I was promised prior to tonight’s game that playoff hockey is the best hockey. I don’t know about you, but I thought this particular game was pretty lousy. Now I can never trust again.
It’s difficult for a game to be entertaining when it’s bogged down by constant penalty calls. Approximately half of the first two periods of this game were spent with one of the two teams on the powerplay. It made for an extremely disjointed game that significantly lacked any sense of flow. So, essentially, me when I try to rap.
I watched this game.
Canucks 2 – 4 Kings
David Booth started the game off with a bang, sending Drew Doughty flying behind his own net with a massive hit. Booth is at his best when he plays an aggressive game, so this is a good sign. He continued his solid play with 4 shots and victimized Doughty again later in the first, this time with a gorgeous inside-outside move. I am fully in favour of Booth repeatedly embarrassing Doughty throughout this series. I suggest that he pants him in front of a pretty girl. Super embarrassing.
The Kings dominated the game early, and ended up outshooting the Canucks 13-6 in the first period. It could have gotten ugly early, but Roberto Luongo was sharp, making a big blocker save on a Rob Scuderi one-timer, then back-to-back gorgeous glove saves on Dustin Brown shortly after. Luongo ended up with 35 saves and was the main reason the Canucks were in this game. He had more stops in this game than a pipe organ.
Alex Burrows opened the scoring with a little hard work and persistence. Also, interference. After Quick stopped his original shot, Burrows outbattled Kyle Clifford for the rebound and whipped the puck just inside the post. Meanwhile, Ryan Kesler ran into Jonathan Quick, which inexplicably went uncalled. It didn’t have to be a penalty, but it should have been no goal due to incidental contact, like the time I accidentally sent a radio message to Jodie Foster.
As good as Luongo was in this game, the Kings’ first goal was a weak one. It was also completely understandable. While killing a 5-on-3, Mike Richards unexpectedly threw the puck on net from a bad angle, sneaking it through Luongo’s legs. In that situation, Luongo had to expect a pass as Jeff Carter was waiting at the back door like a boyfriend that your father doesn’t like.
How the Canucks got into that 5-on-3 situation was frustrating. After Ryan Kesler got a somewhat weak unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for giving Quick a snow shower, Chris Higgins accidentally cleared the puck over the glass, picking up a delay-of-game penalty. A minute later, Alex Edler swatted a puck out of mid-air that also sailed over the glass. Neither was a case of intentional delay-of-game, and it frustrates me that there is no room for discretion.
Kesler had an effective game offensively, assisting on both Canucks goals, but his blatantly obvious attempts to draw penalties by embellishing contact need to stop. Referees will stop giving him the benefit of the doubt and he’ll attract the wrong kind of attention from fans, media, and opposition players. Less of that and more of this.
That said, I was absolutely baffled by colour commentator Craig Simpson and how much embellishment he thought was happening in this game. He repeatedly brought it up, then showed replays of Henrik Sedin getting can-openered and Luongo getting pushed into his net by a stick to his chest. Yes, there was embellishment in this game (from both teams), which is typical for this time of year, but Simpson was seeing embellishment everywhere. I think he’s got a problem. I heard he woke up in a cold sweat last night after a dream where embellishment chased him down a seemingly endless hallway with a knife and all the doors were locked.
Jonathan Quick was superb in net for the Kings, particularly early in the second period where he robbed Burrows with a marvelous toe save, then followed it up with an even better save on a wraparound by Kesler. The Canucks will have to keep him moving laterally and challenge him with more shots if they want to score in this series: Quick is locked in like Wendy Torrance. I wonder if any of the Canucks own an axe…
There were three charging calls in this game – one on the Kings and two on the Canucks – and I didn’t agree with any of them. None of the three hits looked particularly egregious: the players did not appear to leave their feet or take too many strides leading into the hits. From what I could tell, they essentially got called for hitting too hard. The Rogers Arena crowd seemed riled up by the calls as well: after Lapierre was called for hitting Scuderi, they chanted “Bulis…Bulis…” I’m guessing they were hearkening back to the amazing hit Jan Bulis made on Jack Johnson in his first NHL game, forgetting that Johnson doesn’t play for the Kings anymore. Either that or they were talking about cow excrement.
Byron Bitz’s 5-minute major and game misconduct for boarding, however, were completely deserved. The crowd continued to chant about bovine feces, but Bitz had to let up with Clifford in a vulnerable position and didn’t do so. It seems clear to me that Bitz was looking to make a clean hit to make the most of his limited icetime and was hoping that Clifford would turn towards him, but you can’t hope that a hit will be clean. I have a suspicion that Bitz might get a one or two game suspension out of it as well.
We recently appeared on an LA Kings podcast and I happened to mention how sorry I was for them that they had Willie Mitchell, of all people, on the powerplay. So I blame myself for Mitchell going out the very next day and making me look like a buffoon. Mitchell’s point shot with less than a minute remaining in Bitz’s major ramped up Jannik Hansen’s stick and went top corner past a screened Luongo. I tempted fate and fate slapped me in the face. Also, incidentally, how I met my wife.
The shot totals at the end of the night would suggest that the Kings dominated the Canucks in this game, but that was mainly because of the copious amount of powerplay time the Kings enjoyed. At even-strength, shots and possession were much closer. The third line got dominated, however, which means we might see Kesler play more of a checking role in game two. Dustin Brown had 8 shots, Justin Williams had 7, and Drew Doughty had 6. That can’t happen again.
Alex Edler tied up the game with 8 seconds left in the second period, taking advantage of a tired Kings group after an icing call. His point shot hit Brown’s stick and actually bounced off the ice and up over Quick’s shoulder. Secretly, the Canucks replaced the regular puck with one made out of Flubber.
The third period should give Canucks fans plenty to be positive about: the Canucks were clearly the better team in the final frame, creating scoring chances, drawing penalties, and playing a disciplined game. Even the powerplay finally looked dangerous again. If the Canucks play the rest of the series in the same fashion, they’ll do just fine. Of course, it raises the question of why they weren’t playing that way from the start of the game.
Unfortunately, one terrible giveaway from Alex Edler erased all the fine work the Canucks did in the third period. Instead of banking the puck off the boards into the neutral zone, Edler chipped it up the middle, where Mike Richards cut it off. Bieksa stepped up aggressively on Richards, leaving Dustin Penner and Jeff Carter for Edler to deal with alone. Richards threw it to Carter, who cleverly directed it to Penner with the outside of his skate. Luongo, having to play the potential shot from Carter, had no chance.
That goal was also one of the few times that Jannik Hansen didn’t skate his heart out. I really liked Hansen’s game: he skated miles and miles, was aggressive on the forecheck, and was credited with 4 takeaways, one of which led to a shot off the post in the first period that, like neutrogena, could have changed the complexion of the game.
The top line of Mason Raymond, Henrik Sedin, and Alex Burrows looked good when they could actually get on the ice together. The multitude of early penalties made that difficult, leading to Henrik double-shifting in place of Byron Bitz on the fourth line to get more minutes in the third period. In a game with fewer powerplays, that trio should provide a lot of scoring chances. That said, Daniel Sedin can’t get back soon enough.
Pass it to Bulis is the hockey blog that knows who needs the puck. Without spaces, it's also our e-mail address. Have stuff to say? We want to hear from you. Talk to us at passittobulis [at] gmail.com.