Sunday afternoon, it was announced that the Canucks had topped a poll asking NHLers to name the most overrated team in the league. This was just after Vancouver had pulverized Toronto 6-2 and just prior to making short work of Edmonton, 5-2. One wonders: if the Canucks are truly overrated, then how much worse are these teams than they seemed?
Of course, when it comes to polls of this nature, “overrated” is little more than a synonym for “disliked”, which makes sense: the Canucks are, as we know, loathed throughout Canada, and when you consider that they’re 11-2-1 and just spent the weekend batting Toronto and Edmonton around like a ball of yarn, it’s not difficult to understand why. Canada has one good team right now, a fact of which I would bristle at being reminded, were I not a fan of that team. But I am, so I was as bristle-free as a knitted moustache when I watched this game.
Canucks 5 – 2 Oilers
Clearly, a visit from the Toronto Maple Leafs is to the Sedins as a trip to Jamaica is for Stella Payne, because the twins quite visibly have their groove back. They opened the scoring less than a minute into this affair, salvaging an Alex Burrows fumble on a breakaway and beating Nikolai Khabibulin to the far side of the goal. I know it’s tempting to watch the twins work their magic on the play, but keep an eye on Burrows after the puck is swept to the corner: he kicks Khabibulin’s pad out from under him (either by accident or by nature), which causes the Oilers’ netminder to lose the post like WordPress just crashed on him.
Not long after the Henrik Sedin goal, the Oilers got into penalty trouble. Ben Eager took his prerequisite penalty for overzealous jackanapery (it’s Eager’s version of Wizardous Sedinerie), then Smid put the Oilers down two by cross-checking Ryan Kesler in the back of the head. Many felt it was a bad call on Smid, perhaps because they think players should be allowed to crosscheck other players in the back of the head. I know it’s not as egregious as the front of the head, everyone, but I’ll have you know the brain goes all the way around.
Congratulations to Sami Salo, who picked up his 300th NHL point by scoring the goal on the 5-on-3. Salo is brilliant at activating from the point when he sees space, and there was certainly a great deal of it when two Oiler defenders decided to drop below the goal line in a vain attempt to arrest the development. Speaking of Arrested Development, once that happened, Salo was more open than Tobias and Lindsay’s relationship, and he was much, much better at capitalizing on it.
How poised is Chris Tanev? In the first period, he was high-sticked in the mouth by Ales Hemsky and he didn’t even notice until after he’d made the outlet pass. Afterwards, he checked to see that he still had his cigarette.
A night after scoring one of the prettiest goals of his career, Manny Malhotra clearly decided it was time to retire his stick and attempt to master the art of the kick. Unfortunately, it’s against the rules to kick the puck in (except for when it isn’t). As soon as the officials checked in with Toronto, you knew this one was getting overturned, and not just because they’re probably still upset about Saturday. If they knew what a kick was out East, Canada might have a better national soccer team.
The Canucks had 17 shots in the 1st period, 6 of which belonged to Ryan Kesler. The entire Oilers team had 5. This was enough to necessitate a goalie change, and if you think it was unfair to blame Khabibulin for what was clearly poor team play, don’t worry, that’s not what this was. He’d just already faced a full game’s worth of shots.
I kept waiting for Sam Gagner to turn the ice into frozen wine. It never happened.
I doubt there were many that missed Dale Weise, but he got back into the lineup Sunday after Byron Bitz came down with a sore hip flexor, and the rookie winger made the best of it. He orchestrated two scoring plays in this one, although the Manny Malhtora goal was disallowed. It got to him, too. When Kevin Bieksa scored on a shot from the point and Weise realized he’d be getting an assist, he turned to the referee and said, Can I keep it? Please? I promise to feed it and walk it every day.
Cory Schneider was excellent Sunday, just as he has been for quite some time. He’s won his last 6 starts, with his last loss coming on December 15, 2011. That said, it’s worth noting that the Canucks have been giving him some crazy win support. They’ve scored 3 or more goals for him in his last 13 appearances, and 5 goals 7 times during that span.
Chris “Kiss Huggins” Higgins scored a goal in his second game since overcoming full-blown flesh-eating disease (the kind where you desire to eat flesh, just so we’re clear) to return to the lineup. Clearly, he still doesn’t trust himself around the living, because he avoided his precious post-goal hug entirely, even punching Cody Hodgson in the chest when he got close. Give him time, Cody. Give him time.
The Oilers took five penalties in this game: one for cross-checking, three for high-sticking, and one for slashing. Clearly, they misunderstood what Tom Renney asked them to “chip away” at.
After Henrik Sedin opened the scoring 53 seconds into the first and Shawn Horcoff scored 1:08 into the second, Daniel Sedin stuck with the early goal theme, scoring 33 seconds into the third. The goal came off a turnover, as Tom Gilbert put a pass off of Shawn Horcoff’s skates and right onto the stick of Alex Burrows. Burrows then showed Gilbert where passes are supposed to go, placing it gingerly on the stick of Daniel Sedin, who placed it gingerly behind Devan Dubnyk for the goal. Key: the first “gingerly” meant “gently”. The second gingerly meant “like a ginger.”
I know giveaways are something of a dubious stat, but there were 41 of them in this game, 22 by the Canucks. If they hope to end the Red Wings’ 23-game home winning streak on Thursday, they’d be wise to protect the puck a little better than that. These days, playing in Detroit is like walking in Detroit at night — it’s neither the time nor the place for recklessness.
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