The Canucks beat the Ducks on Friday, despite getting outplayed at even-strength, by essentially being jerks: they earned powerplays and cashed in with the man-advantage. You could tell right off the opening puck drop, or rather, before the opening puck drop, that they were going to try to do the same thing against the Sharks.
It half-worked: the Canucks did get outplayed at even-strength. Unfortunately, the powerplay floundered, fizzled, sputtered, and misfired, getting only 7 shots on 7 opportunities and Cory Schneider couldn’t bail the team out fast enough when the defence shot holes in the boat. I watched their gameplan fall apart when I watched this game.
Canucks 1 – 4 Sharks
The chippiness started prior to puck drop: when Alex Burrows started crowding Logan Couture’s space on the opening faceoff, Couture pushed Burrows helmet out of the way. Burrows quickly shoved back, then Ryane Clowe, in what came to be a theme, stupidly jumped in and took a penalty. Somehow, in the midst of the kerfuffle, Jannik Hansen got away with a cross-check to the referee at centre ice. Hansen was lucky that he didn’t get a penalty for “violence” and “behaviour” when he “could not be calmed down”. Honey badger don’t care.
With Burrows and Clowe in the box, the game started at 4-on-4. The Sharks dominated, getting 5 shots before the Canucks even had one. How bad was it? The Canucks’ first shot came from Chris Tanev, who has as many NHL goals as I do. That’s not ideal, although I am a right-handed shot…
Tanev and Keith Ballard were easily the Canucks best defence pairing against the Sharks, which isn’t a good thing. It’s great that they’re playing well, but they are the bottom pair and should, by definition, be getting outplayed by the other four defencemen. It’s like if the bun is the best part of your burger: it’s nice to have a good bun, but it shouldn’t be better than the meat.
The Sharks opened the scoring just 43 seconds into the game as Schneider kicked a rebound into the slot and Jason Garrison rushed his clearing attempt right onto the stick of Joe Thornton, who deposited it into the net like a $10,000 stipend cheque into an ATM, assuming the bank of goalscoring is closed in this belaboured metaphor. Garrison was immediately burned in effigy by Vancouver fans, as per tradition.
The Canucks nailed more posts than a troll on a message board, hitting 5 in total. It started with a Jannik Hansen breakaway, who made a nice move to the backhand to beat Antti Niemi, but clanked it off the post. Less than a minute later, Alex Edler made a brutal turnover to Joe Pavelski, who fired it past Cory Schneider before he could even get set. The early returns on Edler playing on the right-side have not been good, as he has a turnover rate like a minimum wage employer.
After scoring in three straight games, Zack “Streaky the Supercat” Kassian was largely invisible against the Sharks, other than a fight against Clowe, who clearly got the better of him. When he’s skating on a line with the Sedins, I’d rather he avoid fighting, particularly because Dale Weise ended up skating on their line while he was in the box.
Weise, for his part, had yet another solid game, finishing with 3 shots on net, 5 hits, 2 takeaways, and a blocked shot. His best work actually came on the penalty kill, where he stripped one Shark of the puck, then on the ensuing forecheck, intercepted a pass in the offensive zone, killing more time off the clock. I like Weise, but he belongs with the Sedins like Rob Schneider belongs in a P.T. Anderson film. I mean, Anderson might be able to make it work, but there are people better suited for the job.
That said, I greatly appreciated when Weise threw Clowe to the ground on the forecheck, causing Clowe to take yet another stupid penalty as he held Weise’s stick. The powerplay led to the Canucks best scoring chance of the first period, as Jordan Schroeder fed the puck out to Mason Raymond, who made a beautiful spinning backhand pass to Burrows, forcing an impressive save from Niemi.
Burrows appeared to be riled up during the game after his minor dust-up before the opening faceoff, finishing the game with a game-high 6 shots on net to go with 3 hits. He also scored the Canucks’ only goal, though most of the credit should go to Hansen, who fed the puck to Burrows then went hard to the net, taking Dan Boyle with him. Burrows’ shot from out wide was easily saved by Niemi, but the rebound deflected off Boyle’s skate and in. Considering the 5 posts that the Canucks hit, it’s somehow fitting that their lone goal would be scored off a fortunate bounce.
Maxim Lapierre was just plain bad in this game. His most notable contributions were going 0-for-6 on faceoffs and taking a bad penalty shortly after Burrows cut the Sharks’ lead in half. The Sharks subsequently wore out the Canucks’ penalty kill with some sharp passing before pinballing a puck off Patrick Marleau’s skate and in. It was Marleau’s 9th goal in 5 games, but it was so lucky that he almost looked apologetic as he skated to celebrate with his teammates.
At one point in the second intermission, the Sportsnet broadcast showed Lapierre sitting alone in the hallway, like he had been exiled from the locker room for his momentum-killing penalty. I prefer to think he was called back in a few minutes later to be interrogated until he confessed to killing Ben Affleck in a convenience store with a pool noodle.
Aaron Volpatti had an eventful game, pretty clearly leaving his feet on a massive hit on Matt Irwin, then later steam-rolling Michal Handzus. The latter hit earned the ire of Douglas Murray, who took a penalty going after Volpatti with an elbow, then dropped his gloves and took down the smaller Volpatti in a fight. Of course, saying that someone is smaller than Douglas Murray is like saying that you like bacon: unsurprising.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen this happen before, but the Sedins got benched in the third period. Daniel didn’t play for over 8 minutes, while Henrik got just 2 shifts in that time, one of them 3 seconds long, the other 22 seconds long. What makes that significant is that the Canucks had a powerplay in that time. Vigneault instead sent out Andrew Ebbett, Chris Higgins, and Jannik Hansen, sending a pretty clear message.
Neither Sedin played particularly well, with both of them on the ice for the Sharks’ first two goals. They can’t be blamed for the Edler giveaway, but on the first goal, they got trapped in the defensive zone and lost puck battles prior to the goal. Daniel finished with no shots on net and just 2 attempts. Without Ryan Kesler and David Booth, the Sedins need to do more heavy lifting offensively.
Winning faceoffs used to be a key part of the Canucks’ identity, but they struggled with both Kesler and Manny Malhotra out of the lineup. None of the Canucks’ centres were over 50%, with Burrows struggling the most, going 2-for-8. The most damaging might have been Ebbett, who went 3-for-11 and only 1-for-8 in the defensive zone. Vigneault will be replacing him with Malhotra faster than I can complete this senten-oh, there he goes.
Ryane Clowe should have been the goat for the Sharks tonight, with almost five times as many penalty minutes as actual on-the-ice minutes, but the Canucks went 0-for-7 on the powerplay. Four of those powerplays were provided directly by Clowe, but the Canucks couldn’t make him pay. They were less effective with the man advantage than the English in the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
After a win over the Detroit Red Wings, the Canucks are sitting in second in the Pacific and boast the division's best goal differential. That said, a big part of that goal differential comes from the Canucks' league-leading 10 empty net goals. […]