After a controversial major penalty on Aaron Rome cost the Canucks the game against the Anaheim Ducks, discipline was clearly the gameplan against the Islanders. But before you make too much of the Canucks going a full game without a penalty for the first time since February 15, 2009, keep in mind that the Islanders have drawn the fewest penalties of any team in the NHL, with only 45 powerplay opportunities in 14 games. They just aren’t good at drawing penalties; I have it on good authority that they’re terrible at drawing horses as well, but I don’t blame them. Those legs are hard to figure out.
Let’s face it: the biggest impact of Rome’s major penalty and game misconduct against the Ducks wasn’t the two powerplay goals the Ducks scored, it was Rome missing the rest of the game. Rome is on an absolute tear, scoring a career-high 3 points tonight against the Islanders, giving him 5 points in 4 games to start the year. If he had stayed in the game against the Ducks, he clearly would have scored a hattrick.
Rome opened the scoring with his third goal in as many [complete] games. The goal came just under two minutes in after a great zone entry by Cody Hodgson followed by a strong move around the net by David Booth. Booth wipes out on the wraparound, but the puck deflects right into the slot for Rome, who backhands it into the open net. Question is, what was Aaron “Platonic Form of the Safe, Stay-at-Home, Bank-it-Off-the-Glass Defenceman” Rome doing in the slot? Must be the moustache. It takes a confident man to sport such a stupendous ‘stache and this increased confidence is paying off in offensive acumen.
The new-look third line of Booth, Hodgson, and Maxim Lapierre was superb all night, spending the vast majority of their shifts in the offensive zone. The line combined for 7 shots on net and had another 7 blocked and all three finished with a plus-2 rating. Hodgson was justly named the first star of the game for his 2 points and consistent effort, while Booth had 2 points of his own. Lapierre, for his part, led the team in faceoff percentage, winning 5 of 7. With the second line struggling to put up points at times, putting together a productive third line is essential.
The Canucks didn’t get a goal on their first powerplay of the game, though it wasn’t from lack of effort. Sami Salo and the Sedins spent the entire 2 minutes on the ice, as the Islanders were only able to get the puck past their blue line twice and never got it across centre. The Canucks had 5 shots on the powerplay and seemed to be a constant threat to score, but unlike unlike Bryan Mills, they did not follow through on their threat.
The Canucks’ second powerplay wasn’t as dominant as their first, but it did grant one golden opportunity to Henrik Sedin, as a blind, between-the-legs pass from Ryan Kesler found Henrik all alone with a wide open net. Unfortunately, he shot it directly back into Nabokov. The overhead camera showed that the shot wasn’t even on net, which makes sense: it worked for Henrik last time.
Much of the buzz prior to this game centred around the return of Michael Grabner to Vancouver for the first time since his trade to the Florida Panthers last offseason. The young Austrian did not disappoint, putting a team-high 3 shots on goal and making an outstanding play to assist on the Islanders’ only goal, driving wide on Alex Edler and managing to swing a pass in front to John Tavares after Edler knocked him to the ice. After the initial shot went off the crossbar, Matt Moulson batted the puck out of mid-air past Luongo.
On that goal, my initial reaction was frustration with how Daniel Sedin played Tavares and Moulson in front of the net. Then I thought, why in the world is Daniel covering two Islanders in front? Answer: Sami Salo, seeing Grabner going wide on Edler, moves to cut him off from the net. Instead, of stopping and cutting back to cover one of Tavares or Moulson once he sees that Grabner is on the ice, he takes a casual turn behind the net. While Salo is certainly known for his casual chic fashion sense, he’s not normally that casual in the defensive zone.
Speaking of Salo’s fashion sense, it’s time for a GIF break courtesy of Chloe Ezra.
Aaron Rome got in on the scoring again on the Canucks’ third goal. His shot from the point deflected off Grabner’s stick wide of the net. Fortunately, Cody “Silent G” Hodgson was standing wide of the net and he deftly tipped the bouncing puck past Nabokov. The silent “G” stands for “Good at hockey.”
Even though the Canucks were not called for any penalties, don’t think this wasn’t a physical game. The two teams combined for 43 hits, with the Canucks tallying 22 of them. The best hit of the game goes to Aaron “Ratburger” Volpatti, who blew up Blake Comeau late in the third period. Volpatti notched 4 hits, but was done one better by his fourth-line compatriot, Dale Weise. While a lot of credit for the improved fourth line has gone to Maxim Lapierre, Volpatti and Weise have been physical forces and have consistently applied their mass times acceleration to the opposition.
David Booth picked up his second goal of the year into an empty net, with the primary assist going to – who else? – Aaron Rome. Meanwhile, Rome’s emergence as an offensive juggernaut is sending his anti-fantasy owners into a deep depression.
Finally, a couple weeks ago Don Cherry commented on Coach’s Corner that the solution to the Canucks’ early-season struggles was, among other less-flattering things, to start “paying the price” by blocking more shots. The Canucks shrugged off his criticisms, but seemed to take that last one to heart, blocking 21 of the Islanders’ shots, led by Keith Ballard with 5 blocks. I’m sure Don will take the credit.
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. […]