For the second time in as many weeks, the Canucks faced a fellow Western Conference division leader, though this meeting was a little less hyped than the previous one. Last week, the Canucks visited the leaders of the Central Division, the Detroit Red Wings, in a game that was everything a fan could ask for in terms of entertainment. This week, they faced the Pacific Division leading Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes are like a magic trick with just a pledge and a turn: no prestige.
That said, the Coyotes entered the game as the hottest team in the league, with a 10-0-1 record in their last 11, making them a tough test for the road-weary Canucks. There was also the intrigue of seeing the newly acquired Sami Pahlsson and Zack Kassian wear the Scowling Orca for the first time. I watched this game.
Canucks 1 – 2 Coyotes (SO)
The newest members of the Canucks had thematically appropriate first ever shifts. After Kevin Bieksa took a high-sticking penalty a minute into the game, Sami Pahlsson took his first Canucks shift on the penalty kill, while Zack Kassian came out with the Sedins in place of the penalty-killing Alex Burrows as soon as the penalty ended. It was like teaching your child how to swim by pushing them into the deep end.
Sami “Robert” Pahlsson had a respectable debut, as Alain Vigneault used him in exactly the role we expected him to: 5 of Pahlsson’s 8 faceoff attempts were in the defensive zone, he played 1:58 on the penalty kill, and he logged 2 hits and a takeaway. What was unexpected is that he had 3 shots on goal. I had heard he was less offensive than Mr. Dressup, but he showed that he knows his way around the net.
The main event for Canucks fans, however, was Zack “Kass Effect” Kassian, who demonstrated many of the skills that make him a high-end prospect. He started on the 4th line and showed he can play a grinder’s game, throwing 5 hits and jawing with enforcer and Twitter deity Paul “BizNasty” Bissonnette. By the end of the second period, however, he had created a great scoring chance on a give-and-go with Henrik Sedin and had been promoted to the second line. He did not look the least bit out of place, but you know who did? Coyotes fans. They appeared to be drastically outnumbered by Canucks fans in their own building.
While I liked Zack “Kick-Ass” Kassian’s game, I didn’t like his headgear: Zack “Kassias Clay” Kassian kept the chin strap of his helmet looser than a 12-year-old’s spelling of “loser.” He also doesn’t wear a visor or a mouth guard, displaying his missing tooth proudly and inviting the disappearance of more of them. You worry me, Zack “Flak Jacket” Kassian.
Can you tell that we can’t decide on a nickname for Zack “Kasmanian Devil” Kassian?
Mason Raymond was all over the ice in this game, in more ways than one. had a superb game and was credited with 4 shots, 1 hit and 2 takeaways and was especially noticeable in the first period. With Hodgson gone, Raymond took over the second unit powerplay, turning it into a dizzying cycle game with David Booth and Alex Burrows. All that cycling with the puck may have made Raymond dizzy, however, as he seemed to have balance issues all game. Still, it wasn’t a coincidence that when Vigneault promoted Zack “Acid Bath” Kassian, Booth was the one that got demoted.
Poor Chris Tanev almost didn’t get to play in this game. He was announced as a healthy scratch in the arena, leading to a long discussion between the referees and coaches about the official lineup card. He was clearly furious, as his expression changed from a completely calm, blank face to a completely calm, blank face with slightly more squinty eyes. That outrage and anger showed up on the ice as he took the first penalty of his NHL career as he savagely got his stick tangled up in the feet of Shane Doan.
Considering Dave Tippett and Alain Vigneault were the two coaches of record in this game, it was shockingly wide open and physical. There were a total of 75 shots, with many of them being quality scoring chances, and 79 hits were recorded. Kevin Bieksa led the hit parade for the Canucks, while Martin Hanzal and Shane Doan led the Coyotes, with all three players recording 7 hits. So much was happening on the ice that John Garrett barely had time to talk about food.
Despite the high shot totals, goals were at a premium. While on the powerplay, Alex Edler scored the opening goal by banking a wrist shot off two Coyotes penalty killers from the boards. Evidently, Edler is deaf, dumb, and blind and has a supple wrist.
It’s nice to know that Raffi Torres hasn’t changed at all, as he bowled over Sami Salo during a scrum in front of the net like Salo was a bowling pin.
It’s hard to complain about Cory Schneider in a game where he made 39 saves and ensured that the Canucks got a single point, but his rebound control was uncharacteristically shoddy. His positioning was impeccable, as the vast majority of his saves were made by the crest of his jersey, but he was spitting pucks into the slot all game. One of those rebounds was pounced on by Ray Whitney, who shoveled the puck five-hole to tie the game. I won’t blame the goal on Schneider, however. I’ll blame it on every single person who even thought the word “shutout” at any point during this game. IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT.
Really, both goaltenders were absolutely fantastic. Mike Smith handles the puck like Marty Turco (and benefits from Dave Tippett’s system like Marty Turco), but seems to be far more sound positionally than Turco ever was. This game was extremely reminiscent of the Canucks’ playoff series against the Dallas Stars in 2007, when Turco posted 3 shutouts in the 7-game series and still lost.
Every single time the Canucks go to overtime, Sportsnet shows the same highlight package of the Canucks’ overtime winners this season. This means I’ve seen it approximately a bajillion times. The Canucks either need to wrap more games up in regulation or Sportsnet needs to get more creative. How about a dramatic reenactment of an overtime game-winning goal using finger puppets? Stop-motion animation? Shadow art? A flip book?
The Canucks did their best to add another goal to the highlight reel, outshooting the Coyotes 5-0 in overtime, but Daniel was robbed by Mike Smith and Kevin Bieksa hit the post on a late foray up the ice. Mason Raymond was once again effective in overtime, gaining the zone with aplomb and helping set up Aaron Rome for a blazing one-timer. Yes, I put “Aaron Rome” and “blazing one-timer” together in one sentence. No, I do not have a gun to my head.
It wasn’t long ago that Canucks fans (and some media members) were suggesting that Alain Vigneault put Cory Schneider in for Roberto Luongo in games that go to the shootout, but he didn’t have the answer in this game, stopping just one of Phoenix’s three shooters. It didn’t help that Edler’s patented shift-slightly-to-the-left-and-shoot move didn’t work as well as it normally does and that Raymond executed his spin-o-rama with all the grace of a tug boat.
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