After rediscovering even-strength scoring like Josiah, the boy king, stumbling across the Talmud in the treasure room of the temple, the Canucks stormed into Phoenix intent on proving that they had truly dispensed with their wicked powerplay-idolizing ways, and returned to the righteous 5-on-5 domination for which they once lived. Five even-strength goals later, it was clear they had indeed repented, and thank God. Suffice it to say, the Canuck team that dominates at even-strength is a much more entertaining watch, and I should know, because I watched this game.
Though the parade of goals didn’t begin until the second period, it’s important to note that the shot differential was greatest in the first period, with the Canucks outshooting the Coyotes by a margin of 15-4. The goals don’t agree with me, but I felt it was their best period. The line of Chris Higgins, Ryan Kesler, and David Booth was especially chancey, and Chris Higgins was especially especially chancey. He was so chancey a group of Pokemon trainers tried to capture him during the first intermission.
Esoteric Pokemon references for the win.
That line was great tonight, generating 13 shots on goal. In the second period, they were rewarded for their strong effort, as Kesler set up Booth for his third goal of the season with a blind back pass at the goalmouth. Booth made no mistake, which was helpful in backing off those that feel Mike Gillis did in acquiring him. And let’s not overlook Higgins’ contribution to this play. He didn’t get an assist, but I thought he generated this opportunity with the power move he made off the boards, which caused Shane Doan to lose his stick, broke the Coyotes’ defensive posture and left Phoenix chasing like an unattractive suitor.
Kesler scored one of his own as well, proving he could still score even-strength goals on a goalie by intercepting a pass from Raffi Torres and going top shelf on Mike Smith. You had to feel for Raffi Torres, who has apparently still not unlearned the “Give Kesler the puck at all costs” mantra from his year in Vancouver.
I liked Kesler mugging for the Phoenix crowd after the goal. Multiple choice time: that was either a) him expressing his relief that the goals are beginning to flow, especially after being stoned on a breakaway in the first b) him acknowledging the pro-Canuck majority in the crowd, c) him being an ass, or d) all of the above. By all means, answer in the comments.
Speaking of former Canucks giving up quality chances, watch no. 14 on the Sami Salo goal. That’s Taylor Pyatt, briefly abandoning his defensive assignment up high to chase Daniel Sedin into the slot, which left Salo open to rip it. Pyatt has clearly also yet to unlearn his Canuck training, which was: the moment you’re on the ice with the Sedins, get to a scoring area.
Cory Schneider was strong again tonight, stifling the Coyotes at every opportunity and picking up his second consecutive shutout. He was a big, red wall, like the south face of the Kremlin.
Immediately following the game, however, talk quickly turned to the goaltending controversy this apparently causes, as Alain Vigneault is now torn between starting Roberto Luongo, who is currently slated to play, or riding Schneider’s hot hand (like a sock puppet). I suspect he’ll go with Schneider. Why? Two reasons. First, this was the exact same situation Vigneault found himself on Thursday, and he went with Schneider. Second, you reward a guy for stellar play, not bench him. If Schneider’s in goal on Saturday night, expect people to make it about Luongo, but the truth is that it has nothing to do with him whatsoever.
Speaking of Hodgson, he only played 10:59 tonight. Only Dale Weise and Paul Bissonnette saw fewer minutes. At this, some will soil themselves with rage because this obviously means AV hates Hodgson and he’s gonna be unfairly benched when Raymond comes back, but that’s not what’s going on here. I suspect it has more to do with easing Hodgson into regular NHL duty rather than overwhelming him or wearing him out in what will likely be the first 82-game season of his career. I also suspect that AV and Hodgson are on the same page about this, especially since his low usage totals were largely the result of Hodgson’s dedication to keeping his shifts short. His 21 shifts were only one fewer than Kesler, but their average length was a game-low 31 seconds.
If it wasn’t already apparent that the Coyotes weren’t getting the breaks, at least figuratively speaking, Kyle Chipchura illustrated it literally by twice attempting to break his stick in frustration after that goal, with no success. Alex Edler should ask him where he’s buying his lumber.
My favourite moment from the broadcast team tonight came when John Garrett said the folllowing: “Martin Hanzal, 6’6″, 236, that’s what he’s listed as.” On its own, it wasn’t hilarious, but he sort of sneered as though he were suspicious or jealous at the back half of the sentence.
Speaking of Hanzal, did you catch the beautiful diving shot block Keith Ballard made to stymie him on a second period scoring attempt in front of the Canucks’ goal? Consider that, if Ballard doesn’t fall completely asleep in the corner, Hanzal doesn’t beat him to the net at all. The statsheet awarded him with the blocked shot (1 of 3 on the night), but I assure you that Rick Bowness would prefer Ballard did things the easy way.
The Canucks may have scored five even-strength goals, but they went 0-for-5 on the powerplay. Good grief. For once, could they just be good at everything?
For the second game in a row, the Canucks, like a pediatric nurse, did a great job of getting shots through. They only had 9 attempts blocked.
And finally, leave it to the always shifty Maxim Lapierre to do something backhanded. Tonight, it was how he scored the Canucks’ fourth goal, the result of some aggressive forechecking as the Coyotes tried to break out of the zone. Lapierre generated two turnovers, the second spitting the puck right at Mike Smith, who knocked it down in front of his crease. The Canucks’ centre was the first one on it, at which time he spun right round (like a record) and finished strong.
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. […]