Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Foggy Days and Nights in Canuckland

The sky has been falling (literally as we've been fogged in the past few days) as well as the Canucks free falling in the standings.

The weird part is from Nov. 20 through Jan. 1 (the period when Roberto Luongo was injured), the Canucks managed to tread water with 10 wins and 10 losses. It's been this latest stretch of 1 win and 8 losses that coincided with the arrival of Mats Sundin (and you may agree with this assessment of the chance of Mats leading the Nux to the Promised Land) and the return of Roberto Luongo that has fans and media panicked.

Now, the hopeful part is Luongo played San Jose tough (sorry, but being outshot 29-14, the rest of the Canucks were MIA) last night (Jan. 20), but blew the game when yet again they could not tame Joe Thornton (the Canuck killer--13 GP 5G 21A as a Shark vs. the Nux) from setting up the tying goal with 40 seconds left and winning goal in OT.

The best plan of action is the Nux have to clone Joel Otto and then they'll have a chance in shutting down Mr. Thornton.

The truth is all playoff teams bar the elite go through these rough stretches every season. A good indicator as to whether any team is just plain lousy or if they are still working hard is the shot totals. In this nine-game stretch, the Canucks have been outshot (and none too badly other than the Sharks' game) in 5 of the 9 games with the Phoenix Coyotes game (Jan. 15) being a dead heat at 32-32 on shots.

The main problem during this stretch has been goaltending. I know Jason LaBarbera came in and was almost lights out but the first four games of this stretch is pretty indicative of his abilities with a save pct. of .903. That is not going to get you into the playoffs unless you have Nicklas Lidstrom leading a D that allows you to win Cups with a midget in net.

After LaBarbera's mini-meltdown giving up 6 goals vs. St. Louis, he was hideous vs. the NJ Devils being pulled after just 3:29 of the first period after giving up 2 goals on 6 shots including one where he got a great assist on a gola by Zach "don't call me J.P." Parise. Curtis Sanford relieves and pretty much copies the same blunder but settles down somewhat after that.

Then the captain returns and not a moment too soon...or maybe it was too soon. His save pct. in the three games he's played since is a less than stellar .853.

Give him his due, he's been out awhile but if the Canucks have to wait a month really until Mats Sundin is in game shape, Roberto Luongo better be ready to rock 'n' roll post-All-Star Game break.

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