Last game before the All-Star break. Opponent from the basement of the conference. A busy schedule of community outreach. There were a number of reasons why the Canucks could have been distracted from playing hockey on Tuesday night, but the team seemed entirely focussed on taking care of business.
Far more focussed than I, at least. Through the haze of a nagging cold, I watched this game.
Canucks 3 – 2 Oilers (SO)
The final score did not seem at all indicative of how well the Canucks played in this game. They dominated possession all night, but did not always turn that possession into shots on goal. Some of the chances that they generated without (officially) putting the puck on net were glorious, however, and it was a treat to finally see the Sedins play a dominant cycle for long periods of time in the offensive zone again. Like Harry Potter in the summer, I missed the wizardry.
There were 6 particularly noticeable missed opportunities. Early in the game, Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows got behind the Oilers’ defence for a 2-on-0, but they somehow got their wires crossed and Daniel’s pass was just out of Burrows’ reach. On a similar opportunity later in the game, Mason Raymond mishandled a feed from Burrows as the puck bounced on him with an open net. And finally, Sami Salo, Jannik Hansen, David Booth, and Henrik Sedin all hit the post on great scoring chances.
After a series of great shifts, the Canucks finally opened the scoring halfway through the first. Daniel Sedin started the play by creating a turnover off Taylor Hall at the blueline, then finished it off after some quick passing from Dan Hamhuis and Burrows. With the Henrik-assist-less goal, Daniel is now just one back of his brother for the team lead in scoring. Since Daniel already got the blood he was out for last season, I submit that this season he is out for refrigerators. Hey, he needs something to store all that blood.
Although the Canucks dominated possession, the Oilers were very good at creating scoring chances quickly whenever they took the puck up ice. Immediately after the Canucks opened the scoring, Sam Gagner managed to create a scoring chance ex nihilo on a one-on-one rush against Edler, forcing Luongo to make a sharp save.
As good as that save was, Luongo made an even better one on Eric Belanger late in the first period, as the Oiler forward slapped a puck out of mid-air towards the net that Luongo got his right pad on while sliding to his right. Luongo was sharper than a Reaver harpoon in the first period, but his best work was yet to come.
The Oilers tied up the game halfway through the second period courtesy of a rare defensive breakdown by Maxim Lapierre and a slightly-less-rare defensive gaffe by Keith Ballard. Lapierre lost track of Taylor Hall on a failed clearing attempt and took too long to realize it. By the time he did, Hall had the puck and Ballard couldn’t decide whether to block the pass or check Shawn Horcoff. He ended up doing neither, and Hall made a great pass to Horcoff, who just gave it a little tappy…tap tap taparoo.
The Sportsnet crew found time during the broadcast to focus in on two young, female Oilers fans with shirts advertising themselves as Mrs. Eberle and Mrs. Hall, aka. Mrs. Eberle and the Bride of Frankenstein.
The second line had a strong game once again, creating 9 shots on goal. They combined to put the Canucks up by a goal early in the third period on a 3-on-2 rush started by a Hamhuis outlet pass. Higgins threw a hard pass through to Kesler, who tipped it through Dubnyk’s legs but not into the net. The puck sat in the crease, while Booth outbattled Taylor Hall to shove the puck in while on his back. Meanwhile, Dubnyk just knelt there, frozen, like he was waiting for someone to crawl between his legs.
You might have noticed Taylor Hall’s name came up a lot: he was involved in every goal during regulation, including the one he tipped in to tie the game in the third on the powerplay. Canucks fans should be thankful he was in this game: if it wasn’t for him, there would have been no scoring at all.
Luongo’s actual save of the game came in the shootout, where he was superb, stopping 4 of 5 attempts. His stop on Jordan Eberle was something special, however, as he managed to get just enough of his toe on the puck to keep it on the goal line. John Garrett, the 5’8″ former goaltender, took the opportunity to talk about Luongo’s “long, freakish legs.” Look, John, just because he’s taller than you doesn’t make him a freak. That’s just not nice.
Only two out of five Canucks managed to score in the shootout, though Raymond came close, hitting yet another post. Alex Edler made a clever move, coming in with speed and shifting about a foot to the left just before shooting in order to change the angle and create an opening to score. Then Cody Hodgson scored to give Luongo a chance to win the game, fooling Dubnyk by going five-hole when he was expecting high-glove.
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