The Canucks first meeting with the Blackhawks this season was a massive disappointment. It lacked the emotion, excitement, and intensity of a typical game between these two teams. There was no rancor on either side, making for a dull affair. When Roberto Luongo stopped Patrick Kane in the shootout, they smiled at each other and laughed, like it was a game of shinny. It was enough to make one wonder if the air had been completely let out of the rivalry.
Turned out they were just saving all their hate for their second matchup of the season. This game had all the best and worst elements of a fantastic playoff game: controversy, terrible reffing, emotion, back-and-forth scoring chances, and stupendous goaltending. It was a complete gong show. It was a hot mess. It was an incredibly stupid game. And it was entertaining beyond belief.
I enjoyed every minute that I watched this game.
Canucks 3 – 4 Blackhawks (SO)
There’s no getting around it: the Canucks got absolutely dominated by the Blackhawks in this game, getting outshot 43-32. But it wasn’t just the quantity of shots for the Blackhawks, it was the quality. They outchanced the Canucks 30-10 according to Canucks Army and had a bevy of odd man rushes, including three breakaways in the first period alone. Even Kelly Clarkson thought the breakaway was overplayed in this game.
In honour of the NBA All-Star Game occurring this past weekend, the Canucks decided to play no defence in this game,. The Canucks’ defensive efforts were bad, while the Blackhawks’ were just half-bad, allowing half as many breakaways in the first period. Daniel Sedin was not able to convert on his one-and-a-half breakaways, so it was somehow appropriate that when he did open the scoring, it was with a weak goal from a bad angle. Daniel simply threw the puck towards the net on the backhand, hoping for a rebound. Instead, it went right through Ray Emery like it was Kitty Pryde.
The emotions began to boil over when Dale Weise levelled Marcus Kruger along the boards and was immediately challenged to a fight by Brandon Bollig. Weise didn’t seem to realize he was in a fight at first, taking three punches from Bollig before getting his gloves off. Once he did, it was a balanced tilt (which is an oxymoron, if you think about it), with Bollig scoring the takedown in the end.
It wasn’t exactly a stellar performance by the referees in this one, as they seemed to be performing a “Who’s on first?” routine in sign language at times. In the second period, one linesman raised his arm up, presumably for icing against the Canucks, but kept his arm up after the puck was touched and Chris Higgins finished a check. It turned out he had his arm raised for a delayed offside, which should have been called anyway when Higgins made a play for the puck. Later in the game, a referee seemed to signal a goal for the Canucks, then emphatically wave it off. Turned out he was just pointing at the puck so everyone knew he knew where it was. I admit, I was starting to get worried.
The Canucks defence had numerous issues in this game, but one of the biggest was gap control. Literally. The gaps between themselves and the Blackhawks’ forwards were too big. Patrick Sharp pulled the Blackhawks even with a blistering slapshot in the second period after Alex Edler gave him enough space to set up a Japadog franchise and enough time to start running it at a profit.
At the end of a Keith Ballard interference penalty, Maxim Lapierre took a cross-checking penalty to prevent Patrick Kane from a clear scoring chance. With that much consecutive time on the penalty kill, something had to break. It turned out to be Ryan Kesler’s stick, as Johnny Oduya snapped it in twain with a slapshot, then took advantage of the crippled penalty kill to perfectly set up Marian Hossa for a wicked one-timer, which is what my wife calls a particularly smelly disposable diaper.
Hossa got one more before the end of the period, making a power move in front of the net, then dragging the puck all the way around an outstretched Schneider to tuck it in on the far side. It was a gorgeous goal, helped along by some poor decision-making by Kevin Bieksa, who skated past Hossa instead of tying him up along the boards, and Jason Garrison, who tied up the man in front instead of covering for his partner and stopping Hossa from coming out front uncontested. I can’t help but feel that this is somehow my fault and that we’ll see new defence pairings in their next game. Heck, at one point Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis were paired on defence during a 4-on-4, something that I used as a joke in my post Tuesday afternoon. We’re through the looking glass, people. Beware of living chess pieces.
With just a few minutes remaining in the game, the Canucks staged a thrilling comeback. After David Booth drew a hooking penalty on Michal Rozsival with a strong drive to the net, Alex Edler drove a slapshot through traffic to bring the Canucks to within one. Inexplicably, Booth was awarded an assist on the goal, despite not even being on the ice at the time.
The Canucks pulled Schneider with a minute-and-a-half remaining. Edler and the Sedins held the puck in along the boards, then worked it free to Kevin Bieksa on the opposite point. His slapshot evaded Emery, with Burrows once again screening in front. It’s too bad he’s not allowed to do that during the shootout.
Like an internet argument, overtime solved nothing, but it was fun seeing Chris Tanev making a beeline for the net every time he was on the ice. If Tanev only scored overtime gamewinning goals, it would be my favourite thing ever in the history of hockey.
Edler and Burrows have generally been the primary shootout options for Vigneault this season, but they stayed on the bench in this game. Instead, Jordan Schroeder, Chris Higgins, and Kesler got the nods. Of the three, only Higgins scored, which was a surprise. Schneider stopped Toews and Kane, only to have Kane’s attempt deflect off his glove and slide into the net. Then Andrew Shaw pulled off a mirror-image version of Burrows’ go-to move, the forehand-backhand deke to win the game.
Early in the third period, Jannik Hansen hit Hossa in the back of the head with his elbow. Some people, particularly Canucks fans, saw it as unintentional, as he appeared to be trying to catch or hit the puck, which was batted down by Hossa just before the collision. Others, particularly Blackhawks fans, saw it as an intentional hit to the back of the head with no attempt to play the puck. I’m going to refrain from judgement for the time being and only say that I sincerely hope that Hossa is all right and was not concussed on the play.
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. […]