The Canucks have been absolutely dreadful since the All-Star Break. Sure, they’re riding a 3-game regulation unbeaten streak since reassembling, but they’ve hardly reassembled. This team has been a disorganized mess for all three games, playing ugly hockey at both ends of the ice and allowing their opponents to dominate them consistently. They’ve been outshot 128 to 87 — yes, they’re allowing more than 40 shots per game — over these contests.
So how are they winning? Because life isn’t fair. When Kevin Bieksa scored the game-tying goal with the net empty and only thirty-five seconds remaining in regulation Saturday, all I could think was, if the Canucks manage to win and come away from this 3-game stretch with 5 of 6 points, there is absolutely no justice in the world.
As it would happen, there is no justice in the world. I know this for a fact because I watched this game.
Canucks 3 – 2 Avalanche (SO)
David Booth played this game with a sore neck, the rumoured result of him catching a sudden glimpse of himself in a mirror as he walked past. (Hey handsome.) Apparently, it was so sore he didn’t sleep last night, but he hardly seemed tired in the first, driving the play early and picking up an assist on Ryan Kesler’s opening goal after he beat a man to a puck along the wall to feed Alex Edler. Edler made a nice pass to Kesler, who one-timed the puck past J.S. Giguere then pointed skyward in tribute to his grandmother, who passed away yesterday.
Say what you will about the Canucks (suggestion: they’ve been suckiful since January), but give them credit for regularly scoring the first goal. Jeff Paterson pointed out that they’ve opened the scoring in 10 straight road games, and in 9 of those 10 games, the goal came within the first five minutes. Sure, there are far better strategies than jumping out an early lead and abandoning your goaltender to uphold it alone, but on the bright side, no one can accuse the Canucks of coddling Roberto Luongo.
Speaking of, Luongo was fantastic, making some gargantuan saves to keep the Canucks in a game they had no business being in. I was especially taken with a post-to-post save he made to rob Milan Hejduk on the shift immediately following Ryan Kesler’s goal. The best part? The media tweets that followed, all of which talked about how snake-bitten Hejduk has been lately. (He’s got 1 goal in 13 games). Seriously, if Cory Schneider makes that save, the tweets credit the goalie, they don’t blame the shooter.
Clearly, Luongo has noticed, which is likely why he’s now attempting to copy Schneider. After making a glove save in the first period, he laid the puck down right in front of Ryan O’Reilly. Unfortunately, O’Reilly bobbled the puck, so Luongo’s diving cross-crease stick save looked really awkward with no shot.
Here’s another example of how good Luongo was. He was the best member of the Canucks’ powerplay. (Oh wait. That’s bad.) The Canucks went 0-for-5 with the man advantage, proving that the referees have been withholding Canuck powerplays for the same reason Brett Ratner should never have been given the X-Men franchise: they wouldn’t know what to do with them.
I found it interesting that Byron Bitz started this game on the third line. Was this because Vigneault didn’t want to break up that fourth line trio of Lapierre, Malhotra and Weise or because the Canucks want to see Bitz has any upward mobility in terms of deployment? A little of both. Granted, it was hard to get a read on Bitz’s ability to play above the fourth line when all the lines played like fourth lines. I chose to read Alain Vigneault’s line juggling in the third as a clever commentary on this. So, Henrik, you want to play like Dale Weise? Then you’ll play with Dale Weise.
A lot of people were complaining about Bitz leading into this game, but he won some fans during his fight with Cody Mcleod. I’m sure he impressed several people by busting McLeod open with an early right, but I was more impressed by the fact that he won a fight. When was the last time a Canuck has done that? Seriously, Maxim Lapierre is second on the Canucks in major penalties, and he only drops the gloves so he can flick guys in the ear.
Speaking of Lapierre, he was the subject of another of Alain Vigneault’s creative lessons. After Vigneault was roundly criticized for using Alex Edler in the shootout on Thursday, many brought up the fact that player with the best shootout record on the Canucks was Maxim Lapierre, who was 3-for-6 in his career. Sure enough, he got tapped first, largely so AV could rub it in Canucks fans’ noses when he failed. See? They’re all terrible at this. Ironically, then the Canucks won the shootout. Against a Colorado Avalanche team that was undefeated in shootouts, no less. Like I said earlier: no justice.
Vigneault also gave our own Thom Drance a shot across the bow when he sent Manny Malhotra out for an offensive zone faceoff. Deal with it, Drance.
The trade Mason Raymond club was briefly silenced after Raymond was the hero Thursday, but they likely got a big morale boost from his 2-on-1 with Henrik Sedin in the third period. As the two gained the zone, rather than shoot or pass, Raymond double-clutched and lost the puck into the corner. (I surmise that he looked over, realized it was Henrik, and lost the puck anticipating the return pass.) Unfortunately, the club suffered another blow when Raymond scored the shootout winner. Friggin’ Raymond is so friggin’ inconsistent.
Kevin Bieksa had a pretty ugly game Saturday, finishing a minus-4 in Corsi and tied with Dan Hamhuis for a team worst minus-8 in Fenwick (which is basically just Corsi for nerdier nerds). He was also responsible for the Avalanche’s second goal, a brutal drop pass that led to a turnover and a lit lamp in the span of about two seconds. But holy cow, talk about redemption: not only did Bieksa tie the game for the Canucks late on yet another lucky stanchion bounce — dude is some kind of stanchion whisperer — but he prevented the Avalanche from scoring the empty-netter on the same sequence. Ironically, it was the highlight-reel, cross-crease, diving stick save Luongo so desperately craved. Poor Luongo.
Most hilarious moment of the game: After a stoppage, Shane O’Brien horse-collared Alex Burrows, and while he was on his back, Burrows looked up, realized who it was, and went batcrap flippin’ cray-cray. Frenemies.
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. […]