If it was a Hollywood movie, this game would have gone very differently. First of all, Henrik’s franchise record-setting point would have come in the dying seconds of overtime, with his record-tying point tying the game with 0.1 seconds left in regulation. Also, the Sedins would look like the guy who played the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network. The Canucks would have won this game against all odds and an important lesson about perseverance would have been learned. Henrik would have been carried off the ice on the shoulders of his teammates, while he was simultaneously carrying the Stanley Cup, because it would have been game seven of the Finals.
Alas, Hollywood doesn’t make movies about freakishly consistent Swedish twins who break franchise records for Canadian hockey teams, particularly ones that are not underdogs. No marketability. Since I couldn’t watch a movie with a tear-jerking, inspirational ending, I watched this game.
If anyone was worried about Kesler getting back up to game speed, his first shift immediately allayed all concerns. Picking up a pass from Chris Higgins in the neutral zone, he skated straight at the two defencemen in front of them, attempting to go inside-outside on rookie Brenden Dillon, forcing him to take an interference penalty. It was vintage Kesler; Trevor Linden immediately showed up on the video board in Rogers’ Arena to announce that he was into Kesler before it was cool.
Though the Canucks’ powerplay went 0-for-3, it looked far more dangerous with Kesler, who made several nice passes and called for one-timers with confidence. On the second powerplay of the game, he rang a shot off the post, then another off Kari Lehtonen’s mask. His line with Higgins and Zack “Clear the Track” Kassian were strong along the boards and kept the puck largely in the offensive zone. Kesler finished with a team-high 7 shot attempts, was credited with 4 hits, blocked 3 shots, and finished 9-for-12 in the faceoff circle. It was the greatest return to action since Superman was put on the cover of Action Comics #7.
The only other Canuck to finish above 50% in the faceoff circle was Jordan Schroeder, who went 7-for-11. His finest moment came when he managed to knock Lehtonen’s stick out of his hand with the force of his wristshot. Somehow, Lehtonen was injured on the play and left the game, forcing Richard Bachman to replace him. Regrettably, Bachman is an actual goalie and not a pseudonym for Stephen King, because I have a feeling the Canucks could have scored a lot more goals on the 65-year-old author.
I thought Schroeder’s line with Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen played very well and they got robbed of a goal late in the first period, when Raymond was ruled to have made incidental contact with Bachman, preventing him from making the save. It was a terrible call, as the puck was already heading into the net before Raymond touched the goaltender, but that call cannot be overturned by video review. It’s too bad, as Schroeder made a beautiful play in the neutral zone to turn the puck over and Hansen’s pass to Raymond was superb, but the play was erased…from existence! Great Scott!
The non-goal became even more painful when Reilly Smith made it 1-0 for the Stars just 11 seconds later, scoring an ugly goal short side on Schneider from the wing. It was the Biff Tannen Museum of goals.
How can I say this without sounding controversial? Cory Schneider…needed to be better. While he made a number of fantastic saves, including a superb toe save on Brendan Morrow in the third period that put me on the IR with a lower-body injury just looking at it, the first two goals he gave up were absolute stinkers, with the second coming when he couldn’t hang on to a fluttering wrist shot from the point. Schneider owned up to it post-game, saying, “I pretty much gave them those first two goals. You’re not going to win many games…when you spot the other team two goals.”
Henrik’s record-tying point was due to some hard work behind the net against two Stars’ defenders. Unfortunately for the Stars, having two defenders on Henrik meant they had none on Daniel, and Henrik managed to work the puck to his brother, who banked it off the scrambling Bachman to tie the game.
Two different Canucks got their first point of the season on the go-ahead goal by Chris Higgins: Kesler and Dale Weise. The only difference is that Kesler was playing his first game of the season and Weise was playing his thirteenth. Weise actually made a very nice play on the goal, delaying long enough to draw the defenders towards him, giving Higgins plenty of room to cut across and shoot, catching a fortunate deflection off Stephan Robidas’ stick. It was especially nice for Weise, whose parents flew in from Winnipeg to attend the game. They were likely the only two people in the stands who gave Weise, rather than Henrik, a standing ovation.
Speaking of that standing ovation, the assist that broke Naslund’s franchise record was appropriately excellent, as Henrik threaded a pass cross-ice to Alex Burrows with four Stars players in close vicinity. Burrows made no mistake, but Bachman did, initially playing the pass as if it was going to Daniel Sedin in the middle of the ice, giving him no chance to recover and stop Burrows. The pass itself was sublime, but the decision by Daniel to let it pass under his stick was almost as impressive. That’s right, the Sedins are so wizardous that some of their best plays are when they don’t touch the puck.
The standing ovation from the Rogers’ Arena crowd: awesome. The decision by Rogers Sportsnet to cut to commercial in the middle of said ovation: soul-crushing. It totally killed the vibe, unlike Soul Coughing, who were all about keeping the vibe grooving.
This game was already set to be an unforgettable one, when the Canucks and Stars evidently decided that they didn’t like each other all that much. Three separate fights occurred on three consecutive faceoffs, with Aaron “Rat Burger” Volpatti kicking things off by taking apart Ryan Garbutt. That fight could have been conceivably in response to Garbutt’s massive hit on Burrows, but there was no similar explanation for why Maxim Lapierre dropped the gloves with Vernon Fiddler on the subsequent faceoff and Dale Weise did the same with Eric Nystrom immediately after. That meant the entire 4th line for both teams got a head start on the second intermission, so they could get back to their game of Canasta.
Unfortunately, Weise was evidently a little slow getting his fight started, allowing 2 seconds to tick off the clock. Otherwise, the gamesheet would have shown three fights in three seconds, with each fight appearing to last about as long as Batman’s fight with Guy Gardner.
John Shorthouse: Here’s our handsome friend, Murph. Dan Murphy: Oh ho ho, John. Adorable.
I was initially glad to see Antoine Roussel, who was one of my favourite invitees at the Canucks’ 2011 training camp. I was less glad to see him score the tying goal for the Stars, banging in a bouncing puck in the crease. Roussel was poorly played by Higgins, who left him in front of the net to check Cody Eakin as Alex Edler scrambled to recover from a defensive miscue in the neutral zone.
The gamewinner was scored by Surrey native Brenden Dillon in his first game in Vancouver, so that’s nice. Unfortunately, Dillon plays for the Stars, which isn’t so nice. Also not nice? Kassian’s defensive play on that goal, as he completely lost sight of Dillon, allowing the defenceman to step up from the blueline and score. I guarantee that Kassian was sitting on the bench for the final three minutes of the game, desperately willing Henrik to complete the storybook ending by scoring the game-tying goal, but it was not to be.
Aaron Rome was completely invisible, which is the highest compliment I can possibly pay him.
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