Prior to this game, the Canucks were first place in the Northwest Division. I wish that hadn’t changed. But they came into Minnesota to play for first place and put in one of their ugliest efforts of the season. It was the kind of disastrous game that leads to player’s only meetings that last longer than five minutes. Now the Wild are first place in the Northwest and they’re terrible. I thought the Canucks were supposed to beat up on the weak Northwest Division, not be a reason why the Northwest is so weak.
Prior to this game, I hadn’t watched this game. That’s another thing that I wish hadn’t changed. Instead, I watched this game.
Canucks 2 – 4 Wild
As you can probably tell, I didn’t much care for this game. The frustration started just 24 seconds in when Zach Parise opened the scoring thanks to every single Canuck on the ice making a mistake. Okay, Chris Higgins wasn’t to blame, but you can portion out his share of the blame to everyone else.
Mason Raymond lost the faceoff, then overplayed the puck carrier, Jared Spurgeon, instead of taking the man in the middle, Mikko Koivu, a clear indication of his unfamiliarity with playing centre. Alex Edler received much of the blame on Twitter, but his hit on Spurgeon is the right play if Raymond is marking Koivu. Since he isn’t, Edler should have stayed more central. Instead, Chris Tanev comes over to cover, but overplays Koivu, hoping that Jannik Hansen is backchecking and picking up Zach Parise. He isn’t. Cory Schneider should be anticipating the pass to Parise with Tanev completely taking away Koivu’s shot. Instead, he slides over too late to get square to Parise’s one-timer and it sneaks under his arm. It was a series of bad plays and bad decisions that simply shouldn’t happen.
That was the only faceoff Raymond took the entire game, as he was moved back to the wing. I’m guessing it had less to do with his faceoff ability than his bad read on the Parise goal. It’s entirely likely that his experimental turn at centre is over, giving him a shorter stay at centre than the Republican and Democratic parties during the 2012 election.
The Canucks had the opportunity to pull even in the first with back-to-back powerplays, but, like a keyboard with no Shift or Caps-Lock keys, they couldn’t capitalize (or create hashtags on Twitter). The powerplay went 0-for-4 on the night with just 7 shots on goal. The Canucks have now gone 8 games without a powerplay goal. If this goes on any longer, Kanye West will declare that “George Bush doesn’t care about Swedish people.”
Man, when did this blog get all political?
Dan Hamhuis doesn’t struggle defensively all that often, but he had a rough game against the Wild. He was on the ice for three goals against and was most notably at fault on the Wild’s second goal. After breaking his stick earlier in the play, Hamhuis seemed lost. David Booth handed him his own stick, then pursued the puck carrier, Matt Cullen, while Hamhuis completely missed Jason Zucker heading to the front of the net. A quick pass and a tap-in later and Hamhuis was heading back to the bench while hanging his head like Charlie Brown.
Hamhuis’s struggles continued with a terrible turnover at the beginning of the second period, forcing Jason Garrison to take a tripping penalty to prevent a breakaway. After the game, all the Canucks gave Hamhuis a hug, because sometimes a Community Man needs a community, man.
Raymond exacerbated matters by taking a dangerous tripping penalty on an icing call, giving the Wild two quick powerplays to start the second. After some nice passing, Jared Spurgeon drove a one-timer through Schneider’s five-hole. Schneider was clearly frustrated he didn’t stop it, shaking his head after he drank from his water bottle. Either that or Keith Ballard replaced his water with Mott’s Clamato and Schneider was shaking his head at yet another terrible prank.
Maybe it was just because everyone else was playing so poorly, but I thought Andrew Alberts had a great game. He pinched well along the boards, won puck battles, and made smart outlet passes. He also wasn’t on the ice for a single goal against, though that is likely because he was only on the ice for just under 11 minutes. I can usually make some sense of Vigneault’s personnel decisions, but it seemed odd that he saw so little ice time when he was playing well.
Alberts even earned an assist on the Canucks’ first goal. After battling to keep the puck in earlier in the shift, Alberts picked up a puck that squirted loose when Zack Kassian made a power move to the front of the net. He quickly swung it over to Chris Higgins, who fired a quick one-timer before Niklas Backstrom could get set. It was Alberts’ first assist of the season, not counting all the times he’s reached stuff off of high shelves for Jordan Schroeder.
After a bad pinch by Edler led to a 2-on-1 for the Wild, Ballard made a nice sliding block to disrupt the pass across and negate the opportunity. I bring this up because Keith Ballard was playing with Alex Edler. On the right side. But why not? Edler hasn’t seemed to play up to his potential when paired with safe, reliable types like Jason Garrison and Chris Tanev; why not try him with the exact opposite? Oddly enough, the pairing seemed to work pretty well when they were together. Now Ballard just needs a German accent.
Henrik Sedin’s mind works at a completely different level than most. When a Jason Garrison point shot deflected into the air, Henrik managed to calculate its trajectory, recognized that he wouldn’t be able to get his stick extricated in time to use it, and deflected the puck in with his skate with a stopping motion rather than a kicking motion. It was entirely deliberate, but since he was stopping and not kicking, the goal counted.
Schneider didn’t have his best game, but he managed to ruin Devon Setoguchi’s night, stopping him three times from in close. First it was a marvelous glove save when Setoguchi was wide open in the slot. Then he sealed his pads to the ice on a backhand off the rush. Finally, he robbed Setoguchi when he was all alone in front after a terrible giveaway by Henrik, denying him for a third time. Immediately, a rooster crowed.
Schneider couldn’t deny a second goal to Parise, however, as he couldn’t seal the post on a rebound, allowing Parise to tuck it in like a high school gym teacher tucks his t-shirt into his sweat pants. A lot of the blame can go to the skaters in front of him, however, who had multiple chances to clear the puck and couldn’t manage it. Jordan Schroeder, in particular, had trouble winning puck battles and looked outmatched physically.
Burrows came close to bringing the Canucks back within one with a wraparound on a third period powerplay, but referee Paul Devorski made a slick kick save.
The Canucks came close a couple times as the third period wound down. Jannik Hansen hit the post on a shorthanded breakaway, then Garrison rung the crossbar with a one-timer. If either of those had gone in, the Canucks still would have lost the game.
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. […]