That is not the Vancouver Canucks hockey that fans are used to from last season and I sincerely doubt that it is the Vancouver Canucks hockey that we see throughout the rest of the season. While certainly a fun game to watch with plenty of excitement, it was not good hockey. It wasn’t just the Canucks either, as both teams played irresponsible hockey full of consistently bad reads leading to defensive breakdowns, leaving both goaltenders helpless to stop the wide-open scoring chances that developed. Nine goals were scored on 67 shots in this game and I saw every single one, because I watched this game.
If I don’t start right into the goals, this IWTG will go on forever, but I just need to point out that the Canucks were given 4 straight penalties to start this game and still ended up with more powerplays overall. It seemed like the referees were a little overeager with their whistles early, calling a couple week penalties, then felt the need to overcompensate with further weak calls once they noticed all those weak first period penalties were on the Canucks. I’m just saying that some of the calls were fishier than a remote-controlled flying shark.
That said, the Canucks have got to stop playing half the first period short-handed. It almost cost them in Columbus and it did cost them in this game. Philadelphia’s first goal of the game came after a holding call in the offensive zone against Mikael Samuelsson. Samuelsson needs to treat his hockey stick like a great sword: two hands.
The goal itself came off a bizarre bounce off a dump-in by Chris Pronger. The puck deflected off a stanchion directly into the slot where Claude Giroux was only too happy to flip it over the shoulder of the unprepared Luongo. If we had retired the stanchion back in the playoffs like we suggested, this wouldn’t have been a problem. The real crime here is that Pronger got a first assist on this goal. If Pronger is up for the Norris trophy at the end of the year and a sports writer points out that he has one more primary assist than another candidate, I will flip out.
Pronger, however, deserves credit for the Flyers’ second goal, a powerplay slap shot that went off the post and in. It was a perfect shot that I’m betting Luongo would have liked to see so he could really appreciate it. And stop it. Unfortunately, light in the visible spectrum does not pass through Wayne Simmonds.
Just prior to Pronger’s goal, I noticed that the Canucks penalty killers were playing very high on the point, attempting to take away the big point shots of Pronger and Meszaros; advisable, since both scored in this game. I had ample time to observe this, since the Canucks spent over half of the first 12 minutes of this game on the penalty kill. It was not a particularly pretty penalty kill, which made it arduous to have to watch it so much. The Canucks have now given up 4 goals on 13 powerplays to start the season; with their personnel, this should be a strength.
While the Canucks penalty kill had some issues, their powerplay looked fantastic, particularly the first unit. Samuelsson may not be contributing much to the second line right now, but he’s filling Ehrhoff’s role as the powerplay roamer very effectively. He opened the scoring for the Canucks by vacating the point on a rotation with Henrik and sneaking in behind the Flyers’ box formation. Henrik’s initial point shot deflects off a body in front and Samuelsson scoops the rebound past Ilya Bryzgalov.
Henrik Sedin scored his first goal of the season, shoveling a bouncing puck over Bryzgalov’s right pad. While the multiple deflections the puck takes are fortunate, the initial turnover comes off a savvy forecheck by Henrik and an alert pinch by Alex Edler. Henrik tips Coburn’s attempted pass to Jagr, allowing Edler to step up and deflect the puck into the slot, where Burrows swipes at it before the puck somehow bounces out to Henrik. We knew the Sedins were regular wizards; is Henrik also a pinball wizard?
Chris Higgins scored 2 goals in 14 games for the Canucks last season. He matched that tonight in the third game of the season, finishing off a great play by Alex Burrows. Burrows sets up behind the net like he’s Henrik, then draws both Kimmo Timonen and Pronger to one side of the goal before hitting Higgins with the pass. Pronger slams his stick on the ice in frustration, while the young Flyers fan next to the glass beside the Canucks’ celebration looks like he has lost the ability to feel emotion.
You’ll notice that the forward line on the ice for that goal was a bit of an unusual combination, with Cody “Silent G” Hodgson centring Burrows and Higgins. Like every single Canucks fan, Vigneault has noticed how ineffective the wingers have been on the second line and began mixing and matching partway through the first. Hansen eventually joined Hodgson and Higgins, forming the Triple-Names-That-End-In-’N'-Sounds Line. What? What would you call it?
The biggest loser in all the line-shuffling was Marco Sturm. The formerly fleet-footed German played just under 11 minutes, barely more than the fourth line. The only reason his minutes were that high is that he still skated on the second-unit on the powerplay and the Flyers took 5 penalties in the third period. He finished minus-2, with just one shot and one hit. Sturm’s stock is rapidly dropping, but he’s still collecting his full paycheck. If he’s not careful, a bunch of left-wing middle-class Americans will occupy him.
The prettiest goal of the evening came courtesy of the Sedins on the powerplay, as they included Alex Edler in their wizardry. As Ray Ferraro points out, Daniel takes two quick steps out from the goal line, opening up the passing lane for Edler, who makes no mistake, snapping the pass through the seam with such speed and precision that Bryzgalov doesn’t have a hope of getting across in time. Watch the replay starting 38 seconds in to see how small that passing lane really was. That pass is so crisp you could put it over apples and serve it for desert at Thanksgiving.
With all of these Canucks goals, how did they lose this game? Unfortunately, they had a lot of trouble surviving the shifts directly after one of their goals. The Flyers scored goals of their own within two minutes of three of the Canucks’ tallies. James Van Reimsdyk scored shortly after the Canucks’ first goal when Bieksa took a lazy loop on the breakout. Jakub Voracek responded to the Canucks’ second goal when Alberts, playing in his first game of the season, misread the play and went to check a man already covered by Samuelsson. And Andrej Meszaros scored the gamewinner less than a minute after Daniel tied the game when Bieksa and Sturm overplayed the puck carrier and left Meszaros wide open.
The common denominator is blown coverage caused by terrible reads and a lack of communication. While the Canucks put together some fantastic offensive zone pressure and created a lot of goalscoring opportunities, they were completely out of sync in the defensive end of the ice. The good news is that if the Canucks can’t get in sync, they can at least get part of ‘N Sync. I’m pretty sure Chris Kirkpatrick isn’t doing anything.
Luongo wasn’t the reason the Canucks lost this game, but he wasn’t spectacular either, with one notable exception. His incredible toe save on Jaromir Jagr was absolutely amazing. That was a lot of superlatives for one sentence, but this save was worth it. The replay from the goal cam illustrates it best, as Luongo doesn’t just kick out his left pad, but launches himself sideways with his right skate, barely getting the blade of his left skate on the puck. We’ll ignore that Luongo should have been able to cover up the puck in the first place, because this was a heck of a save.
Hodgson once again had a strong game, leading the Canucks in shots with 6, one of 40 (forty!) shots the Canucks took in this game. He looked especially strong in the third period, which is beginning to become a trend. Is this a result of his training with Gary Roberts? He also seemed to frequently get involved in tussles after the whistle, mainly because he always seemed to be in front of the net (either net) when the goalies froze the puck. With his strong play and the disappointing performance of Sturm, it’s seeming more and more likely that he’ll stay on the second line when Kesler returns.
The one area that Hodgson was a little weak on was faceoffs, right after Harrison pointed out how good he was. Coincidence? Yes. Oddly enough, even though Hodgson was the only centre below 50% on faceoffs, he was the man in the faceoff circle when Luongo was pulled for the extra man at the end of the game. He won the draw, leading to three attempted shots on net. I find it extremely interesting that Hodgson took the faceoff instead of Henrik. This is entirely conjecture, but it’s possible that he was instructed to cheat on the draw as much as possible to try to win the faceoff, with the better faceoff man in Henrik ready to step in if Hodgson was waved out.
Finally, please tell me that you saw Claude Giroux doing the running man while held against the boards by Salo. He looked like one of the people you pick up in Katamari Damacy, his legs flailing like mad as he tried to draw a penalty. If there’s any justice in the world, there is already a GIF of this on Tumblr. Side note: there is no justice in the world.
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