Game 2 of the Canucks match-up against the Nashville Predators bore a superficial resemblance to game 1, in that the Canucks got a 1-goal lead and held it. It would seem that the only difference between the two games was that Nashville managed to tie up the game in the dying minutes and win it in overtime. Watching the game, however, painted a different picture. While the Canucks were dominant in game 1, controlling the play and imposing their will on what appeared to be a significantly weaker opponent, the Predators controlled game 2, out-hitting and out-shooting the Canucks and winning puck battles and faceoffs throughout the night. Still, it took an unlucky bounce for the Predators to tie the game and some unreal goaltending from Pekka Rinne to earn the Predators the win. I noticed these differences for one simple reason: I watched this game.
Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows are a joy to watch on the penalty kill, often because they spend most of the time in the offensive zone. Burrows’ shorthanded goal (seen above) is created first because of a great read by Burrows in the defensive end that enables him to turn the puck up ice, then by an aggressive play in the neutral zone by Kesler and Burrows together that creates a turnover. Kesler barges towards the net, but takes the time to tie up Shea Weber’s stick as well, preventing him from pokechecking Burrows. The goal also shows what it takes to beat Pekka Rinne, as Burrows centering pass deflects off Weber’s skate directly back to Burrows: large quantities of luck. Recommended gameplan for beating Rinne: tossing coins into fountains, hanging horseshoes above the locker room door, carrying rabbit’s feet, and seeking out four-leaf clovers.
As per usual, Kesler was the best forward on the ice. He played like Kyle Wellwood (ie. a man possessed). He recorded 5 takeaways, added 3 hits, and was the only Canuck over 50% on faceoffs. Most impressively, Kesler had 11 attempted shots, with 6 of them on net, as he searches for his first goal of the playoffs. Kesler is so hungry for a goal, he’s willing to give up his Klondike Bar. And you don’t want to know what he did for that Klondike Bar. Kesler hasn’t looked this good since he was professionally lit and airbrushed.
After going up by one goal, the Canucks fell back into a defensive stance, clogging up the neutral zone like Dynamic Edition. The defense were stepping up in the neutral zone like crazy. At one point, Alex Edler stepped up and started breakdancing in the center faceoff circle. He’s expected to have a cameo role in the upcoming Step Up 4.
While the Canucks’ defense was solid in their own end, they couldn’t do much offensively, mainly because the Predators blocked all of their shots. They only got 3 shots on net but had an additional 10 shots blocked. One of the keys through the next couple games will be getting shots through from the point, preferably with significant traffic in front to tip the puck past Rinne’s greedy glove.
Roberto Luongo was sensational last night, making 44 saves. Most of those saves came in regulation as he attempted to make the 1-0 lead stand up for the second game in a row. It wasn’t to be, as Ryan Suter scored a bizarre goal from behind the goal line, banking it off Luongo’s stick and skate. The goal was so bizarre, New Zealand band OMC wrote a song about it and traveled backwards in time to make it a hit. Some of our long-time readers wanted to call this a snack goal, but the Snack Goal Principle does not actually apply here. A snack goal is a goal that is given up near the end of the third period when the Canucks have a 2 or 3-goal lead. It’s a small snack in lieu of an actual loss, thereby preventing the Canucks from getting too complacent. It’s not a goal that is given up to tie a game.
While the Sedins were not impressive during regulation time, often getting trapped in the defensive end as the Predators pushed for the tying goal, they were much better in overtime. Daniel matched Kesler’s 11 attempted shots, with 6 on net, but could not beat Rinne, who added Hrudey-esque desperation sprawling on the ice to his usual repertoire of glove hand absorbency. Rinne’s best save came on a Kevin Bieksa backdoor one-timer after a beautiful feed from Daniel Sedin.
Ballard finally showed us all why Alain Vigneault doesn’t give him ice time. He was somehow only credited with one giveaway (this one, that led to a Jordin Tootoo breakaway), but it seemed like there were a half-dozen more. Add in his fanned shot on a 3-on-1 with Kesler and Burrows, both who were dying for the puck, and being unfortunate enough to be on the ice for Nashville’s gamewinning goal in double overtime, and you have a frustrating night for Keith Ballard.
Speaking of the gamewinning goal, I am absolutely baffled at Aaron Rome’s actions. After a lost faceoff, Rome inexplicably steps up into the neutral zone to pokecheck Ryan Suter. There is absolutely no reason to do this, as Alex Burrows is already covering Suter and there are three Predators waiting to jump over the blueline. With Rome stepping up, Kesler and Ballard are left all alone to cover an unexpected 3-on-2. An odd-man rush should never develop from a faceoff in the neutral zone. As bad as Ballard was in this game, Rome was worse.
Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis were very impressive: Bieksa led the Canucks in icetime, with Hamhuis not far behind. Bieksa threw a game-high 7 hits. Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis also played well, but ended up being inexplicably called “The 2 Train” by Jim Hughson. Note: Hamhuis is not “The 2 Train.” Neither is he a head-hunting hypocrite. Fortunately for Hughson and O’Connor, Hamhuis is too nice a guy to complain. Besides, he’s too busy buying gaming consoles for BC Children’s Hospital via Child’s Play.
In round one, the Green Men showed up with a cardboard cutout of Vince Vaughn wearing a Canucks sweater: funny. In this game, they did the same with Carrie Underwood: not funny. While Vaughn is a vocal and visible supporter of the Blackhawks, Carrie Underwood is simply the wife of one of the Predators. It’s not the same and she shouldn’t get the same treatment. It was in poor taste. You know what was funny? Glenn Healy inexplicably whining about the Green Men during the intermission. He genuinely seems to hate them and assumes that everyone else in the league feels the same way. His most bizarre complaint: Their daddy owns the seats. What?
The most shocking moment of the CBC broadcast, however, was not Healy’s irrational freakout, but the intermission leading into the second overtime: Don Cherry was still awake! I am almost certain that is the latest Cherry has stayed awake in his entire career at HNIC.
Finally, a note on reffing: the refs clearly decided to let everything go, which unfortunately meant that they refrained from calling copious amounts of interference, holding, and crosschecking. It was absurd that only 3 penalties were called in regulation. Of course, because the refs refused to call legitimate penalties, the only penalties that got called in overtime were on the Canucks, one for too many men (for which CBC cut off the replay, making it impossible to judge) and the unfortunate delay of game penalty for clearing the puck over the glass. The game began to take on the complexion of a pre-lockout game, given all the holding, hooking, and interference. Unsurprisingly, the score echoed a pre-lockout game as well. As much as I appreciate the refs trying to let the players decide, there’s a reason the NHL tried to take all of the obstruction out of the game.
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.