April 25, 2011
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Gotta give Alain Vigneault this: It was a bold move.
Not necessarily the right one or the prudent one, but a bold one.
The hockey world can pretty much agree at this point that Roberto Luongo's(notes) brain has been fundamentally broken several times over by the Chicago Blackhawks, and that in every passing game he finds new and interesting ways in which to blow up on the launch pad.
And for a while it looked like it was working. Schneider was unspectacular, and had frequent miscues getting the puck to his defensemen when he came out to play it — this directly led to Chicago's first two goals, obviously — but he wasn't having a Luongo-level meltdown and the Canucks were pumping enough past Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford(notes), who was having troubles of his own, that they were actually ahead through 42 minutes.
But then the Canucks surrendered a penalty shot and Michael Frolik(notes) does twice the damage: Not only scoring the equalizer but also getting Schneider to move in such a way that he injures himself. Somewhere in the depths of the United Center, Luongo's eyes probably got as big as beach balls. But he came out and acquitted himself well enough, doing the minimum amount that was asked of him — which is to say hardly anything — to force OT.
But that he misplayed a relatively simple point shot spectacularly, and in doing so wound up flat on his face while Ben Smith(notes) of all people once again flung the game-winner past him … well, I guess that's more than most mentally battered goaltenders can handle. It was the most foregone of conclusions yet in these playoffs, and the only logical ending to the game once Luongo came in.
But the practical upshot of all this is that Vigneault has royally screwed himself for Game 7 on Tuesday.
(Coming Up: In praise of Dave Bolland(notes); Mike Richards(notes) should be suspended; Michael Ryder(notes), Mr. Ball Hockey; Evgeni Nabokov(notes) goes back to the Island; Sean Avery's(notes) bite claim; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Watch is on in Edmonton; Sad Selanne; Desharnais' knee; Predators make history; Glavine's Brave move for Thrashers; James Reimer's(notes) stellar season; and did someone break Drew Doughty's(notes) teeth?)
By not starting Luongo on Sunday, he basically acquiesced to pressure from the world at large, admitting that no, the league's current definition of a Franchise Goalie was simply not capable of keeping his team in an important game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Now he's in a no-win situation that he created all by himself because this move, at best, was never going to do anything but invite criticism.
It should be noted that the Canucks at least seemed to have some level of comfort and at times even an against-all-odds confidence with Luongo behind them, which was somewhat absent with Schneider between the pipes. Of course, that may have been sheer, blind panic that forced them to get the puck, carry it up ice as quickly as possible and for God's sake keep it in the attacking zone because the farther the puck is from Bobby Lou, the less of a chance he listlessly jabs it like a punch-drunk prizefighter straight onto the tape of an oncoming Blackhawk.
Suppose Schneider's good to go on Tuesday (and the coach seems to suggest this will be the case). Who does Vigneault start?
Does he give the go to the rookie with the wonky lower-body-injury who miscommunicates with his D, and thereby essentially says the team is done with Luongo for these playoffs — and further, kick off a summer full of uncomfortable questions?
Or does he give the nod to the guy who currently has the mental makeup of a nervous 2-year-old being taken to sit on Santa's lap, having given up 11 goals on his last 53 shots against, almost all of them his fault?
Because of this puzzling decision, there's no easy answer. Hell, now there's probably not even a good one. Vigneault made sure of that himself.
What We Learned
Boston Bruins: Michael Ryder for Vezina.
Peep that form, though. Unreal. Makes sense, though: He plays goal in summer ball hockey leagues.
Calgary Flames: More people hate the Flames than just their fans. The former owners of the Chilliwack Bruins say the team's AHL franchise in Abbotsford essentially forced them to sell the WHL team. Or something. I don't know.
Colorado Avalanche: Oof, the Avs got the absolute crap kicked outta them by Terry Frei in the Denver Post over the weekend. "[A]ll signs are that the organization is continuing to be carried away with: a) overrating its ability to spot and nurture young talent, and then, b) overrating that young talent itself, with notable exceptions I'll get to in a second." The exceptions were Matt Duchene(notes) and Chris Stewart(notes). One of those guys doesn't play for the team any more.
Edmonton Oilers: Yup, they're already banging the drum for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. No surprise. The most interesting part of all this is which name he will drop for the back of his jersey. He can get advice from Magnus Paajarvi(notes) née-Svensson.
Florida Panthers: Some silver lining -- the Panthers' penalty kill wasn't terrible this year. A product of the new system perhaps? It's interesting to note that Tomas Vokoun's(notes) shorthanded save percentage actually dropped this year to .922, down from .925.
Los Angeles Kings: A great save on a great night from Jon Quick, a not-great goalie.
Minnesota Wild: Matt Cullen(notes) seems to be misremembering the season. "It was the tightest playoff race I've ever been in, and we were right in the thick of it." They were officially eliminated about a week before the season ended, and unofficially out of it around mid-March. But hey, they bounced the Stars on the last day of the season, so that sorta counts.
Montreal Canadiens: David Desharnais(notes) has a knee injury that kept him out of most of the second overtime. No word on the severity going forward.
Nashville Predators: What you're about to see right here is the most important goal in the history of a franchise. History's pretty cool sometimes.
New Jersey Devils: The Devs might take Zach Parise(notes) to arbitration. I imagine y'know, catastrophic injury and all that, they wanna try to shortchange him for a year to see if he can play at the same level. Makes sense.
Philadelphia Flyers: Mike Richards should've gotten the gate for this hit. The league needs to suspend him for Game 7. If he was truly "respectful" of the game, he would sit it out voluntarily. Wouldn't want to "get away with murder out there."
Phoenix Coyotes: The Coyotes are "confident" they'll stay in Phoenix, which is fair enough. After all, they at least have a buyer lined up if the Goldwater Institute ever relents. Ain't nobody lookin' to buy the Thrashers, y'know?
San Jose Sharks: Teethgate continues unabated. Drew Doughty says Scott Nichol(notes) broke two of his lower teeth on a roughing penalty. Nichol says he didn't. Will this war of words never end?!
Gold Star Award
Big ups to the NHL for hiring a former WNBA exec so that it can better grow women's hockey. It's not going to get much play, but this is a great move.
Minus of the Weekend
Here's a preemptive jeer for the NHL, as well, because there's no way in hell it suspends Richards for Game 7.
Play of the Weekend
Seven passes and a shot that hits the back of the net in the space of about five seconds. I want to marry this goal.
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
User "SiCKNESS" is sick (get it?) of Roberto Luongo, yessir.
You still owe me 10 more Iroquois twists.