Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few topics that deserve mention.
McLellan might want to try a different approach
A couple days back, Qris suggested that Todd McLellan was getting outcoached by his counterpart behind the Vancouver bench. If you want a little more evidence to this, look no further than the way the two coaches handled their respective penalty parades in Game 4. Alain Vigneault remained calm and remaining a calming influence on his team. After the fifth penalty, a questionable hooking call on Dan Hamhuis, the CBC cameras cut to Vigneault, who had to be losing his mind. Nope. He couldn’t have been calmer. Go, he says to Ryan Kesler, his hands in his pockets. Vigneault remained composed; his team did the same.
Eventually, the tables turned, and San Jose began their march to the box. With the score 1-0, the Sharks took a too many men penalty to give the Canucks their second 5-on-3 of the period. The cameras cut to Todd McLellan. He was marching up and down the bench in a rampage, screaming Wake the [expletive] up! directly into his players’ ears. Composed, he was not, and neither were the Sharks. They proceeded to take more penalties and give up more powerplay goals. The Sharks aren’t known as the most confident team, and getting torn apart by their coach in a one-goal game probably didn’t help with that.
Vigneault has a pair
Speaking of good coaching decisions, when word came down that Alain Vigneault had chosen to dress the rookie Chris Tanev over the veteran Andrew Alberts, there was some surprise, but it turned out to be a shrewd move. That said, it wasn’t nearly as difficult or gutsy as it appeared. One of the things working against Keith Ballard’s icetime this season has been his admitted discomfort playing the right side. (Consider, for instance, his hipchecks, which are always thrown with his left hip.) This has made it difficult for Vigneault to find a suitable partner for Ballard on a team overloaded with lefties. The right-handed Sami Salo would have been the best fit, but Salo was going to be stepping into the top-four to play with Alex Edler. This left Ballard to play with Alberts, who reason dictated would be the sixth defenseman. However, Alberts is a left-handed left D too, and he’s even less capable of playing on the wrong side. Worse, he isn’t a puck-mover, leaving the responsibility of breakout passes solely to Keith Ballard. This meant that Vigneault could either dress an awkward pairing of mismatched veterans with one uncomfortable puck-mover playing his wrong side, or a complete, puck-moving pairing with everything in its right place and over 20 games of experience as partners. Tough call.
The return of the Finnish MacInnis
What was the difference between the failed 5-on-3 in game 3 and the one that scored three times in game 4? Sami Salo. While Salo was part of the unit that failed to convert in Game 3, the Canucks didn’t do much to incorporate his massive shot or eagerness to use it. The 5-on-3 has struggled this season with the abundance of space the two-man advantage yields, often wasting valuable time in search of the perfect shot. But Salo’s got a cannon. Any shot he takes is a good one. So, in Game 4, the Canucks stopped looking for the perfect shot, and instead began looking for Salo’s shot. Case in point: the 3-0 goal, which has one priority: get Salo to shoot it as hard as he can. Watch the video below. Salo feeds it to Henrik Sedin, then circles out to center ice and gets a running start at a slapshot like he’s competing in the Superskills competition. Salo’s so committed to the shot, he doesn’t even care if Huskins gets down to block it (which he does). He shoots it anyway. There is no Plan B.
Glass gets the Auger treatment, Botch and Spec go at it
Everyone knows Alain Vigneault loves Aaron Rome, so he obviously wasn’t happy with run Jamie McGinn took at him in Game 3. As a result, he started an unorthodox line of Tanner Glass, Ryan Kesler, and Raffi Torres in Game 4, hoping to set a nasty tone. Cameras showed that, when Glass started chirping McGinn off the opening faceoff, one of the officials pulled him aside to calm him down. Jason Botchford reported on the exchange: “I am calm here,” Glass responded, “But if you’re going to run a guy, there’s going to be consequences.” Glass admits the official wasn’t too pleased with this response. Shortly after, he was whistled for a penalty. Now, you can argue about whether or not the penalty was warranted, but it seems likely that the official was eager to call Glass for something after the rugged winger thumbed a nose at him. Botchford tweeted this observation out, which led to the following exchange with Sportsnet’s Mark Spector:
Do I detect a note of annoyance in Jason Botchford? I hope so. Spector’s sent some pretty silly tweets about the Canucks in recent weeks, such as this one, which tries to suggest that it’s Kevin Bieksa’s fault that Ben Eager ran Daniel Sedin. The reason? Bieksa fought Patrick Marleau. First of all, nothing justifies a dangerous hit, and second Bieksa was not the first person to drop the gloves in his fight with Marleau (although Spector countered, “Marleau had to“, because he’s the first hockey player in the world to suffer a crosscheck).
While some have suggested Spector has a hate-on for the Canucks, I suspect his distaste is actually for their fans. He seems to relish getting under their skin, and he does it with aplomb. That said, this exchange indicates that local frustration with Sportsnet’s lead columnist is not simply limited to Vancouver’s fans.
Henrik Sedin is a pretty good captain
Many have argued that fiery, passionate Ryan Kesler was the better choice for captain than Henrik Sedin. I personally think the notion is absurd. Not only has Henrik now led the Canucks to within a game of the Stanley Cup Finals, but much of Vancouver’s success this year has come as a result of the team adopting his composed, business-like approach, Kesler included (or even especially). For some reason, however, people hate to give credit to the Sedins. Instead, Gillis and Vigneault have been championed for changing the culture in the dressing room, and very little praise has gone to Henrik. Worse, when he had an unproductive stretch versus Nashville, and Kesler went off, the Kesler For Captain chatter got loud — unfairly so. No doubt Kesler had this in mind when Dave Lozo asked him about the way Henrik played in game 4. That’s why he’s our captain, Kesler said.
Put Tanner Glass Fighting Bears on your desktop
And finally, the image below is available in 1024 x 768 desktop wallpaper here.