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Into the Fire: Can the Canucks hold a lead against St. Louis? (Or get one?)
It's been a topsy turvy seesaw of a season for the Vancouver Canucks.
Superb highs (December) mixed with manic lows (right now). It hasn't had the 1 A.D. feeling of 2012, when the team climbed out of the wreckage of a Stanley Cup disaster, rebuilt Rome (the Presidents' Trophy) and then bowed out in five very quick games to the eventual champion L.A. Kings. It didn't have that induced coma feeling of 2013, when the lockout wiped out the season's first half and gave all 29 losers the excuse to say, "Well, it was a weird year for everyone, right?" (Forget the fact that the final four teams last year were the last four Stanley Cup winners. Don't try to make sense of this.)
This Canucks team is living and breathing in its first season under head coach John Tortorella. It's a new era, as Torts takes over for Alain Vigneault, the guy who basically raised most of these players from birth and turned them into college grads with solid employment.
But the Canucks needs a win right now. Badly. They've lost five straight and it's been frustrating – at least, it should be – with four of those featuring blown third-period leads, a couple in the last minute and both to Pennsylvania teams.
"For whatever reason, closing out games has been a real big problem for the Canucks," wrote the club's own beat writer, Daniel Fung, on Friday. "At some point the Canucks have to learn how to finish the job they started.
"Often times when a team is mired in a slump, they find ways to lose games that they perhaps deserve to win. Eventually though, as long as they keep doing the little things that give them a chance at succeeding, they'll ultimately get back into the win column."
On Friday, Tortorella addressed the Pittsburgh loss.
"Not too many plays happen in front of the net where a guy slaps at a puck with his backhand, goes to a guy's skate, he puts it up to his stick – not too many people can do that, as Crosby did," the coach said of the Penguins' tying goal.
"We are certainly not going to over-think it. I know it's a big story, there's been four of five of them this year. We just have to be able to protect the areas better."
But the toughest thing about almost every blown opportunity is that you're never sure when the next one will come. You're never sure if you'll get that chance again. Rocky wouldn't have gotten a rain check to fight Apollo and I have to choose between Turkey and Ham every morning.
And there have been "four of five" late, blown leads not only this year, but this month. It's an epidemic, not a common cold. Sure, the Penguins got a little lucky on Tuesday. But so did Anaheim in the game before that. And L.A. before that. And Philly before that.
Handing games over to those four teams, those screw-ups comes with a consequence, because it won't get easier and Vancouver lost five points outright in doing so.
Case is point:
Tonight, Vancouver hosts the powerful St. Louis Blues, who combine the touch of T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund with the power forward-ness of Davis Backes with the defence of Shattenkirk, Pietrangelo, and Bouwmesster with the familiar faces of Max Lapierre and Derek Roy.
So... it won't be easy. But it never is.