Just like their previous two games against the Rangers and Islanders, the Canucks outshot their opponents in the first period. Unlike the last two games, the Canucks continued the trend in the second, and it made all the difference. They came out of the first two periods with a two-goal lead, the worst lead in hockey, but I wasn’t scared for a minute. The Canucks were playing too well to let that lead slip away. Thankfully, I was right. Unlike Patrick Stewart, I haven’t seen everything, but I did see this game. Mainly because I watched this game.
Jannik Hansen is amazing.
Hrm, I should probably say more than that. Hansen had a fantastic game, earning first star honors (without the “u” because they were in the US) by notching two assists and being a general pain in the posterior to play against. He’s not a flashy player: there’s nothing big and exciting to his game, no one big moment to point to. He just does so many little things well. He constantly plays the right way and today was rewarded. Even his assist on Daniel’s game-winning goal (seen above) was just another little thing that he does so well – just a pokecheck in the neutral zone to cause a turnover – but it was the difference in the game.
Speaking of that goal, the shift leading up to it was the only time the fourth line got stuck in the defensive zone the entire game. And the only reason they got stuck there was a terrible pass to the point from Raffi Torres that sent the puck all the way down the ice and allowed Washington a chance to hem the Canucks in. I was incredibly frustrated with Torres in that moment because I was suddenly certain that the Capitals would score and that the fourth line, who played incredibly well, would shoulder the blame. Instead, Daniel scores the game-winner on another Norris-caliber play from Mike Green who, with great anticipation of the flow of play, steps up to make a big hit on Hansen instead of turning to try to catch Daniel on the breakaway. Lovely.
Daniel Sedin must be thrilled right now, as he managed to score two goals without a single assist from Henrik. His second goal into the empty net gave him 27 on the season, good for third in the league, but more importantly gave him 57 points, two more than Henrik. Henrik’s brazen insult to Daniel at the end of his Hart Trophy acceptance speech is coming back to haunt him.
Speaking of things Henrik might regret, how about his terrible attempt at being a defenceman on the first goal of the game? Ehrhoff ended up in front of the Capitals goal and Henrik covered for him and by covered for him I mean he completely lost track of his check and drifted into the middle of the ice allowing Hendricks to go in completely alone and score. John Garrett had a helpful comment: He can’t skate as fast backwards as he can going forwards. Thanks Garrett. Most people can’t.
In the absence of Aaron Rome, who left the game halfway through the first period with an MCL sprain, all the Canucks defense picked up some extra minutes, except Keith Ballard. Ballard’s extra minutes apparently went to Kevin Bieksa, who played a season-high 28:35 to lead the Canucks in ice-time. The player who led the Capitals in ice-time was, unsurprisingly, Alex Ovechkin. This is not a coincidence. Bieksa clearly had the assignment of shutting down Ovechkin and did an admirable job. Ovechkin had only one decent goal-scoring chance and it came on the powerplay while Bieksa was not on the ice. This is because Ovechkin played for literally the entire powerplay (shift 18) and it would have been incredibly stupid for Bieksa to do the same.
The rest of the defense also played well, with two goals coming from the blueline, both on fantastic slapshots. Jannik Hansen sent a perfect pass to the point for Edler’s one-time bomb that tied up the game. Seriously, that pass was as flat as Saskatchewan and twice as pretty. Christian Ehrhoff’s goal was similarly hard and low, like a pitch from Chad Bradford. The book on Semyon Varlamov is apparently to go for the bottom half of the net. It’s not as interesting a book as “How To Fight Bears.“
Luongo was solid as Iraq as he turned aside 22 of 24 shots. His best save was his first save, stoning Nicklas Backstrom on the breakaway. He didn’t need to be spectacular, but he earned the win.
Despite each player finishing -1, the Jessie Spano line played pretty well, creating a lot of scoring chances and looked as dangerous as Croctopus (in 3D!) all game. For some odd reason, however, Raymond and Tambellini just haven’t been able to finish their chances, which is a shame because Kesler has been setting them up so well recently. Favorite Kesler moment of the game, however, had to be when he pushed Ovechkin down to the ice by the back of his pants. The back of OV’s jersey was tucked in, exposing the back of his pants, allowing Kesler to lodge his stick in and just push straight down. It was a cheap and hilarious play. Let’s face it: Kesler is a bit of a [Washington Monument], but he’s our [Hounen Matsuri sculpture].
The third line, however, struggled once again. Raffi Torres and Mikael Samuelsson didn’t get on the ice in the final 7 minutes of the game, as Alain Vigneault preferred to send out Manny Malhotra with Tanner Glass and Jannik Hansen instead (Bolduc left the game with a shoulder injury). Torres hasn’t scored a goal in 8 games, Malhotra hasn’t in 9 games and Samuelsson, 10 games. The Canucks will need tertiary scoring from these guys at some point.
The Canucks were worse in the circle tonight than this poor kid. Bolduc was the best centre on the night, managing to win 2 of 4 draws for 50%. Malhotra, Sedin, and Kesler were 17%, 25% and 43% respectively. Disconcertingly, the Canucks were 4-for-21 in the defensive zone, which is normally a strength. Yikes.
One of my favorite moments in the game came at the very end, after Daniel’s empty-net goal. Tanner Glass is such a consummate team player, that even with 8 seconds left in the game and leading by two goals, Glass insists on going to the bench for a line change. See the game highlights video at the 4:00 mark for the magical moment. Classy guy.
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