I want to be mad at Thomas Vanek, I really do.
After all, he’s the one who made the catastrophic mistake with thirty seconds left in overtime. It’s a play you will see a hundred times a season, and even though everyone knows the smart thing to do is dump it off the boards and hope the cycle keeps going, Vanek went for more.
When you really think about it, it’s something we’ve asked of him all season. This team has relied on Vanek alone for a huge stretches of time, so how hard can you be on a player trying to play his role? It’s by no means an excuse, but I wasn’t surprised to see him force it after carrying the team all game and all year.
Vanek will go down as the scapegoat today, but he’s been Atlas for so long I can’t hate him for what happened. If not for his two goals the game never gets that far, just like a dozen other games this year.
Granted, there was some good work done by the other forwards. Pominville suddenly wants to shoot the puck on the point, and Dominic Moore had another solid game. But Tim Connolly struggled, and Derek Roy screwed up a 3 on 1 that could have ended the game.
Where did Drew Stafford go? Can he practice on the sixth line tomorrow? This is a team once again waiting for things to happen, and Vanek was the only one making the engine go last night. When you can’t get secondary scoring and produce at even strength, you can’t expect very much success.
It’s very much like this team to lose in style. In fact, I didn’t expect anything less from them. If they were going down, it was going to be in a giant pile of fail, and that’s what we got last night. At the very least we can call them consistent. This team has been choking away points against inferior opponents all season, and the trends are holding true here at the end.
What’s sad is that this is the general rule with this team. Where the rare occasions they pull out the win are the exception, the mediocrity of letting a team with one good player beat you is inexcusable. Not this time of year. I’ve complained about lost points all season, but this is the time when the single points are glaring.
There is still a glimmer of hope left for this team, I suppose; but what was once a thread is now a only a few fibers dangling. There is no magic to keep this team alive. Magic is a miracle save from Miller, and a shootout won by a fraction of an inch. What we saw last night wasn’t a team clinging to its playoff hopes, but a group of players battling just to tie a basement dweller.
There is still a bit of fight left in this team, but soon enough there won’t be a battle left to fight.