Colorado-Vancouver: The Stick That Broke the Canucks' Back

Christopher KingCorrespondent IApril 1, 2008

Oh, how fragile a team can be. All it took was one stick to break the back of the Vancouver Canucks. 

This was a game in which all the stars seemed to align in the first period.  The Canucks took a two-goal lead in the first only to give it up to the Colorado Avalanche again. 

That was a major point in the game, and it was déjà vu. 

The Canucks looked good at the start, winning battles in the corners and getting to pucks first.  It seemed they were starting to understand the type of game they had to play. 

If they weren't going to score, they at least had to outwork the other team.  This strategy succeeded. 

Until the real turning point in the game.  Willie Mitchell was going for the one-timer on what looked like a good chance.  A third goal was coming, and his stick shattered. 

The panicked Canucks couldn't get organized and scrambled on the way back, letting a goal in. 

Panic seems to be the Canucks' problem of late.  Maybe it's that Mattias Ohlund is missing or that Willie Mitchell is not having a good game, but lately there doesn't seem to be that calm in the back end. 

Too many scramble plays cost them games.  When the Canucks are not playing a system, they seem to forget how to play hockey. 

It's definitely a fragile team when a broken stick and a broken play that leads to a goal shuts the team down.

The Avalanche never worried.  After all, they've done this before.  They had come back to win 6-2 over the Canucks just recently. 

They are a team that understands momentum and how it can change a game immediately.  The Avs never panic.  They maintain their play regardless of what happens on the ice, positive or not. 

That is something the Canucks have a lot of trouble doing.  When the pressure is on and the cards are on the table, they fold.  

Before the melt down, the Canucks did have a few bright moments that they could have built on.  The physical play of Markus Naslund was a huge highlight. 

Naslund looked to be understanding how he will have to play on this team to remain here.  He was hitting and fighting almost every shift. He knows he must create space for himself on the ice.

He also had a few bright defensive plays tonight.  He had a big hit potentially saving a goal in close on Roberto Luongo.

Trevor Linden, though he was not as on fire as he was Sunday against Calgary, contributed on the first goal and was moving well throughout the game. The Canucks in general had a strong physical game, and it almost worked. 


Willie Mitchell had the toughest game on the defense.  His broken stick directly caused a goal, and he had some questionable breakdowns in the offensive zone.  He is one of the veterans on the team and the others take his lead. 

If he is having a poor game, they all do.

Contrary to popular opinion, the Canucks can score.  They proved that against Calgary and in earlier games this season.  But they need to have timely scoring when they're down, not just when they're winning.

The Canucks will miss the playoffs.  I'm not saying this because I know what kind of team they are.  They are very good at hiding that.  I can say this because I know what kind of team they aren't. 

They aren't winners.  They don't know what it takes to win.  For the Canucks to truly be a winning squad, they need to know how to solve tough teams.  The Avs are a tough team and they know how to win. 

The Canucks' first problem is how fragile they are.  When their backs are against the wall, they let the smallest of problems overcome them.

They must find a way to come back from a deficit.  They cannot be as fragile as the stick that broke their backs tonight.