For those that thought the Canucks were in the clear the moment the clock struck November, that, perhaps, all that spotty play was exclusive to October, I submit tonight’s game as evidence to the contrary. Don’t let the early goal fool you — this was the polar opposite of a sixty-minute effort, an utter bedwetting, the worst thing to happen in Minnesota since Morris Day steals Apollonia in Purple Rain. Of course, unlike that film, tonight’s game was unwatchable, and I should know, because I watched this game.
In retrospect, there were a lot of early signs that the Canucks weren’t going to show up tonight, such as the first shift. After the Wild won the opening draw, they dumped it into the Canucks’ end, where Kevin Bieksa retrieved it, and made a lazy pass that was easily intercepted by Wild winger Nick Johnson. Were it not for Cory Schneider shutting the door, it would have been 1-0 within the first ten seconds.
Schneider did a lot of door-shutting tonight. He was like Mappy the mouse. His finest moment was a Jacques Plante-style kick save on Guillaume Latendresse that might be among his best stops ever, but he had a bevy of beauties apart from that one as well. Sure, he allowed four goals (trade him for Ohlund!), but considering the Wild — a team averaging 25 shots a game — peppered him for 45 shots tonight, it’s pretty obvious Schneider was the only Vancouver player interested in preventing the puck from crossing the goal line. It almost seemed like a conspiracy. Makes sense. It’s Movember, and that’s what happens men grow moustaches: they conspire, like dastardly whiplashes.
Manny Malhotra’s been struggling to start the season, but Alain Vigneault has been willing to let him play his way back into game shape. Tonight may cause him to rethink such plans, however. Malhhotra finished a game-worst minus-4 on the evening and, if he wasn’t standing at the blue line waving a green flag each time the Wild entered the offensive zone, I’d be hard-pressed to say I saw him tonight.
The fact that Kevin Bieksa finished tonight’s game with zero giveaways is proof that Minnesota’s stat counters are the basest of fools, because Juice was particularly generous tonight. I felt like the tray of cookies he kept offering the Wild forecheckers was a little much.
You could tell the Canucks were really out of sync tonight just by watching Henrik Sedin. There was this one amazing moment where the puck was lying in front of Josh Harding, and Henrik went after it. But, rather than jam it in like he normally does, he lost his footing and went flying into the goal. He also flubbed two saucer passes, simply handing the puck to Wild forecheckers instead. What is going on when Henrik is botching saucer passes and screwing up tap-ins? Those are elementary Henrikian activities. I sure hope he sleeps the rust off before he tries to trim the goatee, or he might be a late addition to the Canucks’ Movember team.
I was amazed at seeing Keith Ballard mistime two hipchecks in tonight’s game as well. Seriously, were the Canucks poisoned? Tell the doctors to check for ricin.
Speaking of Keith Ballard, he was at the center of perhaps the most entertaining sequence of the game (for a Canucks fan, at least — Wild fans probably liked all the scoring). Late in the third, Cal Clutterbuck took a run at him, but Ballard ducked the hit as he often does, upending Clutterbuck instead. As Clutterbuck came up, the two men got into something of a scuffle, which led to Maxim Lapierre jumping in to defend his teammate by attempting to throw Clutterbuck into the Canucks bench. Then Clutterbuck elicited more laughs by taking two wild swings at Lapierre along the boards, instead landing both punches right on the beak of linesman Darren Gibbs. You’re not allowed to do that, so Clutterbuck was given a misconduct for his errant pugilism.
Speaking of things you’re not allowed to do, Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis, ever charitable, took a penalty for attempting to help Lapierre throw Clutterbuck into the bench while he was sitting on it. Hamhuis also opened the scoring tonight, shoveling in a loose puck on a goalmouth scramble created by some wizardous sedinerie. It was Hamhuis’s fifth opening of the day — the other four were all St. Paul youth centres, obviously.
Now, I’m no fan of the Wild, but let’s be sure to give them credit where credit is due. While the Canucks were all kinds of awful, the Wild played a pretty fantastic game tonight. They created a ton of offense (again, nearly twice the shots they usually average), and made the most of their opportunities with some beautiful snipes and some incredible individual efforts. Defensively, they gave up a few chances, but I was amazed at how dedicated the whole team was to sweep checking, poke checking, and stick lifting. The Canucks never seemed to have any space at all. And Vancouver could probably learn something from the way Minnesota kept coming in the third period, even though the game was pretty well finished by then. It’s almost as though they didn’t want to give the Canucks any life.
I was intrigued by Alain Vigneault’s line juggle in the third period, which saw Alex Burrows and Cody Hodgson trade places on the top two lines. It definitely wasn’t an indictment of Burrows play by any means. He was the only Canuck at plus-one, and he had a team-high five shots. You could argue he was the best Canuck. So why bump him down a line? Because Alain Vigneault needed to get Ryan Kesler going. He looked really out of sorts tonight, and the Canucks need him in sorts. They need him in all sorts of sorts.
Matt Cullen had 9 shots tonight. In the 11 games prior, he had 21. He also went 13-for-17 in the faceoff circle. The dude was feeling it.
I thought it was the right choice to sit Sami Salo, who was dealing with some groin tightness but could have played if the Canucks really needed him. The last thing they need is for Salo to exacerbate an injury now that will hobble him come the playoffs when they really need him. Effectively, playing Sami Salo is like eating off the fine china. That said, he was missed tonight. The powerplay looked like a shell of itself, Andrew Alberts was a complete liability alongside Alex Edler, and Edler looked nothing like the d-man we’ve seen over the past two games. Alain Vigneault was so desperate to get Edler going in the late stages that he put him back with Dan Hamhuis.
And finally, a word on Aaron Volpatti’s second period fight with Brad Staubitz. I would have understood if Volpatti had gone looking for a fight, but he didn’t. Staubitz actually instigated that scrap after Volpatti stood up Cal Clutterbuck, who was taking a run at him. This is absurd. It’s already pretty stupid when people jump in to avenge clean hits, but it’s twice as stupid when people jump in to avenge a player not getting hit. Hey! You were supposed to get hit by him!
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