Leave it to the Minnesota Wild to put everything into perspective. The Canucks were 7-1-2 in their last 10 games heading into Thursday’s contest — the league’s hottest team — but most Canuck fans would admit that their record was incredibly misleading. Anyone who had actually watched those 10 games could have told you Vancouver had been playing some nigh-unwatchable hockey over that stretch.
Of course, then the Canucks touched town in Minnesota and played some actual unwatchable hockey. My goodness, Canuck nation, are we ever spoiled. For the past 5 games, we’ve griped about the Canucks needing overtime to solve their games, but at least it’s been exciting. Tonight, we were treated to a 60-minute regulation win, and when I say “treated to” I mean “stabbed in the brain with”. Somehow it felt like it lasted twice as long. Seemingly forever, I watched this game.
Canucks 5 – 2 Wild
In the 3 games leading up to Thursday’s contest, the Canucks allowed 40, 46, and 43 shots. Tonight there were 48 shots total between the two clubs. This game was like whale sounds on ice.
Speaking of whale sounds, I let out a deep groan when Alex Edler got caught at the blueline and Dany Heatley was able to walk in and open the scoring 13 seconds in. Not because it was the worst possible start the Canucks could have had, mind you, but because the Canucks had spotted the Minnesota Wild a 1-goal lead from the outset. I cringed at the prospect of watching the Wild sit on that goal for an hour like it was an egg waiting to hatch.
Thankfully, Vancouver’s pushback immediately following the goal was fantastic. Three times within the next minute, they crashed the crease, knocking the net off in the process. Byron Bitz was responsible for two of these dislodgings, and while he picked up a goaltender interference penalty for the second incident, I don’t think the coaching staff was all that bothered by it. A 6’5″ guy that goes to the net too hard is hardly a problem. Alain Vigneault’s got 99 problems but a Bitz ain’t one.
Bitz was excellent tonight, using his size well and once again setting up a Sedin for a pretty goal. This time is was Henrik, who he found with a backhand saucer pass on a 2-on-1. The look of incredulity on Henrik’s face after scoring the goal is priceless. Still, I must caution fans not to get too excited about this new Byronic Hero. Yes, Bitz has had a marvelous two-game stretch and he might be Batman, but he’s still got a long way to go before he reaches the heights Aaron Rome reached earlier this season.
The Canucks tied the game up after the Wild got into some penalty trouble of their own, yielding a two-man advantage in the back half of the first. Despite the coaching staff rearranging every other unit, the 5-on-3 unit stayed the same, and they showed why they’re inseparable, making 8 passes in 8 seconds before Edler put a shot off the post and Daniel flipped the rebound over Nicklas Backstrom. I especially enjoyed when Henrik and Kesler passed the puck back and forth below the goal line five times before moving the puck to Edler at the point. Hilariously, neither centre picked up an assist on the play because Edler and Salo went D-to-D and back, which is equivalent of leaving a room and coming back in Castlevania. It resets everything.
For the record, yes, one of this game’s most exciting moments was Henrik and Kesler passing the puck back and forth below the goal line. That’s how dry this one was. At one point, I was positive that I was watching a speech.
Maxim Lapierre would put the Canucks ahead for good with less than a minute to go in the first period. While the goal was called unassisted, it was the product of a great shot into traffic by Alex Edler and some strong work in front of the goal by Cody Hodgson, who may have poked it to Lapierre. Later, Lapierre dropped the gloves with Cal Clutterbuck and what’s more, he won the fight. It was his second win of the season (according to HockeyFights.com). He fell an assist short of the Gordie Howe hat trick, but he did manage to pick up a five-minute major for spearing in the final minutes. I strongly suggest a goal, a fight, and a dirty penalty forever be named the Lapierre Hat Trick.
Lapierre’s spearing penalty came during a strange stretch of reffing to end this game, as Brad Staubitz came by the Vancouver bench with the express purpose of starting something and yet somehow escaped the ensuing scrum without a penalty. Immediately after this, the two teams got into it again in front of the goal, which led to Kevin Bieksa throwing a glove — clearly an attempt to challenge someone to a duel from afar — and getting a 10-minute misconduct for it. Oh, what, so it’s okay to throw a punch but it’s not okay to throw a glove? Hypocrisy, I say.
In truth, Bieksa was just trying to stand up for Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis, who was being punched in the face by Cal Clutterbuck. Hamhuis would also pick up a 10-minute misconduct, apparently for allowing this to happen. He didn’t mind. Hamhuis saw that Clutterbuck’s confidence had been shattered after losing a fight to Lapierre and he just wanted to make him feel better.
Mason Raymond gave the officials a call they couldn’t possibly get wrong: midway through the second, he took the most obvious penalty in the history of the NHL, snatching Greg Zanon’s stick out of his hands and tossing it away. Evil Raymond strikes again.
Shorty and Garrett need to stop talking about Dan Murphy’s Twitter account right now, especially since they clearly have no idea what Twitter is (even though Garrett has an account). I imagine you could hand those two a black box with a blinking light on it and tell them it was Twitter and they’d believe it.
John Garrett: “I like Shreddies. You can add sugar.” You can add sugar to a lot of things, Garrett. A thing’s ability to be covered in sugar isn’t a reason to like it. You obviously just like sugar.
Quality outing for Ryan Kesler, who went 12-for-17 in the faceoff circle (including 7-for-7 in the first) and scored an empty-netter to extend his goal streak to 5 games. Full credit to Burrows for the feed, which threaded all 5 Wild players to land on Kesler’s stick at the blueline. It was a backhand saucer, just like the one Bitz used to set up Henrik for a goal in the second. Clearly, Burrows is feeling a little threatened. If he bites someone next game, don’t mind him, he’s just acting out.
The Canucks won only 7 of 18 defensive zone draws. 6 of those wins came from Manny Malhotra.
Speaking of Malhotra, he and Cody Hodgson traded places somewhat on Thursday, with Malhotra moving up to the 3rd line with Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen while Hodgson played between Mike Duco and Maxim Lapierre on the 4th. Both players bought into their new roles, too: Malhotra scored a goal, and Hodgson took two defensive zone faceoffs! Unfortunately, Cody lost them both. On the plus side, this might earn him a promotion back to the third line.
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. […]