The Canucks need to stop playing games right before holidays. This game fell on New Year’s Eve and it was their worst effort since their game against the Flames just before Christmas. If you have tickets to their game against the Phoenix Coyotes on February 13th, Valentine’s Eve, you’re better off just selling them on Craigslist. And if you’re planning on going to their game against the Calgary Flames on March 31st, better known as April Fool’s Eve, forget it.
Their last game of the regular season falls on April 7th, Easter Eve. Don’t watch that game. Let me watch it for you. Just like I watched this game.
Canucks 1 – 4 Kings
The best thing about this game is how frustrated the Canucks were with their performance. They knew they were awful, they knew it was unacceptable, and they owned up to it. Jannik Hansen said it best, “We were badly outshot and outplayed and outhit and out-just-about-anything in the first period.” They had no business being tied after 20 minutes, but Luongo made some tremendous saves to give them a chance to join him in playing this game. They didn’t take it.
Things didn’t actually look that bad early on, as the Canucks actually opened the scoring 3 minutes in with a rather pretty goal. Henrik made a nice pass to Daniel, who spun and delivered the puck into the high slot, where Kevin Bieksa unexpectedly appeared to wire a one-timer off the post and in. It was the first shot of the game and, as is usually the case with the first shot on New Year’s Eve, everything appeared to be just fine. It was only afterwards that things started spinning out of control; again, perfectly normal for New Year’s Eve.
The word of the day for the Kings was “aggressive.” They were aggressive on the forecheck, aggressive on the penalty kill, and aggressive going to the net. This aggression gave the Canucks fits trying to break out of the zone, severely limited their time and space on the powerplay, and frequently caught the defence flat-footed. Unfortunately, it’s likely that their aggressive behaviour between the whistles and behind the play will get more credit for the victory and the Canucks’ toughness is likely to be questioned yet again.
I was right; they were questioned. Henrik’s response: “We didn’t lose the final because we were pushed around, we lost because we couldn’t score.” Bingo. The Canucks didn’t lose this game because they were pushed around; they lost because they couldn’t prevent goals and couldn’t score them either. The nastiness, the scrums, the cheapshots – they were just a sideshow. Like a cow fetus in a jar, but less classy.
Somehow Tony Gallagher figures the perfect time to get Dale Weise more icetime is when the Canucks are trying to come back in the third period. It appears that he believes a fight is equivalent to a field goal.
Since it was their third game in four nights, pretty much every Canucks skater looked tired and out of sorts, but Cody Hodgson was arguably the worst of the lot. He had zero shot attempts despite over three-and-a-half minutes on the powerplay, went 0-for-6 on faceoffs, and was directly responsible for the Kings’ first goal when he lost track of his man, Brad Richardson, and allowed him two shots at a rebound a foot in front of the net. Luongo managed to stop the first, but Hodgson was far too late to prevent Richardson from lifting it over Luongo’s outstretched pad. But yes, Vigneault should definitely give him more minutes…
The Kings’ second goal came after a series of unfortunate events. After a mad scramble in front of the net, the puck squirted free to Daniel Sedin. Luongo lost his stick in the confusion in front of the net, so Ballard tried to give it back to him, assuming that Daniel wouldn’t do anything stupid. Luongo went to take the stick, also assuming that Daniel wouldn’t do anything stupid. He did something stupid. Instead of holding the puck in the corner, he chose to make a blind, backhand pass between his own legs, which immediately got intercepted by Andrei Loktionov, who passed it to Matt Greene, who shot it on net before Luongo could get set. Daniel Sedin absolutely cannot make that pass in that situation.
That’s when things got stupid: Brad Richardson decided to pointlessly bodycheck Henrik Sedin to the ice well after the goal was scored. This lead to a brouhaha, as Andrew Alberts went after Richardson, and everyone grabbed someone. Somehow, the only penalties were to Richardson and Ballard for roughing. It was not the last inexplicable decision by the referees in this game.
Henrik appeared to be the Kings’ favourite target for their antics. Previously in the game, Mike Richards slewfooted the Canucks captain while he was simultaneously being crosschecked by Dustin Brown. Brown was credited with a hit on the play.
I feel the need to emphasise this: these cheapshots had little to no impact on the outcome of the game. What did have an impact was the Canucks refusing to move their feet. The Kings’ third goal was the backbreaker, coming after the Canucks failed to score on a 4-minute double minor. Dan Hamhuis got caught standing at his blueline, turning a 3-on-2 into a 2-on-1. Kevin Bieksa, likewise, couldn’t decide between taking away the pass and checking the puck carrier, so did neither, allowing Anze Kopitar to slip in behind for an easy goal. My recommendation: tie helium balloons to their skates.
Cassie Campbell did the colour commentary for this game, something that is not normally her job, and she had a few rough patches. She clearly knows her hockey and could become a very good commentator in the future, but I find it frustrating that CBC treats Hockey Night in Canada as on-the-job training. They did it with Kevin Weekes and now they’re doing it with Campbell. HNIC is meant to be CBC’s flagship program, but they have no qualms about throwing rookies into situations where they’ll have trouble succeeding. Still, Cassie was, overall, no worse than Mark Lee.
She was dead wrong, however, when she called Daniel’s hooking penalty in the third period a good penalty. At that point, the Canucks were down just by two and had a chance to get back into the game. Unfortunately, Daniel stopped skating (a theme in this game) while backchecking on a 2-on-1 and coasted behind Jarret Stoll. He had no choice, then, but to blatantly hook Stoll to prevent the scoring chance. The Kings scored their 4th goal of the game on that powerplay. If Daniel keeps skating, he doesn’t have to take that penalty.
Campbell was completely in the right, though, when it came to commenting on Drew Doughty’s blatant dive on a Mason Raymond “slash” late in the third. As they showed the replay, there was a pregnant pause as Campbell realized what occurred and tried to avoid using the word “dive” in her commentary: “…. Not too much there in my opinion, Mark. I always say, ‘when the player who’s falling down looks towards the ref, there might be something a little bit fishy.’ After everything that’s gone on in this hockey game, to call that penalty, I’m not sure I buy that.” It’s not quite Jack Edwards yelling at Roman Hamrlik to “Get up!” but it’s pretty clear what she thought about that call.
The worst moment of the sideshow came late in the third: with the game essentially out of reach, Kyle Clifford, who had 7 shifts for just over 5 minutes of icetime in this game, decided to try to goad Keith Ballard, of all people, into a fight. On Twitter, I referred to Clifford as a coward, which might have been a bit strong. After all, this is a guy who fought George Parros, Zenon Konopka, Shawn Thornton, and Brad Staubitz among his 18 fights last season. But going after Ballard, who is 5’11″ and had 3 fights last season against Justin Abdelkader, Carlo Colaiacovo, and Chuck Kobasew, was a cowardly thing to do.
Other people on the ice that Clifford could have challenged: Mark Mancari – 6’3″. Maxim Lapierre – 6’2″. Andrew Alberts – 6’5″. Nope. Clifford went after the smallest guy on the ice in a game that was already over. Kyle “Sideshow Mel” Clifford. I’d rather have the cow fetus in a jar.
The Canucks were definitely frustrated by the end of this game, as typified by Jannik Hansen’s ugly crosscheck to Dustin Brown’s chin, but they seemed far more frustrated with their own lousy play than the tactics of the Kings. Though it seemed like they should have had more, Vancouver had a full 8 minutes of powerplay time, including a brief 4-on-3, and accomplished approximately jack squat. Of course, given the paucity of powerplays they’ve received of late, they might be a bit out of practice.
Finally, on a positive note, Mike Milbury has undergone a personality transplant. During the post-game show, he actually defended the Sedins and their willingness to take punishment to get powerplays. I’m mainly just astonished that he went a whole segment without calling them women.
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