Well, that was unpleasant. On Tuesday, the Canucks faced the team with the worst record in the NHL and were outplayed through the first period. Then they were unable to score on Steve Mason, arguably the worst starting goaltender in the NHL. Then, after stopping all 3 shootout attempts in Montreal last Thursday, Luongo failed to stop a single Columbus shooter in the shootout.
On the plus side, by losing to the Blue Jackets, the Canucks helped them to the second worst record in the NHL, so the Canucks didn’t technically lose to the worst team in the NHL. I had to work really hard to find a silver lining; in order to do so, I watched this game.
Canucks 1 – 2 Blue Jackets (SO)
Steve Mason bore a startling resemblance to, well, Steve Mason in this game. Steve Mason circa 2008-09, that is, when he won the Calder Trophy, was nominated for the Vezina, and helped carry the Blue Jackets to their first ever playoff appearance. Kevin Woodley of NHL.com and InGoal Magazine suggested that the time off with Curtis Sanford starting a series of games while on a hot streak may have helped him find his game again. Personally, I blame Luongo.
Honestly though, if it wasn’t for Luongo, the Canucks would have lost this game handily. Actually, most teams would lose if they just left the net empty. In any case, Luongo made 29 saves, and some of them were simply superb. He stopped Umberger on a rebound in tight and flashed leather on a Wisniewski slapshot in the first period, snagged a Nash wristshot on a partial break and stoned Wisniewski on a one-timer in the second, then absolutely robbed Nash on a breakaway in the third to preserve the tie and earn the Canucks a single point.
Luongo’s biggest save was, like most of my friends growing up, imaginary. John Shorthouse nearly burst a blood vessel praising an enormous blocker save on a Rick Nash one-timer, as Luongo slid across the crease on a backdoor play. Unfortunately, it turned out that Nash actually just hit the side of the net and Shorty had to issue a correction after the break so that everyone could go back to hating Luongo.
After the debacle that was Andrew Alberts at forward against the Canadiens, Vigneault returned him to the blueline and dressed Aaron Rome on the fourth line instead. Alberts, however, was benched a few minutes into the third period and Rome skated as a defenceman for the rest of the game. It’s pretty clear that in a tie game, Vigneault trusted Rome more than Alberts. So would pretty much everyone.
After Henrik took a cross-checking penalty to offset a Fedor Tyutin trip, Ryan Kesler was sent to the box for cross-checking after slashing Grant Clitsome’s stick. Yes, I’m confused too. With two players in the box, it was revealed that Nationwide Arena was definitely not built in the 70′s or 80′s, as the penalty box only had room for two players. They wouldn’t have a clue what to do if there was a bench-clearing brawl. They were hilariously tiny.
The one Columbus goal was scored on the 4-on-3 powerplay that ensued from Henrik and Kesler’s penalties. It’s an unusual situation and it seemed clear that the Canucks weren’t entirely sure what to do on the penalty kill. Jeff Carter was left all alone in front of the net and managed to shove the puck under Luongo’s outstretched pad on the rebound. As good as Luongo was in this game, he should have been, like a drink on the rocks, stronger on the ice for that one.
While the Canucks were all-around terrible in the first period (as fully admitted by Keith Ballard), they were the better team for the bulk of the second period and all of the third period, outshooting the Blue Jackets 27-20 after 20 minutes. But with the Blue Jackets stacking themselves in front of the net like Lincoln Logs, the Canucks just couldn’t seem to score.
Until they did manage to score on a bit of a bizarre goal. While tipping the puck into the Columbus zone, Maxim Lapierre got tangled up with Clitsome’s stick (careful), causing it to break. Clitsome, seeing Nash going after the puck, turns back to the bench to get a new stick. The moment he turned, however, Chris Higgins gave Nash a tap on the skates, causing him to lose his footing and allowing Higgins to disrupt Nash’s pass attempt. Meanwhile, Lapierre left Clitsome at the bench and went straight for the front of the net, which is where Higgins found him.
Hilariously, everyone focussed on Clitsome’s stick (easy, everyone) and completely missed that Higgins tripped Nash in order to get to the puck on the forecheck. Clearly the Canucks would be less hated if they made better use of misdirection.
John Garrett on Cracker Barrel cheese: “On Triscuits, throw them in the microwave for 15 seconds. It could be a whole meal.” Don’t go to the Garrett’s for dinner.
Ryan Johansen caught Keith Ballard with his head down early in the third, nailing him in the head with his shoulder. My initial reaction was “Headshot! That was a headshot!” waking up my two-week old son and making him cry. That was probably a slight overreaction on my part, especially considering it looked like a clean hit on the replay. I would apologize to my son but he has no concept of forgiveness yet, so what’s the point?
The weirdest moment in the game came halfway through the third period, as Mason had to scramble frantically around his crease during a crazy sequence in the Columbus’ zone. After making the final save on Mason Raymond, he collapsed to the ice and grabbed his right leg, seeming to be in agony. John Garrett opined that it was a cramp, while John Shorthouse vocally refused to speculate, but he turned out to be correct. Curtis Sanford relieved Mason for a little over 3 minutes while he was treated in the locker room and made one save before Mason returned. Pro tip: bananas. Eat a banana before every game.
As mentioned in the intro, Luongo was unable to stop a single Columbus shootout attempt, but to be fair, they were all grade-A moves. Mark Letestu roofed the puck after a cagey change of speed, Rick Nash’s appeared to be using a stick of butter with how soft his touch was on the puck going backhand-forehand and over Luongo’s pad, and Wisniewski made a slick move to freeze Luongo then tuck it around his outstretched pad. Yes, it would have been preferable for Luongo to save those attempts, but you have to appreciate how lovely they really were.
Cody Hodgson tried a slick move of his own, hoping to continue his 100% scoring rate in shootouts. Mason didn’t bite, however, dropping Hodgson down to a terrible 50%. Vigneault will never allow him to shoot in a shootout ever again.
Burrows scored the lone Canucks goal in the shootout, using his only move, the forehand-backhand-roof. The only person who was surprised he used it was apparently Steve Mason.
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