Just as we predicted, the Canucks followed up an ugly game in Minnesota with a slightly less ugly game in St. Louis. It’s amazing, however, how a one-goal game can seem so lopsided. When the Blues were in the offensive zone, it constantly seemed like they were on the verge of a gorgeous scoring chance, while the Canucks seemed to have trouble getting the puck towards the net with any regularity. In their post-game comments, however, the Canucks seemed positive, saying that they played a more complete game and stuck with their process, which brings to mind a game from last season.
On November 21, 2010, the Canucks lost 3-2 to the Phoenix Coyotes. It was the second game of a back-to-back following their worst performance of the year, the infamous Voldemort Game. In the IWTG for that loss to the Coyotes, we bemoaned the absence of Sami Salo, the shoddiness of the defence, and the lack of cycle to the Sedins game. The players, however, felt like they had performed well and stuck with their system. This should sound familiar for anyone who watched this game, and it therefore sounded familiar to me, because I watched this game.
Alain Vigneault made a host of changes to his lineup after the debacle in Minnesota: Jannik Hansen lined up with the Sedins, Maxim Lapierre was promoted to the third line in-between Cody Hodgson and David Booth, and Manny Malhotra was bumped down to the fourth line with Dale Weise and Andrew Ebbett. Switching out the big and physical Volpatti for the smaller, more-skilled Ebbett was an odd choice given how physical this game turned out to be.
The line juggling reunited Burrows and Kesler, tripling the dynamic duo with Higgins on the second line. They played the first shift of the game and it was worlds apart from the Canucks’ first shift against the Wild.
The new-look second line also created the game’s first goal, as a shot from Burrows went off Brian Elliott’s glove and straight up in the air. That’s when Chris Stewart decided to swipe at the puck with his glove, knocking it straight into the net. Clearly, this is karma for Chris and his brother, Anthony, constantly trash-talking PITB on Twitter. Either that, or Chris Stewart would rather bat the puck into his own net than pass it to Bulis.
Unfortunately, Alex Burrows was knocked out of the game with an injury, possibly after a collision with the aforementioned Stewart. He finished the game with just under 7-and-a-half minutes of ice time, and given how he, Kesler, and Higgins were playing together, it’s possible that this could have been a different game. Instead, his minutes had to be spread throughout a tired Canucks lineup in the second game of a back-to-back situation.
The Canucks didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy their lead, as T.J. Oshie tied it up just over a minute and a half later. The goal came just 45 seconds after David Booth missed the net on a breakaway. It would have been infinitely preferable to have a 2-goal lead, but it would also have been preferable to force Elliott to make a save and perhaps have to cover it up for an offensive zone faceoff.
The real problem on that goal, however, was Daniel Sedin leaving Scott Nichol to attempt to check Roman Polak as he started to go around the net. This started a chain reaction of missed coverage: Hamhuis had to leave the front of the net to check Nichol, leaving Oshie wide open in front. Hansen and Edler were the closest players, but Hansen was clearly moving down to pick up Polak after he came around the net and Edler was coming back from the point after following his check there. If Daniel stays with Nichol, that goal doesn’t happen.
The Canucks dominated the Blues on faceoffs in the first period, winning 71% of the draws. They were led by Kesler going 4-for-4 and Henrik going 3-for-4. Unfortunately, it all fell apart by the end of the game, as the Blues won the vast majority of the faceoffs in the second and third period, finishing the game with 54% of the faceoff wins. After winning 3 faceoffs in the first, Henrik only won 3 more the entire game, finishing 6-for-17.
The Blues wasted no time adding to the Canucks’ second period woes, as Oshie scored his second of the game a minute-and-a-half in. The puck squirted out of a scrum in front of Luongo right to Oshie, who was able to beat Luongo over his left pad. It’s no surprise that Oshie got the puck out of the scrum: he played scrum-half in rugby at the University of North Dakota. Tru Fakt™.
It was an odd sequence of events that led to the goal: Andrew Alberts broke his stick, possibly from blocking a shot, but more likely when David Backes fell on it during a battle along the boards. It appeared that he didn’t notice right away, however, as he discarded his stick just as the Blues broke in 2-on-2. Without his stick, Alberts could only go down to block the initial shot. Then, as Henrik went to check Backes, Alberts stopped him to borrow his stick, leaving Backes with all sorts of time to try a wrap-around: it didn’t work, but it led directly to the scrum that resulted in the goal.
Speaking of Alberts blocking shots, he led all players with 6 blocked shots. He was blockier than Minecraft.
Jannik Hansen playing with the Sedins is an experiment that seems unlikely to continue: while the top line was occasionally able to put together some sustained pressure in the offensive zone, more often than not their passes failed to connect or Hansen seemed unsure where to go. While it’s advisable to give a new line time to gel (particularly with Burrows potentially missing games with an injury), there are other players that might be a better fit. Also, the Sedins still hold a grudge with Hansen over the Great Northern War. Tru Fakt™.
Starting the third period on the powerplay, Ryan Kesler briefly went into Beast Mode, or rather Beast Wars mode. He transformed into Quickstrike, scoring 23 seconds into the period like a speedy combination of a scorpion and a cobra. I think this is the furthest I have ever gone for a joke. Kesler knocked in the rebound on a Dan Hamhuis one-timer, then, like a needy bro, looked around desperately for someone to fist-bump.
Other than the goal, however, Kesler was not particularly good, ending up more like Waspinator.
After watching David Booth fight Scott Nichol, I have concluded that Booth should not fight. It was only the second fight of his NHL career and it showed. Unfortunately, he didn’t have his compound bow with him or it would have been a different story.
Here’s the thing: Booth has a couple concussions in his history. He shouldn’t be tempting fate by inviting punches to his face. The Bible talks about protecting Christians from snakes and poison, but it doesn’t say anything about face-punches. It should. Although Booth certainly turned the other cheek several times during that fight.
While it would have been nice to get a quicker whistle on the game-winning goal, or perhaps a consistent application of the rule that you can’t push a goaltender into the net while scoring, the fault does not lie with the referees. Andrew Ebbett had a brutal shift, taking too long to move the puck out of the zone, then standing around like a male mammary gland (ie. a useless tit) while Backes stood wide open in front of the net.
Finally, Dan Hamhuis was spitting blood on the ice after getting high-sticked in the mouth by Alex Steen, yet Steen did not receive a double-minor penalty. I am absolutely baffled by this. While the rules do allow some leeway in judging injuries, I have never seen a player spit blood and not earn a double-minor. Did the refs think Hamhuis had bitten open a hidden blood capsule in his mouth? Do they think his nickname of The Hammer is evidence of a past in professional wrestling? The Community Man would never stoop so low, unless it was to drop some money in a beggar’s coffee cup.
After a win over the Detroit Red Wings, the Canucks are sitting in second in the Pacific and boast the division's best goal differential. That said, a big part of that goal differential comes from the Canucks' league-leading 10 empty net goals. […]