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.
Higgins and Lapierre couldn’t be happier(re)
The above photo, taken by Jeff Vinnick during the jubilation following Vancouver’s punched tickets to the Finals, may be my favourite photo from the Canucks’ cup run. Why? Because it tells a fabulous story. After being picked high by the Montreal Canadiens, both Maxim Lapierre and Chris Higgins struggled to establish themselves in the league and were eventually moved by their draft team. They didn’t fare much better any place else: in the last two seasons alone, they’ve played for a combined seven teams. At 25 and 27, respectively, both Lapierre and Higgins were already what you could call “journeymen.” With this in mind, neither seemed over the moon when they were moved again, even if it was to the Cup-favourite Canucks. I’m sure they were tired of feeling unwanted.
Originally acquired to be Tanner Glass’s linemates on the fourth line, where they’d play a small part and then likely be jettisoned in the offseason, injuries to Mikael Samuelsson and Manny Malhotra forced both into much more prominent roles. Now, they’re crucial elements of a team in the Stanley Cup Finals, guys without whom the Canucks might not be where they are. Lapierre has brought stability to the third line. Higgins has four postseason goals, three of them game winners.
The above photo isn’t of two guys nobody wanted. It’s of two guys who aren’t just part of the celebration, they’re a reason for it.
Burrows, Bieksa, and eBay
The Canucks have won two of their three playoff series this postseason on overtime goals. In the first round, it was Alex Burrows, who plucked a Chris Campoli clearing attempt out of the air and wired it past Corey Crawford. As the team celebrated, Kevin Bieksa circled back to collect the series-winning puck. When Scott Oake asked him about it, he quipped, “It’s going on eBay tomorrow.”
This crack is even funnier when you realize Burrows is the guy who always remembers to collect his teammates’s milestone pucks. He collected the puck on Daniel Sedin’s 100th point. He circled away from the celebration on Lee Sweatt’s first career goal to do the same. You know if he played on the Blackhawks, that cup-winning puck would never have been lost. Bieksa is well-aware of all of this, and I’m sure the guys had a big laugh at the thought that Burrows, of all people, might not get his puck.
The universe righted itself on Bieksa’s big goal; the time between the puck crossing the goal line and Alex Burrows picking it up was about half a second. Asked what he was going to do with it, and remembering what Bieksa threatened to do with his puck, Burrows responded, “I’m going to keep it.” Then, in a great callback, he joked, “Put it on eBay probably.”
Antti Niemi’s generous reputation may have taken a hit
This image was created by HF Boards member ZMachine for their now-legendary playoff photoshop thread. It’s incredible. The amount of work he must have put in to make this look realistic is baffling to me.
Kent Huskins is not Shea Weber
When I made my prediction that the Canucks would eliminate the Sharks in six, my main reason was San Jose’s lack of depth on the back end. There is no better example of this than the curious case of Kent Huskins, San Jose’s seventh defenseman, who only drew into the Vancouver series to replace the injured Jason Demers, and somehow wound up playing 31:52 of game 5, most of it against the Sedins. Needless to say, he didn’t fare so well, as you might have noticed the Sedins were downright remarkable. According to Copper & Blue, the Sedins generated an impressive 16 of Vancouver’s 24 scoring chances.
You might be asking why Huskins, not Dan Boyle, drew this assignment: because San Jose couldn’t afford to let Boyle, the only real offensive generator on their back end, spend the majority of his time and energy chasing the Twins around the defensive zone. This is where the Canucks glut of quality defensemen pays dividends. Most of the year, they’ve had two pairings, one for each situastion. Need to shut down a line? Play Bieksa and Hamhuis. Need to score? Play Ehrhoff and Edler. On the flip side, if the Sharks wanted to free up Dan Boyle, they had to throw Kent Huskins at two Art Ross trophy winners. I wonder if Doug Wilson ever kicks himself over giving Christian Ehrhoff away for nothing. Send Ehrhoff across the Hall and it might be Joe Thornton posing with the Clarence Campbell trophy.
Kerry Fraser might want to rethink that statement
Here’s Kerry Fraser, responding to a question by Marc, from Kingston, Ontario, on the icing call near the end of Game 5 that led to Ryan Kesler’s game-tying goal. If you’ll recall, the puck grazed Daniel Sedin’s shoulder on its way down the ice. Nevermind that Dan Boyle needs to make a smarter play than wiring it around the boards. Fraser blames the refs:
I wish there some way to put a positive spin on this but there just isn’t. Icing should have been immediately waived off and nullified when Dan Boyle’s end zone clearing slap shot deflected off Daniel Sedin’s shoulder. The shot was hard and fast for sure and contact was obviously not easy to detect. Given Sedin’s defensive posture as the shot approached him high off the glass and his reaction once it struck and passed by, it is unfortunate that one of the four officials was unable to detect it.
With the Vancouver net empty, had the icing been waived off the odds would be very good that the Sharks would have come away with a victory – maybe even iced it with an open net goal at that point. Once the whistle blew and the Sharks protested, if one member of the officiating crew had confirmed the contact through a meeting of minds in a huddle, the subsequent faceoff would have been conducted at center ice.
A centre ice face off would likely result in Luongo returning to his goal; probably to the half way point in his end zone until puck possession was determined. At the very least the Canucks would have had to gain the attacking zone.
Odds here would again favor a San Jose victory and force Game 6 back in the Shark Tank. On this night, none of it would happen. In all probability it had an effect on the game and the series. It was unfortunately one that was missed. I am certain that each member of the officiating crew last night wishes he had another look, a better angle, another opportunity. None were to be had.
Talk about throwing your colleagues under the bus. After all the hullaballoo regarding questionable officiating in this series, Fraser, a former referee who should know better, basically says the officials cost San Jose Game 5.
Later he returns to the article to soften his stance, admitting that it might not have been fair to play “what-if” with the aftermath of the blown call. I should hope not. Unless he’s got Chloe Ezra drawing him sketches, he’s way out of his element.Tags: Bieksa, Burrows, Canucks, Chris Higgins, ebay, kerry fraser, lapierre, niemi, spitballin