I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Los Angeles Kings, March 26, 2012

Hey, remember when I said the Canucks would be sashaying into the postseason at half-speed? Yeah, they’re not doing that anymore. With the playoffs now 6 games away and 1st place in the Conference somehow well within reach, the boys in blue have dispensed with the body break and ratcheted up the intensity for the final two weeks, setting their sights on the boys in darker blue.

Suddenly, the Canucks are testing their playoff wheels, embracing activities they’ve spurned over the past month and doing the little things you need to do to win playoff games, such as throwing hits and blocking shots to protect one-goal leads. And what better way to test a team’s ability to protect a one-goal lead than scoring 3 minutes in and spending the next 57 holding on like Wilson Phillips? It may not have been pretty, but if it’s pretty you want, watch that Wilson Phillips music video. As for me, I watched this game.

Canucks 1 – 0 Kings

  • Manny Malhotra and Maxim Lapierre stunned the Kings just over 3 minutes in by scoring on a 2-on-3 rush while the rest of the Canucks were in the middle of a change. The pairing of Willie Mitchell and Slava Voynov gave Lapierre far too much space at the blue line, and he took advantage of it to gain the zone and feed Malhotra on the left wing. Then, ever the team player, Johnny Quick made his contribution to enabling the enablers, overshooting the near post at the same time Malhotra was undershooting the far post. Meanwhile, Jannik Hansen found himself with the easiest plus-one of his life. He immediately invited it to a wedding.
  • While Quick lost his post on the game’s lone goal, Roberto Luongo scored a flawless victory, making 38 saves for his 4th shutout of the season. His best came in the final five minutes, as Funny Bob somehow managed to get a glove on a puck that was redirected by Anze Kopitar about a foot from the goal mouth. He was such an Italian wall in this game that it was a wonder he wasn’t covered with lizards.
  • But, like Malhotra and Lapierre, Luongo’s best moment came just after he’d secured the win, when the final horn sounded and a frustrated Justin Williams — who had been stopped by Luongo six times — grumpily kicked the netminder’s goal stick away. Luongo extended his blocker for a consolatory handshake, then waved the Kings’ winger off and celebrated with his team.
  • Luongo could do no wrong tonight. He even managed to draw two penalties — one after Dustin Penner bumped him at the side of the goal and another after Kyle Clifford sprayed him too hard with snow. Yes, you read that right. The NHL is like recess in grade school now. No snowballs. There could be rocks in there. That’s how someone loses an eye. (For what it’s worth, I didn’t mind the Clifford call. When you give a netminder a snow shower, you’re supposed to try to make it look like an accident, and Clifford didn’t bother. That’s just unsportsmanlike.)
  • Is Darryl Sutter the worst-dressed coach in the NHL? His canary yellow shirt says yes, although the season ticket-holder in the black ice jersey right behind him somehow managed to mitigate the LA coach’s abominable fashion sense. The sight of those two sharing the screen was an argument for the seven-second tape delay — that’s how offensive it was.
  • Did Jeff Carter play tonight? You’d think, in a game where the Kings desperately needed one goal, you’d hear his name a few times. Of course, maybe he was hoping to earn the goal by sulking and disappearing? Typically, that’s how he gets what he wants.
  • The TSN crew heaped praise on Manny Malhotra, but I thought Maxim Lapierre was the real standout tonight, leading the team in hits with 6 and by inspiring his team to do the same. Dale Weise followed suit with 5, giving the 4th line more crunchy hits than a Nine Inch Nails record. And Jannik Hansen was no doubt feeling inspired by the big hit that led to the game-winning goal on Saturday, because he dished out 6 hits of his own on the third line. The Canucks were taking the body like the parasites in The Faculty.
  • They were also sacrificing the body, with 18 blocked shots on the night. Remember when they weren’t doing that? Now they’re absorbing more shots than the alien force field in Independence Day.
  • Ryan Kesler led the team in defensive zone faceoffs, taking 10. He won 3 of them. Meanwhile, Samme Pahlsson, Manny Malhotra, and Maxim Lapierre all took 5 apiece and won 3 each. In short, it’s not overly necessary for Kesler to take so many of these draws anymore. You’ve got other guys to do that. I understand the man is a beast, and when you have a beast you ride it like the guy on the buffalo, but still. Kesler’s line straight-up dominated when they were matched up against inferior competition Monday. Now that the Canucks are flush with defensive centres, I’d like to see Vigneault look for those matchups more often.
  • I haven’t liked Sami Salo’s game recently, and I didn’t like it tonight. He looked slow and he was muscled off the puck too easily on a few occasions, such as on this chance for Kyle Clifford. It looks like his job in the top-four may have been usurped by Chris Tanev, who saw the fourth-most even-strength icetime behind Edler, Hamhuis, and Bieksa, but Salo can still be a valuable bottom pairing and special teams guy if he can re-find his game. On the bright side, the fact that people have hardly noticed Salo’s recent struggles is a testament to how well Chris Tanev has played.
  • And finally, the Canucks’ powerplay looked pretty dreadful tonight. I would suggest that the absence of Daniel Sedin played a major role in this. It’s hard to adjust when you’re powerplay alignment is designed around a complete set of twins, and all of a sudden you’re twinless. What the Canucks need are backup twins, like the final three seasons of Full House.
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44 comments

  1. Showbot
    March 27, 2012

    OH GOD. If Salo continues to be terrible, and Ballard continues to get better, could we see the dreaded and ill-prophesied Ballard-Gragnani pairing, which is said to lead to the Unmaking(of a playoff run)?

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    • Josh D.
      March 27, 2012

      I bet we’ll see the return of the incredible Ballard-Tanev pairing before that happens.

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    • MelT
      March 27, 2012

      I don’t think we can blame it all on Salo. While Gragnani was way better in the offensive zone last night, his weak d-zone passes and faltering clearing attempts probably had Salo making wistful eyes at Edler.

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      • Showbot
        March 28, 2012

        To be perfectly honest, this is pretty much what we just went through with Bieksa. We paired him with someone new(granted, not as ‘new’ new as Gragnani), and he took a while adjusting. He’s better now(but not up to the level of the vaunted Bieksa-Salo, or the Hamhuis-Edler pairing), so I think that Sami’s awkward slump will just be a phase.

        Chances are that they won’t go with anything beyond the standard pairings:
        Edler/Hamhuis
        Bieksa/Salo
        Tanev/Ballard

        The last one requires Ballard to be back, but that doesn’t seem like it’s too far off, nowadays.

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    • peanutflower
      March 27, 2012

      All of the comments are about Sami! I think the Canucks had just better give the old man his due and win the whole thing this year and let him retire a happy man.

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    • Brent
      March 27, 2012

      I think Salo has some sort of nagging injury, because yes he hasn’t been himself lately. Regardless, they should give him a rest for a few days, we need him to perform in the playoffs.

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  2. Michael
    March 27, 2012

    I remember commenting that the Canucks would be dominating the remainder of the season a couple weeks ago. You know, handing out 5-1 ass-whoopings in an absent-minded manner to every cellar dweller who stumbled into the arena. Piling up the individual stat numbers for fun, slapping opposing goalies with wet towels etc. I’m not UN-happy, but I do find myself taking long walks with the dog at night and staring up into the cosmos. Silly dog, stop worrying. Just stop.

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  3. hockeyispretty
    March 27, 2012

    Great win, great PITB, great Luuuuuuu! The reign of the snack goal falters.

    Does anyone know if there’s a website that tracks how many games each team needs to win & needs other teams to lose to get a playoff spot or (for instance) the President’s trophy?

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    • Zach Morris
      March 27, 2012

      http://forum.canucks.com/topic/320392-official-vancouver-canucks-2011-2012-magic-number-thread/

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    • Matthew
      March 27, 2012

      Hockeyispretty: http://zorak.best.vwh.net/nhl/#magic does what you ask: it gives the magic numbers for every team making the playoffs, and tracks the President’s Trophy race.

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    • hockeyispretty
      March 27, 2012

      Thanks guys!

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    • SteveB
      March 27, 2012

      I confess that for the final 3 minutes or so, I was expecting the customary snack goal and was very relieved that it was denied.

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  4. akidd
    March 27, 2012

    it was a bit sad hearing the sedin singular all night, especially on the pp. but a solid win. it didn’t take tanev long to get those top four minutes. one sequence i remember his patience, doubling back, turning, turning and…passing. he holds onto the puck until it’s safe. nice instincts.

    but don’t count sami out just yet. he’s just resting. he will play a big role when it counts, i’m sure. the shot still goes boom. he hit one in stride tonight that missed… but was huge.

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  5. MelT
    March 27, 2012

    I was happy they won after Sutter made bitchy comments before the game about being glad that the Canucks “managed to fit us into their schedule” and “if you believe what you read, it’s amazing the Canucks will ever lose another game.”
    Gotta embrace the hate, right? But it’s always sweeter after a win.

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  6. the olde coote
    March 27, 2012

    Malhotra from Max Lapierre
    Gave the Canucks an early lead!
    Bobby Lu solid as a prayer
    Meant more than that they would not need.

    The highlight of the game so fine:
    Jenny as though on laughing gas
    Said, “I’ve a name for number nine -
    Let’s call him Zach O’Lantern Kass!”

    “Better than many that I’ve heard.
    I’m really liking it forsooth,
    For it’s as qualified absurd
    As is his grin with missing tooth.”

    The NHL on TSN,
    I watched this game with Jenny wren.

    The Olde Coo

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  7. JDM
    March 27, 2012

    Throughout the season they’ve been resting Salo on occasion. Generally he seems to benefit from it. Maybe it’s time to give the old guy a couple of games off prior to the playoffs starting.

    Henrik’s really selling that “we were trying to score buckets of goals because you, the fans, put pressure on us to win that way and now that we’ve decided to just ignore you we’re a much better hockey team” story. Okay man, whatever you say, just keep the winning ways going right through April, and we’re cool.

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  8. Warpstone
    March 27, 2012

    It’s interesting, one Sutter brother is going to knock the other out of the playoffs tomorrow night. Just what their family needed…

    RE: Salo, I just don’t think he’s been the same since coming back from the concussion. Perhaps one of the reasons Edler’s flaws were so exposed recently was due to Salo’s inability to shore up riskier plays. The last three week have been especially bad as he just doesn’t seem very strong or quick down low… which kinda hurts when you’re a defenceman. :) If there’s a player who could use a few nights off in a row, it would be him.

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    • hockeyispretty
      March 27, 2012

      Easter dinner will be tense in the Sutton household…

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    • Frank
      March 27, 2012

      Haha… and by the end of the season, both might get fired! How’s that for comedy!?

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    • The real bob
      March 27, 2012

      Live at th Sattledome, a Sutter deathmatch!

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  9. cathylu
    March 27, 2012

    This game was waaaay too important for me since I live and work in King-land. This will make my work day much easier though I’m sure my one arch-rival at work will come downstairs to tell me how the Canucks cheated to win (his standard line). Lu was so good last night, and I like how “hitty” we were.

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    • Warpstone
      March 27, 2012

      Well… they kind of did. :) I love Manny, but he was offside enough that the call felt questionable even before the replay proved it.

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      • Daniel Wagner
        March 27, 2012

        Nah, he wasn’t offside. Ferraro just inexplicably didn’t seem to count the puck as “crossing the line” as soon as it hit the blue line. He was completely onside.

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        • Warpstone
          March 27, 2012

          Wow, thanks. I need to check this again on the PVR. I was still going to give credit to Manny & Maxim (the M&M’s) for selling the onside play, but if it was actually that precise, even better. :D

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          • Warpstone
            March 27, 2012

            Yup. Manny’s skate is onside as Maxim’s stick hits the line. Perfect entry and pass.

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    • Axeman
      March 27, 2012

      Man, you’re sooo lucky. I’d love to have an arch rival. Or at least a nemesis.

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      • MelT
        March 27, 2012

        You do, if you’re a Canucks fan.

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  10. Rituro
    March 27, 2012

    A “Faculty” reference?! Gold. Consider your nerd cred restored after the D&D debacle.

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  11. Nick
    March 27, 2012

    Officiating favoured the home team last night. Maybe it’s because last year’s playoff officiating is scarred into my frontal cortex, but I can’t remember the last time Vancouver has been the beneficiary of this. Maybe the refs dislike LA even more than the Canucks.

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  12. Nick
    March 27, 2012

    Lu was good. But he’s different now. Much more on his knees … sometimes well before the play.

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  13. Chris the Curmudgeon
    March 27, 2012

    One interesting nuance that I noticed in this game, and this is a tribute to Samme Pahlsson’s defensive acumen: did anyone notice how on one shift in the second period, he had his stick broken by a shot? I thought it was a great play by him, instead of sitting back, or trying to fill a lane or something, he went straight for the point man and stayed within shoving distance of him. So instead of being effectively a power play situation with a lame duck player, Pahlsson gets so close to his man so as to be able to immediately take the body that he effectively removes him from the play. Not all players are so aggressive without a stick but I thought it was pretty clever.

    One thing I liked less: Edler cannot seem to move through centre ice on the power play without making a drop pass. It’s so terribly predictable, and the fact that the Canucks often employ 4 forwards on the power play makes it downright scary. Someone needs to get him to stop doing that, or do it less.

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    • peanutflower
      March 27, 2012

      I noticed that too. I think Pahlsson is a great player. One of those below the radar guys. I think this will end up being a really important acquisition in the next 12 — count em — 12 weeks.

      I actually thought this was a pretty good game. The Kings were in desperation mode and Sutter had plenty of face to save (haha) after his pretty uppity comments considering. The Canucks were good and physical, bad penalties were called and not called on both sides (quit whining, all you Kings fans) goaltending was superb. Gotta love the Canucks’ depth now. Who care if there’s only one twin? Who cares if Kesler still is a beat behind — we got Higgy, Lappy, Burr, Manny, and the list goes on. \

      I loved to see the sticking up for each other stuff. I have no problem with Henrik and DAniel turning the proverbial cheek (and actually, that’s probably better because they obviously don’t know how to throw big hits and then when they try someone just gets all pissy, right?) as long as everyone else is chippy and physical. As much as I truly loved the Canucks of last year with their wide open skilled style, perhaps this is the better recipe to get them all the way.

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    • Body Schmautz
      March 27, 2012

      A drop pass so predictable that no one expects the coast-to-coast goal five-hole. If only he saved that one for the playoffs.

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  14. tom selleck's moustache
    March 27, 2012

    Actually, I kind of did want some pretty; so I did watch the Wilson Phillips video.

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  15. Garth
    March 27, 2012

    Why are so many of the PITB YouTube links for youtube.be? You guys getting kickbacks from YouTube Belgium or something?

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  16. Chris T
    March 27, 2012

    Nice Full House reference.

    Do I even need to say anything about Lu today? Ah heck why not, it’s worked the last few IWTG’s: Lu haters, where are you???

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    • Phileo99
      March 27, 2012

      They’re at TonyG’s house trying to commiserate with the ones who want to fire AV.

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  17. Tony
    March 27, 2012

    @Chris T
    So true…
    Out of curiosity I checked all-time stats last night as Lu had his 59th career shutout. That puts him 7 behind Patrick Roy in 200+ less games. Only a matter of time before he passes him. I always have to look back at how bad our goalies were for years – even McLean wasn’t exactly a top-tier, Vezina candidate. He had ONE good year as far as I’m concerned. Think about Cloutier, Potvin, Skudra, Brochu, Sabourin, Johnson, Weekes, Burke… Lu lets in the odd bad (and usually really bad) goal, but he’ll bounce back and shut teams out. We’re trying to chase the guy out of Vancouver… but he’s one of the best all-time (17th in wins, 16th in shutouts – ALLTIME!!) Just needs to win the big games away from home in the playoffs, I guess.

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  18. DanD
    March 27, 2012

    Not much to add here, as I didn’t get to watch much of this game.

    All i have to say is that Wilson-Phillips made a great soundtrack for reading this IWTG. I still love that song!

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  19. Brent
    March 27, 2012

    “when you have a beast you ride it like the guy on the buffalo,”
    YES!

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    • Harrison Mooney
      March 27, 2012

      That was for you, Brent.

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      • Brent
        March 27, 2012

        Thanks you made my night! More beer!
        Not sure anyone else likes it though.

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  20. tj
    March 27, 2012

    I can’t find the video, and so maybe I misheard the interview, but I recall hearing Farhan Lalji say to Malhotra: ‘You’re not the player you used to be…’, and then I saw a wash of shock cross Malhotra’s face. Did I mishear/misread that? Anyone else catch this? He may have been quoting someone else, but regardless, it would be quite tactless given Manny is such a sweet fellow and was riding high on this rare goal. I hope I’m wrong on this one… (I’m getting all Kassian-like here, protecting Manny :) AV’s arm may have to quell me too. Heh.)

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    • Harrison Mooney
      March 27, 2012

      Yeah, I saw that too. Malhotra handled that well but it was a bit of a weird thing to say.

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