Something about this game seemed vaguely familiar, like I had watched a carbon copy of it just a couple nights ago… For the second game in a row, the Canucks faced a desperate team on the edge of the playoff bubble, and for the second game in a row, the Canucks shut that team out 1-0.
The biggest difference between the two games, of course, was the goaltender doing the shutting out. On Monday, against the Kings, Roberto Luongo made an early goal by Manny Malhotra stand as the game-winner with 38 saves, including 17 in the third period. In this game, versus the Avalanche, Cory Schneider made an early goal by Chris Higgins stand as the game-winner with 43 saves, including 16 in the third period.
If the Canucks are the movie Magnolia, and Schneider is Hoffman, that means Luongo is Tom Cruise. The hair fits. (very, very NSFW)
The most unexpected event of this game was easily David Booth dropping the gloves and schooling Mark Olver in a first period fight. In the last meeting between these two teams, Olver laid a leaping hit on Chris Tanev and Booth challenged him then to no avail. But this time, Olver was looking for a scrap. Big mistake: Booth ripped Olver’s helmet off and got several good punches in, winning the fight with ease.
There were a few odd calls in this game. Shortly after Booth’s fight, Maxim Lapierre got called for charging. Sportsnet showed the replay of Lapierre lightly bumping Shane O’Brien, leaving John Garrett to say “That can’t be it.” I checked. It was. But Colorado had a weak call of their own, as Matt Hunwick was charged for delay of game when he deflected a Henrik Sedin centring pass over the glass. If that penalty is by the book, it’s a stupid book, like “Winning Lotto/Lottery for Everyday Players, 3rd Edition.”
On the plus side, the Canucks scored their only goal of the game while killing off Lapierre’s bogus penalty. When the aforementioned Hunwick bobbled the puck at Vancouver’s blue line, Chris Higgins alertly left the puck alone and burst past Hunwick, knowing that Samme Pahlsson would get to the puck first. Pahlsson’s breakaway pass was perfect, and Higgins made no mistake, snapping the puck past Semyon Varlamov’s blocker. I’m not sure why he didn’t deke the defenceman first, then take a slap shot from the blue line, but it worked.
That wasn’t the only Canucks breakaway in this game, but Varlamov bailed out his teammates every other time, first stoning Booth, then beating Kesler to a loose puck, and finally giving Malhotra nothing to shoot at. If the Canucks convert on one of those chances, this game would be a lot less tense. That said, since this game meant approximately nothing to the Canucks, it wasn’t that tense to begin with. If it was less tense, everyone involved would have spontaneously fallen asleep.
There were a couple anxious moments in the second period when Henrik Sedin twisted his leg while being knocked to the ice by Jan Hejda. He limped slowly off the ice, causing heart palpitations throughout the Canucks fanbase. Really, I’m not sure why everyone was so worried. It’s not like we don’t have another Sedin. Oh…right…
Fortunately, Henrik didn’t miss a shift. I knew he was fine when he took a hooking penalty shortly after. That’s his league-leading 12th hooking minor on the season, which I believe is a career high.
John Shorthouse pointed out that Alex Burrows and Trevor Linden share a birthday. As suggested by Betsy the Bulie, that needs to be a provincial holiday. Be sure to celebrate Clutch Day this April 11th by driving a manual vehicle, listening to Clutch, or carrying a small purse.
With the stellar performance of Schneider, the Canucks likely could have coasted to the victory. Instead, the final minutes of the game featured two of the most effort-filled moments of the season. While killing off a penalty to Pahlsson, Alex Burrows held the puck below the Colorado goal line for a good 20 seconds, out-battling three Avalanche skaters. Then, in the dying seconds, Chris Higgins skated hard to beat out an icing call, preventing a defensive zone faceoff. These guys are aware they’re only making $2 million a year, right? Wait, nevermind, that’s a lot of money.
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