October 18 2011 11:45PM
Luongo's ugly night was compounded by an inverted Bicycle Kick from Alberts
Photo Credit: The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward
It was Rick Rypien Night at Rogers Arena and the Canucks, though absolutely dominant through forty minutes, were unable to beat Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers penalty-killers. In the third frame the ice tilted the other way, and the Rangers scored four goals, three of them on the rush and all of them from home-plate. Canucks fans jeered Luongo, at Rogers Arena and on Twitter, and Bieksa fought and taunted Brandon Dubinsky. When the final buzzer sounded, the Canucks record had slipped to 2-3-1 on the season.
It wasn't all bad news, the final score and Luongo's shaky play aside. Oft embattled defender Keith Ballard was paired with Kevin Bieksa and the pairing seemed to have pretty good chemistry - especially in the offensive end. They dominated possession when they were on the ice, and in one hilarious sequence had back to back chances from the blue-paint in front of King Henrik.
Another positive came in the form of Cody Hodgson, who was fantastic when he was on the ice. In the first he set up Alex Burrows on the power-play for the only Canucks chance that beat Lundqvist (didn't beat the crossbar, however). He also looked great on a second period play when he managed to both draw a New York Rangers penalty, and set up Higgins for a quality scoring chance. Hodgson was possibly the best top-six forward for the Canucks, which, is one of those positives that is actually a negative. If Hodgson was your best top-six forward, it means the twins weren't all that good.
The bad news is twofold - Luongo had an atrocious game. All of the Rangers goals came off of quality chances and two of them came off complete defensive breakdowns by Canucks defenders. None of this changes the fact that allowing four goals on less than twenty shots is almost never going to get the job done.
Personally, I don't buy that the "Bruins broke Luongo" or that he's somehow lost whatever it was that made him an elite goalie for the better part of a decade, but something has got to give. Cory Schneider has been excellent in his two starts this season, Luongo not so much. Is it time to ride Cory Schneider and shelter Luongo's starts until the Italian Stallion reacquires his usual form? Expect a lot of this sort of talk over the next couple of days in Vancouver...
Finally the power-play produced chances but was relatively dreadful. Lots of people will point to the number of saves Lundqvist made tonight, and many of them were incredible (especially late in the second frame when the Canucks had a number of scrambles in the slot but couldn't put the puck home). But a lot of the Canucks shots came from the point. Canucks defenders took 14 shots in the game, 11 of them from the low-percentage areas well beyond the Bowman line. You know how the Rangers scored their goals? They picked corners on scoring chances. What did the Canucks do with most of their best chances in the first forty minutes? They put them well over the crossbar. The Canucks as a team recorded 18 missed shots, 4 from less than 20 feet, with the man-advantage.
So there you have it: the Canucks lost, Luongo sucked, the power-play was off, and the team's October malaise is becoming an increasingly unwelcome houseguest for Vancouver's hockey fans. Though Luongo was the guy earning the boo birds from the fans in attendance, it was the second time in the past three games in which the team was shutout. The Canucks offense isn't firing, the defense is an adventure, and Luongo has been subpar, to put it mildly...
But it's Roberto Luongo who finds himself scapegoated to the extreme. My theory: this is partly out of habit, and largely because of his contract. Another factor, it's easier to do than blaming the team, it's a crutch and a particular type of avoidance. Blaming Luongo allows fans not to address other worrying issues conerning the other stars on the team, like, the Sedins habit of getting dominated by top defensive clubs, or Edler's continued inconsistency.
The Canucks will have a chance to get back in the win column on Thursday night against the Nashville Predators.