For the first time this season, the Canucks’ defence looked calm, composed, and organized in their own end. Is it a coincidence that this was also Aaron Rome’s first game in the lineup? Of course not. Like a book under a wonky table leg, Rome is a steadying influence. Rome did it all tonight, seeing icetime in all situations, and scoring the first powerplay goal of his career. With that goal, Rome is on pace for 67 goals this season. Is it too early to start the Rome for Norris talk? If anything, it’s too late. Norris buzz needs to start in the pre-season. I watched this game.
Okay, so Aaron Rome didn’t suddenly develop into Nicklas Lidstrom, but he was very good in his first game this season after breaking his hand in the preseason. He recorded two hits, both on Dan Carcillo. Later in the game, Carcillo tried a wrap-around on Luongo, then jammed at the puck as it lay loose near the goal. Rome proceeded to tackle him and punch him repeatedly in the face. The Canucks somehow ended up with a powerplay. Everything was coming up Milhouse for Aaron Rome.
Seriously, when Aaron Rome scores a goal, you know it’s going to be a beatdown. When he scores a powerplay goal, then you know everything’s gone Pete Tong. To his credit, he absolutely wired his slapshot top shelf where mom and dad hide the Christmas presents. His ensuing smile is both gleeful and incredulous, and understandably so. It took him 101 games to score his first goal in a Canucks uniform. It took just one game to score his first goal of the 2011-12 season.
Rome even managed to get some time on the first-unit of the powerplay when Dan Hamhuis took a high stick and couldn’t come out right away. Rome just needs to learn some German from Alex Sulzer and his transformation into Christian Ehrhoff will be complete.
Okay, enough about Rome. What this game was really all about was the powerplay, as the Canucks went 5-for-6 with the man advantage. They were insanely effective with the extra man and it was the main reason for the victory. In retrospect, the Blackhawks probably should not have left all those 1-up mushrooms around the ice.
David Booth kicked off the powerplay party, notching his first goal of the season off a gorgeous pass by Cody Hodgson, who also had an assist on Rome’s goal. Sean O’Donnell kindly lifted his stick just slightly at exactly the wrong time and Hodgson took advantage, slipping it under to the waiting Booth. Corey Crawford made the first save along the ice, then Booth tucked the puck just under the bar on the rebound. The massive and joyous embrace that followed from Chris “Kiss Huggins” Higgins was inevitable and fantastic.
After his ill-advised fight with Scott Nichol on Friday, Booth was sporting a shiner that made him look a bit like Barf the mog. According to Twitter, he’ll apparently be taking dancing lessons with Kevin Bieksa in the near future. That said, fighting seems to bring out the best in him. Booth had a 4-point night after his first NHL fight back on March 3, 2010. His second led to 2 points tonight. Someone should punch him in the tunnel before every game.
During a TV timeout, Roberto Luongo accidentally tripped over one of the ice cleaners. Amusing, but I was more amused by the Blackhawks fan by the glass who mocked Luongo by forming his thumb and pointer finger into an “L” and holding it up to his forehead. If it wasn’t for his daughter grabbing his arm in embarrassment, I could have sworn the guy was 12. Seriously, someone needs to make an animated gif out of this immediately.
Luongo was superb in net, making 38 saves. Unfortunately, there were 40 shots, and one of his non-saves was absolutely horrific. Michael Frolik flung a weak wrist shot towards the net after crossing the blue line that somehow fooled Luongo. He likely also gets fooled by terrible magic tricks. As much as I frequently defend Luongo, that goal was completely inexcusable.
That goal led to loud and obnoxious Lu-booing from the Chicago faithful. Up until that point, the Blackhawks fans had reserved their jeers for Kevin Bieksa, who is vilified for his supposed predatory fight with Viktor Stalberg, and Alex Edler, who is disliked for running over Patrick Kane. The United Center filled with boos every time either one touched the puck; if Alex Burrows had been in the lineup everyone in the arena would have passed out from lack of oxygen.
Late in the first, while the score was still tied, Maxim Lapierre beat Sami Lepisto to the puck and went in on a breakaway. In desperation, Lepisto blatantly hooked Lapierre with no penalty called. It instantly brought to mind this incredible goal by Mario Lemieux, then instantly brought to mind the fact that the two breakaways are nothing alike. 1) Lepisto only had one hand on his stick and barely touched Lapierre. 2) Lapierre is not Lemieux and he finished off his breakaway with the weakest backhand in the history of the NHL. It’s incredible what players used to get away with and it’s incredible how we now expect penalties for the weakest of stick infractions.
The second powerplay unit got the first two goals; after that, it was all Sedins all the time as Henrik had a point on all 4 of the Canucks’ remaining goals. The first featured some casual wizardry, as Henrik fed a Hamhuis rebound directly cross-ice to Daniel who had a net-and-a-half to shoot at. You would think goalies would know by now that Henrik’s not going to shoot from there, but Crawford couldn’t tell which Sedin it was through the Kesler screen.
Candidate for worst fight of the season: Aaron Volpatti versus Dan Carcillo. The only reason they received 5 minutes for fighting is because one of the refs has Carcillo on his fantasy team and needs the penalty minutes.
As nice as it was to see David Booth break his goal-scoring drought, he still needs some deprogramming from his time in Florida. His defensive coverage led directly to the Chicago’s second goal, giving the Blackhawks some life. Instead of covering the middle of the ice on a 3-on-3, Booth takes himself out of position to lay a hit on Stalberg, who was already being covered by Keith Ballard. This left Marcus “Henchman” Kruger wide open to chip a Jamal Meyers rebound over Luongo.
The goal also illuminated a bizarre clock malfunction. At the faceoff prior to the Kruger goal, the timekeeper forgot to restart the clock. It stayed at 5:05 for 26 seconds, then started again when Kruger scored, counting down 12 seconds. This meant that the second period was 14 seconds longer than it should have been. This normally wouldn’t be a big deal, but those 14 seconds were quite eventful, featuring Luongo’s best stop of the game, an incroyable glove save on Nick Leddy, and a fight between Kevin Bieksa and Jamal Mayers. If Luongo hadn’t made that stop or Bieksa had injured himself in the fight, the Canucks would have had a legitimate complaint with the United Center timekeeper.
Jannik Hansen’s promotion to the first line finally bore fruit for the Danish Ninja, as the Sedins set him up with a wide open net. Hansen, like a proper ninja, seemed to disappear from the sight of the Blackhawks defenders, who understandably focussed on the Sedins instead of the checking line grinder heading to the net. Big mistake! Henrik’s attempted shot hits Daniel in the midsection and he immediately feeds Hansen waiting at the side of the net. Of course, it only seemed like an attempted shot, when it was clearly a purposeful pass.
No it wasn’t.
Hamhuis got high-sticked in the face by Stalberg late in the second, leading to the Blackhawks fans in the area to leap to their feet and cheer. You stay classy, Chicago. Between you guys and the 12-year-old father by the Canucks bench, you’re making your city proud. Hamhuis got his revenge on the ensuing powerplay, launching a knucklepuck past the screened Crawford to make it 5-2.
The Canucks saved the best for last, as Edler and Henrik teamed up for a sequel to Henrik’s third period winner from game one of the Western Conference Final last season (stick-tap to Thomas Drance). Edler’s slap-pass is perfect, while Henrik’s finish is impeccable. With Kesler battling for position in front of the net with the defender, Henrik has plenty of time to go to the backhand, leaving Crawford flopping like a fish out of water.
As John Garrett accurately points out, Kesler didn’t score a single point, but was instrumental on three of the six goals in screening the goaltender and battling in front of the net. Despite the lack of scoring, it was arguably his best game of the season.
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