I was lucky enough to attend last night's game and after Shane O'Brien's weak holding penalty a fan sitting in front of me stood up and yelled, "where's Gary Bettman?" If that didn't sum up the game, I don't know what did. A disappointing 5-2 loss puts the Canucks behind 2-1 in the series, but perhaps more concerning was the way the Canucks handled themselves.
Some believe the loss can be attributed to the Canucks' more physical play, but I don't think that was it. I don't think it was the Hawks that got under the Sedins' skin either. I think, quite simply, the Canucks just didn't have an answer to big Dustin Byfuglien (with a name like that it still baffles me how it's pronounced "BUFF-lin"). Credit to Byfuglien though, Vancouver's new public enemy number one, especially after he pretty much flipped off the crowd after scoring a goal, for realizing how hated he is in Vancouver and totally embracing the role. No player on Vancouver's roster could match Byfuglien's physicality and the fact that he played with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews certainly created some room for him. While he definitely was a huge factor for the Hawks' win, the referees certainly were THE factor.
I have never ever seen or been to a game where officiating has been this bad. Let's call a spade a spade - had the game been called more fairly the game would've been closer, or even produced a different outcome. Alain Vigneault side-stepped questions about the officiating, and on one hand I understand that 1) he doesn't want to get fined, and 2) he's not going to make any excuses for his team. But it's times like these where I wish players and coaches were given more free reign to sound off. By fining and reprimanding players there's zero accountability with the league and its officials (the Stephane Auger incident was sort of swept under the rug) and I don't need to remind everyone that the discipline office is anything but. The league, refs, and Bettman sit nice and smug on their little high chair and when someone speaks up against them they're quick to punish them.
<img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/getty/c5/fullj.0d17be1458e00e6d3c1de2fd186c3cb2/0d17be1458e00e6d3c1de2fd186c3cb2-getty-98501666rl20_kings_canucks.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The only player that I thought could have the same effect Byfuglien had on Roberto Luongo (who had a so-so night - he fought to control the rebounds all night and cost him the second goal) was Steve Bernier. After logging close to five minutes in the opening period with a couple of strong shifts with Kyle Wellwood, I thought he was going to score a goal for sure, after all, I was wearing his jersey that night. But alas, Big Steve found himself in Vigneault's dog house again, and had just one shift in the second and just another 2:18 in the final period for a grand total of 7:36 of ice-time that night. I am a little baffled, and I do know better than to question one of the league's best bench bosses and a former Jack Adams winner, but physicality and size was obviously something that was missing in the game and I felt Bernier could've really at least made the night a little harder to bear for Antti Niemi. Bernier's not known to be a good skater or good puck-handler and did have some trouble getting the puck out of his own zone, but I don't think he was alone that night in that department.
Alex Burrows finally lit the lamp and a lot of people criticized him for his unnecessary penalties, especially the one on Brian Campbell. Burrows has been playing well and he's finally getting the bounces. Unfortunately, even though his goal could've provided a big momentum shift, it clearly wasn't the case as the Canucks came out flat in the third and Marian Hossa made them pay. Speaking of coming out flat, whatever happened to Pavol Demitra, the Slovakian Superman? Ask him to play for his country and he's suddenly one of the world's top players, but ask him to play in a pressure-packed situation at home against a rival and he decides not to show up. He was barely visible on the ice last night except for a lazy penalty in the first.
It's a little concerning to watch the team squander a 2-0 lead and then take a 5-2 loss, and some wonder if the mental fortitude that escaped the Canucks last year is escaping them again this year. Daniel Sedin in particular was rattled by the mouthy Dave Bolland. Kudos for O'Brien and Burrows stepping in and I forgive them for the misconducts, because let's face it, the game was long lost at that point and those two seemed to be the only players that were doing something about the harassment the Sedins were getting.
Game Four is at GM Place and expect the Canucks to come out flying. How the Canucks handle themselves in that game will really tell us what sort of team we have.