It’s been said that the first game back from a road trip is really better considered the last game of the road trip, that it’s not a true home game if you still spend time on a plane the day prior. There was certainly evidence to this theory Monday night, as the Canucks’ first contest in Rogers Arena since the second of February bore an eerie resemblance to the games they played abroad during the 10 days between.
Sure, they were in their home blues, they went home to their own beds, and they were the team surrendering the late, game-tying goal, but everything else about the song remained the same — tight game, sloppy defensive zone breakouts, the absence of Sedinery and, for the fifth time in six outings, a shootout. By now, we’re beginning to wonder if the Canucks are addicted to shootouts. Do they get irritable after regulation victories? Is there a patch or a gum to help ease the cravings? These are the questions I was left with after I watched this game.
Canucks 2 -1 Coyotes (SO)
How slow was this game? The Canucks had 4 shots in the first period, and they arguably controlled the run of play in that period. It was an exceedingly quiet opening twenty minutes. At one point, the referee stopped play because Alex Burrows started steeping white tea and handing out individually wrapped pieces of biscotti.
Speaking of Burrows, he registered the Sedin line’s lone shot in this game. It came just over two minutes into overtime. I think it’s safe to say that, if the typically beastly Sedin line can’t muster a single shot in regulation, something is wrong. Why so unbeastly, Sedins? Are you sick? Having recently watched Jurassic Park, I’m afraid the only way to know for sure is to check their poop.
David Booth scored the Canucks’ lone goal in this game, and it was exactly the sort of goal he was acquired to score in games like this. When the Canucks find themselves up against a team playing a defensive structure so smothering that the Sedins completely disappear, they need guys like Booth who won’t busy themselves trying to break it down — they’re just going to the net as hard as they possibly can. That’s exactly what Booth did, pouncing on a puck mishandled by Keith Yandle at the Coyotes blueline, and charging it to the goal like the goal was a Mastercard.
Byron Bitz had two unfortunate moments in this game: the first was when he coughed a puck up at the blueline to Keith Yandle, who fired it on goal and surprised Roberto Luongo to tie the game late. Unfortunate indeed, but not as unfortunate as the second moment: when John Garrett described the big winger’s hooking penalty by saying “Bitz gave him the reach around.” That’s dangerously worded. Mispronounce “Bitz” in that instance and you’re a pimp.
For the record, while most blamed Bitz for that goal (Bitz included), he’s not the guy I’d point a finger at. It’s not even Luongo, although that goal was Downy soft. Rather, I’d argue that one’s on Manny Malhotra. See, the puck doesn’t even end up in Bitz’s stick if Malhotra wins that defensive zone draw. And he doesn’t even have to take that defensive zone draw if he doesn’t turn the puck over at the blueline before, leading to a scramble in the Vancouver end and an eventual icing call. We’ve gone on about Malhotra being a “win faceoffs and clear the zone” type of guy, and it was his inability to do either in this instance that indirectly led to the tying goal.
Taylor Pyatt remains terrible in close and beautiful up close. If the big forward could put half the softness of his baby blue eyes into his touch around the goal, he’d be a fifty-goal scorer. But he can’t, so he just stands around glistening, like women in Michael Bay movies.
Lots of people dislike Aaron Rome, primarily because his playing style is so unspectacular. But let me tell you what I can’t stand about his game: when it comes to hitting, the guy has no timing. Rome is a big hitter, capable of laying a guy flat, but he’s always a split-second too soon or too late. We all remember what happened in the Stanley Cup Final, of course, but there were three solid examples from Monday’s affair as well. He missed a hipcheck that led to a scoring chance in the second, knocked Pyatt from the game with a questionable hit from behind, and mistimed another big hit in the third that led to some zone pressure. If Ja Rule and Ashanti were coaching this team, Rome would have been waived by now.
I was beyond pleased to see Alain Vigneault — who is coaching this team — swap Mason Raymond for Cody Hodgson on the second line in the third period. Raymond remains a remarkable backchecker, but he’d spend half as much time backchecking remarkably if he was smarter with it back when it was his. Raymond is like the male lead in a romcom and the puck is his female co-star. Sure, he winds up with it in the end, but if he had just been true to it from the beginning, he could have spared everyone so much heartache.
Speaking of romance, the most intimate moment in the game came when Kevin Bieksa tried to flip a puck off the glass and catch it behind his back for some reason. As the puck trickled through his gloves, the linesman tried to snag it before it hit the ice, and wound up grabbing a handful of Juicy ass. It makes sense that Bieksa would have chemistry with the linesman: linesmen are considered a part of the playing surface, like stanchions.
But if you ask me, it was the second best Bieksa moment in this game. Just as the horn sounded, Bieksa got into it with Rusty Klesla, and the two dropped their gloves. With the game over, the referees stepped between the two defenders, but not before Bieksa gave Klesla a quick jab in the side of the head, then smirked at his cleverness as he was escorted to the bench.
Finally, if you want to smile, check out Manny Malhotra’s appreciating David Booth’s sick shootout goal at 8:18 of this clip. He looks like he’s eating a really good piece of chocolate cake.
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