With a win versus Nashville last night, the Canucks go into All-Star weekend having collected at least one point in 27 of their last 30 games. Yes, that’s the stat Don Taylor reported postgame on Sportsnet Connected, and I want to take a moment to marvel at it. Consider that this stat–this very positive stat–incorporates the points from the amazing mini-slump that now seems so long ago, and ignores the fact those games were eventually lost. Remember when they were cause for concern? Now they’re just part of an extremely positive stat. You’d think the Canucks had been rolling, uninterrupted, for months.
It’s incredible to me what shootouts and overtime points do to perception. A four-game losing streak can be a four-game point streak at the same time. Typically, only one side is reported, and the fires of the fanbase are stoked by a few well-placed omissions. It’s silly, and maybe a little dishonest, too. Well, I’m here to tell you that, if we at PITB stand for anything, it’s hardcore honesty. For example: truth be told, I watched this game:
Roberto Luongo was rightly named the game’s first star tonight. He made 26 saves, several of the category spectacular, and one of the category wowie zowie. For those that have forgotten the transformative power of new goaltending coach Rollie Melanson, consider how deep Luongo is in his crease for the Joel Ward kick save. Last year, that gets past Funny Bob before he has time to react. In fact, there were a few tonight that might have. Instead, Luongo was in the right place at the right time all night (except on the goal against, when he accidentally went swimming at a nearby leisure center).
Jeff Paterson is absolutely correct, too. You hear a lot about Luongo when he plays badly, and very little when he plays well. This speaks to how expectations warp our satisfaction. The moral of the story? Never try. Keep expectations low and you’re more likely to impress.
Of course, the real question about Luongo isn’t whether or not he’s going to stellar. It’s whether or not he’s going to come out and give away his goalie stick. After singlehandedly keeping his team in the game, he owes us that much. If you’ll recall, he skipped the last two star twirls to be privately upset, but he made up for it tonight, giving away three goalie sticks. Why not four, I say? Why couldn’t he make it seven? I think Luongo should give away a Sportchek.
Your game-winning goal scorer? Lee Sweatt, the defensive call-up so comically undertall that teammates were chanting “Rudy! Rudy!” as he was suiting up. Frankly, though, after scoring on his first shot in his first NHL game, Lucky might have been a better moniker. Brad Lukowich and Wade Brookbank can attest to being the fortunate son that gets to receive a pass from the Sedins, too, especially one as pretty as Daniel’s. Give Sweatt credit for the shot, though. He couldn’t have picked a better spot. Into the net is always the best spot to pick. I also loved his goal celebration. What’s the old saying? Act like you’ve been there before. Lady Gaga is jealous of that poker face. James Bond, too. Sweatt played a grand total of 8:49 in this game. In that time, he was on the ice for both Canucks goals and none against. He was bouncing off checks a little bit, but that’s to be expected. You can’t expect a much better effort in a guy’s first NHL game.
That said, sometimes it’s a bit of a shame that scoring the game-winner automatically means a three star selection. Sweatt was in the right place at the right time, but he definitely didn’t have a better overall game than Alex Burrows. Burrows scored the crucial game-tying goal with a tip and a rebound, nearly identical to the game-winner he scored in San Jose at the beginning of the month. Furthermore, while he didn’t get an assist on the game-winner, that was him causing the turnover to Daniel Sedin when he knocked Joel Ward off the puck.
Plus, Burrows was the star of the night’s most hilarious story: his ongoing battle to get into Shane O’Brien kitchen. O’Brien had a game-high seven hits tonight, and I’m pretty sure six and a half were on Burrows. The camera crew caught them chirping back and forth all night, and they were having a whale of a time doing it. Burrows: f*** you, Shane! Ha ha, but seriously, can I get a ride home? In the night’s finest moment, Shane O’Brien dragged Burrows to the ice, then trampled him a little for sport. Burrows went for his instinctual shot to the groin, but upon remembering he and Shane O’Brien were pals, he relented, giving SOB’s jollies a kindly pat instead. Graeme Horton snapped a pic. Kudos to Burrows for being considerate enough to remember there’s a lot less to do at the Roxy when your testicles are bruised.
With an assist on the Lee Sweatt goal, Daniel Sedin is now three points up on his brother for the team scoring lead. Out for blood. Even Beatrix Kiddo is alarmed at his need for retribution.
Get this: Keith Ballard led the Canucks in icetime. It’s true. Ballard was on the ice for a team-high 23:53. How did this happen? Originally, he remained paired with Tanev and seemed again headed for bottom-pairing minutes, but Christian Ehrhoff (who Vigneault played for over nine minutes in the first and clearly wanted to ride), was running around like crazy. It was a tad irresponsible; there were shifts where it looked like Ehrhoff though he was playing right wing, and you can’t do that when you’re paired with a guy playing his first NHL game. I don’t think Vigneault was comfortable with Sweatt as the lone man back when Ehrhoff jumped, so Ballard was reassigned to keep an eye on things. That’s right. Between his initial pairing with Tanev and his new job keeping Ehrhoff honest, Keith Ballard has become this team’s babysitter. He’s the Canucks’ answer to Rosalyn.
Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis also stepped in to fill a need, as he often does. He had some first unit powerplay time, he attempted a game-high 9 shots, and he played a team-high 30 shifts. He also had 2 hits, two takeaways, and 3 blocked shots. As usual, you hardly noticed anything he did. Two of his shifts were at the nearby children’s hospital.
Give the Canucks credit for winning da turd tonight. After allowing an early goal, they took over the final frame. They had discipline: after 3 penalties in first and 2 in the second, the team avoided taking any penalties in the third. They applied pressure, outshooting the Predators 17 to 7. In fact, after being outshot 12-4 in first, the Canucks responded well by outshooting Nashville 31-15 through the rest of the game.
That’s even more impressive when you consider Nashville blocked 19 shots tonight. Give them credit, but make sure you give a ton to Shane O’Brien, who gives his teammates shot-blocking practice at nightclubs: Shane, I think you’ve had enough.
Chris Tanev played 11:26 tonight, including 1:47 of shorthanded time on ice. He has earned Vigneault’s trust remarkably quickly. Good for him. Let’s hope he doesn’t make like M. Night Shyamalan and coast on that early goodwill until it becomes apparent we’ll have to kill him to get rid of him.
And finally: you’ve gotta feel bad for the Nashville line of Jarred Smithson, Nick Spaling, and Joel Ward. They were on the ice for both Canuck goals, and they came on back-to-back shifts. Impressively, they got two more after that, and more impressively, they didn’t give up goals during either of them.
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