The Canucks really needed this win. It wasn’t just that they were 0-1-1 heading into it. It was much worse than that. As a colleague who will remain nameless because I’m about to make fun of him pointed out to me, they weren’t just winless in their first two. They were 1-4-2 in their last seven, dating back to last postseason. Ah, but I pointed out to him that if we’re just going to trace the Canucks’ record back to arbitrary dates, we should point out that they’re actually 52-26-11 dating back to the beginning of last season. Perhaps, my colleague responded, but they’re a mediocre 1353-1455-391-83 dating back to the beginning of the franchise.
That’s almost 100 games under five hundred. You can see how badly they needed this win. Sure, it’s a big hole to crawl out of, but you’ve got to take these things one game at a time. Tonight was one such game, and I watched this game.
Canucks 3 – 2 Flames (OT)
Zack Kassian was the deserving first star of this game, scoring the Canucks’ first goal (above) and then icing the contest in the shootout. He wouldn’t be the first guy to have a breakout game in his formal debut with the Sedins, so there’s reason to temper our expectations a little bit, but the most impressive thing about Kassian Wednesday night was that his strong performance really had very little to do with playing alongside the twins. He looked great with them, sure, especially the way he held onto the puck down low and kept their cycle going, but he also made a lot happen on his own. His goal, for instance, was a one-man job, as he got Miikka Kiprusoff to bite on a shot, then attempted a wraparound. It didn’t take, but like the cast of American Pie, he was determined to score. After Mark Giordano slid the puck right back to him, he made like Jason Biggs with the pie and… well, you get the idea.
If you haven’t seen the pie scene, by the way, go rent the film. Gandhi loved it.
I know he got a penalty for it, but I also liked how hard Kassian went to the net on his rush with the Sedins in the third. Alain Vigneault liked it too. The cameras caught him attempting to stifle a smirk at the bench. It was that “I can’t stay mad at you” look. I think someone’s got a crush.
That might explain why Vigneault played Kassian so much. The big lug logged more minutes than any forward not named Sedin with 19:14 of icetime. While we’re on the subject, Jordan Schroeder also played 14:49 in his NHL debut, including 3:21 on the powerplay. For all the talk of how Alain Vigneault hates young players, he sure played Kassian and Jordan Schroeder a lot. Is it possible that he only hates young players if their Dads annoy him?
One more thing on Kassian. His shootout move was so nasty, twelve-year-old Harrison would have wanted to ask his Dad what he just saw. That’s how nasty it was. It was downright inappropriate. Fifteen-year-old Harrison would have been trying to make it out through the static on a pay-per-view channel. That’s how inappropriate it was.
Kevin Bieksa is perhaps the Canucks’ savviest pincher, but his instincts got the better of him on the Flames’ first goal. With the puck coming up the boards in the Flames’ zone, he initially jumped ahead, hoping to push the puck down the wall, but then he realized he couldn’t get there in time and backed off. Unfortunately, by then it was too late. The Flames moved the puck past him, broke into the Canucks’ zone on a 2-on-1, and Alex Tanguay put the puck in off the post. But don’t panic. It was very un-Bieksian, but his timing on pinches will get better as he gets back into game shape. Plus it could be a whole lot worse. Ill-timed pinches will cost you a goal during an NHL game. In a co-ed setting, they’ll cost you a job. Trust me.
That was probably the most egregious unforced error, although Alex Edler’s penalty for concealing the puck on the penalty-kill was a close second. Sure, it’s a new amendment to rule 67 — so new that it screwed up the coding on the Canucks’ website — but Edler was just so obvious about it too. He probably didn’t need to snarl “Must have the precioussssss”. And biting Dennis Wideman’s finger off was totally uncalled for.
Speaking of being shorthanded, Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis was dynamite during the Canucks’ lengthy penalty-kill sequence in the middle frame, which is ideal, since he was out there for most of it. Hamhuis was on the ice for 2:59 straight. But Hamhuis’s longest shift of the night was the graveyard shift as a volunteer firefighter that began immediately after the game.
This was the second consecutive game where the Canucks have staked a 2-0 lead only to see the game go to a shootout. They won’t get far this season if they keep blowing ledes like Rosie DiManno.
In my notes on this game, I wrote down “Raymond has turned a corner”. Why? Because he did it without falling down. I kid, I kid. But it’s worth noting that he didn’t fall down even once versus Calgary, and he also scored the Canucks’ other goal, jumping off the bench, taking a feed from Daniel Sedin, and tucked the puck under the crossbar. It was the ninth of his career versus Calgary, more than he’s scored versus any other team. I don’t know what it is about the Flames that makes him so effective. Perhaps he’s as incensed by the Alberta flag and how much it clashes with the rest of their jersey as I am?
John Garrett was in fine form tonight, making no sense much of the time. But he did make one fine dig at Jay Bouwmeester. “Bouwmeester has a goal already,” Garrett said, “So he’s already way ahead of his usual pace.” Ba-zing. Garrett was really on in the shootout, however, when he called every single one of the Flames’ shootout moves. I’d say put Garrett in net for the shootout, but if you’ve ever seen tape of him play, you know that he still wouldn’t have stopped it.
Jordan Schroeder didn’t look out of place at all in his debut, apart from that time he was in the penalty box, which is totally not where he was supposed to be. That was definitely his worst moment, as he put the grab on Sven Baertschi and Baertschi spun around, selling a pretty obvious hold. Other than that, though, Schroeder had a fine game. I enjoyed when he tried to leap out of the way of Mason Raymond’s shot on the Canucks’ second goal and barely cleared the crossbar. He’s tiny. I think it’s cute when he taps his stick on the ice and screams “down here!” But I was worried for him when he was attacked by that scorpion. Thank God he befriended that ant.
Great night for Manny Malhotra in the faceoff circle. He went 9-for-10, and 8-for-9 in the defensive zone.
Speaking faceoffs, new centre Alex Burrows even went 5-for-8 in the circle, although he was 0-for-3 inside the blue lines. But while he was just passable on faceoffs, he was more than passable on passing. His saucer feed to Jannik Hansen to spring his linemate on a partial breakaway in the first was pretty. Where did he learn to pass like that? Oh right, the Sedin School of Wizardry, where he was also a star member of the Quidditch team.
Cory Schneider’s second game as the Canucks’ no. 1 was much better than his first, which probably goes without saying since he was able to finish it. He still had a few adventures, most notably while attempting to stickhandle, but he kept the Canucks in the game during a few defensive breakdowns and he showcased his superior ability to do the splits twice or thrice. It was crucial that he went post to post, because the posts were not helping him out in this game. Both Flames goals pinged in off of them. Clearly, the posts are having a hard time adjusting to the new situation in goal. I swear on the second goal, I heard one scream, “You’re not my real dad!”
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