As if you didn’t already feel sort of dirty about your unqualified excitement for Game 1 of the Canucks’ season following yet another NHL lockout, consider the following factoid from Matt Baker: the last time the Canucks opened their season against the Ducks was in 1997, in Tokyo, with Mark Messier scoring in a 3-2 win.
Disgusting, right? I mean… Tokyo. I’ve heard it’s very overpopulated.
I kid. Anyway, despite the fact that the Canucks iced Mark Messier, the 1997 home opener was a much more successful outing than this one. If you were, as mentioned, a little uncomfortable with your excitement heading into Saturday night’s affair, the Canucks did their best to stomp all of that passion right out for you, serving up one of the worst stinkers in recent memory. This game was so bad, I almost missed the lockout. Almost. As bad as it was, it was still Canucks hockey. The circumstances could be better, but for the first time in nine months, I’m pleased to say I watched this game:
Canucks 3 – 7 Ducks
No Mark Donnelly tonight, as Sarah McLachlan sang the anthem in his place. And then every Canucks fan was given an orphaned puppy, whether they wanted one or not!
Mason Raymond took his first spill only two minutes into the game. It might have annoyed some people, but I took it as a gesture to Canucks fans that this was still the team we know and love. Thanks, Raymond. It’s worth noting that this was pretty much the only time I noticed the second line tonight. They were so nonexistent, someone told Manti Te’o they died of leukemia midway through the second period, and he believed them.
You had to know the Canucks were going to be a little slow when the Sedins kept getting checked before they could make that final, nifty pass. It happened four or five times in the first ten minutes alone. Clearly, their brains were working a little faster than their bodies. They’d have been dynamite Saturday night if this entire game could have been played out virtually, like sex in Demolition Man.
The best Canuck on the ice: Dale Weise, who had 4 hits and 4 attempted shots, second-most among forwards. Either his Dutch league experience has given him a newfound confidence in his abilities or he’s just in better game shape because he played in actual games while most of the rest of his teammates just skated around in circles at UBC. It might be a little of both. Looking around the league, a lot of the guys that had good first nights played during the lockout. But Weise also looked stronger on the puck and more willing to go to the net. Granted, it was clear a few times that he’s gotten used to being unstoppable and uncatchable, so a marginal reality check is still in the offing. Luckily, he’ll be used to his linemates not looking for him in no time, since Aaron Volpatti doesn’t have the vision to look for anybody. Seriously, when Volpatti taps his stick on the ice, it’s so he can feel where he’s going.
Another thing that helped Weise stand out: everyone else was just terrible, especially the defence. I’ll give the D-corps this much: it’s great to see them all on the same page by Game 1. Granted, I’d prefer it was a good page, like Ellen Page or Sports Page. But it wasn’t. I’ve seen better defending from that weird rooster-lawyer on Futurama.
Alex Edler completely lost Daniel Winnik on the Ducks’ first goal, partly because he turned the wrong way when Winnik spun towards the net. It may take Edler a few games to adjust to the right, and it’ll be little things like turning in the opposition direction, playing the puck on his backhand, and young-earth Creationism.
All credit to the Ducks, however, especially Teemu Selanne. He’s 42. He looked 22 Saturday night. Effectively, he is to hockey as high school girls are to Matthew McConaughey. That’s what I love about Teemu Selanne, man. I get older, he stays the same age.
As much as the Canucks were abysmal defensively, I really liked the look of the powerplay. As expected, Jason Garrison is doing some roaming, but both he and Edler were firing shots from the point, either of the “slap” or the “wrist” variety. It paid off twice, with Edler scoring a goal and setting up another on quick shots from the top of the zone. The assist came on a Daniel Sedin tap-in after Jonas Hiller lost the puck while trying to look through Jannik Hansen in front. (Like most Danes, Hansen is mostly opaque.)
A word on the Daniel goal: as he scored, he took a crosscheck to the back, as he often does, and I loved the way it just propelled him behind the net instead of bowling him over. We’ve pointed out numerous times that the twins convert crosschecks to kinetic energy like no one else, and that was further evidence of it. You know, you can probably power an entire house just by crosschecking the Sedins in the back.
But enough talking about other things: the big story, of course, is the fact that the Ducks managed to chase Cory Schneider from the game with three quick goals early in the second. It was, as you might imagine, not exactly the first start as the incumbent starter that Schneider would have wanted. It was, however, great evidence of exactly what he’ll expect, as Luongo was cheered like a freed refugee as he left the bench. Pretty sure DJ Dave played Lover, Come Back to Me.
Okay, it wasn’t quite that simple. Even more amusing than Schneider getting the axe, actually, was the uncomfortable chorus of Luuuuu’s that rained down on Luongo when he made saves after entering the game. You could practically hear the voices in the Rogers Arena crowd go up at the end of the cheers, as though they were asking someone — anyone — for permission. What did it mean, this unexpected Luuu-ing? Did cheering Luongo mean they still had feelings for Luongo? Have they been unfair to Luongo? Was it time to rethink the approach to goaltending in this city? Or did it mean both goalies were terrible and it’s time for Eddie Lack? Probably the third one, since it shuts down the cognitive dissonance and saves us from learning any lessons about all this.
There will be a lot of talk about who should start Sunday night versus Edmonton, but really, there shouldn’t be any. Alain Vigneault had every intention of starting Roberto Luongo, his backup, in the second night of a back-to-back, and I think he still should. Why deviate from the plan over one game, let alone the first one? Of course, by sticking to the plan, people will interpret it as some sort of slight against Schneider, which makes no sense since it was the plan all along… This whole thing is so stupid. It won’t matter in the slightest who the Canucks start tomorrow if their defence continues to play this poorly, especially against a skilled Oilers core that’s been skating together in Oklahoma for months — both guys will still get some time in the goal.
Before everything fell off the rails and the masked men became the story, I thought Jannik Hansen had a nice first period. The third line did a great job setting up the Dan Hamhuis goal, with some strong work along the boards, including a great little stutter-start by Chris Higgins to shake his man before throwing it back down low. Eventually, Hansen fed Hamhuis for the goal. Hansen, too, looked somewhat buoyed by his experience overseas. And he was probably happy to be wearing a jersey that wasn’t weighed down in eight pounds of advertisements.
The best moment of the broadcast: on the increasingly ridiculous Hotstove, when Elliotte Friedman suggested that we need to consider the one-game sample size before freaking out over the goaltending situation and anything else in Vancouver, and Kevin Weekes followed that up by saying “THIS IS A NIGHTMARE SCENARIO FOR THE VANCOUVER CANUCKS.” Friedman is to that panel what Mr. Kotter was to the Sweathogs.
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