On Saturday night, the Hockey Night in Canada crew couldn’t stop debating the debacle in the Canucks’ crease and I repeatedly heard them say that Alain Vigneault should “stick with the gameplan” and start Cory Schneider against the Edmonton Oilers. Vigneault only half-listened. He stuck with the gameplan, which happened to be to start Roberto Luongo on the second night of a back-to-back.
In fact, what if all of this has been the gameplan, a complicated scheme to completely depreciate the trade value of both goaltenders so that Gillis is unable to trade either one this season, thereby giving Vigneault the benefit of two great goaltenders heading into the playoffs? If so, that’s a stupid gameplan and he should stop sticking to it immediately. I watched this game.
Canucks 2 – 3 Oilers (SO)
Luongo played quite well in his first start of the season, particularly in an area where Schneider struggled on Saturday: bailing out his teammates when they made brutal, terrible mistakes. Luongo spent the rest of the weekend preventing Alex Edler and Zack Kassian from going to see A Haunted House, slapping a cheeseburger that Keith Ballard found in a garbage can out of his hands before he could eat it, and stopping David Booth from tweeting out a picture of a squirrel he killed in Stanley Park.
The two goals that Luongo did allow, however, were both from bad angles and stoppable, though both involved some poor play defensively. Both were the type of save that either Luongo or Schneider in the regular rhythm of a season probably would have made, so thanks a lot, Bettman.
The Canucks got off to a strong start, particularly the Sedins, who were cycling like they spent the lockout blood doping. Expect a tell-allsome interview with Oprah in a little over a decade.
While the other defensive pairings seemed to sort things out after the gong show against the Ducks, Keith Ballard and Chris Tanev seemed to still have issues at times with moving the puck up ice and, occasionally, basic defensive coverage. Ballard’s absolutely brutal first period turnover will garner most of the attention, but Tanev’s sleepiness in allowing Shawn Horcoff a clear path to the net late in the second period was almost as bad.
One of my favourite things in hockey is a loudmouth linesman, the kind who screams OFFSIDE OFFSIDE like it’s a battle cry. Michel Cormier was that loudmouth in this game and I loved it. When he screamed NOOOOO when the play wasn’t offside or icing, I want to believe he looked like this guy:
Alex Edler seems pretty keen on earning his new $30 million contract, scoring his second goal in as many games. Sshhhh, no one tell him his new contract doesn’t kick in until next season.
Edler’s goal was pretty much everything that Canucks fans love about the quiet Swede. He made a perfect defensive play, breaking up a 3-on-2 with a well-timed pokecheck, then wheeled through the neutral zone with speed, cut across the ice, and blasted a slap shot just inside the post past Devan Dubnyk. The only thing missing was a devastating open-ice hit on Drew Doughty, but since Doughty wasn’t on the ice, we’ll forgive him.
Unfortunately, we also saw the negative side of Edler in this game, namely how uncomfortable he is on the right side. He got badly burned on the right side a couple times, particularly on the Eberle goal, as he got caught standing still in the final seconds of the middle frame, giving Eberle enough room to roof the backhand far corner. Appropriate time to stand still: when the person who is “it” calls out “Red Light!” during a game of Red Light/Green Light. Inappropriate time to stand still: when the Oilers’ leading scorer from last season is carrying the puck towards you.
Zack “Little Black Backpack” Kassian had an eventful game, finishing with a game-high 9 attempted shots, with 4 hitting the net. Early in the second he had a couple great scoring chances and missed the net on both. It seemed like he was trying to pick a corner instead of just getting the puck on goal. Still, he was getting himself into good positions to score and Vigneault noticed, blessing him with the coveted post-penalty-kill shifts with the Sedins, then eventually, semi-regular shifts midway through the game.
Kassian ended up as the benficiary of some old-fashioned Wizardous Sedinerie, although it wasn’t on one of those post-PK shifts. After some marvelous passing with his brother along the boards, Daniel spun a no-look backhand pass to the front of the net, where Zack “Panic Attack” Kassian met it and, instead of picking a corner, shoved it right into the middle of the net. Of course, he had very little choice, as he was shooting from inside the crease.
Kassian was on the ice for just 5 seconds before scoring that goal, as he went straight from the bench to the front of the net. That almost explains why Ryan Whitney left the front of the net wide open to chase Daniel Sedin, despite Nail Yakupov doing a fairly good job of sticking with him. It’s possible that Whitney is just bad at counting, calls any number over 3 “many”, and didn’t realize that one Canuck was missing.
After scoring with the Sedins, Kassian got promoted to the top line for the back half of the game, as Burrows joined with Hansen and Higgins, bumping Lapierre to Malhotra’s line, presumably to create two uber-checking lines. That left a second line of Mason Raymond, Andrew Ebbett, and Dale Weise, which I’ll choose to believe was a promotion to the second line for Dale “De Dutch” Weise.
When you see Ben Eager lining up across from the Sedins, the correct response is not to fight him. The correct response is to let the Sedins treat him like a pylon and to go to the net for the inevitable tap-in goal. That said, Zack “Kickpuncher” Kassian appeared to punch Eager more effectively than Eager punched Kassian, bloodying the Oilers’ goon, then pumping up the crowd with some fist pumps, head bobs and an impromptu performance of Don Cherry’s smash techno hit, “Let’s go!” My first thought when I saw Kassian’s post-punch-up antics: Canucks fans are going to love this kid.
Weise took Kassian’s spot on the Sedin line with Kassian in the penalty box, which is a lot easier to spin as a promotion than that pseudo-second-line. Weise once again had a hilarious game, as he made things happen with his confident approach, including creating a breakaway for himself, but completely botched the execution, as he still seems to expect to have the same time and space he had in the Netherlands. On his breakaway, he tried a deke move instead of shooting and got caught from behind. He was like an office worker zoning out at his computer with an open spreadsheet: he looked productive, but got nothing done.
Weise had a tough game, first losing an edge and crashing into the boards, then getting wiped out by a Jeff Petry hipcheck, and finally going face first into the boards on a failed check on Justin Schultz. Of course, in the Netherlands, the boards would have been at least 5 feet further away and Weise would have been completely fine.
I hate to harp on Weise like this, but the Sportsnet graphic that came up late in the third cracked me up: “Weise: 22 G, 26 A in 19 games this season” without any context whatsoever. A few seconds later, the graphic flipped to show “with Tilburg Trappers (Netherlands).” I desperately want to believe that there’s a Canucks fan out there who hasn’t been paying much attention and tuned in just in time to see the first half of the graphic, looked away when the second graphic showed up, and now believes that Weise is a generational talent.
Andrew Ebbett hasn’t been overly noticeable two games in. There were only two times that he really stood out for me in this game: he made a very nice pass to Kassian in the second period to set up a scoring chance and he took a bad penalty in the offensive zone that led to the Oilers’ tying goal on the powerplay. He had no attempted shots, no hits, no blocked shots, no giveaways, no takeaways, and was 44% on faceoffs. He was just sort of there, like the guy in the blue sweater at the end of Blazing Saddles.
Daniel Sedin contributed to the turnover parade, giving the puck away at the blueline late in the third period. Fortunately, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins missed the net on a clear shot from the slot or the Canucks would have had to trade Daniel immediately. Wait, you’re saying that management shouldn’t make snap judgements based on one game? What team do you think you’re cheering for?
The shootout was predictable: the Oilers are chock-a-block with soft-handed shootout specialists, while the Canucks sent out a defenceman, an ECHLer, and a goon. Heck, the goon didn’t even get to shoot, obviously because Vigneault refused to do the logical thing and replace Luongo with Schneider for the shootout. Sure, Schneider might have strained a groin by going into a game cold and attempting to make acrobatic saves right off the hop, but if we’ve learned one thing from the start of this season, it’s that strained groins never happen.
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