The Leafs came into Vancouver having lost 9 straight games to the Canucks and were hoping to prove that they’d made the changes necessary to be successful in the West, like the American Office. Instead, they just wound up being awkward and cringe-inducing, like the British office. It was initially exciting to watch the Canucks absolutely dominate an opponent, but by the end of the game I just wanted to look away. This game was executive-produced by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. I watched this game.
Canucks 6 – 2 Leafs
The above video was the most dramatic part of CBC’s broadcast of this game, as the game was put out of reach halfway through the second period. It must have been disappointing for the many Leafs fans in the building, who did their best to drown out the Canucks fans early in the game. They didn’t succeed, but they tried, and in the process primed the Rogers Arena crowd. The Leafs fans were the second best primer ever.
Chris Tanev returned to the Canucks lineup for his fifth game of the year and he fit right in alongside Aaron Rome. Tanev played 18:38, finished plus-1, and had 4 blocked shots. The most stunning statistic, however, was that he was credited with 2 hits! Tanev had a grand total of 10 hits in 29 games last season and added 1 more in 5 playoff games. He had just 1 hit in 4 games this season. He hits less than Thales Leites against Anderson Silva. 2 hits in one game is a monumental event for Tanev — they even came in just one period.
Early in the broadcast, the Hockey Night in Canada crew made sure to point out that Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel had 10 more points combined than Daniel and Henrik Sedin. The Sedins had 4 points each; Kessel managed 1 assist, reducing the gap to just 3 points. It was just a matter of time until the Sedins broke out, but it was even more satisfactory to see it happen against the Leafs.
Henrik didn’t get a point on the Canucks’ opening goal, but he did tie up Lupul along the boards, allowing Daniel and Alex Burrows to spring out on a 2-on-1. Dion Phaneuf overplayed Daniel, expecting the Canucks’ leading goalscorer to take the shot. Instead, Daniel flipped it to Burrows, who had all the time in the world to pick his spot, slipping the puck under James Reimer’s glove hand. Really, the blame has to be placed on Keith Aulie, who made the most ill-timed pinch since Spock got overenthusiastic with a neck massage on his honeymoon.
Oddly enough, the best goal of the game came from the fourth line rather than the Sedins. After a savvy play by Dan Hamhuis in the neutral zone, Maxim Lapierre and Manny Malhotra broke in 2-on-2, which is not normally a recipe for offence. By adding a pinch of saucer pass, however, and a dash of diving brilliance, they created a delicious dish.
Elliotte Friedman made all of the advanced stat advocates giddy with a first period feature on Malhotra’s zone starts. Considering I’ve been playing that tune for over a year, it was gratifying to see someone in the mainstream media pick up the melody.
On his second goal, Burrows got the puck from Henrik with some room to shoot. Okay, a lot of room. Ridiculous amounts of room. Even Hitler would have said that he had enough room. With that much room, Burrows picked a corner, roofing the puck over Reimer’s blocker. How someone gets that open for a pass with the Sedins — two of the best passers in the league — on the ice is beyond me.
David Booth had a golden opportunity to extend his goalscoring streak to 4 games, but was foiled by Cody Hodgson. Booth bore down on net on a breakaway, but a broken stick in his path took away his option to deke and forced him to shoot early. Clearly, Hodgson is worried that Booth might catch up to him in goals and, like the chessmaster he is, thought ahead and intentionally snapped Aulie’s stick with a slap shot, knowing Booth would get a breakaway on the next shift.
Roberto Luongo didn’t have to be excellent, but, like the son of a Tiger Mom, he overachieved. It took Lupul knocking Bieksa into the net for Dion Phaneuf to score the Leafs’ first goal. Luongo would have still had it, but the puck deflected off his dropped stick up and over his left pad.
That’s when things started turning into a Keystone Kops routine, as Clarke MacArthur stepped on the puck while trying to break out of the defensive zone and fell flat on his face. Henrik flung it across to Daniel, who had almost as much room as Burrows and shot it back across the grain, putting the Canucks up 4-1 and chasing Reimer from the Leafs’ net.
The Maple Leafs have the second worst penalty kill in the NHL, while the Canucks have the best powerplay. It showed on the Canucks fifth goal: they threw the puck around with impunity and when Matthew Lombardi finally had a chance to clear it, he whiffed on the puck as it was spinning on end, giving it right back to Alex Edler. From there it was predictable: Henrik, to Daniel, to Salo, whose massive one-timer ripped past Gustavsson.
Burrows, looking for the hattrick, kept the puck on a 2-on-1 but was stopped by Gustavsson. In anger, he lashed out at referee Denny LaRue, knocking him to the ice without remorse. Or…he wasn’t looking where he was going and accidentally bumped into him. Depends on how much you hate Burrows.
The most wizardous goal of the game was also the most meaningless, as Kevin Bieksa finished off a brilliant passing play by Hamhuis, Daniel, Henrik, and Jannik Hansen to go up 6-1. The best pass of the bunch was Hamhuis’s brilliant breakout bounce pass from behind his own goal line to Daniel out past the red line. Daniel carried the puck in, dropped it between his legs to Henrik, who swung it across to Hansen, who made a quick touch pass on the backhand to Bieksa. It was some impressive Wizardous Sedinerie, but it was also the sixth goal in a game that ended 6-2. So whatever.
It’s really too bad that Nikolai Kulemin scored in the dying seconds of the game, because Luongo completely robbed Mikael Grabovski just a few seconds earlier, getting his glove on Grabovski’s backhand on the goal line. It was an absolutely ridiculous save completely nullified by the goal a moment later and by the fact that it was a blowout with 30 seconds remaining.
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