I feel like we’ve been spouting this statistic a lot lately, but the Canucks still haven’t lost two consecutive regulation games since November. I used to be impressed; now I’m just annoyed. I mean, they keep alternating wins and losses, forcing me to point to this statistic every second game. No more, friends. Here’s a new stat: the Canucks haven’t won two consecutive games in regulation since the beginning of this month. In short, the Canucks are probably sellers.
Okay, maybe not, especially not after a victory (he said, sounding a lot like a shortsighted NHL GM). I’m not a fan of the alternating wins and losses, but I’m a fan of the wins, and I quite enjoyed the effort the team put forth in order to get one last night. The Canucks had another solid response game, bouncing back from the loss to the Montreal Canadiens with a complete team effort versus the St. Louis Blues. Every line was effective, Cory Schneider played great in net, and the Canucks fended off a team in dire need of points to collect two of their own. Additionally (and most importantly), I watched this game:
The Canucks’ third line has been excellent since being reunited the last time the Canucks played the Blues on February 14. How appropriate that their chemistry would be rekindled on Valentine’s Day (for inappropriate ways to build chemistry, see the Lonely Island). The third line has 11 points, combined, in their last six games, and has contributed 6 goals. For the slow-witted: that’s a goal a game. If you can count on your third line for a goal each game, you’ll probably do all right.
I was impressed that John Garrett’s Hockey Know How segment (often a strange segment in which Garrett seems oddly unacquainted with the clip he himself has selected), managed to actually inform me for once. He went over the game-winning goal (above), pointing out the way Torres’s hit on Colaiacovo not only freed up the puck, but took his man away from the net and out of the play. In fact, Torres didn’t even really hit him–he just moved him. There was more, though. Hansen picked up an assist on the goal in the only way he knows how: with a pokecheck. Gosh, Hansen loves to poke. If he ever commits a serious crime, we need to make sure the judge doesn’t order him to do trash pickup for community service. He’d have way too much fun.
Manny Malhotra scored the game-winner, which was a major windfall for him and his line, but I don’t like the way people are talking as though he’s finally contributing. Malhotra took 2 faceoffs in the offensive zone and 12 in the defensive zone. Vigneault doesn’t put him on the ice to score.
Raffi Torres had a game-high 5 hits, a couple impressive backchecks (2 takeaways), and zero baffling passes to nowhere. Kudos.
I watched tonight’s game with Cam Davie of Canucks Army, who is a quality dude. Just wanted to throw that out there.
You want to talk Wizardous Sedinerie? How about Mikael Samuelsson’s goal, which comes by way of some remarkable cycling by the Sedins in the corner. Seriously, they make the St. Louis defensemen look like the Washington Generals. The Sedins cycled so spectacularly nobody even noticed they were on motorcycles the whole time. And make no mistake: Tanev may have been sneaking in the backdoor, but that pass really was meant for Samuelsson. Only Henrik Sedin thinks of passing into someone’s gut, but that’s what he did.
You might not have noticed, but Aaron Rome finished the game with less icetime than Keith Ballard. To quote Werner Herzog in Encounters at the End of the World, “Is this a great moment?” Yes it is. Ballard simply brings more to the table than Rome, and it appears that he’s finally earning his coach’s trust. Of course, Rome’s reduced icetime might have to do with his play on the David Backes goal. Word of warning to amateur hockey players: never lazily sweep the puck to David Backes in the high slot. That’s like giving a baby a loaded handgun. Worse, a baby with a history of assault with a firearm, like Maggie Simpson.
Another reason for a reduction in Rome’s icetime might have been the pairings: after Vigneault built himself a top four of Hamhuis with Ehrhoff and Ballard with Salo, Rome defaulted to the bottom pairing with low-minute man Chris Tanev. It definitely didn’t take Hammy long to return to form. He played a game-high 23:53, finishing with four shots, two hits, and two blocks. He also acted as a steadying presence for Ehrhoff, from whom we’ve seen some jittery play lately. Meanwhile, Ballard and Salo were paired together, which made a lot of sense. Once everyone’s healthy, this is likely the bottom pairing for the Canucks, so it’s wise of Alain Vigneault to put them together right away.
It was great to see Sami Salo score, too, especially in the vintage way they he did it. Nobody is better at shading in from the point for that exact one-timer, and it’s nice to see this weapon return. Salo’s shot remains a laser. Heck, it’s not just any laser, either; it’s a moonraker. Short of the golden gun, Sami Salo’s shot is the best weapon in Goldeneye 64.
Tanner Glass only played five minutes in this game, but he was granted third star honours for his play in that time, as he finished a goal short of the Gordie Howe hat trick. He did, however, pick up a Tanner Glass hat-trick, which is a goal, an assist, and bevy of Scrabble jokes from the broadcast team (the best one courtesy of Dan Murphy, postgame). His pass to Salo showed some great vision, and his fight with BJ Crombeen gave the Canucks some life early in the first period. That fight, by the way, came after Crombeen claimed, just prior to the faceoff, that MENSWEAR was two words.
The Canucks did a great job of keeping Alex Steen, somehow the Blues’ Canuck-killer, off the scoresheet. He finished a minus-1 and had 4 of his shots blocked, more than any other player. Think Vigneault talked to his guys about this? I do. Mind you, the Canucks were blocking shots all over the place. They blocked 17 shots overall, including 11 from their defense alone, and 7 from the Ballard/Salo pairing. It worries me to think of Sami Salo blocking a lot of shots, but now that his bones are mush, how much damage can it really do?
Welcome Damien Cox to Sportsnet, everyone. and stop throwing things at your televisions, that’s what he wants. And you, get down from there. Don’t you dare kick that chair out from underneath you.
Rough second period for the Canucks, but that’ll happen. Look no further than the Blues’ first period. I could have sworn the Blues got a defenseman back when they traded Erik Johnson, but it looked to me like one of their defense pairings was missing a guy for the first twenty minutes. Did anyone notice that the Blues gave up 17 shots and about seventy-six odd-man rushes?
And finally, Mason Raymond played a very good game. No goals and he missed some chances, but he generated more, and had six shots on net. I haven’t been happy with his play of late (and I suspect, neither has he), but I hope he stays with the team through the deadline. If he can continue to play like he did tonight, it wouldn’t be worth the jolt to team chemistry to bring someone else in.
After a win over the Detroit Red Wings, the Canucks are sitting in second in the Pacific and boast the division's best goal differential. That said, a big part of that goal differential comes from the Canucks' league-leading 10 empty net goals. […]