A day after San Jose failed to sweep their series with Detroit, giving Vancouver the glorious chance to get at least a day’s more rest with a game five series win on home ice, the Canucks failed to capitalize, frittering away the opportunity with a night full of uncharacteristic blunders. Brutal blunders, like turning the puck over, giving up a shorthanded goal, or making Joel Ward’s July 1st price tag skyrocket. As Roberto Luongo said, “[Nashville] didn’t do anything special tonight. Whatever they got, we gave them.” He is correct. The Canucks outplayed the Predators in nearly every facet of the game, generating more chances, and even outscoring the visitors four to three. Problem was, some of those chances came in front of Roberto Luongo, and one of those four goals was scored into the wrong net. Like I said, blunders a go-go, all of which Alain Vigneault would probably classify as real bad. Blech. My mouth tastes sour, either because of the adverb abuse in the previous sentence, or because I watched this game.
Early in the postseason, Alex Edler looked as though he’d spent his time away from the team getting awesomeness augmentation surgery, but the Vancouver blueliner has spent much of the second round fighting the puck. He attempted a game-high eight shots, but it seemed as though he whiffed on almost as many. He also turned the entire game with the blunder of the night. Prior to this game, his most egregious mistake came when he bobbled a puck behind his net and wound up giving David Legwand a shorthanded freebie. However, he managed to top that in the second period, taking out the middleman and putting an airborne puck past Luongo with his forearm to tie the game. Yes sir, nothing says “fighting the puck” like when you punch it into your own net. He’s playing so poorly that, when Mikael Samuelsson let David Legwand score another shorthanded freebie in this game, Alain Vigneault turned to Edler and said, “He learned that from you.”
Though it wound up being for naught, Ryan Kesler did everything in his power to end this series tonight. He had two goals, four shots, and six hits, and went an absurd 21-for-26 in the faceoff circle, including a perfect 10-for-10 in the neutral zone. In the opening period alone, he won 9 draws in 10 tries. To put that in perspective, The Predators won seven faceoffs total in the first. How can you tell he’s playing with confidence? His third period snipe, which cut the lead to one and made the last few minutes interesting, is high glove side, where the team has been explicitly told not to shoot. Kesler, like Calvin and Hobbes before him, plays by his own rules.
Kesler also plays by his own rules in the medical room, where he spent all of one shift after taking a puck to the face in the third. We’ve talked before about how he might be the only player to take Jim Robson at face value and literally play on crutches, but this was absurd. I suspect that, when trainer Mike Burnstein went to start stitching, Kesler told him, “Just cut it off.” When Burnstein blustered, “Ryan, I won’t cut off your face,” Kesler snapped back, “Then I’ll find someone who can.” Unfortunately, calls to Nicolas Cage and Hannibal Lecter went straight to voicemail. Anyway, Kesler came back and just seemed to play harder. On his next shift, he mixed it up with Shane O’Brien, (who punched him directly in the wound, then taunted him, tapping his stick on the ice), and the shift after that, he broke up a Matt Halischuk breakaway with a brilliant stickcheck.
Speaking of brilliant stickchecks, the Canucks’ first goal comes on a Jannik Hansen double-hook special. After chipping the puck into the zone, Hansen perfectly times an assault on Ryan Suter, hooking the puck away, then hooking it back to Raffi Torres for the tap-in. Hansen’s been quiet in this series, this is a pretty good example of his uncanny ability to generate a scoring chance with a timely stick lift. Seriously, with stick lifting ability like that, I bet Hansen’s a whiz at KerPlunk. #KerplunkMeJannik
Are the Canucks aware Joel Ward isn’t Anson Carter? I can’t figure out why they keep passing to him.
In all seriousness, I’ve heard too many people compare Ward to Dustin Byfuglien. They are nothing alike, apart from timely postseason scoring and shared skin colour. I’ve always been cool with a well-placed joke, but let’s try to be a little more insightful and a little less race-oriented with our actual hockey comparisons.
Back to Kesler. On his first goal (above), he bats a puck out of mid-air at the exact moment Weber leaves the blueline, then takes off with Raymond for a 2-on-1. Weber (whose speed is seriously underrated) actually manages to catch up to two of the league’s fastest players at full speed, at which point he leans on Kesler as hard as he can. But, not only does Kesler not budge in the slightest, he gets his stick beneath Weber’s and pokes the puck home, as the Norris nominee slides helplessly into the net. Kesler has embarrassed Suter and Weber numerous times in this series, which is probably better evidence for how well he’s playing than anything else I could ever say. He’s shown a remarkable knack for making Nashville’s superstars look silly. Bearing that in mind, he can probably forget about ever being invited to present a Country Music Award.
Daniel and Henrik are going to get ripped again tonight, after finishing the evening minus-4 and minus-3, respectively. People will use these stats as an argument against the Sedins being postseason performers, but it’s actually an argument against the overuse of the plus/minus stat to measure performance. While their plus/minuses wouldn’t look so bad if they’d score a freaking goal, they were offensively dangerous most of the night (especially in the second), and the defensive breakdowns weren’t their fault. Though they were on the ice for all four Predator goals, they weren’t at fault on a single one of them — their blueliners were. The shorty was Samuelsson’s boner, as he failed to get back on a turnover. The second goal was the Edler fluke. The third goal came on a bad turnover by Kevin Bieksa, and the fourth came when Edler whiffed on a clear and gave the puck away in the slot. A much more reliable stat, Corsi, which measures shots for and against rather than goals, tells a completely different story: the Sedins played almost exclusively in the offensive zone. Their respective Corsi ratings were a respective +15 and +17. There was no one better.
Mad props to the Green Men for, well, their mad props. They got a laugh out of Mike Fisher by showing him his wife in enemy colours and, a few days after being asked to cut out the handstands, they responded by making a handstand cutout. Brilliant. @LexieJovanovski suggested they give cutouts of themselves to all the fans in the stadium, creating the eeriest arena in the history of hockey. I think it’s a great idea, although it’s not a completely novel concept. Phoenix has been using cardboard fan cutouts since the early 2000s.
The Predators blocked 30 shots tonight, almost matching the Canucks’ actual shot total of 34. Kevin Klein and Mike Fisher had six apiece. Ryan Suter had 5. Cody Franson was the only defender with less than two. That said, it’s hardly fair for the Canucks. With those grey and white jerseys of theirs, the Predator skaters look a lot like the net.
I understand the referees have been somewhat unfairly maligned in this series, but it seems even less fair for them to go on strike without telling anybody and still show up for work.
Sergei Kostitsyn got completely screwed on a first period penalty call. As he and Bieksa raced to a loose puck along the boards, Bieksa held him up with a hook. Kostitsyn tried the Keslerian chicken wing, tucking the stuck under his right arm. No dice. He got called for holding the stick. On the plus side, the referees are wise to this move now, right, Predators fans?
Proof that Pekka Rinne has been studying up on Alex Burrows: on a first period breakaway, Burr went to his go-to backhand move, and Rinne was already across to stop the high backhand. Rumour has it he also wore a carbon steel jock strap and shaved his head, so as to combat Burrows’ other go-to moves.
Christian Ehrhoff has a tendency to succumb to sudden bouts of rage. You’ll recall this classic image from a regular season tilt with Chicago, when he lost his mind and starting flailing like a flail snail . Well, he had another pure freakout tonight, flailing at David Legwand in a post-whistle scrum. Just how crazy did he go? A minute into the offsetting minors, he tried to axe his way into the Nashville penalty box.
And finally, though this series is unfortunately returning to Nashville for game 6, I wouldn’t worry too much about home ice advantage. The home team has won just one of the five games thus far. Considering that, and the fact that the music is better here, I bet the Predators would just as soon stay in Vancouver.
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