The Detroit Red Wings had won 23 consecutive games at Joe Louis Arena, their advantage at home reaching Kevin McAllister-levels of unbelievability. Visitors to the building were bombarded with a dizzying array of booby traps — flamethrowers inside doorways, tar on the steps, paint cans thrown over balconies, Micro Machines on the floor, and, of course, Pavel Datsyuk lying in front of the doggy door, firing his air soft rifle into the unsuspecting groins of those that dare oppose him. It was a nightmarish place for unwanted visitors.
However, despite the Red Wings’ best efforts to break the Canucks’ spirits like the Wet/Sticky Bandits, they forgot to account for the flooded basement next door (played in this metaphor by Alex Burrows). And sadly, like the pigeon lady in the sequel, Jimmy Howard was unable to be the creepy bearded neighbour with the snow shovel. Yes, I’ve watched Home Alone many times. But tonight, I watched this game.
Canucks 4 – 3 Red Wings (SO)
The Canucks took it to the Red Wings early on in this game, outshooting Detroit 17-5 through the first period. This is doubly impressive when you consider the Wings weren’t the only team trying to assert themselves in the opening frame: the officiating crew was clearly determined to make their mark, sending the Canucks to the box three times on some pretty silly calls. My favourite was Daniel Sedin getting penalized for being pushed into Jimmy Howard by Ian White. After the call, I threw a plate on the floor, then blamed the plate for making a mess.
Despite dominating momentum, the Canucks went into the first intermission trailing by a goal. Why? Because nothing negates momentum like an egregious error. Kevin Bieksa made one such error in the first, trying to drag a puck around Darren Helm at the blueline despite having less high support than an old hippie lady. Helm flubbed the shot, but it flopped past Luongo. Like an old hippie lady.
That completely senseless drag move among one of many overly nonchalant plays that Bieksa made in this game. He was so casual with the puck, I began to wonder if he and it were fighting. Or maybe he was afraid to make the stanchion jealous?
The Canucks got the goal back, however, as Daniel Sedin scored a tap-in at the side of the goal after Henrik Sedin tipped an Alex Edler shot right to him. It was a strange play, as Henrik was in the air while his pass was on the ice. It was like an upside-down saucer pass. I kept expecting everyone to fall up all of a sudden.
Mason Raymond continues to the good kind of menace through the neutral zone and the terrible kind of menace (i.e. The Phantom Menace) once he crosses the blue line. On one shift, he beat his man cleanly to enter the offensive zone with all sorts of room, only to fire the puck so badly wide that it caromed around, back into the neutral zone, and kicked off a 2-on-1 for the Wings.
Because Alain Vigneault’s a smart coach, he paired Cody Hodgson with Raymond for the shift that led to the 2-2 goal, likely hoping Raymond would gain the zone and Cody would be able to do something with it. That’s exactly what happened: Raymond brought the puck in with gusto, ringing it around the boards. Eventually, it came to Hodgson, who showed an offensive patience Raymond simply doesn’t have: he considered a slapshot, curled away because he was being pressured, moved down the boards, then saw that the pressure was gone and cut back to the forehand and threw it in front. Raymond was nearby, but lucky for everyone, he didn’t touch this puck. It went off Niklas Kronwall’s skate — a more viable offensive option — and in.
Then, on the very next shift, you saw why Vigneault still doesn’t quite trust Hodgson defensively. The rookie centre stayed out, and after Aaron Rome was beaten wide (rather easily) by Drew Miller on a zone entry, the puck found its way in front, where Hodgson was completely outworked by Justin Abdelkader for the goal.
John Garrett’s senseless line of the night: ”Roberto Luongo saves that 9 out of 10 times, or shall I say, 99 out of 100 times.” No, you shall not say. That’s a 9% difference.
I’m beginning to get a sense for Chris Tanev: he’s like the Henrik Sedin of the defense corps. It doesn’t matter how open the shooting lane, dammit — he’s a passer. The kid had two or three beautiful, open chances on the night, and each time he passed. On a few occasions, it was clever, such as when he was on the ice with the Sedins, but on a few other occasions, it was insanity. Granted, he clearly doesn’t have much of a shot yet: he directed two shots on goal this evening, both of which were blocked, but neither made enough of an impact on the stat-counters to be registered as such. When no one notices your shot, you’re clearly not good at shooting.
I’ve heard people say the Canucks should take it easy since they’re probably not going to finish below second, but the Red Wings’ home winning streak, while finished, is evidence is why winning the Conference matters: the way Detroit is playing at home, you don’t want to go into a series in which they have four games there.
I liked two David Booth plays very much tonight: the first was when he got Kronwalled, only to get up, take the puck right at Kronwall, then throw it to him and crosscheck him to the ice. The second was when he blew through the neutral zone in the dying seconds, only failing to tie the game on a breakaway because he couldn’t get the puck up. David Booth rules.
Roberto Luongo was lucky not to have to face Pavel Datsyuk in the shootout, but let’s not take anything away from him. He was excellent all night and especially so in the shootout, where he stopped all three shooters including Jiri Hudler and Todd Bertuzzi, both of whom are among the best in the league. Granted, Bertuzzi came in slower than a Mr. Burns gutter ball, but still.
All of this set the stage for Alex Burrows, who ended the Red Wings’ streak by beating Jimmy Howard with trusty ol’ blue steel. As he said to me once, it’s a move that, if done right, can’t be stopped, and he did it to perfection. Afterward, he celebrated by pretending to break his stick over his knee, just as he did after scoring that breakaway goal versus the Hurricanes four years ago. It was neat to see him break that out again.
And finally, it was amusing watching Twitter erupt with people claiming it was some kind of travesty that the Red Wings’ 23-game home winning streak ended in a shootout, as though it shouldn’t count. Sure, it was a lame way to end both an incredible game and an incredible streak, but if you’re gonna toss an asterisk on the end, you’ve also got to put one next to wins 13, 16, and 19, since those all ended in shootouts as well. That’s just silly. Either everything gets an asterisk or nothing does, and as far as I’m concerned, heavy asterisk use is for cleaning up curse-heavy sentences. Everything else is a ***** steaming piece of ***** *****, you know?
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