It’s amazing what a three-day break between games will do for a hockey team. For the first time in a while, the Canucks actually looked fresh to start the game. At even-strength, the Canucks dominated possession and out-scored the Sharks 4-1. Unfortunately, the referees called some penalties and Logan Couture plays for the Sharks, scoring a shorthanded and a powerplay goal to keep the game close.
The Canucks at even-strength and special teams were like two different teams playing two different games. I watched both of them when I watched this game.
Canucks 4 – 3 Sharks
The Canucks wasted no time proving that they were ready to play, as David “John Wilkes” Booth opened the scoring just one minute into the game. Chris “Kiss Huggins” Higgins earned his secondary assist (and celebratory hug) with a fantastic backcheck in the neutral zone to turn the puck over, then outbattling Benn Ferriero for the Ryan Kesler rebound to feed Alex Edler at the point. Booth’s tip was perfect; he must have an app for that.
Amazingly, every player on the second line had a part in that goal without once passing the puck between each other. It happened again just a few minutes later: Booth carried the puck in but got pokechecked. Higgins followed up and took a bad angle shot, angling for a rebound. Booth took one swipe at it before Kesler chipped it over Niemi and onto the top of the net. That line makes fewer passes than Shy Ronnie.
Jamie McGinn led the way physically for the Sharks, throwing 5 hits in the first period alone. One of them bowled over Mason Raymond, who calmly rolled backwards out of the fall and popped to his feet. He must have spent some time watching eHow videos while recovering from his injury.
The Sharks didn’t even register a shot on net through the first half of the first period, which must have been disconcerting for Roberto Luongo, who has gotten used to bailing out the team in the first period. Also disconcerting for Luongo: this song. Ra ra ra Roberto Luongo.
The best player for the Sharks was undoubtedly Logan Couture, who tied the game with a gorgeous breakaway goal while shorthanded thanks to a Hamhuis turnover at the blueline, then put the Sharks ahead with a nifty and unexpected backhand on the powerplay. He also robbed Henrik Sedin of a goal with a kick save when Niemi was down and out. He was more active in this game than acetylsalicylic acid in aspirin.
The Canucks powerplay has struggled recently and was 0-for-4 against the Sharks. They’re now 3-for-21 since they scored 4 powerplay goals against the Bruins. While they’re still the number one powerplay in the league, they haven’t looked threatening with the man advantage for too long. Considering that’s their main defence against teams taking advantage of them physically, they should maybe, y’know, fix that.
Cody “Silent G” Hodgson continued his strong play of late, and now has a 3-game point streak after a 2-goal effort. He was also 5-for-8 in the faceoff circle, with one of those wins leading to his first goal. Mason Raymond’s shot from the sideboards hit the traffic in front created by Jannik Hansen, leaving Hodgson to simply shovel the puck in on the backhand. Hodgson likely earned the offensive zone faceoff by winning his first three draws of the game.
Keith Ballard had a surprisingly good game while paired with Aaron Rome, as the two finished with the highest Corsi ratings among Canucks defencemen in this game. He also got the better of Joe Pavelski in a good scrap at the end of the second period, taking one of the Sharks’ best players off the ice for 5 minutes. If you’re looking for one of the few ways a fight can swing the momentum of the game, that’s a good example.
Kesler put the Canucks ahead in the third with an absolutely beautiful goal. Booth sprung Kesler and Higgins on a 2-on-1 after a flurry of activity in the Canucks’ zone. Kesler read the puck a story, sang it a lullaby, then tucked it in under the bar.
Unfortunately, the puck woke up just 36 seconds later as Dan Boyle tied up the game on his own rebound in front of the net. Though Chris Tanev had a good game overall, he abandoned the front of the net with Edler already near the boards, which left Boyle all alone. Burrows tried to get back to him, but couldn’t tie up his stick.
Hodgson put the Canucks up for good with an ugly goal, as his centring pass from the corner deflected off Michal Handzus and past Niemi. The common factor in both Hodgson’s goals was Jannik “Danish Ninja” Hansen in front of the net with a bushel of Sharks defending him. They should know better: one ninja against multiple opponents is unstoppable.
Luongo wasn’t fantastic in this game, but he did well to stay sharp despite the lack of activity early in the game. With the victory, he passes Kirk McLean for the franchise record for wins. Will Canucks fans start treating him with the same respect they give to McLean?
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