After two-straight 1-0 shutouts, Canucks fans and media were starting to wonder if the team had completely forgotten how to score. Not me. I was worried that they had forgotten how to allow goals. Fact: no team has won the Stanley Cup without allowing a single goal.
Fortunately, the Canucks eased my concerns by giving up 2 goals to the visiting Dallas Stars. I was relieved when I watched this game.
Canucks 5 – 2 Stars
Cory “Gingerbricks” Schneider got the surprise start, as Roberto Luongo apparently had a stiff neck that refused to loosen. I had a catastrophic chiropractic appointment this morning, so I know that feel, bro. Also, we both have partners who consistently outperform us. It’s still undecided who will get the first IWTG of the playoffs.
Schneider was stunning, making 25 saves on 26 shots in the first two periods alone, with some of his finest moments coming on the Canucks powerplay, as the Canucks gave up a series of shorthanded scoring chances. At one point, Gord Miller commented that “Cory Schneider has been the best part of the Vancouver powerplay.” He made his most impressive save when Mike Ribeiro and Loui Eriksson combined on a shorthanded 2-on-1, sliding across to get his left toe on Eriksson’s one-timer. That’s right: Schneider has just one toe on his left foot.
Looking for a first line combination that will work in Daniel Sedin’s absence, Alain Vigneault made the odd choice of sandwiching Henrik with two French-Canadian pests, Maxim Lapierre and Alex Burrows. This raised some eyebrows, but it’s a little more palatable if you think of it this way: Lapierre isn’t replacing Daniel on the top line. Instead, Lapierre is replacing Burrows. Burrows is replacing Daniel.
Of course, Lapierre immediately made Vigneault look like a genius by tallying 3 points in his top line debut. Expect Daniel to play with Malhotra and Kassian on the fourth line once he’s healthy.
The opening goal wasn’t scored by that new-look first line; instead, it was the third line, which has essentially been the Canucks’ first line recently. Jannik Hansen hustled and bustled the puck into the zone, before losing it in his skates. He found the puck in time to swing it into the slot to Chris Higgins, who quickly directed it between Kari Lehtonen’s legs. Unexpectedly, both teams decided to continue playing the game and score more goals.
The early highlight of the game was the Rogers Arena organist playing the Violent Femmes classic “Blister in the Sun.” I’ll take that over “MAKE SOME NOY-OYSE!” any day of the week.
Dale Weise has just 4 goals this season, so when he was tripped on a breakaway halfway through the second period, he was thrilled, thinking he was sure to get a penalty shot. Instead, it was just a regular penalty and Weise doesn’t get any powerplay time. Sami Salo, on the other hand, does. After a feckless man advantage, Salo blasted a point shot past Lehtonen to regain the lead. To paraphrase Don Taylor, any time you get a chance to say “feckless” you take it.
After his lazy icing led to the Stars’ first goal, Andrew Alberts made up for it by banking a slap shot off Stephane Robidas for his second goal of the season. The real star of the goal, however, was Henrik Sedin, who made a stellar move at the Canucks’ blue line to get past Ryan Garbutt and rush the puck into the Dallas zone. Lapierre returned the puck to Henrik with some strong work on the boards, then the Canucks captain picked out Alberts like a kid picking out 5 cent candies.
Henrik continued his wizardry in the third period, wheeling out from behind the net, shaking off two defenders, then feeding a wide-open Burrows in front of the net. Burrows kicked the puck up to his stick, and snapped it past Lehtonen. It was Henrik’s third assist of the night, but the hosts on the Team 1040 are sure to point out that he still hasn’t scored a goal since February 19th. Because, y’know, that’s what Henrik’s known for: scoring goals.
It has been disappointing to see the Sedins return to their pre-Art-Ross, point-per-game ways, but getting on Henrik for not scoring goals is disingenuous. His assist-less streaks are far more concerning: you don’t want the Sedins to become assist-less chaps.
After Burrows’ goal, Lehtonen was pulled in favour of Richard Bachman, whose name requires a Guess Who or BTO joke. It’s in the Canadian hockey blogger bylaws. Shortly after he came into the game, Maxim Lapierre took what he could get and snapped the puck top corner over Bachman’s glove after an alert feed from Marc-Andre Gragnani. There, now the union won’t get on my case.
It wasn’t that long ago that Sami Salo was the steadiest of Canucks defencemen, sure to make the smart, savvy play at both ends of the ice. Unfortunately, his decision-making isn’t quite what it used to be. Late in the third period, when it admittedly didn’t matter much, Salo overplayed a puck along the boards, leaving Jake Dowell with more space than the solar system to whip a shot past Schneider. Admittedly, Andrew Alberts was caught standing still as well, but it’s hard to blame Alberts for expecting Salo to make the right play.
When Kyle Wellwood left the Canucks a couple years ago, I was distraught: who was going to be the sad sack Eeyore of the team? Thankfully, Mason Raymond has stepped up to fill the void. He played a pretty decent game, but all he got to show for it was an uncalled stick in the chops from Alex Goligoski and a minus-two rating.
At the end of the game, Raymond had a golden scoring opportunity and showed great patience, but put the puck off the side of the goal. As time ran out, he lifted the puck on the blade of his stick, looking to score a lacrosse-style goal from behind the net. Considering the Canucks were up by 3 and the game was over, the Stars took exception to his hot-dogging and swarmed him with punches. Poor Raymond. Poor, poor Evil Raymond.
After a win over the Detroit Red Wings, the Canucks are sitting in second in the Pacific and boast the division's best goal differential. That said, a big part of that goal differential comes from the Canucks' league-leading 10 empty net goals. […]