If you want to quibble with definitions, this game wasn’t technically a must-win game. Since the Canucks didn’t win, however, that makes Wednesday’s game an actual must-win game. In order to prevent that from happening, the Canucks needed to win this game, making it a proverbial, but not technical, must-win game. But, as mentioned, they didn’t muster a win.
Now I’m depressed and I think Harrison’s drunk (and he never drinks). On the plus side, all of Vancouver is now too despondent to leave the house, meaning The Bay won’t have to replace all their windows this year. Oh hell, now I’m making riot jokes: this is definitely the lowest of the low. I watched this game.
Canucks 0 – 1 Kings
Here’s the crazy thing: it could be worse. The Canucks could be the Pittsburgh Penguins right now, who were also favourites heading into the playoffs and also are down 3-0 in their first round series. The difference is that the Penguins are getting blown out of the water and their games are turning into absolute gong shows as the team seems to be coming completely unglued. They’re exploding so badly that the reverberations of their explosion went back in time and inspired a Monty Python sketch.
Since it’s Los Angeles, there were a few celebrities attending the game, including David Beckham, Kobe Bryant, and Will Farrell, who Scott Oake interviewed prior to the start of the third period. Farrell at least appeared to know his stuff, name-dropping the Triple Crown Line (seen here singing “Forgive My Misconduct”) and talking about all the time he’s spent with Don Cherry in Yellowknife.
The big story heading into the game was Cory Schneider getting the start over Roberto Luongo, despite Luongo being arguably the best Canuck in this series. Schneider performed admirably but had very little action in the Vancouver net, as the Kings only managed 20 shots on net. That’s fewer shots than the New Jersey Devils had in the first period of game one against the Florida Panthers. If Schneider’s action was any lower, his strings would have buzzed against the frets.
This could have been a very different game if Jannik Hansen’s shot off the rush that rang off the post had gone in. In an alternate universe occupying the same space as our own but vibrating at a different frequency, Hansen’s shot did go in and the Canucks won this game. Also, everyone has a goatee. Including the women. If you ask me, I’m not sure it would be worth it.
I noticed an interesting faceoff strategy from the Canucks in this game. Though they’ve been winning the faceoff battle during the series, the Kings frequently managed to win possession of the puck off of Canucks’ faceoff wins by driving straight ahead past their checks. In this game, the Canucks frequently lined up with one of the wingers further back, not engaged with their check, allowing them to win possession of the puck more easily. This resulted in significantly more puck possession off won faceoffs. It was a small change, but definitely one to keep an eye on in game four.
The talk of the town will likely be Dustin Brown’s colossal hit on Henrik Sedin that caused waves of consternation to buffet the shores of panic beach. Henrik struggled to his feet, at one point knocking on the bench door, as if hoping that someone would open it so he could crawl off the ice. Here’s the thing: even if you want to argue that it wasn’t a clean hit, it was certainly legal. Brown caught Henrik looking the wrong way and planted him right in the chest with his shoulder almost immediately after Henrik passed the puck. While Henrik briefly left the game, it evidently wasn’t to go to the Quiet Room for a suspected concussion, as he explained after that he just had the wind knocked out of him, calling it a “clean hit.”
Henrik deserves all kinds of respect for coming back from that hit. Not just some kinds of respect: all kinds.
Incidentally, it turns out that Craig Simpson isn’t biased against the Canucks: he’s just pretty much always wrong. He repeatedly called Brown’s hit “late,” when Henrik had clearly just released the puck.
Kevin Bieksa went after Brown for the hit, attempting to fight him, but Brown weaselled his way out of it. Instead, Burrows and Kopitar engaged in some Greco-Roman wrestling. The combination of Burrows and Kopitar’s greasy, flowing hair had Canucks haters desperately hoping that Burrows would grab himself a fistful, but Burrows refused to play into their cheap stereotype.
Such wasn’t the case for Ryan Kesler, who took a pretty blatant dive on a Willie Mitchell cross-check. Still, as much as it was a dive, it was also an incredibly stupid penalty for Mitchell to take. He got away with the first cross-check, then chased Kesler as he was skating away to deliver another. Willie, you know Kesler. You played with him. You knew all along how that was going to end.
Before someone gets on my case, Kesler wasn’t the only player who embellished in this game, and the embellishment seemed to come more from the Kings than the Canucks in this game. Still, none of the other dives were blatant enough to make everyone leap to YouTube to capture it for posterity.
In a game this tight, just one mistake can be the difference between victory and defeat. In this case, however, it was a series of mistakes. 6 minutes into the third period, with the score still knotted at zeroes, Alex Edler controlled the puck in his own end. Looking for an outlet pass, he threw the puck up the middle of the ice to…no one. The puck went the distance for icing. Edler has struggled all series and this proved to be a costly mistake, not unlike the marketing campaign for John Carter.
Then, on the ensuing faceoff, Mason Raymond jumped early, resulting in Manny Malhotra getting tossed from the circle. Fortunately for the Canucks, they also had Samme Pahlsson on the ice: his prowess in the faceoff circle was one of the big reasons they acquired him at the trade deadline. Only, he lost this one to Anze Kopitar. It was the only defensive zone faceoff he took. Ryan Kesler was 9-for-10 in defensive zone faceoffs, but he couldn’t be on the ice thanks to the icing call. On an unrelated note, a butterfly flapped its wings three months ago in Bangalore.
The lost faceoff led to a flurry of activity in the Canucks’ defensive zone. Pahlsson threw a hit on Dustin Brown, ostensibly taking him out of the play. He then left Brown in the corner, moving into the slot to check Justin Williams as he took a quick one-timer. Brown got up and skated to the side of the net, where he was all alone. It could be argued that Pahlsson should have shadowed Brown or that Edler should have picked him up as rejoined the play. Either way, like a square in Minesweeper with an 8 next to it, Brown should have been marked.
The final mistake belonged to Schneider, as he wasn’t able to either swallow the rebound on Williams’ shot or kick it out hard enough to handcuff Brown. Instead, the puck deflected right to Brown, who fired it into the net. Schneider’s mistake is arguably the least egregious, as he was perfect the rest of the way (other than his usual puckhandling adventures) and there should have been someone on Brown to tie up his stick. It might have also helped if someone on the Canucks could score a goal, but I don’t want to make any unreasonable requests.
It wasn’t all negative for the Canucks, as they managed 41 shots on goal, including 8 from Burrows alone. Unfortunately, far too many of those shots were from the outside and directed at the logo on Jonathan Quick’s chest. I understand that this playoff series has you hating the Kings’ logo, Canucks, but shooting pucks at it won’t actually hurt it. It’s just a logo: it doesn’t have feelings.
The real highlight for Canucks fans was the return of a beloved friend: the Dan Hamhuis hip check. Hamhuis indicated in an After Hours interview in March that he has been tentative about hip checks ever since he blew out his groin and had a hernia when he hip checked Milan Lucic during the Stanley Cup Final. As a result, the hip check has been missing from Hamhuis’s repertoire all season. But when Dustin Penner, who is actually heavier than Lucic, came busting into the Vancouver zone with the puck in the third, Hamhuis didn’t hesitate, sending him flying with a picture perfect hip check. It was a thing of violent beauty, like The Bride’s fight against O-Ren Ishii.
Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis played over 28 minutes in this game, picking up a lot of minutes from the Keith Ballard/Chris Tanev pairing that frequently looked outmatched. Hamhuis is used to picking up extra minutes, of course, frequently filling in for other volunteers at Fraser Valley Gleaners when they can’t make it in.
Dale Weise came in for Andrew Ebbett in this game, though I have to ask why, considering Weise played less than 2 minutes of this game. One of the improvements the Canucks made this season was to the fourth line, which was supposed to be able to play regular minutes in the playoffs. Instead, they barely see the ice. Part of that is due to the number of penalties cutting into the amount of even-strength ice time available, but it’s still disappointing. Much will be made of Zack Kassian getting benched after a giveaway early in the third, but he only had two shifts in every period.
To really drive it home, Henrik Sedin had a single shift that was almost as long as Kassian’s total time on ice. In the middle of the second period, Henrik had a shift that was 3 minute and 21 seconds long, though 41 seconds of it came prior to a TV timeout. He stayed on the ice for an entire 2-minute powerplay that resulted in 6 shot attempts, though only 1 got through to the net. He then stayed on the ice for another 40 seconds, helping to create 4 more shot attempts, including 2 on net, and forcing an icing by the Kings. It was reminiscent of the Sedins’ insane shift back in 2007 against the Edmonton Oilers. The main difference between the two: just one Sedin. If Daniel was in this game, I can pretty much guarantee the Canucks would have scored during that shift.
To cap off Edler’s awful game (and series), he took a delay of game penalty with fewer than 2 minutes remaining. I’ve mentioned my hate for the automatic delay of game penalty for clearing the puck over the glass from the defensive zone; my feelings have not changed. At the same time, Edler had plenty of time to move the puck and make a good pass. He didn’t. Down 1-0, he put the Canucks down a man. To their credit, the Canucks hemmed the Kings in their zone with Schneider pulled and had chances to score, but they were unable to do so in the dying seconds. It’s too bad, because I would have loved to see Edler jumping up and down in the penalty box like Ed Jovanovski.
I really wish I had an explanation for how Edler’s been playing, but I don’t.
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