After the Canucks put in a disastrous effort against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday, panic gripped the streets of Vancouver. Also, hyperbole gripped the streets of Abbotsford. The Canucks entered Columbus on a four-game losing streak. The Blue Jackets came into the game on a five-game winning streak. They were streaking in opposite directions — if they looked over their shoulders, they would see each other’s naked butts.
Thankfully, the Canucks ended both streaks by winning the game in a shootout, so I didn’t have to see any naked hockey players when I watched this game.
Canucks 2 – 1 Blue Jackets (SO)
The Canucks got off to another bad start, as David Booth was called for slashing just 23 seconds into the game. It was the weakest slashing call of all time, as Booth gently knocked the stick out of Dalton Prout’s hand. Singular. As The Blue Rajah would say, “Two hands there, son.” John Garrett was not impressed.
It seemed like the refs knew it was a weak call, as they came up with any excuse to avoid calling any more penalties through the rest of the game. When Henrik had his own stick hacked in half in the third period, Wes McCauley lodged an official complaint with Nationwide Arena about their termite infestation.
The Canucks dominated possession in this game, but couldn’t seem to get the puck into the slot to create high-quality scoring chances. The Blue Jackets forechecked hard, clogged the middle of the ice, and were a general pain-in-the-neck. Normally, the Canucks would turn to their powerplay against a team playing such a tight, defensive game. Unfortunately, they only received two powerplays and spent their first almost entirely in their own end. They were less effective with the man advantage than Dora Ratjen.
Booth actually didn’t have as good a game as he has previously, but that hit and another in the second when he ran over Derrick Brassard will stick out in people’s memory. While he did get 3 shots on goal, the Canucks were outshot when he was on the ice, which is a rare occurrence.
Mark Letestu opened the scoring 3 minutes into the second period, picking up his own rebound and backhanded the puck past Luongo like he was Virgil Tibbs. Letestu caught Andrew Alberts flat-footed to beat him to the rebound and Zack Kassian wasn’t quick enough to cover for Alberts’ mistake. It’s a shame, as Kassian was directing traffic just prior to the goal, alerting Chris Tanev to Vinny Prospal sneaking in at the back door.
When Alain Vigneault isn’t laughing uncontrollably, he’s normally pretty stoic behind the bench. Not in this game. Just before the end of the second period, he went apoplectic on the refs, likely due to the lack of calls throughout the game, the most concerning coming when Jared Boll hit Cam Barker with what appeared to be a blindside headshot. Barker was bent down at the time, however, and there was no injury, so play continued.
The Canucks’ second powerplay opportunity looked a lot better than the first, forcing Sergei Bobrovsky to make a number of nice saves, particularly a pair on Dan Hamhuis. The Community Man’s addition to the first unit on the powerplay looked like a positive change, much like the positive change he made when he volunteered with L.A. Green Grounds to plant gardens in South Central L.A.
While the Canucks didn’t score on the powerplay, they did score two seconds after one ended. Cam Barker faked a slap shot, then sent a hard pass cross-ice to Jannik Hansen, who corralled the puck, then set up Jason Garrison for a blistering one-timer. With Mason Raymond providing the screen, Bobrovsky couldn’t see the puck come off of Garrison’s stick and so had no chance to stop it. Garrison is now on pace for 13 goals, were this an 82-game season, so maybe now everyone can get off his case. Besides, all his clothes are in that case. He’s been wearing the same outfit for nearly two months.
The Blue Jackets came out firing in the third period, hemming the Canucks in their own zone for extended stretches. How bad did it get? Alain Vigneault actually called a timeout to get everyone settled down. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him use a timeout for anything other than giving a line a brief rest after an icing call or to draw up a play in the final minutes of a game. Shouting and swearing at refs, calling a timeout at a tactically appropriate time, giving a young player like Zack Kassian 15 minutes of ice time despite an early defensive miscue…the Canucks don’t need to fire Vigneault — he’s already a completely different person.
Roberto Luongo was as good as he needed to be in this game, making 26 saves, then stopping all three shooters in the shootout. His most vital save, however, came with just 14 seconds left in the game, as R.J. Umberger found himself all alone at the side of the net. Henrik Sedin, who should have been covering him, managed to deflect the pass to Umberger, giving Luongo enough time to come across and get square to make the save.
For some reason, spin-o-ramas in shootouts are still controversial, despite the NHL rule book specifically saying they’re okay, even using the word “spin-o-rama.” Raymond put his own personal spin on the spin-o-rama by roofing the puck after sending Bobrovsky sliding right out of the crease for the shootout winner. I’m just glad he didn’t pull a Craig Smith.
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