It would be tough to overstate the impact that Daniel Sedin had in his return to the lineup Wednesday night, but I’m going to try: Daniel’s impact was the essence of impact itself; by the game’s end, Quebec’s MLS club had changed their name to the Montreal Daniel Sedin.
The guy made a difference, is what I’m saying. In his first game back from a concussion, Daniel had a game-high 11 shots attempted, over 20% of the Canucks’ shot creation. He and Henrik were on the ice for all 3 Vancouver goals, and although they only picked up points on the third, their presence on the ice opened up space for everyone else and gave the entire team a spark. And not just any spark — the Allspark, which gives life to Autobots, Decepticons, and other cold, lifeless mechanisms, such as the Canucks’ powerplay, which came suddenly to life, going 2-for-3 in this game. And I watched this game.
Canucks 3 – 1 Kings
Rejected joke: Daniel had more impact than 10 pages of LOLcats captions. (It was a font joke. No one likes font jokes.)
After 10 minutes of (in)action, it looked like we might be in for another 1-0 finish Wednesday, which is what made Mason Raymond’s loathsome defensive play on the Anze Kopitar goal so infuriating. As the puck squirted out into the neutral zone, Raymond darted ahead of Kopitar and reached the puck first. Then, for whatever reason, instead of collecting it, he attempted to throw a shoulder check into Kopitar, missing, taking himself out of the play, and leaving Kopitar to pick up the puck and beat Cory Schneider high with it. Could Raymond have played this worse? He could have snatched up the puck and attempted to score on Schneider himself, but considering his offensive struggles, even this might have been preferable.
What’s even more frustrating is that Raymond’s thing is defensive reliability, but this is the second time in this series he’s cost the team a goal by missing a check on Kopitar. Raymond was the last man back after Kopitar picked off that Alex Edler drop pass in game 2, and he tried to throw the exact same check. It’s inexplicable. Raymond’s not strong enough to lay Kopitar out even if he does make contact. He’d bounce off so hard he’d take off like Team Rocket, and disappear into the sky with a twinkle.
Raymond had seen 7 shifts in the first 13 minutes of the game until he made the error. In the remaining 37 minutes after that, he only saw 7 more, including just 1 in the third. His 10:05 of icetime was less than everyone but Zack Kassian, and more than that, it was only the 2nd time all season that Raymond has seen fewer than 11 minutes.
While Raymond did himself no favours in the P.R. department Wednesday, Alex Edler found a measure of redemption by scoring the game-tying goal on a powerplay early in the second period with a wrister from the point. Quick was being screened by Ryan Kesler on the shot, although he wasn’t set either, drifting too far to his left when Dan Hamhuis moved the puck along the blue line and losing his post. Word of advice: if you don’t want to lose your post, do all your writing in Word, then copy and paste it into WordPress.
Just over two minutes later, Kevin Bieksa gave the Canucks the lead, taking a feed from David Booth and putting another one past Quick. It’s worth noting that, while neither Sedin drew an assist on this play, they made it happen, following David Booth across the blue line and heading straight for the net and drawing 4 Kings with them. With the 5th drawn to the wall by Booth, that left the point wide open for the slapshot, and Bieksa stepped into one like a Slim Jim.
But if the Sedins’ contributions on the first two goals were unnoticeable, it was impossible to miss them on the third one, a powerplay marker that came on some high-level Wizardous Sedinerie. First, Henrik Sedin managed to evade two Kings checkers at the far wall, then he cut between them and darted back to the wall before feeding Daniel Sedin streaking through the slot with a no-look backpass. Then Daniel walked in, drew 3 Kings to him, and fed Dan Hamhuis with a twirling backhand pass. The rebound from Hamhuis’s shot jumped high into the air, and before it could land, Henrik swatted it into the goal. It was sexy, and it was good to have the true sorcerers back. Jannik Hansen tried to copy some of that stuff while Daniel was gone, but he only wound up making an army of brooms that wouldn’t listen to him.
That goal made it 3-1, but it could just have easily been 2-2 at that point had Cory Schneider not made a huge, momentum-sparing save on a Dustin Brown penalty shot attempt moments earlier. The chance came after Kevin Bieksa got a bit too nonchalant moving a puck at the blueline (yeah, he’ll do that) and turned the puck over to Brown, who streaked in alone. Bieksa took the winger down, leading to the penalty shot, but Schneider bailed him out with a big save. Amazingly, it was the first penalty shot save in Canucks’ postseason history. There have only ever been 3 attempts, but still.
Speaking of Schneider, while I didn’t love his rebound control at times in the early going, he really settled in. Plus I loved his goal control. Only Kopitar’s shot got past him, as the goaltender made 43 saves to stave off the LA attack and send the Canucks back to Vancouver with a still-faint-but-somewhat-brighter hope of getting back into this series. He was fantastic, and deserves to start Game 5.
Manny Malhotra went 13-for-17 in the faceoff circle, with all but one of those draws coming in the defensive zone. It was a big change from what we saw in Game 3, when Ryan Kesler took nearly all the defensive zone draws. (Kesler still took 12 Wednesday, but he lost 10 of them, which might have been why Manny saw more than usual.) But, more noteworthy to me is that Samme Pahlsson took zero defensive zone draws, and has only taken 3 in total since game 1, when he went 0-for-4 inside his own blueline and lost the draw that led to the game-winning goal. Alain Vigneault appears to have lost trust in him.
On the flipside, Jarrett Stoll was a menace for the Kings tonight in the faceoff circle. He won 12 of 16, including 7 of 8 versus Ryan Kesler and 4 of 5 versus Henrik Sedin.
Daniel Sedin’s sneakiest sequence came in the 3rd period, when he caught a puck bouncing up over the top of the Kings net and threw it down at the goal line. Sure, it wouldn’t have counted if it had gone in on its own, but by placing it where he did, Daniel increased the chances of either Quick or Drew Doughty accidentally knocking it in. It didn’t happen. But in the ensuing scrum, Daniel partook in bonus sneakery by punching Colin Fraser in the face. He was all, Tell your friends, sucka. Daniel Sedin’s back, and he punches faces now.
Speaking of Sedin headhunting, Henrik Sedin finally snapped in this game and stuck a minor elbow on Dustin Brown just after the Kings’ winger had been felled by a puck to the mouth. Henrik really only nicked him (it almost looked as though he changed his mind mid-chicken wing), but an elbow to the head warrants a second look. Will Hank sit? I doubt it. Considering it’s Henrik and that Brown was uninjured, I’d wager he gets nothing for the transgression, but a fine wouldn’t shock me either. But that’s okay. It’ll make Henrik seem tougher. Tell your friends, sucka. Henrik Sedin got fined for headhunting last week. He’s crazy, yo.
The secret 1st star of this game? Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis, who did everything onight. He played a game-high 34 shifts and team-high 25:34, including 3:00 on the first-unit powerplay and 2:13 shorthanded, assisted on 2 goals, had a team-high 6 shots on net, and added 3 hits and 3 blocked shots. And then he sang everyone to sleep on the flight home. What a guy.
And finally, do the Kings realize that Eric Cartman’s support reflects poorly on them? Every time he screamed, “Go Kings Go!” I laughed because if he thinks something is good, it means that Trey Parker and Matt Stone think it’s the worst thing in the world. He’s probably only pretending to support the Kings so he can cook Drew Doughty’s parents into a chili or something.
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