There is a reason why the Vancouver Canucks are the best team in the NHL right now. If they continue to play the way they played in Anaheim on Sunday evening, the Canucks might be holding something big, shiny and silver come June.
While the Canucks played like a team securely headed for the playoffs in the 3-0 shutout, the Ducks showed why they are on the outside of the bubble looking in.
Not only did the Ducks allow a goal on the first shift of the game, just :42 seconds in, they decided to repeat the blunder to start the second period as well. Manny Malhotra got his second of the game just :17 seconds into the second period and it definitely deflated Anaheim’s hopes of rebounding.
“Any time you get scored on at the start of both periods, it’s not a good sign,” said Ryan Getzlaf, who as captain drew the short straw to talk to the media after the game. “It put us behind the eight ball. We had opportunities to get back into this hockey game. We hit a few posts and a crossbar. That is the way things go some nights. We can’t get too high or too low. We have to get going here for the next one.”
The only thing that seemed to be going were the Canucks and their fans. Of the announced 16,356, it seemed like more than half of the crowd was wearing a Vancouver jersey. Busses of Canadians made the trek to California to catch back-to-back games against the Kings and the Ducks and none of them went home disappointed.
By the time the score was 3-0, thanks to a power play goal from Daniel Sedin at 6:06 of the third period, most of the Anaheim faithful tucked their tails between their legs and beat the traffic. Who could blame them? There were probably a few of the Ducks themselves that would not have minded an early exit to avoid further embarassment.
Whether it was an inability to get set up on the power play, defensive breakdowns, a lack of cohesiveness, or an ability to execute anything, the Ducks were guilty as charged on all counts.
“We just didn’t play well enough to win tonight,” said coach Randy Carlyle. “I can’t put any more of an explanation to it than that.”
Dan Ellis only had J P Levasseur as a back up after Ray Emery was sent down to Syracuse to get some more playing time. He certainly did not have a lot of work, facing only 16 shots total.
On the other end, Cory Schneider got his first career shut out by stopping 26 shots. The posts and crossbars stopped at least three others for him.
“I was most happy that I got the win,” commented Schneider. “(Roberto) Luongo and I have been joking that we’ve lost four or five shutouts in the last few minutes. The guys buckled down at the end. It’s a good feeling to finally get this out of the way, but the team is more important. I’ve never really been a shutout guy. Hopefully there are many more to come.”
They won’t come at Anaheim’s expense as this was the fourth and final meeting of the regular season. If the Ducks manage to pull it together to squeeze in for a final playoff berth, they could easily meet in the playoffs, however.
Right now, the post season seems tenuous, despite being only a point away from the final spot. Like Cinderella’s stepsisters trying to squeeze into a too tight glass slipper, there are 11 teams trying to fit into 8 spots. Someone isn’t going to get in, no matter how hard they try or how close they come.
One thing is clear – they have to play better than this in order to move forward. Vancouver understands what is needed. Will the Ducks figure it out in time?