After spending about twenty hours in the Nissan Versa, bickering about music selection, coining new swear words, and fighting off an invisible army of cramps, well, it was some sort of glorious reprieve to finally get to the hockey portion of the road trip. Not that there weren’t highlights en route.
For example: Bonnie Tyler’s Faster Than the Speed of Night is about fifteen and a half minutes long, and it’s the best quarter-hour you’ll ever spend. A pack of Red Vines lasts forever. BTO’s greatest hits is divisive. Medford, Oregon is a bit of a dump (as is their Ramada Inn), but the pool is frickin’ immense. Miniature basketballs, when flung at the proper velocity, can leave large red welts on one’s chest. The portions at Claim Jumper are sinfully massive.
That said, it’s still a long and exhausting journey–one that tests the will and drains the spirit–until the hockey part starts. Well, it started, we attended it and, while in attendance, [we] watched this game:
Canucks 3 – 1 Kings
The massive number of Canucks fans at the Staples Center was nothing short of astonishing. Downright egregious, even. After the first period, Kings fans stopped shouting Go Kings Go, because the chant immediately became Go Canucks Go (and you can’t fight that, either; Canucks has harder phonetic sounds). The atmosphere in the building was electric as each team’s fans fed off each other. In fact, it was often louder than the Nashville game from the other night. Shame on you, Vancouver Canucks fans in Vancouver. After the game, Canucks fans gathered into boisterous clusters, cheering and chanting. One fan tried to put his Trevor Linden jersey on the Wayne Gretzky statue out front (a clear jersey foul), before abandoning the attempt and draping a Canadian flag over the statue’s shoulders instead. I was asked the question “What is a Canuck anyway?” by a curious Kings fan on the sidewalk as he marveled at the masses of blue and green. Another just took one look at my jersey and the smile on my face and said “F*** you!” In short, we were not welcome. Whatever. We won.
Like palm trees in Los Angeles, Jannik Hansen was everywhere. The goal he scored was a classic bit of third-line grittery, as Hansen and Torres combined for some excellent forechecking and physical work down low before Torres swung the puck out front for Hansen to patiently pokecheck it into the net.He added 3 hits of the genus destructus and some solid work on the penalty kill, which took care of all 6 Kings’ powerplays. Said Vigneault of the Delicious Dane: “He came out with a lot of fire in his cute little voice.” That’s Hansen, all right. Cute and full of fire. Jannik Hansen: baby dragon.
I still owe Hansen a beer.
The powerplay was the reciprocal of the penalty kill, going 0-for-6. There was simply not enough movement on the powerplay. It looked better as the game went on, and the Kings gave them ample opportunity to practice their powerplay skills, but the Canucks player on the half-wall (frequently Henrik) often ended up standing around waiting for something to open up while the rest of the powerplay unit stood around not opening anything up. The Canucks’ struggles on the powerplay are becoming bothersome, as they haven’t scored a powerplay goal in 5 straight games, going 0-for-15 in that stretch. They waste the man advantage like the Midianites.
Drew Doughty was incensed after Daniel Sedin scored the go-ahead goal, going right after the referees and screaming that he was cross-checked. He didn’t let it go either, yelling at the refs after being called for diving with 5 minutes left and continuing to berate the refs until they finally gave him a 10-minute misconduct in the final minute of the game. Watching the replay, there’s no cross-check; Daniel merely pushes him away. Honestly, I just think he was embarrassed that he got so easily moved by a Sedin.
Speaking of being easily moved by a Sedin, it was hard not to feel for Henrik when he flashed a pouty face after taking a Doughty high stick. The jumbotron couldn’t get enough of Henrik’s protruding lip, especially when Henrik later took a penalty. A shiny silver piece for anybody who finds us this image.
The cycle on Daniel’s goal was beautiful, if not quite wizardous. The activation of Ehrhoff from the point completely befuddled the Kings’ defenders, leaving him with a clear path to the front of the net and a fabulous scoring chance. Quick was almost as upset as Doughty, suggesting that he was interfered with by Burrows. Burr did nudge him slightly as he passed by, but the bigger issue for Quick was having two of his own players crash down on top of him. Doughty was pushed slightly, but I suspect Willie Mitchell was just dizzy. He should learn proper spotting techniques to avoid this in the future.
Kings are a chippy team, following the lead of their captain, Dustin Brown. Their activities after the whistle frequently got them in trouble and the Canucks broke their zen attitude in response. 17 penalties, but no fights. It was a bit like a playoff game. The only difference: it wasn’t.
Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis had yet another quietly effective game. He finished a game-high +3 in 24:24 of ice-time. He also played a team-high 5:08 on the penalty kill and spent the intermissions telling kids in Africa “I may kill penalties, but the deadliest killer is Malaria” before distributing bed nets.
In the faceoff circle, Ryan Kesler went 13-for-16, Malhotra went 13-for-21, and Henrik went 7-for-12. So Henrik has to pay for the frozen yogurt.
Aaron Rome was not good. At all. He dropped to minus-1 after getting outmuscled by Dustin Penner on Kings’ only goal, and frequently made bad puck decisions. Still, he played more than Keith Ballard, including a full minute on the powerplay. I usually have an answer or, at worst, a theory as to why something is the way it is, but Rome’s icetime is this season’s most labyrinthine side story. Seriously, there’s a minotaur in it.
4th line spent an inordinate amount of time pinned in the defensive zone against the Kings’ top line. I suspect this was some sort of ploy to prove to Alain Vigneault they could handle the assignment. They were unconvincing.
One thing that only the in-house audience would have been able to enjoy: it was Kings Mascot Bailey’s birthday (apparently), prompting a visit from a bunch of other mascots, including Stinger (the Blue Jackets’ mascot), Slapshot the Eagle (the Capitals’ mascot), and Fin. The mascots played a game of hockey against some peewees during the first intermission and a game of quidditch against USC students during the second. In both contests, Fin was a freaking beast. In the intermission hockey game, he went all-out, scoring the only goal for the Mascots, all the while throwing heavy shoulders and slewfooting the tots. In the quidditch match, he captured the golden snitch. His mastery of these mini-games only prompted crowd jeering, but Fin didn’t seem to care. He was on top of the world.
Thanks to Qris for filling in for us while we conquered the great expanse between Vancouver and Los Angeles. He’ll be covering the Phoenix and San Jose games as well. Make him feel welcome.
Pass it to Bulis is the hockey blog that knows who needs the puck. Without spaces, it's also our e-mail address. Have stuff to say? We want to hear from you. Talk to us at passittobulis [at] gmail.com.