Lovers of high-tempo, offensive hockey were dreading this game, considering the two previous meetings between these teams were 1-1 affairs that both went to the shootout. Those who were not anticipating offence may have forgotten that Phoenix and Vancouver combined for 75 shots in their last matchup and a combination of stellar goaltending and bad bounces were the only reason 9 goals weren’t scored.
But 9 goals were scored in this game, meaning that the goaltending wasn’t stellar and the bounces weren’t bad. Unless you recently travelled forward through time from the 80′s, in which case I mean the bounces were bad. They were the baddest. Totally tubular, in fact. I watched this game.
Canucks 4 – 5 Coyotes
The theme of this game was experimentation, as Alain Vigneault made massive changes to the Canucks’ lineup, with the most controversial being the decision to place the struggling Mason Raymond with the slumping Sedins. That wasn’t the only change, as Manny Malhotra came out of the lineup for “personal reasons,” Alex Burrows joined the third line, and all three defence pairings were shuffled like God’s feet. Of course, every experiment needs a control group, and the American Express line of Ryan Kesler, David Booth, and Chris Higgins stayed intact.
Taking Burrows off the top line immediately paid dividends, but not for the Sedins. Instead, Burrows opened the scoring thanks to a great pinch down the boards by Chris Tanev, a nice centring pass by Hansen, and his body’s insatiable need to be in front of the net. He tried to stay on the outside and not go to the net once and blew out his knee. Never again.
Raymond, on the other hand, did not immediately click with the Sedins, mishandling a breakaway pass, then later in the same shift putting Daniel offside. He got better as the game progressed, but I doubt Vigneault is going to hire Raymond to handle his public relations.
I love the decision to add Burrows to the first unit on the powerplay and move Kesler to the point, as it allows Kesler to use his shot more and puts Burrows in front of the net where he belongs. It’s just unfortunate that we haven’t had many opportunities to see it in action. The Canucks’ second goal showed how potent it could be, as Kesler slipped in from the point and ripped a one-timer top corner from a Henrik saucer pass. Unfortunately, that gave the Canucks a two-goal lead, which, as we all know, is the worst lead in hockey.
Radim Vrbata, the Coyotes’ leading goal scorer, was out of the game, meaning Paul Bissonnette came out of the pressbox. That’s a tiny bit of a dropoff in skill. You’d think that would mean fewer goals: instead the Coyotes offence exploded. Turns out that Bissonnette is a catalyst, causing/accelerating offence without providing offence himself.
Much to the dismay of his anti-fantasy owners, Rostislav Klesla potted the Coyotes’ first goal off a big, ugly rebound by Roberto Luongo off a bad-angle shot. It was undoubtedly one that Luongo would like to have back, but I have to wonder why no one was anywhere near Klesla as he took the shot. There were a lot of Canucks watching the puck instead of picking up their checks. Of course, they probably all have direct deposit set up with Payroll.
Before the first period was over, the Coyotes had erased the dreaded two-goal lead. After an ill-timed pinch by Dan Hamhuis, Shane Doan carried the puck in on a 3-on-1, then out-waited the sliding Bieksa and pulled the puck all the way around Luongo, who did well to stay with him and get his blocker out to stop Doan from tucking it in. Unfortunately, none of the backchecking Canucks checked Doan, giving him plenty of time to continue jamming at the puck, eventually poking it in.
I missed it the first time around, but one of the reasons Hamhuis didn’t clear Doan out is that he got high-sticked in front of the net by Antoine Vermette. Zack Kassian didn’t have that excuse. Even if the puck had been frozen and Doan was banging away, that’s when a big, bruising power forward like Kassian needs to come in and bury Doan. Meanwhile, Henrik jumped in to cover the post and ended up posting up on Luongo, which may have prevented him from covering the puck.
Bieksa will get a lot of attention in this game as his minus-3 rating and offensive-zone penalty tend to stand out, but Hamhuis also struggled away from his normal partner on defence. It’s just that he scored a goal and finished plus-1, so it wasn’t as noticeable. Raffi Torres completely manhandled him in front of the net, knocking him down in order to set a screen on Luongo for Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s slap shot from the point, putting the Coyotes up 3-2.
The Canucks biggest mistake in this game? Not allowing the Coyotes to go up by two goals in the second period. Seriously, it’s so easy to come back from that lead. Instead, the second powerplay unit went to work: Booth and Higgins combined for a sweet little give-and-go that Booth finished far post. Highlight: the patience of Higgins to pull the puck past the sliding Ekman-Larsson. Bonus highlight: Raymond falling over for no reason whatsoever at the beginning of the clip. That never happens.
Okay, it sometimes happens. Once in a while. Fine, all the time. As Raman Gill pointed out, Mason Raymond is Luis Mendoza.
It was nice to see Dale Weise back in the lineup and he made his presence felt physically, throwing 4 hits. His best play, however, didn’t turn out as well as he hoped. He made an absolutely brilliant touch pass to spring Bieksa for a 3-on-1 rush. Unfortunately, Bieksa played it about as poorly as I play the trombone. And I’m really terrible at playing the trombone. Instead of passing the puck to Kesler, the 41-goalscorer with a superb wristshot and one-timer, Bieksa lobbed the puck weakly on net, hoping for a rebound. When you’re on a 3-on-1, you don’t need to hope for a rebound. PASS THE PUCK.
Smith easily kicked the puck out past the Canucks on the rush, springing the Coyotes on an odd-man rush the other way. The initial scoring attempt was turned aside, but as Bieksa came back on the backcheck, he hit Gilbert Brule in front of the net. Unfortunately, this sent Brule directly into the path of the puck that Pyatt had thrown in front and it bounced off Brule’s chest and in. It was bad luck for Bieksa, but that situation doesn’t happen if he hadn’t hoped for good luck a moment earlier.
While the Canucks’ powerplay was great, going 2-for-3, the penalty kill allowed the Coyotes to score on both their opportunities. On what proved to be the gamewinner, the Canucks’ penalty killers drastically overplayed a puck in the corner, leaving Ekman-Larsson and Vermette wide open at the backdoor and in the slot, respectively. Ekman-Larsson loaded up on a slapshot from the top of the faceoff circle that Luongo kicked out to Vermette, who easily finished it off.
Henrik bumped his slump with the assist on Kesler’s goal in the first, but Daniel still had a slump to bump. Fortunately, Smith was feeling generous and kicked Daniel’s feather soft shot right out to Hamhuis streaking towards the net. After pausing to put his clothes back on, Hamhuis chipped the puck past Smith to bring the Canucks within one.
Henrik had the second assist on Hamhuis’s goal, moving him past Trevor Linden for second among the franchise leaders in points, 22 points back of Markus Naslund’s 756. Unfortunately, his minus-1 dropped him down to plus-176 over his career. He’s still first all-time, but now he’s only 98 up on former plus/minus leader Dana Murzyn.
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