The Canucks had a strong first period in this one, outshooting the Montreal Canadiens by a margin of 15-5. Unfortunately, Carey Price held his team in the game, stopping all 15 shots. If he hadn’t done so, this game would have been very different, most notably because Vancouver would have gone into the second intermission with a 15-goal lead.
That would have been a fun “I Watched This Game” to write. But, sadly, that’s not how this game went down. Instead, this “I Watched This Game” tells of a game in which the Canucks scored 14 fewer goals. I watched this game.
Canucks 1 – 4 Canadiens
People are making a big deal about the Sedins’ scoring slump, and it’s clear that these aren’t the same twins we’re used to. I’ll tell you what’s got me concerned: their minor penalty slump. Shockingly, neither Captain Hook nor Assistant Captain Hook has been whistled for a stick infraction in 7 games. These aren’t the same guys, and frankly, I think the scoring slump might be caused by the penalty slump. I hypothesize that Daniel and Henrik use the two minutes of solitude to plot their wizardousness.
Some are going to cite the above stat as evidence that the Sedins just aren’t into these games, but here’s a stat that runs contrary to that notion: For all his non-effort, Henrik Sedin had 4 hits tonight, tied for the game-high in hits among both teams. Yeah, that’s never happening again.
Alex Burrows and Chris Campoli seemed to be getting under one another’s skin quite a bit in this one. It surprised me because, after last April, I was under the impression they worked well together.
I would wager that Campoli’s issue with Burrows was the direct result of Burrows reminding Campoli of that incident. But, speaking of reminders, Burrows took one of his own in this game. When the two took offsetting minor penalties midway through the third, I couldn’t help but notice Burrows skating to the penalty box with a red glove under his arm. That’s right: he stole Chris Campoli’s glove. Considering the history between these two guys, I choose to interpret this as a sign of affection, especially since that’s what it is when John Brooke steals Meg’s glove in Little Women.
There were a ton of Montreal Canadiens fans in the crowd for this game, which confirms my suspicions that even Montrealers would rather live in Vancouver.
This was an All-Canadian affair, but when Ryan Kesler’s line opened the scoring midway through the second, I began to wonder if it was going to be co-opted by an American entity, like when Wendy’s bought Tim Horton’s. They were excellent up to that point, controlling the play in the first and finally being rewarded for it in the second. But they weren’t the sole reason the Canucks got the goal: Montreal’s coverage was brutal. While P.K. Subban is the defender that leaves Ryan Kesler’s wing wide open for the quick wrister, he’s actually not the one to blame here. He had to come over on David Booth after Alexei Emelin overplayed Chris Higgins, and Subban wouldn’t even have had to do that if Lars Eller hadn’t misplayed David Booth at the beginning of the breakout. Hockey lesson: if you screw up the defensive coverage on all three members of a scoring line, a goal is likely to follow.
P.K. Subban can play like such a twerp sometimes.
I suspect the referees were on strike tonight. Or maybe their whistles were. If not, then this was one of the worst officiated games of the season. The officials overlooked penalties aggressively. One exchange that had me dropping my jaw came in the second when Max Pacioretty crosschecked Alex Edler into the boards from behind. After there was no call, Edler realized martial law had been declared and proceeded to grab Pacioretty’s stick, then Pacioretty himself, and then crosscheck Pacioretty in the back multiple times. All of this happened with the official staring on and doing nothing, as though he was back in officiating school, watching a video on what a penalty was.
The lack of calls made it especially facepalm-inducing when the Canucks earned two consecutive penalties for clearing the puck over the glass in the third period, leading to P.K. Subban’s 5-on-3 goal to put the game out of reach. The first was a pretty standard call, but the second was Carollesque nonsense, as Chris Higgins swatted a puck out of mid-air, only to have it unintentionally go yard. They were the right calls by the book, but the officials had been going off-book the entire game like a troupe of veteran actors. It was frustrating to see the Canucks get beaten by moronically strict officiating after a game of strictly moronic officiating.
We had a few people tweet us saying that the Higgins penalty shouldn’t have been a penalty. False. From the NHL rulebook: When any player, while in his defending zone, shoots or bats (using his hand or his stick) the puck directly (non-deflected) out of the playing surface, except where there is no glass, a penalty shall be assessed for delaying the game. That was definitely an at-bat from Higgins. Sure, he didn’t intend to go yard, but unintentional home runs happen. And sure, his batting stance wasn’t exactly textbook, but I’ve seen worse, because I’ve seen Kevin Youkilis.
But don’t get me wrong. It’s still a stupid penalty. In the offensive zone, if a player bats a puck out of the air and into the goal, it makes the highlight reel every time, because it’s nigh impossible to swat the puck out of mid-air and put it where you want it. And yet, it’s a penalty in the defensive zone, where it’s suddenly assumed every player has the hand-eye of sensei Miyagi and the capacity for evil of Johnny Lawrence.
Zack Kassian had his first fight as a Vancouver Canuck. It was with Brad Staubitz, formerly of the Minnesota Wild. If pressed, I’d probably give the decision to Staubitz, but Kassian won me over with the tongue waggle he gave the Rogers Arena crowd after the tilt. Not since Shane O’Brien have we seen such delicious, post-fight mugging. Could Kassian be capable of bringing back the famed double gun salute in the postseason? This is an encouraging sign. So is this.
Roberto Luongo can’t let Erik Cole’s backhander beat him 13 seconds into the third period. Unfortunately, this message is three hours too late. Also, he doesn’t read this blog so he wouldn’t get it anyway.
The pairing of Chris Tanev and Marc-Andre Gragnani hasn’t paid any massive dividends over their first two games together, but we can assume they’ll be getting a few more looks nonetheless. They look fantastic together and Alain Vigneault seems to approve, as the duo got 16 minutes of even-strength icetime together. They move the play forward like rising action.
I didn’t like Alex Edler’s game tonight for two reasons. First, he was defensively suspect, finishing a well-earned minus-2. He was to blame on both goals, allowing Louis Leblanc to beat him along the side boards on the Geoffrion’s 2-1 tally and making an ill-advised pinch on Erik Cole’s 4-1 knockout punch. But second, I didn’t like his complete lack of physicality. Edler is supposed to be the big checker in that top four, and this was a game that necessitated a big check. He finished with zero hits. Bieksa and Hamhuis finished with seven between them, but if Gragnani and Tanev are going to stick, Ham-Juice can’t be the only defensive pairing providing physicality. When Henrik Sedin finishes with four more hits than Alex Edler in a game, something has gone horribly awry.
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