Life after Luongo: Canucks still can’t score

Lack save

Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis figures to be a very, very busy man on Wednesday. Judging by the way his team has played most of this season and Tuesday night, you have to wonder if Roberto Luongo isn’t the only one on this team who has played his last game as a Vancouver Canuck.

In the first game of the post-Luongo era in Vancouver, we saw that Eddie Lack, with the exception of a slight miscommunication with his defensemen, looks capable of carrying the No. 1 duties Luongo vacated when he was traded to the Florida Panthers earlier in the day. But what we also found is that Lack’s most pressing personal shortcoming is that he can’t score goals.

In dropping a 1-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, the Canucks came up shooting the same blanks they have been firing for more than a month. The loss was the 10th in the past 11 for the Canucks, who remarkably are still in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference. They have not scored more than two goals in a game since January and have done so only once in this disastrous stretch of 11 games.

It’s one thing to not score goals. It’s quite another to play with the lack of urgency the Canucks displayed on the night before the trade deadline. The Canucks had a whole lot of nothing going offensively for most of the game and just when you were looking for them to make a push in a game that was still very much within reach, the Canucks came up limp. They had just four shots in the second period.

Everything about the Canucks points to a team that is on a downward trajectory, which should have Gillis thinking long and hard about the futures of the likes of Ryan Kesler and Alex Edler on Wednesday. Both players would yield a healthy return of young players and prospects who, combined with some of the young talent the Canucks have in the organization, could make the rebuild one that does not have to be too long or too painful.

Lack is now a big part of that rebuild. He has done nothing in his rookie season to suggest that he doesn’t have what it takes to be a No. 1 goaltender. But now that the job is his, the dynamics are about to change. One thing is certain, though. For the foreseeable future, the John Tortorella-coached Canucks are not going to give him the kind of offensive output that will make him feel comfortable.

Actually, goaltending was a prominent theme on the whole evening. Playing in what might be his last game as a New Jersey Devil, Martin Brodeur picked up his 684th career win in a 4-3 triumph over the Detroit Red Wings. Brodeur acknowledged that he has no idea of what will happen at the deadline, but the betting is that he’ll still be a Devil after the deadline. The sellout crowd at the Prudential Center showed the love to Brodeur on numerous occasions. Brodeur acknowledged that he and Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, his surrogate father, have had discussions about his future and he had not been asked by the organization to waive his no-trade clause. The reality is that six goaltenders have already been dealt in the past couple of days and Brodeur was not one of them. The chances of that happening Wednesday are not overwhelming.

The third goaltending story that unfolded was in Nashville, where Pekka Rinne made his first NHL start in 52 games after recovering from a hip infection that required surgery. Rinne is one of the league’s elite goaltenders when healthy, but that much time on the sidelines resulted in some rust in his first start. Rinne stopped just 16 of 19 shots in a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Even if Rinne catches fire down the stretch, the Predators face a real uphill climb to make the playoffs. The loss to the Penguins left them six points in arrears of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference with four teams to leapfrog in order to qualify for the post-season.