After 5 games on the road, the Canucks returned to the cozy confines of Rogers Arena with some concern that there might be a letdown with all of the travel. Sure enough, the Canucks were outshot by the perpetually-low-shooting Minnesota Wild in the first period and had 7 giveaways. They looked blunt, dull, or flat: in any case, not sharp. They were not, however, outscored or outgoaltended. Roberto Luongo stopped all 13 shots he faced in the first period, then proceeded to stop every other shot as well, earning his first shutout of the season. I watched the Canucks finish strong because I watched this game.
Roberto Luongo was impressive throughout this game as the mental errors and giveaways of his teammates had no impact on their plus/minus. Three of the best scoring chances for the Wild came directly off doubleplusungood giveaways, but Luongo stood (or butterflied) tall, bailing out Dan Hamhuis, Alex Sulzer, and Mark Mancari. Unfortunately, like Sulzer and Mancari, the guy who uploads videos to Canucks.com apparently thought the game ended after the second period, so there are no videos of those saves available.
Sulzer and Mancari had to be kicking themselves — their giveaways came in the third period after they had actually performed reasonably well through the first 40 minutes. It was Sulzer’s first game in over a month thanks to injuries to Keith Ballard and Aaron Rome, while Mancari likely wanted to make a good impression to avoid being sent down to Chicago prior to the Christmas break roster freeze. Those late-game mental errors won’t help either of their cases.
For those worried about Cody “Silent G” Hodgson’s icetime: he actually had more icetime than Alex Burrows in this game. Of course, Alain Vigneault’s hate for Burrows is well known. Alain Vigneault co-hosts Coach’s Corner, right?
Dale Weise had an effective game on the fourth line, logging a game-high 6 hits, including a solid check on Colton Gillies that had the Wild centre hot under the collar. Instead of roughing things up after the whistle, he probably should have just rubbed some snow from along the boards on his neck. Much more effective.
Turns out that Alex Edler is a better defenceman than Dion Phaneuf. Unlike the Leaf captain, Edler played a potential breakaway to perfection, diving out to poke the puck away from the streaking Matt Cullen. He then asked Cullen to get dressed, because he was embarrassing everyone.
After Edler’s stellar defensive play, the Sedins took over. Henrik took the puck back up ice and combined with his brother for the longest, slowest give-and-go in NHL history, feathering a cross-ice backhand pass to Daniel just out of the defenders’ reach, then going straight to the net to tip Daniel’s perfectly-weighted return feed off Niklas Backstrom and in. It was the first of three incredible instances of Wizardous Sedinerie on the night.
With Henrik opening the scoring on a powerplay, Dany Heatley decided that the best use of his team’s first powerplay was to take a dumb penalty after the whistle and give the Sedins another chance to work their magic. Daniel showed that he’s just as comfortable in Gretzky’s office as Henrik is, flipping a sublime saucer pass to Kesler in front, who scored in a mundane, non-magical fashion. I’m pretty sure that Kesler is a Barbarian, but this still counts as Wizardous Sedinerie.
The hattrick of wizardry was completed by the underappreciated apprentice wizard, Alex Burrows. Henrik drew two defenders to himself off the rush, leaving Daniel and Burrows with a 2-on-1 down low. Daniel toe dragged the puck around Jared Spurgeon, then passed across to Burrows, who popped the water bottle off the top of the net. It completely a doubleplusgood showcase of Wizardous Sedinerie, as Daniel and Henrik finished with 3 points each, while Burrows had a game-high 6 shots on net.
Anyone who still thinks that Burrows is purely a beneficiary of the Sedins needs to take a closer look at that goal: the savvy pass from Henrik and the gorgeous move from Daniel are superb, yes, but if Burrows doesn’t tuck that puck underneath the crossbar, Backstrom likely makes the save. Honestly, Burrows has been excelling with the Sedins for almost three years; you think he’d get some respect by now. He’s the Rodney Dangerfield of hockey.
Jannik Hansen and Matt Cullen combined for the game’s oddest moment when they gave the puck away to each other four times in a row. Hansen lost the puck along the boards to Cullen, who attempted to clear the zone, only to have the clearing attempted intercepted by Hansen at the blueline. Unfortunately, he couldn’t handle the puck and lost it directly back to Cullen. Amazingly, Cullen had the puck go off the heel of his stick: the first player to jump on it was, of course, Hansen, who proceeded to work a give-and-go with Raymond to get a shot on net.
The Sedins may have been the stars on the ice, but the star off the ice was the fan in the Canucks luchador mask. I still want one in the worst way. His ladyfriend, on the other hand, appears to have drawn the Canucks stick-in-rink logo on her face in a mirror, not realizing that it would be reversed on her face.
Shorty’s response (after a long pause) to Rey Mysterio up there is also classic: As my father-in-law would say, “Oookay.”
As mentioned above, Raymond took a puck in the face during the third period. Fortunately, the only casualty appeared to be his pretty face. Well, that and the dignity of the fans in Rogers Arena who inexplicably did the wave while trainer Mike Burnstein tended to the wounded Raymond. Look, Canucks fans: there are very few times that doing the wave is acceptable. That wasn’t one of them.
Hodgson had a great game, winning 5 of 6 faceoffs (none of them in the defensive zone) and setting up the game’s final goal by headfaking his defender before whipping a fantastic pass to Jannik “Danish Ninja” from behind the net. Hansen finished off the play with no resistance from the Wild but, in their defence, he did appear in front of the net in a puff of smoke, so you can’t really blame them for not seeing him in time to stop him.
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