I’ve been following the local professional ice hockey team here in Vancouver since I was about seven or eight years-old. Had I known how much disappointment embarking on such an endeavour would entail in years between then and now, I might have chosen something else to do. On Saturday evening, the Vancouver Canucks were facing elimination in game six versus the Flames of Calgary. They roared out to a three-goal lead in the first period, silencing the crowd in Calgary and putting doubt in the Flames team. Good hockey teams have killer instinct and won’t let the foot off the gas. A good team knows the best way to protect a lead isn’t to sit on it but to go out there and continue to score and dominate. The Vancouver Canucks, however, are not a good hockey team. They gave the Flames a sliver of hope and that’s all they needed. Well before the second period ended, Calgary pushed back and riding on confidence and hope, managed to score three straight goals to tie the game at three.
Championship caliber teams would manage to hold onto to a three-goal lead and win the game. That’s what champions do, they win, especially when gifted such an advantage. Vancouver was far from being anything to close to a champion last night. They folded like a fragile house of cards, tumbling down as the Calgary teams chipped away at the three goal deficit. I don’t think a single person watching the game didn’t realize that it was just a matter of time before Calgary would tie it up.
When the game was tied, to my surprise, the Canucks managed to find a modicum of redemption. They somehow managed to score another goal, briefly halting the Calgary momentum and taking the lead once again at 4-3. It seemed like a fluke though, a random bit of luck, like a gambler finding a lost chip on the casino floor, giving him one more chance to make a bet to save his skin. So this fragile Vancouver team ended the second period, perilously holding onto a one goal lead. Now, if you were to pour over the nearly century old statistics from all the played NHL games, you would find that the team entering the third period with a lead usually wins. I don’t have the exact percentage but here’s some current relevant data. Of course, that data doesn’t account for a Vancouver team that seemed afraid to win and a Calgary team that refused to believe they would be beaten by a fragile Canucks players.
So when the third period started, I had zero expectation that the lead would hold. I only had to wait about six minutes to for the Canucks to surrender the inevitable tying goal. It was at this point I knew that Vancouver would lose the game and everyone was just waiting until the Calgary would take their first and only required lead of the game. It was clear to everyone that the Canucks were just not determined enough to score one more goal to save their season. It surprised me that it took until the 15 minute mark of the third period for Calgary to take their lead. I was sure they would have done it much earlier. Once it was done, I’m not even sure if it was necessary to play the five remaining minutes. They could have played another three periods of hockey and none of the Canucks would have mustered up a goal.
The Vancouver Canucks lost the game in a spectacular collapse, in a way that history remembers the worst ways for a sports team to lose. The Canucks had to win this game and they should have been desperate. They somehow managed to secure a three-goal lead but in a manner befitting of a non-championship team, they bungled that. Then, given a chance of redemption with a 4-3 lead, they again frittered that away.
Failure is disappointing but it’s even more disappointing if you don’t learn from failure. To that end, I’ve learned to bet against the Canucks as that’s usually a pretty good bet. As some of you might have remembered, I wagered weeks ago that Calgary would win the series. I won that bet easily and my wallet is slightly thicker tonight because of the incompetence of the Vancouver Canucks.