It’s a bummer that, for the second time in as many games, the Canucks had to fall in a shootout. That said, I’m hoping that the fans are smart enough to differentiate between the sluggish team that barely managed a point versus San Jose on Thursday night, and tonight’s team, which improved as the game went on and controlled the run of play for much of the third period versus the Flames. Yes, Vancouver, your team only skated away with one point, and yes, they’ve now lost 5 of 6, but if you were looking for improvement, it was there tonight. Or, at least I felt it was when I watched this game:
You’ll hear the media people saying that the Canucks have dropped 5 of 6, but it’s somewhat sensationalistic and irresponsible to report it this way when only 1 of the 5 losses was in regulation. They’ve gotten six points in their last six games, which is the same amount of points they’d have collected by going 3 and 3. The next time someone tells you the Canucks are spiraling, respond by pointing out they’re actually playing .500 hockey. It’s still worth a mutter, as this team should be better than .500, but it’s not worth a panic, as they’re not worse than .500, either. Not to mention they were the only of the top three NHL teams to get a point today. Detroit and Philadelphia–the two teams with whom they’re jostling at the top of the league–lost in regulation.
The real big story, I guess, is the odd decision from the NHL war room to call Alex Tanguay’s shootout attempt a goal. Vancouver fans are right to be outraged. The call goes against the NHL’s rule for reviewable goals, which stipulates that the puck has to be visibly across the goal line in order to overturn an official’s no-goal call. In this case, the puck was lost in Luongo’s pads, and there was no way to see it cross the line. Though it obviously did, by the letter of the law, the referee’s no-goal call should have stood, due to inconclusive footage. Puzzlingly, the NHL used their heads and determined that, if Luongo was in the net, so was the puck. More than anything, it’s odd that they decided tonight was the night to go against the letter of the law and utilize common sense. Since when do they do that? Jason Botchford dug up three distinct instances where the War Room called this the other way, and I think that’s the infuriating thing here: it’s not consistent with how they’ve been handling this situation in the past. Plus, where was this approach when the “Intent to Blow” controversy started?
Meh. This game really shouldn’t have even gone to the shootout, anyway. The Canucks’ power play, usually so good, has now thoroughly failed the team in two consecutive games and dropped to third in the NHL. Identical to last night, the team went 0-for-5 a man up, including, again, an important 4-on-3 in overtime. The unit’s had a few short droughts this season, but they need to get this fixed right away. This drought has effectively cost the team two points in the last three days.
In the first period, Kevin Bieksa took a massive blow to the eye from Tom Kostopoulos, which turned out to be a massive blow to the whole Canucks team when Bieksa didn’t return. Word is he’s not concussed (yea!), but one of his eyes is swollen completely shut (nay!).
Do you remember, back in November, when the Canucks’ defense was in total disarray? It got so bad that Vigneault put his foot down, then made his top two pairings and committed himself to leaving them together for better or for worse. It’s been two months since then, and we’ve taken for granted the defensive stability that grew out of his decision. It was apparent after the loss of Bieksa threw everything back into disarray. Ehrhoff, Edler, and Hamhuis all wound up playing over twenty-six minutes, but their ice time and shifts didn’t make much sense and they didn’t synchronize in the slightest. Meanwhile, Keith Ballard still didn’t crack twenty minutes, and Chris Tanev’s minutes actually decreased from the last game.
Worse, nobody was ready or rested to join their regular units on the powerplay, which meant seeing Hamhuis and Samuelsson on the top unit, as well as Ehrhoff and Edler with the hapless second unit. It was a waste of a powerplay. I want to say Vigneault should have used a timeout to rest Ehrhoff and Edler to join their regular forwards, but Christian Ehrhoff played a game-high thirty-three minutes tonight; Vigneault clearly forgot rest was an option for him.
I know Manny Malhotra is one of the forwards mired in a pretty remarkable scoring slump, but he had a great game tonight. Alternate Captain Mal was all over the ice defensively, he won 13 of 22 faceoffs, and he had 5 blocked shots–a game-high.
Raffi Torres, on the other hand, had another subpar outing, and this time he earned himself a benching. Torres only played 5:43 tonight, only thirty-seven seconds more than Kevin Bieksa. The intermission peewee teams had more icetime.
Mason Raymond had a few grade A chances, but he’s still fighting the puck. Of all the slumping forwards, he’s the one that concerns me the most. The Canucks are really thin on the wing if he’s not an effective weapon.
The Sedin line was solid and dangerous again tonight, as Daniel and Henrik both collected a point. However, the real stars of their line were Alex Burrows, who had two assists and was on the ice for all three Canuck goals, and Alex Edler, who was also on the ice for all three goals, and scored two of them himself. The first goal, above, came on a beautiful one-timed snap shot. The second goal came after Jay Bouwmeester slewfooted his goaltender in an ill-advised attempt to distract Alex Burrows.
A brief word on Daniel Sedin’s crosscheck to the back of Mark Giordano: awesome. I recognize that he took a penalty for it, but good on him for responding after the referees let the Flames brutalize the twins all night. Case in point: when “Macho Man” Cory Sarich drove a flying elbow into Henrik Sedin’s face. I understand the referees want to let the teams play, but WWE finishing moves are a bit much.
Ryan Kesler played a surreal game tonight. He seems to have willed his thumb back to health, as he took an unreal 30 faceoffs and won 19 of them. He scored a shorthanded goal that tied the game in the third period. He shadowed Jarome Iginla all night and kept the all-star forward off the scoring sheet. Also, during the second intermission, he flew into outer space and punched a comet into the sun.
Speaking of punching, the Flames’ third goal was a direct result of Roberto Luongo’s aggravating tendency to punch the puck instead of catching it cleanly. Somebody needs to remind him he’s supposed to catch the puck, not kill it. He’s the Rooster Cogburn of goalies.
Weirdest Kevin Weekes statement: “This is why Tambellini hasn’t scored–he shoots lasers.” I assume he meant to say that Tambellini isn’t using his great shot enough, but it sounded like he was ragging on him for literally shooting lasers. And, as everybody knows, lasers are just fine, unless the walls are covered with mirrors.
And finally, the Canucks only had 15 hits tonight. Unacceptable. Robbie Williams has more hits, and he sucks.
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