I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Detroit Red Wings, February 2, 2012

Most people in the hockey world thought a match-up between the Red Wings and Canucks, the two best teams in the Western Conference, would be the game to watch tonight. Instead, Sam “Him?” Gagner stepped into the spotlight, scoring 8 points against the Chicago Blackhawks and tying Paul Coffey and Wayne Gretzky’s franchise record for most points in a game.

Yeah. Sam Gagner did that.

But I didn’t watch that game. The game I watched was merely okay. What game did I watch? I watched this game.

Canucks 3 – 4 Red Wings (SO)

  • I’m not kidding: one of the highlights of this game was hearing Sam Gagner updates up and down the press box. “Gagner has 5 points!” “Really?” “Oh my goodness, he just scored another goal.” “6 points?” “What is happening?” “7 points!” “Ha, he just passed his Dad’s career-high for points in a game.” “Wait a second, he’s just one point from tying Wayne Gretzky for the franchise record.” “No.” “8 points, he did it!” “What in the world?” “Seriously?” “Sam Gagner now shares a record with Wayne Gretzky. The world doesn’t make sense any more.”
  • With Chris Higgins out of the lineup with a hunger for brains the flu, Alain Vigneault sent out Andrew Alberts as the fourth line winger and bumped Raymond and Malhotra up to the second and third line, respectively. But those lines transformed more than a Triple Changer, to the point that even the Sedins were split in the third period. There’s a reason why: the Canucks were terrible in the first two periods. I mean, worse than Broadside terrible.
  • Oddly enough, the Red Wings played like they actually wanted to win this game. I can’t imagine why. Meanwhile, Roberto Luongo, who would have surely given up 6 goals against the Chicago Blackhawks, was suitably brilliant and made 40 saves. Also suitably brilliant? Me, in my brand new suit.
  • Those were just the best of his 14 first period saves. He had 14 more in the second and another 12 through the third period and overtime. And yet, some people will criticize him like crazy because of the 2 he didn’t make in the shootout. With a lesser goaltender (like, say, Corey Crawford or Ray Emery), this game would have been out of reach halfway through the first period, when the shots were 10-1 in favour of the Red Wings.
  • Luongo also looked impressively comfortable handling the puck. His best moment was when he beat Bertuzzi to a puck that would have given him and Franzen a 2-on-0. He calmly played it away, while giving Schneider knowing looks on the bench. This is how you clear a loose puck, Gingerbricks. Watch and learn.
  • It’s not often that someone makes Dan Hamhuis look absolutely silly, but Danny Cleary managed to accomplish it to open the scoring for the Red Wings. He went outside-inside on the Community Man, before walking right around him and snapping the puck stick-side. Cleary’s just lucky that he caught Hamhuis when he was playing the role of a living statue to raise money for the Canucks For Kids Fund.
  • Like sine and cosine, the Red Wings came in waves for the first 40 minutes, overwhelming the Canucks’ transition game with relentless forechecking. The speed of Helm was particularly noticeable and the Canucks had trouble escaping their own zone with possession because of the pressure.
  • The line of Booth, Kesler, and Raymond seemed to be the only line that was capable of actually playing hockey in the first two periods; with the transition game hampered by Detroit’s forecheckers, dump-and-chase hockey was a requirement. That line’s speed enabled them to effectively create chances with the dump-and-chase strategy and led to the tying goal. Booth impressively out-battled Datsyuk along the boards and cut out front, while Kesler whacked in the rebound like it was an uppity mole.
  • One bright spot for the Canucks was the penalty kill, which successfully killed off both Detroit powerplays. Hamhuis and Bieksa were particularly good shorthanded. At one point, Bieksa showed off his cross-sport acumen, leaping up and spiking a puck out of harm’s way in front of the net. He then absolutely leveled Pavel Datsyuk behind the net like an All-Pro linebacker. His shift didn’t last long enough for him to snag a puck on the short-hop like a center-fielder.
  • The second period was balls. The Canucks didn’t get a single shot until 12 minutes into the second frame. It’s a minor miracle that the Red Wings only scored one goal, a sickly sweet snap shot by Jiri Hudler off the rush. Maxim Lapierre responded to the goal by getting into a combination staring contest/wrestling match with Justin Abdelkader. It’ll never be as successful as chess-boxing.
  • Gordie Howe was at the game and received a loud and long standing ovation from the Rogers Arena crowd when his name was announced. I don’t have a quip or clever observation here; it was just pretty cool.
  • I love Jannik Hansen. I don’t love dangerous plays. I especially don’t love it when a player I love makes a dangerous play. Hansen pushing Ericsson’s skate out from under him as they chased down an icing was extremely dangerous. The Rogers Arena crowd, however, was, like a hippy’s bathroom, incensed. They booed lustily and chanted “Ref you suck!” after seeing the replay.
  • After 40 minutes of absolute domination by the Red Wings, they seemed to decide that a one-goal lead was good enough. The Canucks had other ideas, out-shooting the Wings 10-0 at one point in the period. The re-shuffling of the lines seemed to have helped, as Daniel skated with Kesler and Booth, Henrik centred Hodgson and Raymond, and Lapierre formed a checking trio with Hansen and Burrows. Malhotra jumped on the ice for faceoffs occasionally, while Weise and Alberts played Cat’s Cradle on the bench.
  • Down by one, the Canucks began gambling with a riskier, more aggressive  forecheck, and it paid off with the second of three tying goals. Hansen, Lapierre, and Burrows swarmed poor Drew Miller like angry bees, causing a turnover that Burrows slapped into the top corner.
  • It didn’t take long for Miller to make up for his mistake. After Luongo made a save on a Cleary tip, Rome tried to shovel it to Luongo to cover up; unfortunately, his pass was a little weak, leading to a mad scramble in front of the net. Luongo made a brilliant toe save on Cleary just before Miller gathered the rebound and fired it in to put the Wings up 3-2.
  • The Canucks managed to tie the game up again, however. This time, it was Mason Raymond, whose wrist shot deflected off Brad Stuart’s knee and past Jimmy Howard. I have no idea why Stuart lifted his leg on that shot, but I have a couple theories: 1) He was a dog in a previous life and he really needed to use the bathroom. 2) He’s wanted to join The Rockettes all his life and he subconsciously broke into a routine. 3) It was Brett Lebda’s fault.
  • Burrows had the best hypothetical chance in overtime, but ran into the linesman on a potential breakaway. Or maybe the linesman ran into him. It depends on whether your hat is made from tin foil or not.
  • The result of the shootout wasn’t the least bit surprising: the Red Wings have players who can score in the shootout and the Canucks don’t. The player in the lineup for the Canucks with the best career shootout percentage was Maxim Lapierre, who is 3-for-6 in his career. Would you have guessed that?
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34 comments

  1. swizzler
    February 3, 2012

    The Canucks need to snap out of whatever funk they’re in. Without the strong play of Luongo and Schneider over this stretch they would likely be on an ugly losing streak, with all of the media nonsense that goes with it.

    Also, I can’t for the life of me figure out why Hodgson wasn’t in the shootout? after his sick breakaway goal against Chicago I thought he was a lock

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    • Jason
      February 3, 2012

      Oh the irony! Luongo, who could fill a blooper reel with his years of mishaps, smirks at Schneider about puck handling.

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  2. bergberg
    February 3, 2012

    Well, yesterday afternoon when I realised I was not going to be able to watch this game I was disappointed. But now, I think I am glad.

    Two things:

    1) Isn’t this the second time they’ve dressed Alberts as a forward? Seriously, why is this happening? They must have someone, you know – who is actually a forward, that they can call up in a pinch. No?

    2) Why can’t the Canucks play some good hockey in the 2nd period? You’d think by now they would seriously be trying to address this issue. 1/3 of the game is a little bit important, you know?

    If my pool wasn’t frozen right now….

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    • Dave
      February 3, 2012

      I think Higgins was a very late scratch, so there was no time to call somebody up. If he’s still sick on Saturday, I’m sure a forward will be there.

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  3. J21
    February 3, 2012

    The focus on the Canucks’ ineptitude in the shootout — both by the shooters and, yes, by Luongo, no matter how strong a game he had otherwise — is inevitable, because the NHL has decided that it’s worth the equivalent of 30 minutes of real hockey. And as long as this is the case, it will — like the golden snitch — occupy an outrageously disproportionate role in the team’s fortunes and, therefore, its fans’ discourse about those fortunes. (Disclaimer: I have never so much as picked up a Harry Potter book, but I saw the first movie, so forgive me if my analogy is off).

    I don’t understand why Vigneault tends to save his stronger shooters for the third spot. This isn’t an after-school special where you have to maximize the drama, it is a best-of-three, and the Canucks have a real knack of not making it to the third spot. As Bill James and Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta and all those guys would point out, the most important thing is staying alive, which would be facilitated by not saving a better shooter for last. Burrows, when he goes to “his move” is very successful, and Hodgson has demonstrated a seeing-eye shot. Both of those guys should be the automatic 1 and 2 every time. For all Kesler gets maligned in the shootout, if he were to simply fire one of his trademark wristshots rather than try to outthink the goalie, I’ll bet he’d have a fair bit more success, too. At least El Viño has figured out that defensemen are an option. Even if Edler didn’t do much, I liked seeing him there.

    Can anyone really doubt that the Canucks’ famous troubles-of-late have had a lot to do with the power play? Namely, not getting any. And when they do, not doing too much (probably because it’s been so long since the last one, the guys have forgotten what to do)? It’s been the team’s bread-and-butter for a while now, after all.

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    • stathead
      February 3, 2012

      Luongo was not inept in the shootout. It isn’t inept to be scored on by amazing shooters like Datsyuk. Luongo looked fine when the shots were taken. The shooters beat the goaltender.

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      • Jason
        February 3, 2012

        Wrong. Luongo is not the guy anyone would want in net for the shootout. Take off the rose-coloured glasses dude.

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  4. Geko
    February 3, 2012

    Canucks 4 – 3 Red Wings (SO)?

    Daniel thinks the Canucks won. I wish.

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  5. peanutflower
    February 3, 2012

    Firstly, do you actually get to watch the games from the press box now? Jealous. Secondly, that was a crap game except for the third period. The first period was an embarrassment. The second was marginally better. Thirdly, doesn’t anyone think it’s strange that the Canucks have had so few powerplays? I do. Hmm. Fourthly, I hate the shootout. Hate it. I wonder how the goalies feel about shootouts. Shit, I just put in 60 minutes of brilliance because the guys are playing like crap and now I have to put up with this shootout bull.

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    • peanutflower
      February 3, 2012

      Nvrmnd. I see now. Another press box.

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    • PeeSeeGee
      February 3, 2012

      The Canucks had words with the Ref’s a few times about that. Some huge missed calls. Especially the high sticking call on Malhotra.

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    • Shade of Blue
      February 3, 2012

      “Thirdly, doesn’t anyone think it’s strange that the Canucks have had so few powerplays? ”

      No. The Canucks have had the top-rated power play since Christmas at least, despite the recent struggles, and other teams know it. They watched that Van-Bos match, too, and saw Vancouver win thanks to goals scored exclusively on the power play. I guarantee that the coach in the visitors’ room spends a few minutes before each game reminding his team to make sure they don’t take stupid penalties and cost the team the game.

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      • zach
        February 3, 2012

        I agree that I am sure that is the strategy. I agree that teams have been better of late about executing that strategy. However, I will not agree that the Canucks are getting less powerplays simply because of that strategy, as there was quite a few missed calls in this one, and it isn’t often Vigneault and company get fired up on the bench over missed calls, however, they did in this one about 3 times.. Otherwise I agree.

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  6. chicken hawk
    February 3, 2012

    When came the shootout we all knew
    Detroit would score on Bobby Lu
    But even more embarrassing
    Was watching Edler do his thing
    And Raymond was pathetic too

    Chicken Hawk

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  7. madwag
    February 3, 2012

    Danielson

    “Like sine and cosine, the Red Wings came in waves.”

    “Kesler whacked in the rebound like it was an uppity mole.”

    “The Rogers Arena crowd, however, was, like a hippy’s bathroom, incensed.”

    Of the plethora of fine similes throughout these three were particularly fine, forcing me to smile out loud. My compliments.

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  8. starfish
    February 3, 2012

    Best part if this game – Daniel Wagner’s line “caught Hamhuis …. playing the role of a living statue to raise money for the Canucks For Kids Fund.”

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  9. sarah
    February 3, 2012

    Ugh, that game sucked. Is it too much to ask for a decent blowout Saturday verses the Avs? It sure would be nice to see the Canucks score 4, 5, 6 goals. I hope Higgins’ Zombie infection hasn’t spread to his abs.

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  10. Amor de Cosmos
    February 3, 2012

    I wonder if all teams with good power plays draw fewer penalties, just as bottom teams such as Columbus and Carolina get more PPs? It’s the NHL’s way of “evening things up” which they’re happy do for the sake of overall league competitiveness apparently.

    I reckon it’s no coincidence that both the Nux and Bruins have been off their respective games since Game 8 of the Stanley Cup final last month. During the regular season good teams get in a groove, like marathon runners. A single game with that level of intensity upsets the equilibrium as it can take awhile for some players to find their stroke again.

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  11. Chicky
    February 3, 2012

    I’ll fess up, I couldn’t help but change the channel… seriously could NOT watch the crap that the team showed up with.

    And as soon as it went to s/o, game over. Knew that one.

    The biggest surprised? The Canucks actually squeezed a point out of this. Imagine if they had bothered to fricken play the entire game. One can only hope that they don’t actually think they’ll get through the play-offs with performances like this one.

    Barf!

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  12. superreggie
    February 3, 2012

    You know, it’s funny, the pundits (and this post) fail to mention that maaaybe the reason the Canucks weren’t playing well was… The Wings really looked solid. It’s the sign of a great team when at times you can’t tell who is who, when they all look like they’re dancing to the beat of the same drum. Their defensive organisation was machine-like. Could be that the Canucks just need to get better. Not just ‘get out of a funk’, but get more organized…

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    • Daniel Wagner
      February 3, 2012

      Really? I thought I gave the Wings a lot of credit in this post. Their relentless forecheck was why the Canucks’ transition game was completely lacking, for instance. It wasn’t just that the Canucks were bad (though they were). The Wings made them look bad.

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  13. PeeSeeGee
    February 3, 2012

    Luongo was so good in this game there were audible silences where fans were sure he must have let in a goal only for him to pick the puck out of his pads or drop it from his catcher.

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    • PeeSeeGee
      February 3, 2012

      Also, the Canucks didnt even manage a shot in the shootout. That really sums this game up.

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  14. invisibleairwaves
    February 3, 2012

    “3) It was Brett Lebda’s fault.”

    This one.

    So yeah, it’d be really nice to see the Canucks actually outplay their opponents sometime. It’s great that the goaltending has been able to bring them points, and it’s reassuring to know that Gillis isn’t the sort of GM to make an awful panic trade in an extended slump, but it really is kind of troubling when they play poorly for almost an entire month and it isn’t October. Some wizardry would be awesome…

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  15. Chris
    February 3, 2012

    I am of two minds about this game.

    1. The Canucks can show up for one period against the first place team in the NHL and still salvage a tie (plus whatever happens after the overtime horn once I’ve changed the channel),

    but

    2. The Canucks can play the best team in the NHL and only show up for one period.

    You just have to wonder when the team is going to rediscover the ability to play hard for 60 minutes.

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    • obituary mambo
      February 3, 2012

      That first point is truly amazing. Imagine what this team could do if they were able to get their act together for an extended period of time. They’d be unstoppable!

      The second point is too depressing to contemplate. If they can’t get amped enough to show up against one of the league’s elite teams, you really have to wonder whether there might be something else going on behind closed doors. Many work places go through periods of poor moral. Could there be something leading to that in this situation? The team is going through far too many stretches where they appear to be completely disinterested in the game at hand.

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  16. J21
    February 3, 2012

    Wait, am I to gather from the first bulleted paragraph that Dave Gagner once had a six-point game?!

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  17. Warpstone
    February 3, 2012

    The linesman was “jamming” Burrows! :D

    BTW, not all triple-changers were lame. Trypticon and Metroplex are technically three-wayers too.

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  18. stathead
    February 3, 2012

    Wonders about all the people who say they knew the Canucks had already lost when it goes to shootout. On the various occasions when Luongo performs well and our shooters score, are they happy, or aggravated that they made the wrong call?

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  19. akidd
    February 3, 2012

    man, those wings are good. flawless structure. perfect passing. smothering d. and all at top speed. the canucks need to pull up some socks. really enjoyed watching the split up sedins though. very entertaining. and good for what ails you which in this case was a creeping realization that Moody, after watching the last two games, has likely downgraded the canucks’ status to ‘elite B’ as well as the realization that most of the rest of feb’s sched is dog. all the caramels are gone from the box and the rest is all orange creams and marzapan.

    there’s no miracle cure for this but it’s time for mg to start icing his best line-up. chris tanev anyone?

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  20. Nee
    February 3, 2012

    The team is still getting points when they’re not playing well (7-3-3) in our last 13. Which is nice.

    I have faith that they will get themselves out of this funk. But I worry about bad habits forming. And we’ve had multiple games (I think the numbers mentioned last night was 5?) where we’ve had less than 5 shots in a period. 2 games of 2 shots, for example. That’s just not good enough.

    We have very high expectations of this team, and they do of themselves: Lord Stanley. They know this isn’t good enough. They’ll sharpen up.

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  21. george
    February 3, 2012

    Luongo sucks. I don’t care if he gets 10 shutouts in a row. He still would suck, because he can’t stop a beachball in the shootout, or in the playoffs.

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  22. itsentertainment
    February 3, 2012

    George, I don’t understand your concern. Do they play with beach balls in the playoffs?

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  23. goldtrail
    February 4, 2012

    The Canuck fan needs a few years of the Canuck Teams of old when the heart and soul of the team was the only player that appeared to be trying. Losses game after game because of bonehead plays and sheer lack of talent . Maybe then they could appreciate what 30 other hockey cities would love to have. Do you seriously think having the Ottawa team or the Toronto team or the Montreal team as the home team in Vancouver would be OK? Grow up Vancouver , We have the winningest goalie and the winningest coach and the best team ever and all I hear is crying over who should be fired or traded.

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