For the second game in a row, Roberto Luongo was the problem, letting in three goals on 31 shots, including two goals on 6 shots in the third period, when the Canucks desperately needed him to shut the door in order to have a chance at clawing their way back into the game. Clearly, it’s time for Cory Schneider to take the reins and – hmm? What’s that? You say that Schneider started this game, not Luongo? Oh.
Cory Schneider was outstanding against the Blues tonight, keeping the Canucks in the game through two periods, giving up only one goal on 25 shots. Unfortunately, the skaters in front of him were unable to provide him with any goal support and, while desperately pushing for a goal in the third, gave up some prime scoring chances at the other end that Schneider couldn’t possibly be expected to stop.
Ugh. I watched this game.
The perfect summation of tonight’s game: Alexander Sulzer was the Canucks’ best defenceman.
Okay, okay, that’s not exactly fair. The Canucks were clearly tired after just playing in Edmonton last night and it showed in the first two periods, as the Canucks were out-shot 25 to 15, but they turned up the heat in the third period, out-shooting the Blues 17 to 6. In addition, Kesler and Hamhuis both hit posts in the first period and had a number of other excellent chances, but just weren’t able to finish. The shots finished 32 to 31 in favour of the Canucks and the Blues blocked another 21 shots. The Canucks dominated possession in this game, but couldn’t get the puck past the Blues’ defenders and Brian Elliott.
It is nice to see that Sulzer can play on the right side, however. He and Ballard looked comfortable together, nearly combining for a goal in the first period. Unfortunately, the HamJuice reunion did not go well at all, as Hamhuis and Bieksa both finished minus-2. It was the worst reunion since Martin Blank killed a guy with a pen.
All of the rink ads in Rogers Arena were light purple for Hockey Fights Cancer, which is a nice touch. Unfortunately, the incredibly annoying ads super-imposed on the glass behind the goalies were also light urple, which managed to make them even more intrusive and distracting. Look, no one is going to be less likely to donate to cancer research if you keep those ads white or, better yet, remove them altogether. There’s no need to colour coordinate the ads that the people in the arena don’t even see.
On the theme of Hockey Fights Cancer, Dan Murphy let people know that the ties the crew were wearing tonight could be purchased on NHL.com, with the proceeds going to cancer research. Added Murph, “I don’t think John Garret’s game worn tie is up for auction.” John Shorthouse immediately replied, “It’s too covered in food…is that mustard?”
Shortly after, they announced the Safeway Score n’ Win participating product, prompting Garret to whine “Peanut butter again?” Easy, Garret, it’s not brussel sprouts.
I noticed that DJ Dave played “Young Americans” by David Bowie when the Booth-Kesler-Higgins line came out for a faceoff at one point. Kudos, DJ Dave. Unfortunately, the line didn’t stick together, as Vigneault experimented in the third period to try to kick the Canucks’ offense into gear. Hansen was promoted to the second line at the beginning of the third period and by the end it was Cody Hodgson skating with Kesler and Booth. And that’s why you don’t name a line before they’ve played a few games together.
I figured Higgins was in trouble in the first period, when he came in on a 3-on-1 from the blueline with the puck and made a low-percentage shot instead of passing the puck. Kesler and Booth are both shooters (Kesler had 260 shots last season, Booth had 280) and need someone who can get them the puck. Higgins is not a playmaker – he has 108 goals compared to 93 assists in his career – so a pass-first player like Hansen or a smart player with great vision like Hodgson might be a better fit.
Booth has certainly looked good (in more ways than one, ladies and certain gentlemen) in his first couple games in Vancouver, but he’s now played 8 games this season with no goals, 1 assist and after a minus-2 tonight is minus-8 on the season. He did, however, have 4 shots on net and 4 hits, so the lack of results is not for lack of effort.
Booth wasn’t really at fault for either of the goals scored while he was on the ice, either. On the Blues’ first goal, Booth led a rush up-ice, as Bieksa jumped up and went straight for the net. Unfortunately, both Kesler and Higgins jumped into the rush as well, so when none of the three Canucks could corral the rebound, there was no one covering for Bieksa at the point. Schneider was able to stop the first shot on the resulting odd-man rush, but couldn’t stop the second, as no one picked up Alexander Steen on the rebound.
Tying with Booth for the team-high in shots was Alex Edler, who had an additional 5 shots blocked and 3 more hit the net. That’s a problem; as much as it’s great that Edler had possession of the puck to take those shots, he has to start getting them through traffic and on target. The quiet cannon has no goals yet on the season despite a lot of powerplay time, though he does have 6 assists.
It doesn’t help that Edler hasn’t been stellar defensively: coming out of the box after a penalty, Edler first failed to check Pietrangelo, then wasn’t sure who to cover as he was filling a forward’s role. Instead, he headed directly for the slot, where he would normally play as a defenceman, and was too slow to react to the puck going to Steen along the boards. While Schneider could have (and perhaps should have) stopped Steen’s shot, he had to try to pick it up through Edler, who still hasn’t figured out how to turn translucent.
Edler didn’t look too great on the Blues’ third goal either, ending up on his rear end while attempting to block a shot or a pass or…really I’m not sure what he was trying to accomplish. Everyone else on the ice looked completely disinterested, vaguely waving at the puck or half-heartedly sliding in front of it, giving Schneider very little chance to make the save. It’s almost like the Canucks’ issues early in the season have been their defensive breakdowns and not the goaltending. Imagine that.
I could do with never seeing Aaron Volpatti on the third line again. I like Volpatti a lot – as a fourth-liner. While he has slightly better hands than Tanner Glass – who we loved but didn’t want to see on the third line – he’s also a good deal slower. While the third line did have one phenomenal shift in the offensive zone, Volpatti just doesn’t seem like a good fit. Honestly, I hope he proves me wrong. But for now, no third line for Volpatti.
Finally, don’t look now, but the Canucks are currently 4th in the Northwest Division behind…Colorado, Edmonton, and Minnesota. I said don’t look now. Aw heck, I’m going to get blamed for a lot of laptops getting shorted out by tears.
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