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Cullen: Canucks Come Up Short, Again

Scott Cullen
5/12/2010 9:27:35 AM
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 For the second straight season, the Vancouver Canucks were bounced, unceremoniously, from the playoffs by the Chicago Blackhawks and, for the second straight offseason, Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo is going to deal with questions about his ability to elevate his play when it matters most.

The Canucks only scored one goal in the clinching Game Six, so there's plenty of blame to go around, but a franchise goaltender doesn't give his team a very good chance to win when allowing five goals in a game and Tuesday night was the sixth time since Valentine's Day (and third time in this series) that Luongo had allowed at least five goals against.

Dustin Byfuglien, who scored the fifth Blackhawks goal, was a Canucks killer in the series, scoring four goals and six points while wreaking havov in front of Luongo; much like he did last season. 

If there's anything to be taken from that, it's that more teams will start planting players in front of Luongo in an effort to throw him off his game.

Jonathan Toews had one assist in Game Six and led the way for Chicago in the series, scoring 12 points in six games.  A big series performance for a rising star player.

For the Canucks, first-round hero Mikael Samuelsson had a rough finish to the season, going minus-3 with 14 PIM in the final game. 

But Samuelsson wasn't alone.  Many of Vancouver's top players needed to be better.  Henrik Sedin led the Canucks with six points, but his minus-4 rating tied Christian Ehrhoff for team-worst in the series.

Though he had ten points in 12 playoff games, Ryan Kesler scored just one goal in the postseason and none against Chicago and Daniel Sedin managed just a single goal in the Chicago series as well.

This isn't to suggest that other factors didn't contribute to Vancouver's loss.  Injuries on the Canucks blueline obviously didn't help. 

Alexander Edler got hurt in Game Six, only playing 6:59 before departing, leaving Kevin Bieksa, Shane O'Brien and Christian Ehrhoff to play big minutes.  It's less than ideal when O'Brien if forced to play 22:43, a total he only surpassed twice all season.   

Combined with the absence of Willie Mitchell and a gingerly-moving Sami Salo, Edler's injury was too much for the Canucks to handle. 

The dagger came late in the second period.

Down 2-0 late in the second period, the game really turned on a Vancouver power play, when Pavol Demitra turned the puck over at the Chicago blueline and David Bolland scored a shorthanded goal, that Luongo should have stopped -- had to stop, considering the score -- on the ensuing breakaway.

With 45 seconds left in the period, the Canucks put on furious pressure in the Blackhawks zone, yet several good scoring chances were turned aside and it made a third-period comeback seem like a daunting task to say the least.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.


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