Tonight was a tale of two games. In the one game, which took place in the first period, the back half of the second period, and the entirety of the third period, the Canucks defeated the Oilers by a score of 2-0. In the other game, which took place in the first ten minutes of the second period, the Oilers defeated the Canucks by a score of 3-0. Unfortunately for Vancouver, there was also a third, larger game, which was decided by combining scores of the other two games. Hence, the Oilers won this game as well. I watched this game.
After the Oilers’ outburst in the second, which included three goals in the span of six minutes, Alain Vigneault gave Roberto Luongo a quick hook, swapping him for Cory Schneider for the second time this season already. Hey, remember when the Canucks traded for David Booth and, for three sweet days, nobody talked about Roberto Luongo? Yeah, those days are over. Now, when I think of them, I hear the theme from The Wonder Years.
On his way to the bench, Luongo swung his stick in frustration. Incredibly, it stayed in his hands. Who is this man?
We defended Luongo when New York lit him up for four goals, but tonight, he deserved to get pulled. I’m willing to give him a pass on the Oilers’ first goal, a shot most goalies aren’t going to stop. The second and third goals, however, don’t go in if he makes a better play. On the second, Shawn Horcoff’s goal, Luongo gets his signals crossed with Dan Hamhuis while playing the puck behind the net. Then, rather than throwing it up the wall or leaving it where it is, he tries to scoop it behind him with his glove. Maybe that works in jai alai — here, it’s a curious choice. It fooled even Hamhuis, led to a turnover, and forced Luongo to lose sight of the puck while scrambling back into his goal. The next time he saw it, he was fishing it out of the net.
On the third goal, Luongo gets absolutely frozen by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and when Nugent-Hopkins opts to pass rather than shoot, Luongo isn’t set and fails to glide across. Instead he shuffles like a member of the E Street Band, and the puck is past him before he gets there.
Cody Hodgson was back at centre tonight and he looked much better. He even scored a goal, a nice shot that ramped off Ryan Jones’s stick and past Nikolai Khabibulin. Frankly, I thought Malhotra looked just as uncomfortable on the wing as Hodgson did, but I’m much happier with the Canucks stunting Malhotra’s limited offensive upside than I am Hodgson’s.
In case you were wondering, yes, Ben Eager is still a dummy. Each time he comes over the boards, I’m shocked he’s not wearing high-waisted red pants.
The Sedins gave us this season’s first moment of wizardous Sedinerie, setting up Alex Burrows for a ridiculous third period goal to cut the deficit to one. It was nuts, especially since it was a set play. There are two elements: the first is Daniel cutting down the right side, curling, and making the feed to the trailing defenseman (Salo) for the one-timer. The second is Burrows and Henrik overloading the left side together (watch Burrows walk the entire blue line to cut behind Henrik and go wide), hoping for a rebound chance off the blocker. They get it, but rather than shoot, Henrik leads Khabibulin right out of the blue paint, then makes a crazy drop for Burrows, who has a wide open next to shoot at. So good.
Frustrated with the play of his defense, Alain Vigneault gave up on the Hamhuis/Edler pairing and return the Community Man to his usual spot alongside Kevin Bieksa. Edler, meanwhile, was returned to Sami Salo’s left side. Does Vigneault keep these pairs together? I’m of the mind that Hamhuis and Bieksa will stay, but the Canucks clearly don’t want Edler and Salo playing together long-term — it’s too much icetime for Salo. Problem is, he’s far and away the best fit. This should be interesting.
Say, who’s that with only 12:52 of icetime, lowest among defensemen? Why, it’s our old friend, Keith Ballard! Don’t feel too bad for him, though. It’s a new season, so I’m sure the sheets in the doghouse are freshly laundered.
Maxim Lapierre had one of the best moments of the night, knocking Andy Sutton to his derriere in front of the Oilers’ goal in the second. Have you noticed yet that the guy is involved in every scuffle? If you’re wondering why the calls don’t go his way, this is why. Regardless of what the eyes see, it’s hard to believe Lapierre is ever the one being picked on. He just irritates. He’s like a wool sweater skating around the ice.
David Booth was only okay in his first game with the Canucks, but don’t fret: it’s going to take him awhile to adjust. He didn’t always seem to know where to go, and he didn’t always seem to know where his teammates were either. On a handful of occasions, he made passes to nobody. Eventually, he’ll figure out where things are. And on the plus side, he had three shots, so he seems to know where the net is.
I made this observation versus the Rangers, but it stands to be made again. If you’re wondering why one team’s goaltender looked good and the other’s looked bad, take a look at the defensive help. The Oilers blocked 31 shots, only four less than Khabibulin stopped. Edmonton had more blocks than Tetris.
Cory Schneider’s been defending Roberto Luongo all season, but he certainly didn’t do Luongo any favours when he made this save on Jordan Eberle. That’s just obscene. To rob Eberle any worse, he’d need a grappling hook, spray that makes motion sensor lasers visible, a decoy diamond, and a zipline for the escape.
And finally, the only Canuck without a shot tonight: Henrik Sedin. You know who shoots the puck a lot? Vincent Lecavalier. Someone call The Province.
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