The Canucks went into game 2 of their opening round playoff series with the Blackhawks hoping to do something they had failed to do in two previous tries: win the damn game. They succeeded, too, although it was no picnic, perhaps because this isn’t the National Picnic League. Tonight’s Blackhawks had more jump, more grit, and more offense than the Chicago team from two nights ago, but unfortunately, they didn’t get to play the Chicago team from two nights ago. They played the Canucks, who had more jump, more grit, and more offense than tonight’s Blackhawks. I watched this game:
How do you stop a gamebreaker like Patrick Kane? According to Alex Edler, you break Patrick Kane. (Where did Edler learn to hit like that? Breaker High?) Edler’s massive hit on the skilled winger did well to set the tone for the first period, and it was clearly a Pummel Patrick Kane sort of tone. Poor Kane was cleanly hit four times in the opening twenty minutes, which is especially impressive when you consider how elusive he normally is, as well as the fact that, after being run over by Edler, he was avoiding the contact like he had astigmatism.
Both teams were called for two penalties tonight. During the ensuing man advantages, the Canucks’ special teams outshot their Chicago counterparts by a margin of 2 to 0. One of those shots came shorthanded after some fabulous forechecking by Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows. The other shot was Daniel Sedin’s powerplay goal half a minute into the second period.
Here’s a statement you might disagree with: Daniel and Henrik Sedin could have played better. Granted, they combined for five points, but when the Sedins get the kind of space the Chicago defense was giving them, you can expect four-point nights out of both of them. They had a litany of odd-man rushes, including a patently ridiculous two-on-nobody early in the first, and they couldn’t convert on a single one until Daniel Sedin finally scored on a three-on-two in the third. As productive as they were tonight, they can top this performance.
Speaking of Daniel Sedin, his game-winning goal (above) is a perfect example of how not to play him. He’s going through the middle of the offensive zone; not the five stages of grief, and not menopause. You don’t give him space.
I was positively against a Cody Hodgson callup, but the young centre hasn’t looked out of place since joining the team for the playoffs. His skating has improved, and he’s been creating chances. It only took him two games to pick up his first career playoff assist, protecting the puck nicely behind the net before sending it to the point for Alex Edler’s goal. My concerns were never about Hodgson’s offense, however; his defensive elements still need work. Though he registered two takeaways, he didn’t win a single faceoff tonight (0-for-3), and he completely lost Ben Smith on the 4-3 goal. Mind you, Henrik Sedin was also guilty of forgetting Smith existed long enough to let him score, which means, on the bright side, Hodgson is earning comparisons to Henrik Sedin.
If you’re wondering where Ben Smith learned to sneak in behind his man like that, the answer is: from Jannik Hansen. Before he scored two goals by cutting to the net unseen, he allowed Jannik Hansen to do the exact same thing to him. There’s a reason Smith doesn’t normally play big minutes: he’s not that good defensively. He had two even-strength goals tonight and still managed to finish the game minus-1.
Another fine game from Jannik Hansen, by the way. I liked the way Alain Vigneault rewarded him by giving him Mikael Samuelsson’s usual shift with the Sedins after a penalty kill. I also liked how Hansen rewarded Vigneault for rewarding him by scoring on the shift. Will Vigneault reward Hansen’s reward of his reward? Soon this will be a tormentingly endless cycle of rewards, like a Save-On-More card.
Did anyone else notice Ryan Johnson compulsively spitting during the HNIC Subway bio? I know it’s not exactly difficult to catch a hockey player hocking gobs, but Johnson spat about nine times in thirty seconds. It was like he was pretending to eat a bag of sunflower seeds.
The hits in this game were 45 to 40 for Vancouver, but it wasn’t really that close. Vancouver was hitting; Chicago was registering hits. At one moment in the third period, both Marian Hossa and Bryan Bickell received checks that sent them to the dressing room on the same shift. For a moment, I wondered if we were seeing a walkout, ala the 1976 Red Army. Ryan Kesler led the way tonight with seven hits. Kesler was hitting anything that moved. After the game, he hit his DVD copy of Field of Dreams.
Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis played a quietly stellar game. He had five hits, two blocked shots, and an assist on the game winner. Apart from Keith Ballard, who hardly played, Hamhuis was the only Vancouver defenseman who wasn’t on the ice for a Chicago goal, and Alain Vigneault smartly leaned on him to preserve the lead in the third period. He played 9:54 of the final frame, up from seven minutes in each of the first two periods, and his average shift length jumped from 42 to 59 seconds. This wasn’t the first time Hamhuis’s shift length has increased in a pinch. He once served soup for three days straight at a homeless shelter, although it was sort of his own fault. He brought too much soup.
Roberto Luongo’s going to get some flack for his game tonight. As I said earlier, Ben Smith was poorly covered, but Luongo also gifted him a couple of tap-ins. On the first, he should have gloved it cleanly, and on the second, he should have kicked that rebound to the corner. Even Viktor Stalberg’s wrist shot was a stoppable one. That said, what’s more frustrating: getting shut out by Luongo or getting three bad goals past him and still losing?
And finally, the Oscar for best actor goes to Tanner Glass, for pretending to lose the puck in his equipment after blocking a Niklas Hjalmarsson slapshot halfway through the third period. After the puck disappeared into Glass’s gear, prompting a much-needed stop in play, Glass magically opened his glove and–poof!–there it was. Suspicious. Now some people might suspect Glass only pretended to lose the puck in his equipment, but I suspect that Glass can stop bullets with his bare hands. Is Tanner Glass “The one”? We’ll know for sure if, next game, he manages to hit a Chicago player from the inside.
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