Last night, the Canucks wrapped up their five-game West Coast road swing with a convincing 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames, and I do mean convincing. Don’t let the final score fool you; this wasn’t a one-goal game. The Flames may have jumped out to an early lead after Mikael Samuelsson and Dan Hamhuis got confused about the game’s start time, but the Canucks woke up immediately thereafter, perhaps buoyed by the Flames’ damning two-goal lead, and spent the rest of the evening putting Calgary under pressure on the ice [ice, baby]. After the slow start, it was great to see them so immediately snap to life, and I did see, because I watched this game:
That’s right. Two song references in one sentence, wherein the first song referenced is sampled by the second. PITB for the win, y’all.
Alex Burrows potted his 20th goal of the season on a tip in front that tied the game at three. I don’t think we give Burrows enough credit for what he does in front of the net. He’s not the biggest guy and he’s not that strong on his skates, so the only way he gets space in front is by zipping around at breakneck speed. Watch the next time a Sedin gets the puck behind the net: cue Burrows, darting back and forth around the crease like a squirrel in the street. Also watch, on last night’s goal, as he gets effortlessly moved from the area by Matt Stajan, then immediately scurries back there once Stajan thinks his work is done. In the split second between Stajan heading to the side boards and Steve Staios realizing Burrows has been left alone, Burrows is in the position to be found by Daniel Sedin.
Speaking of Daniel Sedin, he and Henrik were fantastic. They were on the ice for all four goals, combining for 5 points and completely dissecting Calgary’s defensive coverage with Wizardous Sedinerie and fabulous vision all night. My favourite goal (Daniel Sedin’s first of the night, above), comes when Rene Bourque drifts about a foot too high, and Daniel cuts through the middle of the offensive zone ice at full speed. That’s a fabulous read, and it’s matched only by Henrik’s vision to get him the puck. The moment Daniel starts his sprint, it’s obvious what’s coming, too, as Henrik puts a backhand pass through the legs of Robyn Regehr (who seriously opens up to let it through), and Daniel one-times it past Kiprusoff. So good. Not so good: Rene Bourque practicing his first star twirl while this play is unfolding.
When the Sedins are going like this, the power play tends to trend upward as well, so it’s no surprise that the special teams were spot-on last night. The first unit went 2-for-2, scoring just over thirty seconds into each powerplay (32 and 37 seconds, respectively). Daniel Sedin’s game-winner was so effortless it was hard to tell who moved less when it happened, he or Miikka Kiprosoff. It came so quickly off the faceoff you’d have thought the linesman just chucked it into the net.
What a road trip. The Canucks went unbeaten in five games, all of which were against teams currently top 8 in the West. It was the best road trip since the one where that carful of girls literally punched Stuntman Mike to death.
Ryan Kesler played a fabulous game as well, finishing with a goal and an assist, both on the powerplay. It was great to see the return of his lethal wrist shot from above the faceoff dot. Kiprusoff seemed a little befuddled that it got past him, but Kesler’s been getting behind everyone these days–it was inevitable. Of note: while Kesler was back there, he took his shirt off and offered Kiprusoff a half-eaten slice of pizza.
One thing Kesler does well is take hits to make plays. He got drilled three or four times last night, but the Canucks never lost possession of the puck.
In the broadcast booth, Garry Galley was a nice change of pace from Kevin Weekes. He made some good observations, including his call on the Alex Burrows goal, in which he dubbed Daniel Sedin’s open ice “The Quiet Zone.” It sounds like the title of a Cronenberg movie full of weird sex. I’m glad that Galley was good, because he’s owed me one for fifteen years. He was the slowest player in NHL 94 and somehow, he was always on my team. I was so sick of his painfully slow sprite lugging the puck through the neutral zone. Anyway, now we’re even.
By the by, Garry’s son Wyatt is the star goaltender for the Langley Chiefs. They’re in the BCHL playoffs right now and tickets are cheap.
You always hear criticism that the announcers are biased against your team, but you had to think Calgary fans were pulling their hair out as Galley marveled at the Canucks. It was somewhat inevitable, though. Vancouver’s the best at everything right now. They’ll be the first team to 100 points, and Daniel Sedin, too, will probably get there before any other team does.
Curiously, someone threw a fish on the ice. No idea why. Curiosities abound: why a salmon, and how does a salmon gets through security, anyway? They’ll confiscate a Ziploc bag of goldfish crackers but they’ll let a real freaking fish through? Ridiculous. But, perhaps the most curious element of this very curious action was that the fish found the ice late in the third period. Why wait? It’s been my experience that, when you’ve got a fish in your backpack, you get rid of it as soon as possible (unless you’re the shopping penguin). Suffice it to say, someone just ruined a backpack.
Thanks to Qris for covering this feature in our absence. We haven’t missed an IWTG this season. Without him, that streak ends.
Chris Higgins is going to be a great addition to this team. He was good wherever he played last night, and he was all over the lineup, especially after Mikael Samuelsson got benched early in the first.
I understand the criticism that Mason Raymond’s had a number of off-games without getting benched so summarily as Mikael Samuelsson did tonight, but I think Alain Vigneault wanted to whip Sammy with a sock full of batteries after that Michael Backlund goal. This goes back to Samuelsson’s Borg-brainwashing in Detroit, but he often refuses to to give up possession by dumping the puck out of the zone. In this case, it bit him. How to win AV’s love: make the safe plays. Why do you think Aaron Rome had more shifts (34) than any other Canuck? Hint: it’s not his skating.
I liked Manny Malhotra trying that icing play the Sedins always do. He and Raffi nearly connected for some Plagiarized Sedinerie. We’ve actually seen a lot more of that this year, when players who aren’t the Sedins try their hand at Sedinerie. It’s very Mickey Mouse. Mind you, considering they’re the top two scorers in the NHL, it’s probably safe to learn from them. On the flipside, it’s probably not safe to learn from Mary Kay Letourneau. Especially if you’re Chris Tanev; he’s quite young.
And finally, we often criticize the way Alain Vigneault metes out icetime, but he’s managed his roster quite well. Nobody played under 11 minutes, and in the last game of a five-game road trip, icetime management matters. Know what else matters? Family.
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