Before we go any further, let us all observe a moment of silence in honour of the Minnesota Wild. (No, not because they lost Wedesday night — that would be silly. As a Northwest Division rival, there should be a celebration any time the Wild lose.) This moment of silence is because, speaking of Northwest Division rivals, the next time the Wild come to town, they won’t be one. This was Minnesota’s last scheduled visit to Vancouver this season. Next year, with realignment kicking in, they’re not in the Canucks’ conference. It’s a cause for celebration.
But first, as I said, a moment of silence. It’s a fitting tribute when you think about it. A moment of silence is an awkward span of time in which nothing at all happens, not unlike a game versus the Minnesota Wild. And I should know. I watched this game.
Canucks 3 – 0 Wild
One person who might be bummed out with fewer visits from the Minnesota Wild: Roberto Luongo. He’s struggled against them in the past, but he’s on something of a roll now. In his 700th career game, Luongo stopped all 28 shots he faced to record his second consecutive shutout versus the Wild. It’s funny, because I distinctly recall Wild beat reporter Michael Russo tweeting that he shrieked “Really??!!” when Luongo told him he was starting the last game. Luongo hasn’t let in a Wild goal since. This is good news: if being unfairly mocked by members of the press makes Luongo play better, he’s going to play very, very well in the playoffs.
The Canucks’ first goal is a bit of a lucky one, as the puck appears to deflect in off Pierre Marc-Bouchard’s leg, but it’s also the result of some quick thinking by Daniel Sedin. After he gains the zone and stops up, drawing two Wild defenders to him, he makes a quick pass to Henrik, who takes the puck about four feet ahead, stops up, and gives the puck back. The Wild defenders get completely crossed up by this and wind up simply skating into the middle of the ice and forming a single-file line. It’s weird. As a result, a massive shooting lane opens up with only Alex Burrows standing between Daniel and Josh Harding, so Daniel seizes the moment and wires the puck like it’s Kanye West’s jaw.
Speaking of opening up lanes, let’s be sure to give Alex Burrows credit for his work on the 3-on-2 that led to his goal. Henrik Sedin’s saucer pass is a thing of beauty that completely ruins the Wild’s defensive formation, but there’s no passing lane until Burrows backs both defenders up by going hard to the net (so hard he winds up in it). The player to watch here is poor Nate Prosser, the defender on the near side of the ice. He might have been able to take a swat at Henrik’s waist-high pass, but gets his stick on the wrong side of Burrows, and has to lift it all the way up over his head to turn towards Daniel. By the time he brings it back down, the puck is past him and it (and Burrows) are in the net.
Minnesota fans will swear up and down that they’re doing just fine with a top pairing of Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella, but their team is really missing a shutdown defenseman and the Sedins have been picking them apart in the season series as a result. After the Canucks’ second goal, Jeff Paterson pointed out that Daniel Sedin’s been in on 8 of 10 goals the Canucks have scored versus the Wild this season.
For the record, if Nick Johnson had skated hard on the Canucks’ second goal, that play would have been a 3-on-3, not a 3-on-2. Instead, he cruised towards Henrik Sedin, let Alex Burrows blow by him, and wound up watching from a distance as the Canucks scored the goal. Not long after, he tried to make up for this gaffe by challenging Dale Weise to a scrap, but Weise declined. This was the right thing to do. At that point, the Canucks had a two-goal lead and all the momentum, and risking the loss of some or all of it in a fight (which Weise would probably have lost) would have been foolish. Of course, Weise actually declined the fight because it’s hard to tweet with achy knuckles.
Mason Raymond took a tripping penalty in the first after getting his stick into the legs of Devin Setoguchi. Then, to make matters worse, Setoguchi’s skate caught Raymond in the face as he fell. It was rough. By the end of the season, he’s going to have more facial scars than Jonah Hex. Needless to say, Raymond was particularly testy after this incident. Clearly, living in a world that constantly erodes his outer beauty is beginning to toy with him inwardly. In short, he’s become the NHL’s Dorian Gray.
Speaking of Devin Setoguchi, I thought he was fantastic. It was his first game back from an ankle injury but he looked dangerous all night. He had a team-high five shots, most of them on quality chances. Were it not for Roberto Luongo’s strong play, Setoguchi could have had two or three points. Instead, he was pointless, like the movie Skyline.
I really liked Andrew Alberts’ work on the penalty kill, especially one particular play where Matt Cullen gained the zone, and Alberts simply stepped into him along the wall. He didn’t crush Cullen; he just knocked him off the puck. Then, he turned around, collected the puck, and fired it down the ice.
Burrows very nearly scored another goal after Josh Harding stopped him on a 2-on-1 down low and the puck jumped into the air. In a split-second, he did what he often does, snatching it from the air, putting it down and trying to swat it in. Unfortunately, Harding stopped that too. But seriously, all Burrows does is catch and shoot. No one give him a fishing license.
As a southpaw, I take offense to John Garrett calling Josh Harding “Wrong-handed.” I never knew he was such a handist. I’m gonna write a nasty, left-handed letter.
Full credit to the officials this evening, as they ran into injury trouble and made some nifty adjustments to cover. After linesman Thor Nelson left the game with a cut, one of the referees converted to a linesman and the team officiated the rest of the game with only one referee. This was impressive. It’s also impressive that there’s a guy named Thor working as an NHL official and he hasn’t mistaken Zdeno Chara for a frost giant yet.
The Canucks struggled in the faceoff circle versus the Wild. Ryan Kesler went 5-for-14, Henrik went 6-for-17, and Cody Hodgson went an abysmal 1-for-7. Luckily, Manny Malhotra was on his game as usual, winning 12-of-19 overall and 10-of-15 in the defensive zone. Four of his defensive zone draws came against Mikko Koivu, who didn’t beat the Canuck centre once inside the Vancouver blueline. Another led to the empty-net goal.
And finally, another result of Malhotra’s faceoff prowess: the fourth line had the puck a lot Wednesday night. Maxim Lapierre had a game-high 6 shots, and the line generated 9 in total throughout the game. It was the best fourth line since Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
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