Any time the Red Wings and the Canucks meet, you know you’re in for a good one. Detroit and Vancouver always seem to get up to play one another. It makes sense, really. Not only are both teams among the elite of the Western Conference, but they play similar systems. Furthermore, their cores are similar as well: Both boast a Selke-calibre center, a large Swedish contingent, a Swedish captain, and a dearth of useless enforcer types.
When you have that much in common, you’re bound to fight. It’s the law of romantic comedies. I should know. I watch a lot of romantic comedies. I also watch a lot of games, and I watched this game.
Canucks 4 – 2 Red Wings
Not unlike the game versus Toronto, Chris “Kiss Huggins” Higgins opened the scoring in this one, burying a rebound after Mason Raymond was stopped on a breakaway. The guy to keep an eye on in the replay is Niklas Kronwall. Not only is the breakaway a result of his decision to come way down into the offensive zone while the Wings are changing, but he follows this blunder up by allowing Higgins to easily beat him to the goal. And then, clearly unwilling to be excluded from the “Shame Kronwall” party, Ryan Kesler gives him a needless forearm shiver on his way through to the goal celebration. Remember this moment, because Kronwall sure did.
Cody Hodgson’s goal, which came 21 seconds later, is the result of some great instincts in the neutral zone. Initially, he’s trailing what seems to be a fairly innocuous play, but then two things happen, both of which he sees: first, the puck squirts free to Jannik Hansen along the wall. Second, Danny Cleary (#11) forgets that he’s covering for Ian White and wanders away from the play area like an unattended child. Hodgson instantly sprints through the middle of the ice, hoping for a pass. When he gets it, he comes flying over the blue line and slaps the puck harder than Rick James on Charlie Murphy.
Manny Malhotra’s assist on the Hodgson goal was well-earned. Initially, he loses the puck to Ian White but, when White takes his sweet time in moving it, Malhotra turns back, lifts White’s stick, and throws the puck down the boards to Hansen. Like Evil Dead 2, it was a great second effort.
The Red Wings would get a goal back after Todd Bertuzzi won a battle with Sami Salo in front of the Vancouver goal, pushing the Canucks’ defender into Roberto Luongo. Then, while Salo was stumbling over Luongo, the puck came to the crease, and Bertuzzi pushed that into the goal as well. Bertuzzi was actually fairly involved in the action tonight, even once getting into it with Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis. Watching Bertuzzi punch a guy who had no interest in fighting him was a familiar sight, but this instance was very different. Rather than trying to skate away, Hamhuis just stood there, turning the other cheek and forgiving him.
Ian White had eight shots tonight. It was the most shots by a guy named White since the penultimate episode of Season 3 of Breaking Bad.
The wound on Mason Raymond’s face is hilarious. The poor guy is used to being so pretty — now he probably feels like he should be wearing a half-mask and living secretly in the organ room. And when it heals up, he’s gonna look like Guy Boucher’s son with that prominent supervillain-esque facial scar. We’ve been charting Raymond’s heel turn for awhile now, and it’s safe to say that his turn precious Alberta farm boy to death-ray-pointed-at-the-United-Nations-building madman is happening right before our eyes.
Alex Burrows would restore the Canucks’ two-goal lead with five minutes remaining in the first, tipping a Daniel Sedin pass past Jimmy Howard. It was amazing that Daniel could even see Burrows, what with all the Red Wings jerseys in front of him.
Mind you, after Daniel used his head to tip the puck over the blue line on a zone entry, I guess nothing he does should surprise me anymore. Seriously, what the heck? My favourite thing about this bit is that it wasn’t just some frivolous thing — it was the best possible play. With Pavel Datsyuk bearing down on him, if Daniel tries to get this puck down to his stick, he’ll probably lose it. But still, who thinks to do that?
The big story after this game was the Niklas Kronwall hit on Ryan Kesler, which was oh-so close to simply being a big, beautiful hit. As Kesler sprinted out of his own zone with the puck with his head down, Kronwall came across to level him, and I suspect he was more than a little excited at the prospect. If Kronwall wasn’t still thinking about the needless forearm from the first goal, he was thinking of the several other run-ins with Kesler, who had been spearing, hooking, slashing and yapping more incessantly than Marcel the Shell with Shoes on all night.
Truth is, Kesler deserved this hit — as a fan of him and his team, I approve of his asshattery, but Kronwall had every reason to be eager to make Kesler pay when he had the chance. The problem is that, like a DJ playing too much French electronica, his love of Justice overwhelmed him. He left his feet. Seriously, Neil Armstrong thought that was a giant leap.
Kesler was understandably upset — no one enjoys being hit like that. But for him to take the only penalty for roughing, well, that was silly. Thankfully, the theme of justice continued, as the Canucks scored the only goal of the ensuing powerplay. After Alex Edler forced a turnover at the Canucks’ blue line, Jannik Hansen sprinted into the zone with the puck, taking it to the net hard and falling into Howard. When Edler shovelled the loose puck into the empty net and the goal counted, Howard went nuts, going after Hansen just like Kesler went after Kronwall. This time there was no penalty, I suspect because the refs knew that the universe was just righting itself and they didn’t want to get involved. The universe is, after all, humongous big.
Truth is, as is often the case these days, the refs made the right call in allowing Edler’s goal to stand. Zetterberg pushed Hansen towards Howard. It wasn’t the first time someone had been pushed towards a Howard. Just ask Lea Thompson.
Roberto Luongo was the best player on the ice Wednesday, making a bevy of remarkable saves (38, in total) to keep the Red Wings at bay early and to prevent them from getting back in the game once the Canucks had restored the two-goal lead. His best save came when he snatched a Pavel Datsyuk shot right out of the air like Kuzco in the Emperor’s New Groove, but he made a kick save only moments earlier that was almost as good.
Manny Malhotra was 11-for-15 on defensive zone faceoffs Wednesday night. He would have had 16, too, but he was waved out of the circle (a rarity), meaning Cody Hodgson got a rare defensive zone draw. He lost it.
Special shout out to Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis who was really only noticeable when he was being punched by Todd Bertuzzi, but did so much in this game. He played just over 25 minutes, most of which was against the Red Wings’ top line, and he allowed them very little. He also blocked 5 shots, and prevented a bunch more on the way home when he talked some children out of trying a gateway drug.
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. […]