ONE disturbing trend I’ve noticed so far this season is the Vancouver Canucks players are not always willing to do what it takes to win games.
Take the games this season against Chicago for example. In game one the Canucks tore apart the Blackhawks with their power play, going 5 for 6. But in game 2, the much more disciplined Hawks gave the Canucks no chances on the power play at all. The result: a 5-1 win for Chicago and an easy night for their goaltender Corey Crawford.
What the Canucks needed to do was manufacture situations where the referees would have been forced to call penalties. There’s a couple of ways to do that.
1) That could be by turning up the nasty level on that friendly game. Hit hard on the forecheck. Mix it up after the whistle. Stir up some of the intensity that their rivalry is famous for. With the Blackhawks’s own power play struggling badly, the Canucks should have been happy to trade penalties.
2) Or they could have use their speed to drive to the net, or to penetrate defenses thereby creating scoring chances or forcing Chicago’s defenders to pull down the Canucks. Skate through their checks. Far too often we saw Canucks players pull up when confronted.
Either way, the Canucks did not have it in them that night. Or at various other times this season, either. To me that is the most dangerous aspect of their so called “Stanley Cup hangover.” Forget about the physical pounding they took. After going through what they had to last spring, the players are having a tough time investing themselves into the mental and emotional places they need to be successful.
It’s still too early to be too concerned. When they do get power plays they can with the game in a time spans of less than 2 minutes. They are that good and they know it (which is dangerous enough itself). But it will be interesting to see if they can do like the BC Lions and recover from a bad start and take over the rest of the way. Or will they be like the “hungover” Chicago Blackhawks of 2009-10, needing help on the final weekend of the season to squeak into the Stanley Cup playoffs?
It will also be interesting to watch how the Canucks fans invest themselves. It was a hard spring for them too. They were left exhausted and disheartened. Not only by the Canucks, but by the way the NHL and the referees handled things, too. And of course by all the shenanigans on the streets immediately afterward.
Now this season we are seeing empty lower bowl seats at games. Those corporate seats are paid for but unattended. Could the Canucks amazing sell out streak come to an end at some point this season?
Far more alarming many blue collar, die-hard fans have told me they have stayed away from games on TV. They are still hurt. They, too, are unable to invest themselves into the Canucks emotionally like before. Maybe they will find something different to do this early in the season.
It is a fascinating yet not quite understandable phenomenon known as the Stanley Cup hangover, or as I call it the Stanley Cup heartbreak. There are fascinating implications for both the team and the fans.One thing is for sure – once the Canucks players fully invest in themselves mentally and emotionally, the fans will too. And they will be sure to occupy all those seats, too.
Slap Shot – Now that Brian Burke has joined Pat Quinn on the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee, it will be interesting to see if Pavel Bure is rightfully inducted in coming years. Neither were happy with the way Bure handled his exit from Vancouver back in 1998 and rumor has always had it they have held a grudge. Igor Larionov, Bure’s old teammate, is also on the committee to defend him.
Other Canucks with Hall of Fame chances, albeit slim: Markus Naslund becomes eligible for inclusion in 2012; Trevor Linden, eligible for the first time in 2011, remains unlikely to make the grade even with three major allies on the committee in Quinn, Burke and Lanny McDonald.
Joe Pelletier is a freelance hockey writer based in Terrace. Check out his website GreatestHockeyLegends.com and his new ebook at PucksOnTheNet.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @HockeyLegends