Spitballin’, (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a new feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because after a game like last night’s there are lots of things to find and colour. While we covered most of them in the I Watched This Game post, Daniel would have been writing for six more hours if he tried to hit absolutely everything. Here are a few more topics that deserve mention.
At one point, a woman lifted her shirt
How can you tell hockey is a male-driven market? Because, in a game with about 1500 perfectly excellent storylines, the topic du jour this morning is that a woman gifted Ben Eager a perfect Janet Jackson impression. (I won’t link it here. You’ve already seen it.) But is that really the big story? Is that what Vancouver wants to talk about? Should we change our name to Pass it to Bewbs? The whole kerfuffle is somewhat ironic to me, especially since many men go to great lengths to avoid their wives and girlfriends, most of whom have two breasts, on game nights. If it’s breasts you want, turn off the television and spend some time with your lady — she might let you see them. If it’s hockey you want, shut up about the breasts. Granted, it was a somewhat unprecedented anomaly: between Eager and the woman’s exposed breasts, the penalty box briefly had three boobs. It was like Total Recall, but with plexiglass.
Alain Vigneault speaks freely
The media has been criticizing Alain Vigneault’s sparing answers to their questions throughout these playoffs, but he certainly didn’t mince words last night when Ben Eager boarded Daniel Sedin. No, I’m not referring to the postgame scrum — I’m referring to his reaction in real time. That’s a pretty easy lip read.
Gutless Sharks gutting themselves
After the game last night, Jason Botchford said the Sharks were so concerned with proving they weren’t gutless, they gutted themselves. Greg Wyshynski had a similar take on last night’s antics, arguing that Jeremy Roenick’s criticism of Marleau’s awful offal may have led to Marleau’s foolish decision to pick a fight with Kevin Bieksa. Between that and Joe Thornton’s out-of-character challenge to Ryan Kesler in the faceoff circle to open Game 1, it’s pretty safe to say the Sharks are a little more concerned with proving the doubters wrong than they are about winning the series. It’s a shame, too, because they might have a better change to accomplish both if they only focused on the latter. We’ve discussed, at intervals this season, how Vancouver revamped their character with a newfound Zen focus. The Sharks are like looking into a mirror of our own past.
Aaron Rome is better than Ryan Kesler
Aaron Rome’s goal last night — his second this year — was quite a surprise, but it also raises some interesting questions. Ryan Kesler faced criticism this season for only scoring 8 of his 41 goals (or roughly 20%) against playoff opponents. Rome’s two goals this season have come against the Nashville Predators and the San Jose Sharks, Vancouver’s two most recent playoff opponents. In other words, 100% of his goals have come against cup-contending opposition. Is Aaron Rome five times as clutch as Ryan Kesler? I’m not exactly saying so, but consider this: Aaron Rome has 1 goal in this series. Ryan Kesler has none. Is Rome a better scorer than Ryan Kesler? Maybe, maybe not, but consider this: the Canucks are undefeated when Aaron Rome scores. Is Rome more valuable than Kesler? The evidence speaks for itself.
Kevin Bieksa would make a good defense lawyer
You might have missed this little gem from last night: not only did Bieksa wallop Patrick Marleau something fierce, but he made a genuine effort to screw the Sharks winger out of a good goal. When it became apparent Marleau’s goal was going to be reviewed, Bieksa tried to block the goal camera with his skate. It’s a good thing Bieksa’s a hockey player, because his degree in Finance and his complete lack of legal ethics makes it a pretty safe bet he’d be a white-collar criminal.
Sharks might want to tighten up the box
For all intents and purposes, the Canucks scored four powerplay goals last night (Mason Raymond’s came one second after the penalty had expired), so expect the Sharks to spend a little time working on their penalty kill. One thing they might want to investigate is that massive swath of space inside the four-man box — that’s where Vancouver scored all four of these goals. Raymond, Higgins, and Daniel Sedin all score in roughly the same place: directly between the faceoff dots. The issue is that the Sharks forwards were playing much, much too high. They were also barely trying. For example, watch Joe Pavelski and Dany Heatley on Daniel Sedin’s second goal. Pavelski goes for a skate at the blue line and Heatley falls asleep on his feet:
Niemi Just Wins
There’s this amusing stream of thought that, statistics be damned, Antti Niemi, who has yet to lose a playoff series, just wins. Of course, he wins all these series in spite of the team in front of him, which is why he won the Conn Smythe trophy last year, right? Wrong. More likely is that Niemi is the new Chris Osgood, good only insofar as he’s had the benefit of minding the net for skilled teams that can outplay his mediocre numbers. He now has a 7-7 record in these playoffs, with a .900 save percentage, and a 3.30 goals against average. Some might argue that these stats are inflated because of last night’s blowout, but Roberto Luongo suffered through two such blowouts, and his stats are still pretty impressive. Funny Bob has the best GAA of the remaining postseason goaltenders. Niemi has the worst. In fact, of all the goaltenders to play in these playoffs, only Ilya Bryzgalov, who spent much of the Coyotes first-round sweep thinking of reasons he didn’t want to move to Winnipeg, is worse. Niemi just wins indeed.