Somehow, Cory Schneider getting the start in this game became just as controversial as him not getting the start in the previous three games, which is pretty silly. It also overshadowed some of the other storylines heading into this game, such as Jordan Schroeder playing in his home-state for the first time as a Canuck, Daniel Sedin not scoring a goal in 5 games straight, or Alex Burrows returning to the top line.
The storyline that most interested me is whether the Minnesota Wild are still as terrible as they were last year. How much of a difference would the addition of Zach “RZA” Parise and Ryan “Roto-Rooter” Suter make? Turns out, not much. The Canucks came out and dominated the first period, setting the stage for a fairly easy road victory. While there were bumps along that road, the Canucks ran over the Wild like they were talking on a cell phone. And, like a rubber-necker driving past a car accident, I watched this game.
Canucks 4 – 1 Wild
The Canucks essentially won this game in the first period, out-shooting the Wild 9-3 and out-scoring them 2-0. The Wild did eventually get their rears in gear by the second period. To be fair, their rears were previously in a gear, but it was first and they kept stalling every time they tried to shift. Just not enough clutch.
Cory Schneider didn’t have much to do in the first period, but a full one-third of his saves were great. So, that meant he made a grand total of one great save in the first, as Parise got the puck all alone and cut across the front of the net. Schneider stuck with him through thick and thin like a true friend, then kicked aside his shot like a Facebook friend request seven years later.
Dale Weise played just 49 seconds in the first period, but in that time he managed to lead the Canucks in shots with 2 and fight Zenon Konopka, one of the most experienced fighters in the league. While Weise is slightly bigger than Konopka, it was definitely a mis-match based on fighting ability. Still, Weise managed to hold his own in a tough, exhausting scrap. For Weise, that’s a win. Or, at the very least, an overtime or shootout loss, so he still gets a point.
Unfortunately, Konopka didn’t seem to get the memo that Weise is no longer the Canucks’ designated guy-who-isn’t-an-enforcer-but-has-to-fight-everyone-anyway, but is instead the Dutch Lindros. Just prior to his first fight, Weise drove to the net, forcing a tough save from Niklas Backstrom, then set up Aaron Volpatti for a great scoring chance in front.
Konopka even managed to goad Weise into a second fight, one that Weise was clearly reluctant to get into. We already know how reticent Weise is to fight twice in one game. Now that he can make the claim that he’s a legitimate third-liner, he’s likely even more frustrated to spend an extra 5 minutes off the ice. Instead of setting up Volpatti for scoring chances, he should be setting him up for fights, like a dating service but with punches.
Reuniting Burrows with the Sedins was a qualified success. Daniel fought off the check of Parise to open the scoring, swatting in a Burrows rebound like Obama swatting a fly, but the trio combined for just 3 shots on goal. Admittedly, they got less ice time than normal, as Vigneault began rolling the lines once the score was out of reach, but it wasn’t quite the revitalization of the Sedins that people might have hoped for.
Chris “Absinthe” Higgins finally scored his first goal of the season, tipping in a shot from Maxim Lapierre. The goal came exactly two minutes after a Parise roughing minor, which meant it was an even-strength goal, apparently. Somewhere in the NHL rulebook it says that a minor penalty is “up to” two minutes long, not “up to and including.”
The energy line of Lapierre, Higgins, and Zack “Third Wheel” Kassian was the Canucks best line against the Wild, creating some good offensive zone pressure despite playing a mainly defensive role. It’s nice to see Kassian take his demotion in stride and show his versatility. Once Kesler and Booth return, he’s likely to end up on the third line, so knowing that he can still create some offence from that position is reassuring.
The real highlight of the first period was seeing Keith Ballard get called for a penalty, then hearing him shout out, quite audibly, FOR WHAT? like he was Marcie from Magnolia. (NSFW)
As mentioned above, Schroeder was playing his first NHL game in his home-state and Vigneault made sure to get him out for the opening faceoff. Oddly enough, he got him out for the opening faceoff of the second period as well, and the third. I’ve mentioned how the Canucks have struggled on the opening shift without Kesler; apparently Vigneault liked the way Schroeder’s line started the game and wanted a similar start each period.
Schroeder’s family was watching the game and he gave them a show, tallying a team-high 4 shots on goal and battling hard all night. While his line did get stuck in the defensive zone for an extended shift in the second period, they also scored the third goal of the game on the powerplay. Schroeder dove after a rebound from a Jason Garrison wristshot, forcing Clayton Stoner to desperately sweep the puck away. Unfortunately for him, he swept it directly to Mason Raymond, who fired it into the open net like a human cannonball.
Brutally, Schroeder was robbed of an assist on the play, on the technicality that Stoner is the one who passed the puck to Raymond. But it’s okay: Schroeder’s dad was wearing a #40 Canucks jersey and Lapierre did get an assist, so he went home happy.
Just a minute-and-a-half later, Jannik Hansen made it 4-0, catching a beautiful aerial pass from Raymond for a breakaway, then snapping it past Backstrom like he was a Jet and Backstrom was a couple of kids playing basketball.
The Wild did manage to get one goal, a powerplay one-timer from Tom Gilbert after a couple nice passes. Schneider is faultless on that one, as Burrows lined up along the wall during a battle along the boards, ostensibly to block a pass to the point. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anyone at the point: Jonas Brodin had slipped down into the faceoff circle and Gilbert was in the slot. Basically, Burrows was guarding a pointless wall, like he was a soldier on the Israeli West Bank Barrier.
Schneider was excellent all game, particularly in the second period when the Wild pushed hard to cut into the Canucks’ lead. As pointed out by Iain MacIntyre, Schneider is 3-1-0 with a 1.71 GAA since his shaky opening night start. He also has a .940 SV% since that start. Luongo, so far this season, has a 1.53 GAA and a .940 SV%. We’re at the point where flipping a coin to decide who starts actually sounds like the most reasonable course of action.
Finally, Dan Murphy had a minor slip-up at the end of the game, accidentally referring to Minnesota as Schroeder’s home province. He owned up to it on Twitter immediately after, but my favourite part of the whole thing came in his post-game interview with Schroeder where he overemphasized “state” and made sure to say it twice: “…his first game in the state of Minnesota, his home-state.” See, the first “state” just brought him back to even, so he had to say it again so he would be plus-1 on the night.
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. […]