In hockey, players look up to their teammates with a letter on the front of their jersey for inspiration; a player with an “A” or “C” on their chest is supposed to set an example and lead their team. When the team is down and showing no signs of life, a leader on a complete team will step up and say something or do something to get the team going. That idea is even more prevelant when it comes to the NHL playoffs, the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Vancouver Canucks, as much talent and potential they have, seem to lack those kind of players. After being humiliated in Game 3, both on the scoreboard and in terms of physical play, I think we all expected the Canucks to come out in Game 4 guns blazing and putting up a fight for 60+ minutes. It didn’t happen. Overall, they played decent hockey for two periods but were hurt by some poor Roberto Luongo goaltending (who let up four goals on 20 shots) and ran into a hot Tim Thomas.
But then the third period was a joke; as a hockey fan, I was embarassed to watch a team put forth the weak effort the Canucks did for a STANLEY CUP FINALS GAME. It just seemed like, after the second period, they gave up. They showed no emotion on the ice or the bench for pretty much the entire period. The players weren’t even hitting or retaliating to being hit, they just took it.
I feel like the lack of heart the team showed starts with the leadership on the team. Now, I can’t say how the players are behind closed doors in the locker room, but the Sedins, who wear two-thirds of the teams letters (Henrik the “C” and Daniel an “A”), just don’t seem to play with any heart. I was talking with my friend (a Bruins fan), and I told him that they don’t seem to have/show any emotion. He said no, you’re wrong, they do show an emotion: fear. It couldn’t have been put any better. In the first period, Bruins’ pest Brad Marchand, who had himself a great Game 3 and Game 4 (by the way I LOVE his game), decided to mess with one of the Sedins (again, I just cannot differentiate the two, and I don’t think you can either, test your abilities for yourself!): Marchand jumped off the bench, intentionally bumped into the Sedin, who was lined up for the draw by the Bruins bench, and proceeded to give him a couple of whacks with his stick. And what did Sedin do? Nothing. Just took it. He didn’t even react.
Is that how you want one of the leaders on your team to react? I get that he probably was more focussed on playing the game than geting involved with the chippiness, but he didn’t show any emotion there. I have to think that his actions, as well as his brother’s — or lack thereof — rubs off on the rest of the team; the only thing I’ve noticed the Sedins doing this series is scoring one goal and “falling down” a lot. VERSUS panned to the Vancouver bench a few times in the third; there was no emotion to be seen on any of their faces. It was dead silent, and they looked down, and beat. How can you do that for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals? I noticed only two players on the Canucks who, despite being down 4-0, seemed like they cared at that point: Alex Burrows (the instigator of the mini-brawl involving Thomas) and Ryan Kessler, who usually wears the other “A”. That’s the kind of heart you want players showing, even if it’s just starting a scrum in a game that’s already been decided. Play to the end. One player needed to step up and say something and get his team going; it didn’t happen on the ice/bench (from what we could see) and I don’t feel like that happened in the locker room. In fact, it took the actions of the Bruins’ players to get the Canucks to show anything at all in the third.
Of course, there was probably an emotional letdown from a weak goaltending effort…by Roberto Luongo — not Cory Schneider, who looked SOLID in his slightly-less-than 20 minutes in the third. Which raises the question: who starts Game 5 for the Canucks? No doubt the thrashings the Bruins gave the Canucks and shoddy performance by Luongo shattered his confidence. However, he’s 9-3 at home these playoffs (won his last 4 home starts) with solid numbers, including two shutouts. Schneider has shown he can make some saves and at least appear to not get rattled like Luongo, who has already been pulled four times in the playoffs. It’s a tough call for the Canucks. If Schneider starts Game 5, and he does a decent job and stays healthy, Luongo’s playoffs could be done; if he wins or does a decent job, they’ll stick with him for Game 6 in Boston, where Luongo has failed miserably and lost all his confidence. If they take it to Game 7, and Schneider played the last two games, I’m not so sure they want throw in a goaltender who seems to be a bit fragile mentally when the going gets tough and sat the last two games; he’d be defeated if he got benched.
Can’t wait for Game 5. Hopefully, the Canucks respond and we actually get a hockey game instead of one team playing a team who isn’t mentally and emotionally strong enough to play a full 60 minutes, possibly (and hopefully) more.