Saturday 25 April 2015

Big Lead Leads To Big Loss

Vancouver Canucks fans are going to look back on this loss and ask how it all came unraveled. Everything was coming up roses as the Canucks built a 3-0 just ten minutes into Game Six, and it appeared that Canucks fans would be getting ready to fill Rogers Arena once more for Game Seven. Instead, the Flames showed no fear and proved they have the resolve of a veteran-laden team in outscoring Vancouver 7-1 over the next fifty minutes. With that, the Flames sent the Canucks to the visitors' dressing room in the Saddledome shaking their heads as their season came crashing down around them.

It appeared that the Canucks would take their 3-0 lead into the first intermission after seeing Brandon McMillan, Jannik Hansen, and Radim Vrbata stake them to their early lead. However, Michael Ferland, who has been a thorn in the side of the Canucks in this entire series, tapped in the cross-ice pass from Matt Stajan past Ryan Miller, and the Flames were on the board.

As it has been all season with this Flames team, it seems that the moment they find the spark results in them lighting the fire as they get fired up. The Canucks had to know that Ferland's goal would ignite the Sea of Red as well as the Flames, and it didn't take long for the wildfire to start spreading. By the end of the second period, it was 4-3 for the Canucks and you could sense that the shell shock was starting to set in after having lead by three goals just thirty minutes earlier.

Calgary was the more physical team in this series. Calgary took advantage of every opportunity given and created more scoring chances for themselves. Like they did in the regular season, they forechecked like demons using their speed and size to create turnovers and cause chaos. Players like David Jones, Michael Ferland, Kris Russell, and Matt Stajan become more than just role players as they stepped into the spotlight for the Flames. Matt Stajan's goal in the third period was the first playoff goal of his career at age of 31!

"It felt great," Stajan told reporters after playing in his ninth playoff game in his career. "We scored it and the first thing that came to my mind was we still have five minutes here to finish them off. Looking back now and sitting back, it's so special. It's been such a tough year for my family and this team has been great all year. We found a way and we found a way tonight and to be a part of this, it's amazing."

Remember that this is a team that lost their captain and potential Norris Trophy candidate in Mark Giordano. There were whispers that without Giordano the Flames would slide into non-playoff status as their best player all season was sidelined with a torn tendon in his biceps. Giordano's 48 points were tied for the lead among NHL defensemen and tied for the lead on the Flames. Instead, the Flames, like a good wildfire, rose up again and burned a path into the playoffs with big wins over Nashville, Dallas, and Los Angeles down the stretch. No matter the setbacks, the Flames have risen to the occasion.

For the Canucks, there will be many questions that need to be answered. It was thought that Ryan Miller could carry the Canucks deep into the playoffs after he was signed, but, like last season with St. Louis, Miller finds himself out of the playoffs after one round. Eddie Lack's magic at the end of the season was snuffed out by the Flames as well, so there are a few questions about their goaltending.

There will questions about an aging defence corps that showed nothing past Alex Edler and Chris Tanev. Edler and Tanev had a combined six assists, +7 rating, four penalty minutes, and ten shots. The four remaining defencemen - Luca Sbisa, Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, and Yannick Weber - combined for one goal, three assists, a -10 rating, 44 penalty minutes, and 29 shots including an oh-for-13 in shots for power-play specialist Weber. The Flames consistently exposed the lack of foot speed that the Canucks have, and it's a big reason why the Canucks are heading home to clean out their lockers.

Ryan Miller was blunt in his assessment. "It's frustrating. We got a lead and couldn't hold it. There's nothing else to say."

That pretty much says it all. The Flames will visit Anaheim in the next round while the only round that the Canucks will partake in is a round of golf. A 101-point season means nothing if you can't win four in the playoffs against a team who finished lower than you in the standings. Questions will circle this Vancouver team now with the Sedins closing in on retirement age.

Has their window closed?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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