It might be safe to say the Canucks are better than the Stars. It stands to reason. The Canucks have beaten the Stars in every single one of their three meetings this year (QED, bitches). In fact, Vancouver has outscored Dallas 15-3 in these contests (4-1, 7-1, and 4-1). From a Canucks’ fan perspective, there’s little to dislike. Really, the only thing about which you could gripe would be the team’s inability to shut these guys out, and you know what? I’m gonna gripe about it. It’s unacceptable, really. I’m downright sick of these bogus 59-minute efforts. Yet again, the crappy Canucks gave up a single craptastic goal to the craptacular Stars. Ridiculous. Anyway, I watched this game:
The Stars were clearly motivated to seek some measure of revenge tonight, especially after coming apart in the two previous losses. For the first time in three games, they kept their heads, and tried, instead, to punish the Canucks with tough physical play. They sort of succeeded, too, registering 48 hits to the Canucks’ 18, led by captain Brendan Morrow, with eight. That’s a Michael Jackson to Jermaine Jackson ratio of hits. Thankfully, all the Canucks skated away without injury, save Aaron Volpatti, who left the game with bruised rib cartilage.
The Sedins have taken a beating over their careers, and considering how much time they spend with their back to defenders, ripe to receive unlimited crosschecks, you’d think their spine was made of silly putty by now. Instead, they’ve simply gotten quite good at absorbing the blow. I noticed one play where Daniel Sedin actually backed into the crosscheck, and the perfect timing of it caught his defender off guard and caused him to lose his footing. It was sort of brilliant.
With the massive hit advantage, the shots completely even and the scoring chances relatively even, you’d think the Stars would have fared better. But there’s still special teams, where the Canucks have been good all season, and downright spectacular against Dallas. As Gord McIntyre points out, they’re 8-for-15 in three games against the Stars this year. “I don’t know why,” said Henrik Sedin, when asked about this, “But we own a lot of teams.” I believe he meant to say pwn.
The great thing about the Canuck powerplay is that it can beat you a few different ways. They have a number of set down-low plays, plus the on-the-fly wizardry of the Sedins, but lately they’ve been getting it done with shots from the point. Mikael Samuelsson’s goal came on a beautiful wrist shot from that weird spot on the ice just above the faceoff dot where it’s against the rules for the goalie to try to save it if it’s a power play. Christian Ehrhoff’s was your basic blistering slapper.
Speaking of Ehrhoff, I’m going to be honest: If Samuelsson has to replace one of the point men on the power play, I much prefer he steps in for Alex Edler. Edler’s a better passer than Ehrhoff, but he’s not nearly as mobile. Edler’s typically the static defenseman on the five-man unit, and that’s a much easier vacancy to fill than Ehrhoff’s specialized roamer role. Recall how the Canucks’ power play suffered when Ehrhoff was out with the ear injury. With Edler out, they didn’t miss a beat.
Speaking of defencemen, let’s talk about Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis. He blocked a whopping seven shots tonight, and still found time to block two more in a charity basketball game for at-risk youth. He played a game-high 24:38, and, as usual, you hardly noticed him.
Am I the only one who’s completely blown away by Lee Sweatt and Chris Tanev? Sweatt showed fabulous improvement in his second NHL game, playing physically and looking stronger on the puck than the game before the break. He threw three hits and blocked two shots in 14:53 of ice time. Chris Tanev, meanwhile, looked incredible in his 17:04 of playing time. I was especially impressed with one play where he went into the corner, drew two forecheckers, then made a calm, crisp outlet pass before absorbing the hit. His patience is remarkable. People were making a big deal about Cody Hodgson being the first Mike Gillis draft pick to make the NHL, but let’s not downplay the GM’s ability to find NHL quality talent elsewhere. Sweatt’s a European signing, and Tanev was a free agent out of college. Considering any team could have signed these guys, Gillis deserves credit for the fact that they’re on the Canucks right now.
Speaking of Cody Hodgson, it was nice to see him come out of this game without having to make an appointment with a medical specialist of some sort. It was a pretty quiet first night on the stat sheet for Cody, but if you want to raise an eyebrow, consider that he was 2-for-9 in the faceoff circle. That’s not good, but the real story here is the fact that he took so many. Alex Bolduc was getting two a game on a good night. Is tonight the most faceoffs a Canucks’ 4th-line center has taken in one game this season? I think it might be. Anyhow, apart from this, I thought Hodgson was only all right. At times, he looked slow, but he looked smart, and he looked skilled. He also looked a bit like Charlie Conway, captain of the Mighty Ducks. He should get right out in front of things and tell Alain Vigneault to stay the Hell away from his mom.
Before you get on Cody for the faceoffs, by the way, all the Canucks were terrible tonight in this regard. Their best guy was Henrik Sedin, who went 8-for-17. The team went 36% on draws. All-Star hangover? Kesler and Henrik still have to readjust to the other guy caring who wins the faceoff.
You’ve got to feel for Dallas a little on the shorthanded goal (above). After cutting the lead in half, Loui Eriksson gets a pass in a good area and looks poised for another great shot. Instead, the puck jumps, sending the Canucks the other way on a two-on-one. Pay special attention to Jannik Hansen’s fake, which freezes Stephane Robidas and allows Hansen to space out the rush. Robidas knows that Kesler is streaking down his blind side, so when Hansen suggest an early pass, you know Robidas is worried that Kesler’s about to blow by him. He backs up a little. Instead, Hansen keeps it, now with room to go wide, and the eventual saucer pass to Kesler is a beauty. This goal was a huge backbreaker, although not as huge a backbreaker as The Big Show’s Cobra Clutch Backbreaker.
Cory Schneider was good, but this is no longer a new and interesting story. He’s always good against the Stars. Stars of any kind, actually. Even Space Jam’s MonStars would be no match for Cory Schneider. He should team up with Ben Affleck to form an intergalactic crime-fighting duo: Moonraper and Starcrusher.
Brilliant observation from Daniel’s wife, Rachael: when the announcer says “no score,” he is incorrect. The score is 0-0. Instance where the phrase might be acceptable: when the press box runs out of Skor.
And finally, how weird was it to have such a pitiful attendance? Granted, this had everything to do with a Dallas snowstorm that made it difficult to get to the arena, but still. At times, it gave the game an eerie sound, as the crowd noise was chillingly muted. I’m not sure who had a harder time with it: broadcast guys, who sounded nonplussed by the quiet, the production staff, who couldn’t seem to stay away from depressing crowd shots, or the events staff, who clearly printed more “Crush the Canucks!” posters than they needed. They had so many, even, that they were giving them to Canucks fans. One little girl had folded over the “Crush the” portion and was proudly waving a sign that said “Canucks!” That girl is a genius.
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