Once in a great while, the Canucks play a game so indigestible, and so utterly heinous that the only thing the Vancouver hockey fan can do is block it from memory like some great horror. Were Sunday’s game not so fresh in my mind, I’d be at a loss to provide any examples of such a game at all.
Unfortunately, I can’t simply flush Sunday’s loss to the Ducks from my brain; I have to solidify and stabilize it, like any toxic waste. With that, I advise you to please put on your hazmat suits, because I watched this game.
Canucks 2 – 4 Ducks
For the first time in what seems like ages, the Canucks gave up the first goal in this game, but it almost wasn’t so: Roberto Luongo made two massive saves on Nick Bonino — a glove save, and a kick save after the puck dribbled out of his glove — but Bonino swatted it home on the third try. The man to blame for the Luongo-Bonino affair? Henrik Sedin, last seen diving into the goal after forgetting he was Bonino’s man in front. Unrelated: Luongo-Bonino sounds like a distant relative of Chiquita Banana.
The Canucks tied the game up not long after Bonino’s goal. With Cam Fowler in the penalty box for slashing, Cody Hodgson once again showed off his penchant for picking the corner, beating Jonas Hiller with a wrister after Chris “Kiss Huggins” Higgins fed him from the half-wall. Unsurprisingly, Higgins was the first one to the hockey hug once the goal was scored. What’s hilarious is that Hodgson initially goes for a fist bump, but Higgins isn’t having any of it. Don’t you just hate when you go for the fist bump and the other guy goes for the ultimate squeeze?
Hodgson’s goal set off a chorus of woos, which isn’t unusual for Rogers Arena. It was unusual, however, when the wooing never stopped. For whatever reason, the crowd opted to woo all night, often without reason. You’d have thought the entire place had been rented out to a bachelorette party or something.
Through thirty-five minutes, the Canucks had only mustered five shots on goal. How bad were the Canucks tonight? If Jonas Hiller had curled up on top of his net for the first thirty-five minutes of this game, the Ducks would only have been trailing by three when he awoke.
Jason Blake had two goals and an assist in this game, but speaking of absurd shot totals, he also had 10 shots on goal Sunday night. In case it wasn’t clear how ridiculous that is, consider that, prior to this game, he had only taken 17 shots this season. Granted, he had only played 9 games, but still. He averages less than two shots per game, so, like, 10 is a lot and stuff. Clearly, the Canucks plan of ignoring him in the hopes that he’d go away didn’t work.
Aaron Rome was a minus-3 with 3 giveaways in this game, the third of which led to the eventual game-winner — Blake’s 2-on-1 goal to make it a 3-1 game. But, rather than try to explain in detail how bad Rome was tonight, I’ll let this statement sum it up: in the third period, Alain Vigneault demoted Rome to the bottom pairing in favour of Keith Ballard. That’s like Indiana Jones getting a pet snake.
I’m slagging the Canucks pretty hard, but let’s give credit where it’s due: the Ducks did a great job of getting in front of shots. The Canucks put 23 on goal in this game, but they had another 18 blocked, 10 of which belonged to Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa. They need to learn how to curve their shots, like in that movie Wanted.
There were four Canucks without a shot tonight: Manny Malhotra, Dale Weise, Alex Sulzer, and Ryan Kesler. One of these things is not like the other. (No, I’m not referring to Manny Malhotra.) Ryan Kesler normally has more than zero shots. Kesler looked downright off on Sunday, struggling to gain speed through the neutral zone and stopping up on rushes in which he normally goes full speed ahead. What was his deal? At the game’s end, he was seen removing a knee brace. Kesler’s missed a few practices lately with a mystery ailment, and I think we just figured out what it is: allergy to whatever fabric is in that knee brace.
But seriously, if Kesler’s hurting, he should be sitting. The Canucks need him in April, not January, and they have four perfectly capable centres without him, especially since the Cody Hodgson we’re seeing now is a far cry from the one that started the season. Additionally, the second line wingers we’re seeing now are a far cry from the ones that started the season. How far a cry? They live in Florida now. That’s pretty far.
Speaking of the second line, while it didn’t amount to much at even-strength, I thought David Booth and Chris Higgins looked good together. Higgins has looked a little slower since he spent a couple nights in the hospital with that zombie bite, but he seemed to be energized by playing on the same line as Booth. And Booth had some nice jump, especially gaining the blue line. If he crossed the line into the offensive zone any harder, he’d be asked to host the Golden Globes. And then never asked again. Unless the ratings were good.
Speaking of the offensive zone, the Canucks seemed unaware that, to score goals, it’s ideal for the puck to stay in there. I’ve never seen them so ineffective at gaining the zone and maintaining possession. They spent the final two and a half minutes of this game with the net pulled, and somehow, the puck spent most of that time in the neutral zone. You’d have thought the puck was a member of D.O.O.P.
In the third period, Keith Ballard was with Kevin Bieksa, and Dan Hamhuis was with Alex Edler. This won’t last because it never does, but it’s once again an example of why I think the Canucks will bring in another blueliner before the trade deadline. When Sami Salo misses time, they have no one to take regular shifts with Alex Edler (and Edler played a game-high 27:30 in this game; that’s a long time to be without a dedicated partner). Since Salo missing time in the future is a certainty, the Canucks need a more reliable option.
Mason Raymond’s 4-2 goal would have been so much better received if it wasn’t the epitome of too little, too late. It was a savvy move and it was certainly helped along by Jonas Hiller stumbling and pushing off the wrong foot after buying the fake, but after watching the bumble like french detectives for 57 minutes, it was hard to get behind.
And finally, all three Canuck penalties in this game were assessed to Kevin Bieksa. While I don’t blame him for wanting to sit this one out, it would have been much more efficient to take one big penalty.
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. […]