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Canucks 'Not Panicking' in Face of Pivotal Game 4

Apr 21, 2010 – 9:34 AM
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Monte Stewart

Monte Stewart %BloggerTitle%

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo was not willing to be a guinea pig for amateur psychologists Tuesday.

As Canucks fans offered free assessments on radio call-in shows on what's supposedly wrong with Luongo's mindset, he was attempting to forget about the worst playoff performance of his career.

He was pulled for the first time in a post-season game Monday night as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Canucks 5-3 to take a 2-1 lead in their Western Conference quarterfinal series.
"I'm fine," Luongo told reporters as the Canucks prepared for Wednesday's fourth game in L.A. "It's about the next game. The key factor is being mentally strong enough to put games behind you and move on to the next one."

Many are wondering whether Luongo, nonchalant as ever in the public eye, still has that ability. His efforts to recover from sub-par efforts have become a recurring theme since he backstopped Canada to a gold medal in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

Monday's second-period hook marked the eighth time that he has been pulled from a game this season.

"You hope this will be the last time," he said. "But it probably won't."

Usually one of the first praised after a win and the first blamed following a loss, he said all of the Canucks have to be held accountable for their plight.

"Sometimes things happen," said Luongo. "Some things have happened in the last month or so, I've rebounded really well to them. We've all got to take some responsibility. Almost all their goals have come on the power play."
"You hope this will be the last time. But it probably won't."
-- Roberto Luongo on Getting Pulled in Game 3

Vancouver's penalty killers have given up seven goals during 12 Kings' power plays, including three on as many opportunities Monday. For the most part, the Canucks have maintained their discipline, but they have not been able to shut the door when shorthanded.

"Five on five we're dominating them," said defenceman Kevin Bieksa. "It's the special teams. Special teams are a big thing in the playoffs."

Monday's one-sided loss was reminiscent of an 8-3 humiliation the Canucks suffered in their final regular-season game at the Staples Center. But rather than fret about the setback, the Canucks tried to sing from the same songbook.

"You've got to want it in the playoffs or you're not going to win," said Bieksa. "Mostly it's who wants it more."

"We have to believe in our system and believe in the guys in our room," said centre Ryan Kesler.

"We're not panicking here. We want it as bad as they do. At times we've dominated five on five. It's their power play that's killing us right now."

On Monday, Kesler received his second straight nomination for the Selke Award, which goes to the NHL's top defensive forward. In Game 4, he will be looked upon for both defensive and offensive help.

The Canucks could use a few unsung heroes right about now, since the Kings have bottled up top scorers Henrik and Daniel Sedin at the right moments. The Sedins have played extremely well at times but struggled to get chances on, let alone beat, Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.

Despite concerns about their lack of productivity, Daniel and Henrik, the league's top regular-season scorer, have each produced three points and are maintaining a respectable point-per-game average.

Coach Alain Vigneault is confident that they can lift the club out of its doldrums.

"They've done it in the past," he said. "The twins are great players. they've learned over the years to be ready for this challenge."

The Canucks could also use a strong goal-prevention effort from their injury-decimated defence corps, which tends to emphasize its offensive game. Vigneault's crew is clearly missing stay-at-home rearguard Willie Mitchell, usually assigned to shadow the opponent's top scorer. Mitchell has missed most of the second half of the season with a concussion and is not expected back anytime soon.

Now would be a good time for another rearguard to rise to the occasion – just in case Luongo can't.
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