Thursday night (Jan. 31st) was another great one for a self-proclaimed "Canucks Hater" like myself.
The Vancouver Canucks blew another game, falling 4-3 to the lowly Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Lightning squad went into the game dead last in the Eastern Conference (and only two points ahead of the NHL's worst team, the Los Angeles Kings), sporting a 20-26-5 record despite playing in the Southeast Division, the league's weakest quintet.
The 2003-04 champion Lightning had won only 5 of their previous 16 games going in.
Yet there were Tampa Bay's big guns coming out firing, with Brad Richards (1 goal, 2 assists), Martin St. Louis (3 assists), and Vincent Lecavalier (go-ahead goal late in the second period) all contributing offensively.
Lecavalier even got involved in a skirmish early in the game with the Canucks' Alex Burrows—and won.
Meanwhile, the Canucks' so-called top guns, the Sedins, weren't a factor, with Daniel Sedin picking up a cheap assist on Alex Edler's goal with 25 seconds left when the game was pretty much over—in Tampa Bay's favor. Henrik was held without a point.
Edler had that late goal, but was the goat who led to Lecavalier's go-ahead tally. Lecavalier's 31st goal came from a pass from St. Louis, who intercepted Edler's clearing attempt late in the second.
Oh, this time the Canucks scored first, with overrated defenseman Luc Bourdon scoring just a couple minutes into the game. Of course, they blew a couple of one-goal leads and fell behind 4-2 by the third period.
Don't people say that defense and goal-tending trumps offense? Wasn't Vancouver's defensive style and goalkeeping supposed to shut down the Lightning's vaunted offense? Nope, not this round.
The Canucks' $6.5-million goalie Roberto Luongo, who opted to skip the All-Star Game last weekend and got permission from the team to miss Vancouver's previous game with Dallas, was outplayed by a rookie (Karri Ramo) in the Tampa goal. And by the way, the rookie earns ten times less money than Luongo, at $650,000 per year.
On a recent radio talk show in Vancouver, fans were asked if they cared that Luongo was allowed to stay in Florida to be with his pregnant wife—who by the way, isn't due until playoff time in April—for the Dallas game.
And an overwhelming majority (around 80 percent) supported the goalie's request and the team's grant. Luongo deserved that time off, fans said, especially since this was for family reasons.
Put it this way: if the Canucks miss the playoffs by one or two points—and I would be one of the first to start celebrating—their fans can all look back and say that perhaps missing their goalie against Dallas game cost them. And who knows, perhaps this is the midst of a long slump for Vancouver, who could have avoided this had their most expensive player (Luongo) decided to play against the Stars.
Injuries? Yes sure, the Canucks and their fans can cry about a host of players not in the line-up, such as D-men Sami Salo and Willie Mitchell, to name a few. But please, let's not use that as an excuse.
Didn't Dallas miss a number of players too in the last game, most notably defenseman Sergei Zubov and forward Jere Lehtinen?
And didn't the Stars vanquish the Canucks?
So this injury excuse doesn't wash.
Vancouver is now tied for eighth in the Western Conference with Nashville. Both have 26-21-5 records and 57 points after 52 games after the Predators beat Columbus, who has 56 points.
The Canucks don''t have time to lick their chops, with another game tonight against the Florida Panthers (22-25-5), who are no better than Tampa Bay in the standings.