Another Blown Multi-Goal Lead, Canucks drop tilt with Vegas

Monday night at Rogers Arena, the Vancouver Canucks lost a spirited game to the visiting Vegas Golden Knights 5-4, after a crazy third period, which saw Vancouver score three straight goals to take a 4-2 lead, only for Vegas to do the same thing, and reclaim the one goal lead, and hold on to the victory.  The sentiment across “Canucks Nation” seems to be the same: This would’ve been a fun game in 2019, but in 2022, we’ve seen this movie too many times.

During the 2018-19 or 2019-20 NHL campaigns for the Vancouver Canucks, when they were still considered a “young team on the rise”, a crazy six goal third period with one of the league’s top teams where they ultimately come up short would be seen as a big character game that the team could build off of, and draw from in the future.  But four years, two coaches, and (technically) FOUR General Managers later, with only one playoff appearance in that time, these games are no longer fun.  They’re no longer a learning experience.  They’re a stark reminder of the mistakes this team has made over the past decade in the wake of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals.

For the seventh time this season, the Canucks blew a multigoal lead, as they’re now only two blown leads away from tying the club record of nine, set all the way back in the Pre-Captain Kirk era of 1986-87, and there’s still over fifty games remaining in this season, so they have plenty of opportunities to tie and pass that record, and at the rate the Canucks have been going, it wouldn’t be a shock if it happened before Christmas.

Vancouver came into this game off a pair of wins, trying to string three wins in a row together for the first time in this season, while Vegas is one of the top teams in the Western Conference, boasting a 14-4-1 record as they pulled into the parkade at Rogers Arena, putting to bed all the off-season theories that the Golden Knights were due for a cataclysmic downfall this year.  Vancouver thought they opened the scoring in the first period of play, as Curtis Lazar tipped in a point shot, before the goal was challenged and called back on an offside call.  Vancouver would open the scoring, for realzies this time, when Andrei Kuzmenko capitalized on a great dash to the net and dish from Brock Boeser, who extended his points streak to seven games with the assist on Kuzmenko’s eighth of the season.  The Golden Knights would strike back in quick succession, as Mark Stone and William Carrier would score less than a minute apart to give Vegas their first lead of the hockey game.

The third period was where things got interesting, especially if you were an outside viewer, who isn’t used to the ins and outs of the 2022-23 Vancouver Canucks, but for Canucks faithful watching the game around BC, it was a recipe for disaster.  Captain Bo Horvat tied the game early in the third with his team leading fifteenth goal on the campaign, making up for him whistling a shot wide from the slot about twelve seconds earlier.  While the same can’t be said for his team, Horvat is having a career year, as only Connor McDavid has scored more goals this season than the Canucks Captain.

Three minutes later, Luke Schenn did what Luke Schenn does.  He let go a point shot.  Not trying to go top corner, not trying to blast it.  Just a shot on net, try to find a rebound.  Luckily for Luke Schenn, there was a Skytrain car worth of people between him and Vegas netminder Logan Thompson, and Thompson wasn’t seeing that shot with X-RAY vision, so it slipped in on the blocker side, and Vancouver was back on top.  Vancouver would strike one more time to make it 4-2, as Elias Pettersson went to work in front of the net, picked up his own rebound and just willed it past Logan Thompson for his tenth marker of the year to give the Canucks their dreaded multi goal lead.

The party ends for the fans in attendance at Rogers Arena at that point, as the inevitable is certain at this point.  Even after interference from a camera peeking through the glass in the corner disallowed one of Vegas’ goals, the moment had already swung back in their direction.  A defensive collapse here, a goal Thatcher Demko would certainly like to have back there, and just like that.  Vegas had three quick ones of their own, were back on top 5-4, and would hold the lead from there, despite some late pressure from the Canucks with the goalie pulled.  In the post-game scrum, Luke Schenn was quoted saying “It has nothing to do with systems, we’re getting caved in out there”, a possible shot at management, who have publicly called out Head Coach Bruce Boudreau for the team’s defensive woes.  Probably the shot of the night from Sportsnet Pacific on the home broadcast was of Canucks President Jim Rutherford standing up and walking away after the Golden Knights’ initial 5-4 goal, before it was called back.

The Stories of “Trader Jim” Rutherford’s willingness to dismantle a team in order to make it better is no secret.  We saw it in Carolina, which led to a Stanley Cup in 2006, we saw it in Pittsburgh, which lead to back to back Cups for the Penguins in 2016 and 2017.  Questions remain in Vancouver if tweaks are even possible at this point.  Are the Canucks truly one or two trades away from being a great team, or is it time for Canucks owner Francesco Aquillini to finally give in and allow his team to do the one thing he has prevented for the past eight years.  A proper rebuild.  No more “Win Now”.  No more “just try to sneak in and see what happens”.  Full blown tear it down, trade assets for picks, and pray to the Hockey Gods that you land Connor Bedard at the draft.

Or they could just keep doing what their doing, make one trade and hope for the best, and if you know this team, you know it’ll be the latter.

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