This game was nail-bitingly, edge-of-your-seat-sittingly, passing-out-from-forgetting-to-breathingly thrilling. The Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks traded scoring chances in a fast-paced affair, going back-and-forth all night, which makes the game sound significantly more lurid than it really was. It was truly exciting, as the Canucks battled back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game in the second period, with both teams coming agonizingly close to ending the game in regulation.
Instead, it ended in a dull and anticlimactic shootout. Ugh.
I wish every Canucks game was as thrilling as this one, but that would likely require the Canucks to give up a couple goals early so that they’re forced to open up and play a more high-risk game, which I don’t want. I would prefer that the Canucks are the club opening up an early lead, forcing their opponents to take more chances. But that’s not what happened in this game, and I would know, because I watched this game.
Canucks 2 – 3 Sharks (SO)
This game was a perfect example of why Alex Edler gets a longer leash than Keith Ballard. Edler struggled to control and move the puck early on. For example, on just his second shift of the game, Edler mishandled a pass from Tanev at the blueline, putting the Canucks offside, then got easily knocked over in the subsequent puck battle and took a bad tripping penalty on Michal Handzus. His struggles continued through the second period and he was on the ice for both Sharks’ goals, though neither could be particularly attributed to him. People (rightly) pointed out on Twitter that Ballard would have been benched after those kinds of mistakes. But, by the end of the game, Edler led the Canucks in shots with 8 and had a whopping 17 attempted shots while playing a game-high 28:34. Overall, when he was on the ice, the puck was generally heading in the direction of the Sharks’ net and not at the Canucks’. Despite his mistakes, Edler’s impact on the game was overwhelmingly positive.
TL;DR version: You don’t bench a 40+ point defenceman when he makes a few mistakes, because he’s probably going to turn it around.
The most unlikely player opened the scoring for the Sharks: Scott Gomez. In case you are not aware, Gomez is not known for scoring goals. It was his first goal of the season and his first NHL goal in over a calendar year, though that’s cheating because of the lockout. He did score 6 goals in the ECHL during the lockout, so that’s something. Honestly, though, you wouldn’t know that Gomez isn’t a goalscorer judging solely from this game: he laced a slap shot top corner where teacher grades the paper. I have a feeling that metaphor isn’t going to stick like “top shelf where mama hides the cookies.”
That goal followed a pretty terrible shift by the fourth line and two of the members of that line don’t look particularly good as Gomez scores. Tom Sestito aimlessly drifts towards the front of the net, leaving the slot wide open, and Jordan Schroeder goes straight at Gomez instead of getting into the shooting lane and prevents Cory Schneider from picking up the shot off Gomez’s stick. It’s a shame, as Edler and Jason Garrison do a great job clearing the front of the net so Schneider could have a clear view. Unfortunately, all he could see clearly was the obstacle in his way.
The Canucks had 5 powerplays in this game, but the period in which they looked most dominant was the first, in which they had no powerplays. When the Sedins were on the ice, however, you could have been fooled. They seemed to treat every shift like it was 5-on-4, helping the Canucks to a 17-7 advantage in shots in the first. And yet, the Sharks left the first with a 1-0 advantage in goals. Sports, man.
Of course, the Canucks’ 5 powerplays didn’t help at all, as they went 0-for-5 and even gave up a shorthanded goal to Adam Burish, his first goal of the season. Cory Schneider then skated up to the San Jose bench and started pointing at Ryane Clowe, Brad Stuart, Douglas Murray, and James Sheppard — who have yet to score this season — while shouting “You get a goal! You get a goal! You get a goal!” Fortunately, it turned out that they would have had to pay $7000 in taxes on the goal immediately or forfeit it and none of them had it on them.
It figures that after all the nice plays the Sedins made earlier in the game, Henrik would score on a lucky bounce. To be fair, it looked like Daniel was hoping for a lucky bounce when he flung the puck towards the net from a bad angle, but it’s hard to give the Sedins’ wizardry any credit when the puck bounces off a Shark defenceman, off Henrik’s gut, and lands right on Henrik’s stick. That’s just pure luck. Unless…perhaps Daniel imbibed some Felix Felicis on the bench prior to that shift. That would be wizardous. Also, illegal. Felix Felicis is a banned substance in sporting competitions. For shame, Daniel.
The Canucks’ second goal was the polar opposite of the first, the result of hard work and determination rather than luck. Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis gave everything he had, winning a puck battle along the boards against two sharks, then made a pass to Mason Raymond while getting tackled by two other sharks. Later that night, Hamhuis gave everything he had again, this time emptying his wallet to save a single mother of three from a crippling debt to two loan sharks.
After Hamhuis did all the hard work, the second line of Raymond, Jannik Hansen, and Chris Higgins swept in to combine for the goal itself. Raymond created space with his skating and a drop pass, Higgins set a perfect screen to force Antti Niemi to lean to his glove side, and Hansen provided the finish, firing the puck past Niemi’s blocker. Meanwhile, poor Garrison just hung out by the blue line, making sure that the Sharks didn’t get a breakaway the other direction. Safe is boring, Garrison. Breakaways are why you have a goaltender. Get to the front of the net for a rebound, already.
Keith Ballard left the game late in the third with a lower body injury that turned out to be a charley-horse, which is the goofiest sounding name for what is really quite painful. I’ve had them pretty frequently while playing soccer and it basically means you’re instantly done for the rest of the game. It’s too bad, as he was playing much better and seemed to fit pretty well on the right side of Cam Barker. I know, I’m as shocked as you.
Barker did have one particularly bad moment, getting his pocket picked behind the net by Clowe, forcing Schneider to make his best save of the game, robbing Logan Couture with his glove. He later made up for the error with a game-saving block on Clowe, who had a wide open net. Then he went back to the bench and said, “That was a Clowe-se one, eh coach?” and Vigneault immediately benched him for the rest of the game.
The Canucks’ powerplay looked nigh-unstoppable in the third period, but the “nigh” won out, as the Canucks just couldn’t put the puck past Niemi despite numerous chances. Then, in overtime, they got a 4-on-3 powerplay thanks to soft goaltender interference call on Gomez, but only managed a paltry 2 shots. The Canucks’ powerplay is now 0-for-15 over the last 6 games, which is inexplicable given how good that third period powerplay looked and how much talent they have at their disposal.
The worst part of the powerplay in overtime was when Henrik took an Edler slap shot to the face. Granted, it was deflected and he turned out to be okay, but it was still frightening. Not, like, The Thing scary. It was more of an existential angst.
Chris Higgins was 1-for-10 prior to this season in the shootout. This year, he’s 2-for-2 and looks like he’s money in the bank. He beat Niemi with a perfectly placed wristshot just inside the far post. Unfortunately, he was the only Canuck who scored, as Edler’s deke didn’t work and both Hansen and Burrows tried to distract Niemi by waving their stick over the puck like it was a Theremin.
The Canucks were the better team in this game: the difference was the powerplay, which gave up a goal, albeit one that Schneider should have stopped, and couldn’t score any. As good as it looked in the third period, they don’t award points for good looks. Which is fortunate, really, because the Sedins are a little weird-looking.
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. […]