Luongo’s Back: Vancouver For The Stanley Cup!

luongo-back-vancouver-stanley-cupIn a previous post I explained how the playoffs change the dynamic of a hockey game and how pure skill is not going to determine a winner. However, based on Vancouver’s performance against Nashville in Game 6, it seems as if the Vancouver Canucks might have overcome the psychological taxation that the playoffs bring. They have now returned as one of the favourites to win the cup!

The team had a lot to say about what they are expecting in the next round. Luongo seems to have regained his confidence back after he took a beating in games 4 and 5 against Chicago. Against either Detroit or San Jose, Vancouver will need to have near-perfect goaltending.

Luongo is a stranger to adversity – he has always been one of the best goaltenders in the league. He also had no problem dispatching foe after foe in the olympics to win gold for Canada. So when he ran up against trouble playing Chicago, it seemed to shock him psychologically. The confidence-blow lasted for a number of games almost costing Vancouver their season. Fortunately Luongo was able to hang in to dispatch Chicago. During the Nashville series he continued to build his confidence back up and now he seems to be ready once again.

One thing is for sure, whether it is Detroit or San Jose that they must face in the next round, Luongo is going to have to be at his best to keep pucks out of the net. His performance has been hit or miss in the post-season but I believe he is once again up to the task.

In The Playoffs, it’s Not Just About Skill

“The story of how the Vancouver Canucks are the best, but even the best can lose in the playoffs. Anything can happen.”

Each season we see remarkable comebacks, terrible losses and unpredictable games. The other night saw a fantastic San Jose Sharks comeback from a 4-0 deficit, to get 5 goals in a row and win it 5-4. Although amazing, that game was routine compared to the unbelievable change in momentum in the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks series.

Let me set the stage for you.

vancouver-canucks-are-the-bestThe Vancouver Canucks are by far the best performing team of the 2011 season with a league high 117 points. They went on to win the President’s Trophy. The top-scorer in the league, Daniel Sedin, is a Canuck and Art Ross Trophy winner. Henrik Sedin, Daniel’s brother, was the 4th best scorer of the league thanks to his enormous number of assists. Their goalie, Roberto Luongo, is a legendary Canadian champion who went on to carry Canada to the gold medal in the Vancouver Olympics. Luongo and his partner in crime, Cory Schneider are on hand to win the Jennings Trophy, awarded for outstanding goaltending. I could go on and on, but according to all measurable statistics, Vancouver is the best team of the 2010-2011 season.

The playoffs, however, change everything.

Well not everything. The Canucks had an amazing start to the series, winning 3 games in a row. When they headed to Chicago for game 4 no one expected anything other than a relatively easy win for Vancouver to advance them on to the next round. Unfortunately for the Canucks, this is where psychology took over.

Perhaps they were over-confident. Up 3 games, they felt they didn’t need to give it their all. Perhaps it was Chicago’s determination to not be eliminated. Or maybe Vancouver took to celebrating early by having 9 shots of jack each before the game. Regardless, something had changed and it didn’t take long before this hockey fan knew there was a serious problem.

Chicago gave it their all to get to an early start in the game and immediately the Canucks were hit psychologically. A couple quick goals demoralized the team and they were not able to shake off their lack of preparation for the game. They thought they could win it blindfolded but reality did not settle in fast enough for the team. Vancouver’s 7-2 loss that night carried back to home ice where they are currently losing 5-0 with no hopes of getting back in the game.

Momentum is referred to multiple times by the commentators every game as it is one of the biggest determinants of a game’s outcome. The Blackhawks shifted momentum their way, turned it into a psychological game, made the Canucks question themselves and now Vancouver is in a really bad position.

Thanks to their early dominance (3-0 lead in the series) Vancouver can afford to lose a couple games. Unfortunately, it is a slippery slope and each game they lose will continue to demoralize them and make every game after harder to win. Letting the Blackhawk’s get to them has made Vancouver’s unquestionable skill largely irrelevant.