo will not be captain next year.
The most interesting interview, I thought, was the guy who had the least to say, and that was Ryan Kesler. "Words can't describe how I feel right now." Playing with a nagging shoulder injury, Kesler sounded like he was the Canuck that took the loss the hardest (although I'm sure everyone took the loss hard). Kesler's passion shows on the ice and he certainly didn't make any excuses. To him, the Canucks just came up short. Really short.
Vancouver fans are no stranger to disappointments. After 40 years of futility we've seen just about everything. But never have I ever seen any Canucks team fail to salute the fans after the end of the season. That perhaps was the most frustrating part of the game. Sure, most fans booed and with the way the Canucks showed up to this game I wouldn't want to stick around the rink any longer than I should, but there are fans who still cheer for them through the tough times and who still genuinely care. Vancouver's a passionate hockey town and for the team to ultimately disrespect their fans like that is discomforting. The majority of the fans left the rink with a sour taste in their mouths but that's no excuse to not acknowledge the support Vancouver fans have given the team all year.
I want an apology. Not so much for the poor performance in Game 6 but rather how the Canucks showed their appreciation to their fans.
I guess there's always next year.