Byron Bitz came one element short of a Gordie Howe Hat Trick against the Predators. Surprisingly, that missing element was a fight. Who saw that coming? Other than Alain Vigneault, of course, who started Bitz on a line with Henrik Sedin.
The leading theory was that Vigneault was sending Henrik a message by putting him on a line with the 6’5″ winger; turned out he was just trying to get Henrik going. It worked. Henrik had his first multi-point game since January 10th thanks to a couple nice plays by Bitz. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I watched this game.
Canucks 4 – 3 Predators (SO)
The Sedin Split Experiment (which is also the name of PITB’s new progressive-electronica-jazz side project) didn’t fare too well early in the game. Daniel just had to deal with one new linemate, Ryan Kesler, replacing his brother, and that line had some jump, but Henrik’s line with Bitz and Mason Raymond had major issues, as a Sami Salo turnover led to a couple great scoring chance for the Predators. Fortunately, Luongo made like a bucket and bailed out his team with a couple sterling saves.
A little later, Henrik lost his coverage and ended up in a vulnerable spot on the ice facing a Kevin Klein slapshot and took it right off the ankle. When he headed straight for the locker room, putting no weight on his leg, Canucks fans feared the worst. Apparently so did Vigneault, as a future without Henrik flashed before his eyes and the coach immediately reunited the Sedins when Henrik returned from the locker room none the worse for wear.
In fact, Bitz’s success came on a line with both Sedins, so it could be argued that the Sedin Split Experiment ultimately failed. But the line juggling wasn’t limited to just lifting and separating splitting the twins.
Like I suggested a couple weeks ago, Vigneault shook up the powerplay by moving Cody Hodgson to the first unit. It wasn’t on the point, however; it was in place of Kesler, who was bumped to the second unit. It paid off on the Canucks’ one and only powerplay, but not as anticipated. Instead, Kesler cashed in, finding his old haunt at the top of the right faceoff circle and snapping a one-timer top corner to open the scoring.
With the goal, Kesler now has a 6-game point streak, which, knowing him, he will undoubtedly celebrate by going streaking.
A portion of this game was a contemporary re-telling of the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with the new title of Dr. Roberto and Mr. Luongo. Dr. Roberto showed up early, but Mr. Luongo reared his ugly head on the Predators’ first goal, as Colin Wilson’s wristshot from the faceoff dot weaselled its way under his arm. I R Baboon was not impressed.
The real key to Daniel’s goal was how Daniel got open. When Henrik picked up the puck on the sideboards, Francis Bouillon anticipated a pass to Daniel, so he got in position between the two Sedins to pick off the pass. Instead, the puck went around the boards to Bitz and Daniel had a free lane to the net. It’s like Bouillon was the passenger in Daniel’s carpool that allowed him to use the HOV lane.
Nashville’s second goal was controversial if you don’t know what a kicking motion is. If you do, it was just a really nice play by Klein, who made the slap-pass from the boards, and Kostitsyn, who angled his skate perfectly to deflect it past Luongo.
Mr. Luongo showed up again a minute after Kostitsyn’s goal. Mike Fisher tipped a Shea Weber slap shot that Luongo stopped. Unfortunately, he didn’t realize that he had stopped it and somehow managed to kick the puck behind him into the net. Shortly after, he slipped on a banana peel and landed face first into a pie plate full of whipped cream.
Dr. Roberto was surgically precise in the shootout, stopping all but one attempt. Meanwhile, the Canucks shooters actually looked threatening. Burrows scored on Blue Steel, Daniel and Cody Hodgson both hit the post, and Alex Edler hypnotized Pekka Rinne into believing that he was going backhand, before wristing the puck between Rinne’s legs. And for the second game in a row, the Canucks won in the shootout despite giving up 40+ shots against.
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. […]