Like Richard Loney sprinting through the Star Spangled Banner, the Sharks came out flying tonight. Not literally, of course, as flying sharks would be absolutely terrifying, but metaphorically. After an initial push by the Canucks, an early penalty gave the Sharks a chance to find their feet (sharks with feet would also be terrifying), getting a powerplay goal and hitting a post on a near-open net shortly after. Unfortunately for them, that increased speed and intensity barely matched where the Canucks already were. The Canucks responded by becoming even faster and more intense. And while it is tempting to make this game all about Ben Eager’s lack of discipline that then spread to the rest of his team, that would do a disservice to how the Canucks outplayed the Sharks throughout the entire game. Yes, the score became awfully silly once the Sharks began parading to the penalty box (sharks on parade being the most terrifying mental image yet), but the Canucks earned the victory by being the better team, not just by taking advantage of the Sharks’ silliness. I should know: I watched this game.
After two first period penalties led to two San Jose goals, the Canucks quickly smartened up and avoided giving the Sharks any further opportunities. The Canucks also scored on their first powerplay, but the Sharks plugged their ears, and began yelling at the top of their lungs (particularly Eager) to avoid learning any lessons. Like a school marm whacking a student’s fingers with a ruler, the Canucks punished the Sharks with two more goals on their next three powerplay opportunities.
Ben Eager did his absolute best to become the story of this game via nastiness: he managed to take a full period’s worth of penalty minutes, including an ugly boarding penalty on Daniel Sedin. Eager could, and perhaps should, get a suspension for intent to injure, but since Daniel wasn’t actually injured on the play, he won’t. The NHL trusts hockey players to make good on their intentions, so he couldn’t have intended to injure Daniel or Daniel would have been injured. QED.
Another reason Eager won’t be suspended: Colin Campbell is clearly a Sharks fan. He showed up to the game wearing a teal shirt with an orange and black tie. #GetOutYourTinfoilHatsEveryone
If the hit was meant to be revenge for Kevin Bieksa pummeling Patrick Marleau, then it’s particularly dumb as Marleau was first to drop the gloves. While we couldn’t hear exactly what Eager was yelling at the Canucks’ bench post-fight, it’s easy to guess: How dare you respond to a fight invitation with punches! How dare you! I am so upset right now!
Of course, this won’t help Bieksa’s unfortunate reputation as a guy who tends to fight non-fighters. Maybe he’ll stop once the non-fighters figure out how much pain his fists cause to faces.
There was more to Bieksa’s game than just his fight with Marleau, of course. He also scored a beautiful breakaway goal in the second period that gave the Canucks the lead and was, in spirit if not in truth, the gamewinning goal. Remember Bieksa’s interview with Scott Oake last game where he described himself as a stay-at-home defenseman? Yeah, that’s not true. Stay-at-home defensemen don’t score goals like that. Just look at Aaron Rome, a true stay-at-home defenseman. On second thought…
Aaron Rome had an eventful game, which is usually a bad thing. Rome is normally at his best when he’s completely unnoticeable. At first, it was, as a bad early penalty turned into the opening goal of the game for the Sharks. To his credit, he managed to turn things around, first with some strong physical play, particularly one sequence against Joe Pavelski, then providing a fine finish to a superb Sedin shift for his first career playoff goal, as seen above. So…he wasn’t exactly stay-at-home on that goal. Stay-at-home defensemen don’t skate behind the opponent’s net for seemingly no reason.
You have to love Jim Hughson’s call on Rome’s goal. In the midst of describing the awesomeness of the Sedin’s slick cycle, Hughson takes the time to say In comes Aaron Rome, as if that was the most exciting part of what was happening on the ice. A moment later, his set up pays off big time: Rome scores! It’s a savvy call from a veteran play-by-play man.
One more point about Rome’s goal: as amazing as it was to see the Sedins dominate an entire shift with their cycle game, particularly since they hadn’t been able to do so thus far in the playoffs, keep in mind who they’re victimizing. The defensemen are Douglas Murray and Ian White, which is fine, but the forwards are Scott Nichol, Ben Eager, and Benn Ferriero, the fourth line. It’s not a match-up they’re likely to see again, as Todd Mclellan will avoid it like Eager avoids classiness.
Shockingly, Eager actually played after that debacle of a shift. He even managed to score a goal. A meaningless goal from a meaningless player. He then stood over Roberto Luongo and began trash-talking him. Listen, Ben, your team is being embarrassed at that point in the game and you are the main source of embarrassment. You should have nothing to say.
As a demonstration of how seldom the Sedins draw penalties, notice that Daniel needed to be tripped twice in succession in order to get the Canucks their first man advantage. As a demonstration of how often the Sedins make one more pass than is expected, notice the quick give-and-give (there is no “go”) that sets up Daniel for his first goal of the game. It came on the tail-end of a remarkably ineffective powerplay, which is one of the reasons the Sedins are so dangerous. Like a Cuttlefish, they seem so safe and harmless until they strike.
The Canucks’ second goal is all about Ehrhoff activating from the point. He and Hansen cycle at the blueline, but Ehrhoff’s check, Ryane Clowe, notices too late. Ehrhoff skates hard down the boards with Clowe never able to catch him, leaving a clear passing lane to Raffi Torres in front, who pushes off his check at exactly the right time to create the space necessary to tip the puck in. The Canucks’ first two goals came 39 seconds apart. According to Nicolas Cage, that is insufficient time to steal a car.
With the goal, Torres has 4 points in 4 games, as he hits a bit of a hot streak. Perhaps his beard is actually made of fire?
Chris Higgins had an impressive game, notching a goal and 2 assists. One of the assists was the gorgeous pass that sprung Bieksa on his breakaway. His goal provided the punishment for an undisciplined Eager tripping penalty, as he wins the faceoff, then curls into the slot where Raymond finds him with a needle-threading pass for the one-timer. Niemi has no chance to see it, because Alex Burrows is opaque.
The Sedins combined for 2 goals and 3 assists in a combined 40:29 of icetime. Unfortunately, two of the goals came on the powerplay, like Daniel’s second of the game, so their combined plus/minus was only +2. Obviously, they both need step up their combined even-strength play.
The Canucks finished 3-for-7 on the powerplay, but only because Niemi got just enough of Mason Raymond’s goal that it technically went into the net 1 second after the powerplay ended. Essentially, the powerplay was 4-for-7, with two goals from each unit. Was the powerplay that good or was the Sharks’ penalty kill just that bad? Yes.
The Sharks did manage to score 3 goals tonight, which is only the second time in 9 games that Luongo has let in more than 2 goals in a game. As much as there are a lot of positives about this game, the penalty kill certainly wasn’t one of them. The Sharks scored on their only two powerplays. One of them came on a beautiful move by Logan Couture, although one of either Raymond or Salo needs to pick him up as he comes through the middle. Whose man was it? I don’t know. Unfortunately, neither did they.
The Sharks’ second goal was scored by Marleau from in front of the net. Someone please tell Glenn Healy that goals scored from in front of the net are not goals scored from behind the goal line. He needs to know.
I hate talking about Ben Eager so much, but he scraped the bottom of the barrel so hard in this game that he wore right through and started digging a hole in the ground. Not knowing when to stop, he called Kevin Bieksa “a phoney” in a post-game interview. Yes, Eager, the guy who just had a Gordie Howe hat-trick in an NHL playoff game is a phoney. The guy who responded to Marleau dropping his gloves and punching him in the face by responding in kind is a phoney. Well done.
Alex Burrows won’t be mentioned much, only tallying 1 assist in the blowout, but he had a great game, tying Edler with the team-high in shots with 5 and adding a whopping 8 hits, a game-high. Another player who was quietly effective was Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis. His actions speak a bit louder on the scoresheet, as he tallied 3 assists, but he also added 4 hits and was neat and tidy in his own end. He’s also neat and tidy when he picks-up his Little Brother for weekly outings; it always pays to make a good impression.
I completely missed it, but a woman evidently flashed Ben Eager when he was in the penalty box. She should know that Rogers Arena rules specifically prohibit flash photography, but I’m not sure why this is such a big deal.
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