A goaltender’s duel is nowhere near as much fun as it sounds (just ask Rick DiPietro). Despite the picture you have in your mind, in reality, neither goalie draws pistols, nobody walks paces, and nobody is slapped with a glove. Furthermore, there is never any threat to the United States Secretary of the Treasury. Suffice it to say, there’s really nothing thrilling about it. Instead, the two duellers stand 200 feet from each other the whole night (much too far to accurately fire a Wogdon Duelling Pistol), and conspire to prevent any action. Really, this was less of a duel, and more of a bad boxing match, in that the two competitors battled to a draw and eventually the officials had to step in and decide the match for them. A bit disappointing, this one. I watched this game:
Before I take a few more jabs at tonight’s uneven reffing, let me be clear: the Canucks lost this game because their 5-on-3 couldn’t capitalize and because Jason “The Barbera” LaBarbera was incredible. He made 46 saves tonight. Forty-six. The only Canucks that didn’t have shots on goal were Keith Ballard and Aaron Rome, and eight players had three or more. Jason LaBarbera stopped all but one, and he would have had that one, too, but Dan Murphy made a point of saying shutout. Unfortunately for Dan Murphy, both goalies were pitching shutouts when he said that. Oh, you fool.
According to the stats page, this game only had 20 hits, 10 by each team. It didn’t feel that friendly. Also, here’s a curious name among the guys that registered zero hits: Alex Burrows. Zero hits? What about this one? Apparently, the stats guys didn’t agree with the call either.
Let’s talk about that controversial hit. Burrows definitely deserved a penalty, but Fiddler’s trying to play the puck while avoiding the check, and he’s not a good enough skater to do it. Instead, he goes into the boards at full speed and, while twisting away from the puck, tries to poke it in the other direction. That puts his back to Burrows, a terrible position for an inevitable check. Unfortunately, now when Burrows hits him, Fiddler’s facing the boards, off-balance, hunched over and trying to stop at an awkward angle. In that moment, even with Burrows trying to let up, he sends him headfirst into the boards. You have to call that–it’s a hit from behind–but there’s no way that’s a major and a misconduct.
You’ve got to think Burrows’ reputation factored into the overreaction, which is why I found his postgame comments so interesting. After the game, I partly expected to hear him confess to going for another pregame skate with a begrudged referee. Instead, Burr made a point of saying he disagreed with the call, but that Kelly Sutherland, who made it, is one of the best referees in the league. Novel approach. As the saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than by having Alex Burrows publicly malign them.
My real beef with the refereeing tonight was the astonishing degree of inconsistency. It always amazes me how, even when a game is called so strictly you’d think it was being refereed by the Women’s Temperance Movement, the whistles disappear the moment the Sedins hit the ice. Daniel and Henrik were both tripped up or interfered with a number of times with no response from the zebras. The most egregious non-call came on a Daniel Sedin trip in the dying seconds, freeing up the puck and giving Phoenix a free path to Vancouver’s empty net. It’s baffling, but here’s my theory: the things the twins do are so absolutely breathtaking that the referees, like all of us, can’t help but gasp. Unfortunately, gasping with a whistle in your mouth is a surefire way to swallow your whistle.
With tonight’s victory, the Coyotes become the only NHL team to win two games at Rogers Arena. It’s not surprising. Considering the situation in Phoenix, it has to inspire the Coyotes to visit a building full of fans whose tickets didn’t come free with a sandwich combo.
Sami Salo had a game-high 5 blocked shots tonight. He’s blocked 24 shots in his 18 games back. That’s a pretty impressive stat, but it’s probably not as intimidating to block a shot when your body is full of metal plates. Salo had 23:08 and a game-high 31 shifts.
Meanwhile, Christian Ehrhoff played twenty-seven minutes tonight and Keith Ballard played twelve. Now, I agree that Ehrhoff > Ballard, but I feel that such a blatant discrepancy in icetime would have to be represented by four or five angle brackets, and I can’t get behind that. For continuity’s sake, let me express my opinion in angle brackets: > > >>>>>
I’m always amazed at the things Vern Fiddler gets away with. He drew Alex Burrows’ 15 minutes in penaties, and he also drew a 2 minute roughing minor from Mikael Samuelsson when he high-sticked the feisty Swede in the face (missed), meriting a gloved punch (seen). I’m sure I’d love him if he played for my team, but he doesn’t, so I don’t.
If there’s one criticism about the Sedins I can understand, it’s that they often don’t play with a sense of urgency. How do I know? Because you can tell when they are playing urgent, such as on Christian Ehrhoff’s goal (above). They buzzed for that whole shift, motivated, no doubt by the bogus major penalty that wound up costing them two goals, before Ehrhoff finally banged the puck home in front. These guys have been the best players in the NHL this season, and you have to wonder how much better they’d be if they played with this intensity all the time. Mind you, I guess they’re so good because they don’t have to.
The absence of Manny “Alternate Captain Mal” Malhotra was felt. The third line simply lacked the presence it has in past weeks. Raffi Torres suffered especially, finishing with only 1 hit and 1 shot in 8:48 of icetime. In the faceoff circle, Maxim Lapierre did a great job with increased responsibilities, going 7-for-11 on faceoffs. Henrik, too, went a respectable 9-for-16. Ryan Kesler, on the other hand, went a somewhat disappointing 11-for-25, although his numbers probably suffered when he had to take a few more draws on the left side, where Malhotra is typically used. During the major penalty kill, however, Manny’s absence really glared. There were seven draws during those five minutes, and the Canucks won only two of them. Worse, both goals came off a lost faceoff.
You had to feel for Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis after he took a shot in the leg on the penalty kill, and couldn’t get back into the play to clear Radim Vrbata from Roberto Luongo’s line of vision on the second goal. It was especially ironic that it would be a shot to the leg that slowed him down, especially after he spent the afternoon teaching the BC Teacher’s Federation how to use an epinephrine autoinjector to treat anaphylaxis in students.
The Canucks remain one of only two teams that has not scored a five-on-three powerplay goal. The other is Edmonton. Clearly, the way to stop the Canucks’ powerplay is to take another penalty. Or just only send out three guys to kill it. Maybe have him cherry pick around the red line or something.
After starting the game on the fourth line, Mason Raymond played well, earning his place back on the second line by the game’s end. It had to be a real boost of confidence to MayRay to be skating there in the dying minutes of the third period as the Canucks tried to tie it up. Hopefully, he now fully recognizes the threat Chris Higgins poses. Yes, Higgins is his black swan.
And finally: Phoenix impresses me. They don’t have the personnel to be this good, yet they continue to win. Granted, it helps when you’re allowed to skate 9 players at a time, and dress four of them up like referees. Okay, that was the last one.
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.