Mason Raymond finally played his first game since having his back broken in last season’s Stanley Cup Final. He returned one-game later than intended after a paperwork error kept him out of Thursday’s game against the Nashville Predators and unwittingly unleashed the dreaded thirteenth forward curse on Aaron Volpatti.
In response to his return, the Flames panicked and started their backup, Henrik Karlsson, in place of Miikka Kiprusoff, who was the goaltender of record for both of Raymond’s two careerhat tricks. Clearly, Kiprusoff is scared of Raymond. I’m sure that this game being the second of a back-to-back and the third game in four nights for the Flames had nothing to do with it. I watched this game.
The Flames started this game with plenty of vim and vigour, as well as a healthy dollop of zazz and a dash of pep. They out-shot the Canucks 13-10 in the opening frame and Alex Tanguay opened the scoring on shot from behind the goal line that seemed to disobey the laws of physics to bank in off Luongo. That was all the energy they had, however, as they were dominated in the second and third periods, notching only 9 shots through the rest of the game. That’s fewer shots than in one line from the chorus of LMFAO’s “Shots.”
Despite the ugly goal, Luongo was outstanding in the first period, with his biggest save coming on an Olli Jokinen breakaway to keep the score knotted at zeroes early on. I believe he used a sheet bend knot. He had a lot of time to learn his knots while serving as the backup.
The Canucks got some lucky bounces in this game, starting with Kevin Bieksa’s game-tying goal five minutes into the second period. His powerplay point shot deflected off Rene Bourque’s stick and fluttered over Henrik Karlsson’s shoulder like a butterfly, causing a devastating tornado in Melbourne, Australia. The Canucks’ fourth goal was a Jannik Hansen one-timer that deflected off Jay Bouwmeester and bounced past Karlsson, causing devastating existential despair. Mason “Batman” Raymond picked up an assist on the Hansen goal, filling the Rogers Arena crowd with pure joy, which simply heightened Karlsson’s despair.
The thing is, lucky bounces are often the result of hard work and the Canucks so completely dominated the latter two-thirds of this game that they deserved every bounce they got. Witness the second and third Canucks goals: David Booth pucks up the puck and drives hard around the net for an identical wraparound on both and gets the benefit of two friendly bounces for his efforts. The first time, the puck pinballs through a scrum on to the stick of Chris Higgins, who scores on the backhand. The second time, Karlsson doesn’t get down to block the wraparound and has the puck bank off his skate and in. They’re both lucky bounces created by the hard work of David Booth, who wasn’t getting many of those bounces to start the season.
All three members of the second line had multi-point games: Booth and Higgins had a goal and two assists each, while Kesler tallied two assists. One of those assists, however, came on the powerplay, and it was on the prettiest goal of the game. While one of the Sedins is usually the setup man on the first unit, Kesler showed he’s no slouch when it comes to playmaking, slipping a backhand pass between Bouwmeester’s legs. Likewise, Daniel is usually known more for his wrist shot, but he clearly used Alter Self to temporarily turn into Steven Stamkos, hammering the puck top shelf on the one-timer.
The Flames clearly didn’t want to put Miikka Kiprusoff into the net for the third time in four nights, but had no choice when Tom Kostopoulos lost an edge trying to tie up the hard-charging Cody Hodgson and took out Karlsson’s right knee. His reaction said it all, as he writhed on the ground like a tackled soccer player, with the difference being an actual injury occurred. He tried to continue, but one test butterfly changed his mind, then caused a tornado in Birmingham, Alabama.
According to the hit totals, Calgary got the better of Vancouver in the physical game, logging 29 hits to the Canucks’ 18, but the Vancouver strategy appeared to be quality over quantity. Dale Weise crushed TJ Brodie early in the first period, while Alex Edler stood up Curtis Glencross in the second like he was an ugly prom date, but the hit of the night was from Ryan Kesler, who devastated Blake Comeau with a perfect shoulder check to the chest. The best part was that it came while on the powerplay, and Comeau took a retaliatory roughing penalty by putting Kesler in the ol’ Nolan Ryan headlock, putting the Canucks on a 5-on-3 powerplay.
Then there was the hit David Booth laid on Kiprusoff, as he made like Jordin Tootoo on Ryan Miller minus the elbow to the chops. He was subsequently, and understandably, tackled by the entire Flames organization (I’m pretty sure I saw Dr. Bill Blair, the team dentist, jump into the scrum) but received the only penalty on the play, which is also completely understandable.
The physicality continued, as an Aaron Rome cross-check in front of the net led to a massive scrum and several pseudo-fights. While the closest to an actual fight came between Maxim Lapierre and Matt Stajan, my favourite pairing was between Keith Ballard and Chris Butler, who both dropped the gloves and grabbed each other’s jerseys, but then just stood their face-to-face, idly chatting. Hey Keith, have you seen the new Muppet movie? Heck yes, Chris, the Muppets are my jam.
The Canucks absolutely dominated the faceoff circle(s), winning 71% of the draws, largely thanks to the work of Kesler and Henrik, who each won 14 faceoffs on 18 and 16 attempts respectively. Cody Hodgson, who had a fantastic game despite limited minutes, was next best, winning 4 of 5.
Finally, I loved the powerplay unit Alain Vigneault sent over the boards in the final minutes of the game. Not wanting to seem like a poor sport, he had Manny Malhotra centre Dale Weise and Mason Raymond, with Keith Ballard and Aaron Rome on the points. That’s the least frightening combination since Reflector, the three Decepticons who could transform into a camera. A camera, people. Why does it take three robots to make one crummy camera?
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