Stanley Cup Finals 2011: 6 Goats for the Vancouver Canucks
As the glow of burning cars illuminated downtown Vancouver, the Canucks players had to answer to the throng of media questions about losing Game 7 and the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins.
The Bruins were clearly the better team during these seven games and deserved their first Stanley Cup since 1972.
What about these Vancouver Canucks?
By all standards, the team had an excellent season, the best season in franchise history.
And while the sting of this loss still burns for the players and the fans, there is hope, as they have a core of good players who are still young and will all be back.
Tonight, however, is not a time for looking forward. Tonight is a time to reflect on the past seven games and what went wrong.
How does a team that walked through the regular season and appeared to be on the brink of winning it all fall flat?
Here are the top six goats for the Vancouver Canucks.
6. Ryan Kesler
Ryan Kesler had been the heart of the Canucks. He carried them during their second round win against a tough Nashville team and looked like a sure bet to win the Conn Smythe.
Against Boston, however, he completely disappeared.
There has been speculation that he never fully healed from his groin injury he suffered in Game 5 against San Jose, which led to his poor play against the Bruins.
Whether that's the case or not, the Canucks did not get the 40 goal, high energy leader they had all season.
Kesler ended the finals with one assist, a shocking minus-six and only took 18 shots.
Eighteen shots in seven games? Minus-six?
These are not Kesler like numbers. He also was part of the non-existent Canucks first power play, which all but sealed Vancouver's fate.
In years past, Kesler had a tendency to lose his cool and play too chippy, taking him out of his game. In Games 2 and 3 in Boston, where this series was won, Kesler regressed into that player again.
In those two games, he seemed more interested in exacting some sort of revenge against Bruins players and racked up 31 penalty minutes.
The Canucks needed one of their leaders to step up and play better. He didn't, and they are left looking forward to next year.
5. Christian Erhoff
The free agent to be Erhoff had been an offensive threat during the Canucks playoff run coming into the finals.
Once there, like many of the Canucks top players, he went missing.
He only contributed one assist in the seven games and looked lost on the power play.
Erhoff didn't play much defense either, and that's not good for a defenseman.
He ended the finals at minus-six and minus-13 for the entire playoffs.
Those numbers included his woeful Game 3 performance, where he was minus-three and looked asleep the entire game.
As the Canucks look forward, they will have a choice to make between retaining Erhoff or Kevin Bieksa. This performance may make that decision a lot easier for the Canucks.
4. Daniel Sedin
Daniel Sedin may very well end up winning the Hart Trophy as the league MVP in Las Vegas in a few weeks. Lucky for him, the voting for that award happens before the Stanley Cup finals.
The Boston Bruins found a way to make Daniel look invisible and mediocre.
Known as the goal scorer of the twins, Daniel Sedin only netted one goal (in Game 6, after the game was out of reach) and ended the finals with four points.
The goal scorer only managed 22 shots in the seven games. The Canucks needed their best player to show up, and he simply did not do it.
Like Kesler and Erhoff, Daniel Sedin was not able to muster anything on the power play, the power play which had been the league's best during the regular season.
In the biggest game of his career, he was on the ice for all four of Boston's goals and only managed two shots on goal.
Daniel, and his brother, will need to find a way to be tougher during next year's playoffs if the Canucks are to finally win the mug.
3. Henrik Sedin
Henrik Sedin was named the Canucks team captain prior to the start of the season. All year long, he was the steady and calm leader, setting up his brother and Alex Burrows and leading the league's best power play.
Where did that guy go during the seven games against Boston?
He had one point. One. That's one more than everyone reading this had.
Sedin got that one point, a pretty goal, in Game 6 after the Canucks were out of it.
Like his brother, he was on the ice for all four Boston goals in Game 7. The Canucks need more out of their captain.
It was too easy for Boston to knock him off the puck, and most of the Sedin's shifts became momentum killers.
2. Roberto Luongo
Roberto Luongo has a long summer ahead of him.
There are many Vancouver fans who are going to lay this disappointment at his feet.
Luongo showed us many times during this playoffs why he is an elite goalie. He also showed us why many question his mental focus and ability to win the big game.
After playing lights out in the first two home games, he fell apart on the road.
In Game 3 in Boston, he gave up eight goals. While not all of them were his fault, he seemed to pack it in when his team needed him to stand tall and get their backs.
For an example of what that looks like, he need look no further than the other end of the rink.
Luongo bounced back from two bad performances in Boston to shut out the Bruins and have the Canucks on the verge of winning the Cup in Boston in Game 6.
He was terrible in that game. He gave up three goals on four shots, two of them horribly weak goals and was eventually pulled.
Despite that, he still had a chance to be a hero, winning Game 7 at home.
He lost that game as well, and while he wasn't terrible, he wasn't good either. He needed to be unbeatable the way Tim Thomas was. He wasn't, and the Canucks lost.
There is going to be a huge outcry from a vocal bunch of fans for the Canucks to make a change at goalie. How it plays out will be one of the more interesting and intriguing off season story lines.
1. Alain Vigneault
In many ways, Alain Vigneault was out-coached in the Stanley Cup Finals.
If he made any adjustments, it is unclear what they were.
In the first round, when Chicago was shutting down the Sedin line, he made an adjustment. He moved Alex Burrows to the Kesler line, which sparked it and they won the series.
He didn't make a similar move in the finals until the third period of Game 7 down 3-0.
Not only did he find a way to spark his offense or his power play, he allowed the Bruins to dictate the style of play most of the series.
Boston doesn't have the skaters Vancouver does, but were able to neutralize that by being the more physical team and packing their defense in. Vigneault had no answers.
This is what they pay coaches to do.
In Game 3, he failed to call a timeout after two, somewhat fluky goals, to try and calm the team down. He allowed Kesler, Burrows, etc., to lose their composure and try and match Boston's chippyness.
He let the Bruins play their game, and he paid for it.
By only coming up one game short, Vigneault's job is not in danger, and hopefully, he will look back on how close he came, make the proper adjustments and get this team back to the finals next season.