The Canucks marched into the Staples Centre looking to take control of things from the outset, and they got lucky when their ideal meshed perfectly with the Kings’ gameplan, which appeared to be to take careless penalties and cede control early. (It was kismet, I think.) After being gifted a lengthy five-on-three, the Canucks put their powerplay specialists — Sami Salo and Andrew Ebbett — to work, jumping out to a quick two-goal lead. Then Aaron Rome stepped up (as usual these days), adding an insurance marker that would stand as the game-winner. Meanwhile, I would sit as the game-watcher, because I watched this game.
Let’s talk Aaron Rome, who is riding an [extremely] unexpected two-game goal streak that has doubled his career goal totals. I’m beginning to suspect that he wasn’t out with a broken hand at all, but rather was out collecting the dragon balls, so as to summon the dragon and wish for the most effective shot since the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Clearly, he did it. His first period goal, which came at the end of a fabulous minute of Sedin pressure in the offensive zone, surprised everybody from Johnny Quick to himself. The dude looks like the rich man’s Al Macinnis all of a sudden. And also a little bit like Wario with that moustache.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an Aaron Rome moment unless it was followed up by a moment ruined by his teammates, so don’t feel too bad that Rome’s second goal on the night was disallowed when Jannik Hansen was called for goaltender interference. That’s tradition. Was it a fair call? Well, the contact appeared to be outside the crease and after the puck had already entered the net, but it was difficult to get a good read on it since the Sportsnet crew relied heavily on the overhead shot that Hansen wasn’t in. Either way, it’s okay — Rome will probably get it back tomorrow night.
But seriously, Rome had four shots tonight, more than all Canucks but Alex Edler and Daniel Sedin. Don’t think he’s just getting lucky — he’s getting pucks on net, which is creating his opportunities to get lucky. And let’s be sure to praise Rome’s defensive play as well. I loved his work versus Dustin Penner on the penalty kill, and I thought the pairing of he and Keith Ballard, which saw over 16 minutes in icetime, was effective. Not just as a shutdown duo either — also as a means of visually explaining why AV seems to prefer the often unnoticeable Rome to the very noticeable Ballard, who took four minutes in penalties tonight for needless stick infractions.
Speaking of needless stick infractions, it’s clear that the referees got Trevor Lewis’s five minute-elbowing call somewhat wrong, seeing as it wasn’t an elbow at all, but I wondered about the decision to call it a major penalty. I’m loath to suggest that it was intentional (as Shorty baited Garrett into suggesting), but it certainly had a level of carelessness you rarely see in high-sticking incidents. More than likely, Lewis was just bracing for impact, but most people don’t brace for impact by slashing impact in the face.
I was glad that Ryan Kesler picked up an assist on the beautiful shot by Sami Salo (who is your pal-o) to open the scoring, especially since he was the reason Salo was even on the ice. Salo is the quarterback of the Canucks’ 5-on-3 unit and, had Kesler not sold a cross-checking call on Drew Doughty, it wouldn’t have been a 5-on-3 . Make no mistake: Doughty deserved a penalty, what with the punches to the back of the Kesler’s head he was serving up, but Kesler earned the call with a dive. It seemed pretty clear to me that, after Doughty crosschecked him the first time, Kesler purposed to go down if there was a second time. There was. Make of this what you will.
I was also glad that Alex Edler picked up an assist on Andrew Ebbett’s first goal as a Canuck, which banked off Willie Mitchell’s skate (presumably by accident, but he did used to play for Vancouver). That goal doesn’t happen without Edler and Ebbett’s clever zone entry: just as Edler leaves his own zone, the Kings stack themselves along the blueline, so as to stand the Canucks up when they get there. Instead of skating into this trap, however, Edler dumps the puck into the LA zone just as he’s leaving his own, and Ebbett negates the icing call by easily slipping behind the Kings, who are standing still, to be the first man on the puck. Expect to see this zone entry tactic used again.
Good tilt between Dale Weise and Kyle Clifford, although the fight basically just served to show off Weise’s new haircut, which he tweeted about. I know he claims he went to a barber, but upon seeing the supposed result, I’m dubious. I suspect that, after getting used to penny-pinching on an AHL salary, Weise said he went to a barber, but, to save money, he actually cut his own hair. While riding a roller coaster.
Daniel Sedin is now up to 20 points on the season. He’s on pace for 103. But big deal. Wilt Chamberlain once scored 100 in one game.
About halfway through the second period, the most amazing thing happened. Jannik Hansen came over the boards with the Sedins and got in on the forecheck. While cutting through the slot, his stick got tangled up with Jarret Stoll and, in order to get to the wall before Kyle Clifford, he had to let go of it. However, just after meeting Clifford and the puck at the boards, Hansen’s stick slid conveniently to his feet — blade first. He quickly picked it up, but without time to flip it around during the battle, he did the only thing he could: he played the puck with the butt end of his stick, passing it directly to Henrik Sedin through Clifford’s legs. It. Was. Incredible. In addition to being a ninja, Hansen is apparently also a pool shark. Move over, Paul Newman.
I hope you saw the Staples Center’s petty attempt to tarnish Trevor Linden’s gentlemanly reputation by giving him Jannik Hansen’s roughing penalty at the end of the second period. Classic frame-up. Rumour has it that police immediately burst into Linden’s Yaletown condo and placed him under arrest for two minutes.
Manny Malhotra has seen some criticism of late, but I suspect those people don’t realize just how important faceoffs are to a puck possession team. In this regard, he continues to pull his weight. While every other Canuck finished below 50% in the faceoff circle, Malhotra won a sexy seven of nine tonight. Hey, speaking of sexy seven of nines, remember Star Trek: Voyager?
Quietly solid game by Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis, who played a team-high 24:32 tonight, including 11 minutes on special teams. No surprise there. The man can’t resist giving his time when he hears the word “special”.
And finally, I thought Roberto Luongo was excellent tonight. He did what he had to (which included hilariously flailing at the puck while sitting on Kevin Bieksa during a second period penalty kill) stopping 28 of 30 shots to keep the Kings at bay. I was also impressed by his puck-handling tonight. That’s right, I said it: I trust Roberto Luongo’s ability to handle the puck. However, I distrust his ability to handle the truth.
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