Well. That was fun. Despite claims by both teams to the contrary, Saturday morning’s tilt between the Canucks and the Bruins obviously had a little more riding on it than simply two points. The “This is just one regular-season game” talk was relevant for about four minutes. After that, it was anarchy. Seriously, at one point, someone blew open a wall in Arkham Asylum.
There were two major differences between this game and the ones we saw last June, and the first two involved special teams: the Canucks scored on their powerplays, and Cody Hodgson spearheaded a potent second unit that chipped in when the first unit struggled. Unsurprisingly, this made the Canucks far more successful. Speaking of success, this game lived up to all the hype: it was without a doubt the game of the year. I’m very glad to say I watched this game.
Canucks 4 – 3 Bruins
If there was a third difference, it’s that the referees called the game tighter than jeggings. On top of the incessant faceoff waveouts and do-overs, there were 107 minutes in penalties, and they were fairly evenly split between the two teams: Vancouver had 52; Boston had 55. The veteran reffing duo of Don VanMassenhoven and Dan O’Rourke had clearly been instructed to do things by the book and, unlike most buddy cop tandems, they did exactly that, blowing down every play that featured even a hint of tomfoolery. Had there been a guy in the game named Tom, and had he been wearing a jester’s hat, he would have been thrown out immediately.
Speaking of getting thrown out, the Bruins also received two game misconducts: the first for Milan Lucic maaaybe leaving the bench during the massive scrum that broke out four minutes in, and the second for Brad Marchand’s nasty low-bridge on Sami Salo in the third. I’m not so sure about the first one, but the second was pretty inexcusable. Marchand got lower than limbo champ Hermes Conrad on the contact, flipping Sami Salo onto his shoulder. Salo was furious when he finally got up, throwing his stick in disgust, and for good reason: he’s been healthy all season — a dirty hit was the last thing he needed.
While the Canucks were understandably unhappy with the penalty, they took advantage of the five minutes in powerplay time it gave them, scoring twice. In fact, they took advantage of their powerlay opportunities all night, scored all four goals with the man advantage. The tightly called game played right into their hands. While the Bruins are the league’s best team at even-strength, the Canucks are the best team on the powerplay. Naysayers will remind you that games are called a little differently in the playoffs, and they may be right, but it’s not the playoffs right now, so the naysayers can go say nay elsewhere.
I’m not quite sure how, but the Canucks came out of the first period scrum with a 5-on-3 powerplay, and they showed they’ve grown since last season by capitalizing on it. After shooting from everywhere and failing to get much through to Tim Thomas, lady fortune smiled on them as Sami Salo’s shot caromed off Chris Kelly and right to Ryan Kesler. He fired it instantly, like a boss who catches an employee running a phone sex line from his cubicle.
While this game was won on special teams, it was nearly lost there as well. The Bruins did a brilliant job of predicting and frustrating the Canucks’ zone entries and breakouts. While a number of teams get caught flat-footed by the drop pass in the neutral zone, the Bruins created a ton of turnovers because they were expecting it. To their credit, the Canucks adjusted midway through the game, simplifying their zone entries drastically. They’ll probably have to do this more often this season, considering anything the Bruins do against them is considered a tutorial.
One such turnover resulted in a penalty shot for Daniel Paille. Thankfully, Schneider flashed the leather like Tobias Funke.
Give maligned enforcer Dale Weise credit for actively changing the narrative surrounding his fighting skills. First, he showed that can hold his own during a spirited first period scrap with Nathan Horton. Then, he showed that he’s more of a pest than an enforcer anyway, trolling Shawn Thornton like Thornton was a blogger by convincing him to drop his gloves with no intent of fighting. Keep this in mind, angry Twitterverse: sometimes Dale Weise says things he doesn’t mean.
Poor Andrew Ebbett. Every time it seems like he’s hitting a groove, the groove hits back. This time, the role of the groove was played by Dennis “The Groovy German” Seidenberg, who ran over Ebbett in first period, breaking his collarbone. It’s worth noting that this occurred in the exact same spot where Mason Raymond broke his back. Hypothesis: the corner is haunted like the house in American Horror Story. Think a mad scientist ever did experiments there?
I loved Henrik Sedin’s celebration after he combined with Alex Edler for a slap-pass goal with just twelve seconds remaining in the middle frame. Normally he’s fairly demure, but this time he turned to the glass and celebrated hard. I’ve seen other players troll a fanbase far worse, but his one-legged fist-pump to the crowd was about as spirited and antagonistic as you’re ever gonna see him.
It’s not surprising that he dislikes the Boston faithful. They can seem… uninformed. (Of course, when you consider where they get their information, you can’t blame ‘em.) For example, Cory Schneider got the start in this game, but the crowd jeered Luongo five times. Ridiculous. Only once did they get it right, chanting “We Want Luongo,” proving that their relationship with him is akin to a kindergarten crush. They pick on him because they secretly like him.
Poor Cory Schneider, on the other hand, didn’t get booed once, even though it was his first start in his home town and he played great, making 36 saves in the win. He deserved to get booed. He earned it.
One guy in the Boston crowd that ruled: the dude wearing the Seguin shirt in SEGA font. Awesome. One guy that did not rule: the dude that threw a tin of chewing tobacco onto the ice. Is there a trashier thing to throw? Oh. Right.
Literally half of Cody Hodgson’s icetime tonight came on the powerplay. He had just over 11 minutes, 5:26 with the Canucks’ up a man. As usual, he made the most of his playing time, giving the Canucks two essential points in the back half of this game. Alex Burrows has been given credit for the 2nd period goal, although it didn’t really look like he touched it, but if Hodgson was robbed of that goal, he made absolutely sure people knew who scored the next one. For the second time this season, he beat a goaltender cleanly with a slapshot off the rush, stunning Tim Thomas by wiring one off the crossbar and in. The slapshot, like the sixth plague of Egpyt, was blistering.
Manny Malhotra went 5-for-13 on defensive zone faceoffs in this game. One of those lost draws led to the David Krejci goal, as Dan Hamhuis got caught sleeping, perhaps expecting a Malhotra win, leaving Krejci alone in front for far too long. You have to defend your home, like Kevin McAllister. Instead, Hamhuis left Krejci home alone, like Mrs. McAllister.
It wasn’t the only case where the Canuck defense got caught expecting something that didn’t happen. Rich Peverley’s goal, which put the Bruins up 2-1, came after an icing was waved off unexpectedly. Both Edler and Salo quit skating, but the play continued and when the puck squirted to Peverly, he beat an unready Schneider. The Canucks were upset, but there’s a reason you play whistle-to-whistle and not whistle-to-assumed-whistle. You know what happens when you assume things: assumptions.
Hamhuis made up for his gaffe on the Krejci goal, by the way, when he scooped a puck to his waist in the dying seconds and curled into the fetal position. Leave it to Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis to cuddle a puck.
Did anyone else PVR this game? I was amazed when the third period started and the time allotted for the game had already wound down due to all the stoppages and extracurricular stuff. Thank goodness I always set games to record for an hour longer. Somewhere out there is a guy who didn’t and is furious.
And finally, as you may know, Mason Raymond is slowly turning evil, and we saw two instances of Evil Raymond in this game: first, when he was called for “accidentally” high-sticking Tim Thomas, and later, when he lifted his stick to take a baseball swing to Dennis Seidenberg (but thought better of it). This was an indication that there’s still some good in him, but he’s perilously close to fully crossing over to the dark side. It would be foolish at this point to name him as a representative of the Jedi council.
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