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.
The Triumphant Return of Manny Malh-Odin
Manny Malhotra only played seven and a half minutes in his first game back, but make no mistake: his impact was massive, and not just for the emotional boost, but for the redivision of defensive responsibilities. Malhotra took 7 faceoffs last night, winning 6 of them, but the more interesting stat here is that he took six of those seven in the defensive zone. As Daniel noted in the IWTG, Henrik Sedin took zero defensive zone draws last night, but do you know how many Henrik took in game 1? Six. In effect, Alain Vigneault was able to give Malhotra’s line every single one of the Sedin line’s defensive zone starts. That means more offensive zone starts, which tends to mean more offense. Talk about impact.
But it’s not just Henrik that benefits from the return of The Enabler. Defensive zone starts for the fourth line means more O-zone starts for the second and third lines as well, a development that doesn’t bode well for a Boston team that has really struggled to contain Vancouver’s middle six forwards as they dash through the neutral zone. Boston’s success tends to come when they can hem the Canuck speedsters in their own zone off the draw, but that will be much more difficult to accomplish when those units take fewer faceoffs there.
Fin retrieves the puck
We’ve talked, in the past, about how Alex Burrows has taken on the role of designated puck retriever for his teammates’ milestone pucks. If you pot a first career goal, a game winner, or reach a career milestone in points, Burr always seems to be the one considerate enough to pick up the puck you did it with. But what happens when he’s the goal scorer? Burrows’ last overtime winner, the series clincher versus the Blackhawks, was collected by Kevin Bieksa. This time, however, nobody remembered to go back for it.
Except Fin. (Seriously, is there anybody in the Canucks’ dressing room who isn’t pitching in during this playoff run?) As unearthed by Puck Daddy earlier today, the NHL goal cam, which caught some great stuff last night, captured the Canucks’ mascot as he made a quick trip to the goalmouth to quietly collect the puck from Burrows’s second big moment of the postseason. It would have been a real shame if this puck had been lost. Thanks to Fin, it wasn’t. Pretty thoughtful of him, especially considering it was his birthday.
The baseboard is the new stanchion
You could point the finger at a number of Bruins for their part in the Alex Burrows overtime winner, 11 seconds into the final frame. After the Bruins won the draw, Andrew Ference gave the puck right back to the Canucks. Mark Recchi should have gained the wall to receive his pass. Zdeno Chara got outworked and outreached by a guy eight inches shorter than he is. Tim Thomas took himself out of the play and created separation between Burrows and Chara with an ill-advised dive after Chara poked the puck away on the initial attempt. Even Brad Marchand might have had a play if he hadn’t coasted in. But, in truth, we’re not pointing fingers if that puck doesn’t take one of the most generous bounces off the baseboard we’ve ever seen. After Burrows loses it, it hits the wall, then caroms back out in front of the net, missing the far post by about half an inch. Sometimes I think Alex Burrows is the luckiest player in NHL history.