For the past few seasons, there have been two surefire cure-alls for Vancouver struggles: the month of November and the Calgary Flames. Lucky for the Canucks, they kicked off thirty days of the former with sixty minutes of the latter, and the result was that always enjoyable category of game we like to call the laugher. The Canucks ran away with this one early, jumping out to a 3-0 lead with a 14-shot first period, then adding two more in the second while Calgary briefly debated responding. They really never did. Like the Calgary Flames that played in this game, I watched this game.
You knew the Flames weren’t really into this one when they gave up a breakaway to both Sedins at the same time about five minutes into the game. It’s hard to claim you’re on the ball defensively when you let an entire family get behind your defense.
Perhaps feeling extra lucky after the Sedins failed to capitalize, the Flames then surrended another breakaway, this time to Chris “Kiss Huggins” Higgins, the hottest Canuck on the team (in terms of goals; looks-wise, David Booth remains an Adonis). Higgins borrowed liberally from the playbook of Alex Burrows and went backhand on Kiprusoff to open the scoring. One imagines he stole the move from Burrows just so he could apologize later and hug it out.
That said, pretty as the goal was, Jannik Hansen’s backhand pass was freaking ridiculous. He just kind of swats at it and it perfectly splits the defense. I haven’t seen a swat that effective since Mickey Mouse killed seven flies with one blow.
Poor Kiprusoff. Fans booed him for his play tonight, despite his team boasting the porosity of freshly-tilled soil. Looks like we’re not so different after all, Calgary. I felt especially bad for him on Alex Burrows’ powerplay goal, when Burrows and Ryan Kesler treat him like a couples’ hammock while Burrows is shoveling the puck into the goal. I know both guys were pushed, but if I’m a goalie, and a goal is scored while Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler are both sitting on me, I’m taking my ball and going home.
That was an instance where, had the roles been reversed, the Canucks would have been accused of not protecting their goalie. Of course, you can understand why Calgary didn’t do anything. They were already down two and had just suffered through a 5-on-3. They couldn’t afford to gift more powerplay opportunities to the Canucks, who were clearly on. The takeaway: the Canucks may not be traditionally tough, but when they play like they did tonight, they intimidate traditionally tough teams.
That play really starts when Alex Edler wins a race to a puck in the corner, then makes a brilliant little backhand pass to Henrik, who circles out in front of the goal all alone. This sets off the most hilarious sequence of the night, as Henrik never even looks at the Calgary goal, thinking pass the whole time despite the defenders thinking the same thing and peeling off to cover his options. But Henrik still passes, moving the puck into traffic and across the crease for Daniel, just as he did on the failed 2-on-0 breakaway earlier in the game. Again: twice in one period, Henrik found himself all alone in front of the goalie and passed to his brother. All Henrik does is pass, which is likely why he wasn’t asked to be a judge on Sweden’s Got Talent.
Henrik isn’t just pass-happy; he’s honest too. After catching Curtis Glencross with a high-stick in the third period, he didn’t even try to pretend it never happened. Rather, he called attention to himself by waving the referee over. Then he gave Glencross an apologetic pat on the back as he skated away.
Speaking of that powerplay, just after the Flames wasted it, Scott Hannan flipped the puck over the glass, sending Calgary back to the penalty kill. The cameras picked up a frustrated fan loudly sighing “F*** off,” as clear as day.
The guy wasn’t the only fan having a bad night. Do make sure to have a hearty chuckle at this poor gentleman, who loses a perfectly good, eight-dollar beer when Alex Edler hits the glass right in front of him. There’s been some debate over whether this is a Canucks fan or a Flames fan, what with the guy in the Canucks jersey following him into the seats. I choose to assume it’s a Flames fan, what for maximum schadenfreude.
How do we know Roberto Luongo’s rounding into November form? Because he gave up a snack goal. For the uninitiated: the snack goal is the goal Roberto Luongo gives up to break the shutout with only a few minutes to go in a game. He did it so often last year that we assumed it had to be on purpose, the purpose being to make sure teams aren’t too hungry next time. Hence, snack goal.
After coming out so strong in that 14-shot, 3-goal first period, the Canucks pretty much packed it in, only registering seven shots over the final two periods. They were showing some bad habits by the third, but they scored two goals on four shots in the second, so clearly, there wasn’t much impetus to work hard anymore. Hopefully, none of the bad habits carry over to Thursday.
Alex Edler had another excellent game tonight, finishing with a goal (albeit a lucky one), and two assists for the second straight game. He now has 12 points in 12 games, good for 15th in the NHL in scoring. While he probably won’t finish the season with 82 points, is 50 an unreasonable expectation? The Canucks would be giddy if he got there. I think a lot is going to depend on the health of Sami Salo, with whom he clearly plays a great deal better. That sentence that scares me more than the entire filmography of Dario Argento.
Did anyone else catch when Rene Bourque made like he was flipping the puck to the referee, then put it off Alexander Sulzer’s back instead? Yeah, that was on purpose. Sulzer knew it too, giving a bemused look as he skated away.
Great play by Maxim Lapierre to set Cody Hodgson up for the Canucks’ fourth goal. After winning a puck battle along the boards, Lapierre sees Hodgson sliding to the goal, and makes a beautiful centring pass to get it there. Of course, since Alain Vigneault hates Cody Hodgson, I’m sure he’ll use the kid’s seeming chemistry with Lapierre as an excuse to demote him to the fourth line.
The Canucks won 65% of the faceoff tonights, as each of their four centres finished above 60%. Meanwhile, the Flames struggled. Daniel made the interesting observation that, while the Canucks only sent five guys to the dot (with Hodgson being the lone winger to draw in), the Flames sent nine. Their helter skelter approach to draws might explain why they’re currently the second-worst faceoff team in the league. Or maybe it’s just because their centres aren’t very good.
We got a few tweets suggesting that Luongo’s shutout would have remained intact if Tim Jackman had received an instigator penalty for going after Dale Weise with only a minute to go. Yeah, maybe, whatever. When it comes to Dale Weise, I’m more interested in his blue mouthguard, which makes him look like he always has a mouthful of gummy sharks.
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