By all accounts, this game should have been a gong show. David Booth joined Ryan Kesler on the Injured Reserve list, Zack Kassian and Steve Pinizzotto didn’t even fly to Phoenix, and Chris Higgins tweaked his back at the morning skate, turning the Canucks’ lineup into the hockey equivalent of Aziz Ansari’s boombox mixtape.
Like that mixtape, the Canucks’ third line seemed to be thrown together at random, with Andrew Ebbett centring Dale Weise and Keith Ballard. Andrew Gordon drew into the lineup for his first game as a Canuck on a fourth line with Maxim Lapierre and Tom Sestito. The haphazardly arranged lineup looked like a disaster on paper, but the Canucks knuckled down and played a simple, hard-working road game.
That isn’t to say it didn’t have its bizarre moments, as it certainly did. At times, this game resembled the Coyotes’ original, seemingly peyote-inspired, jerseys. I reached a higher plane of existence when I watched this game.
Canucks 2 – 1 Coyotes
So, how was Ballard in his first game at forward since his days with, coincidentally enough, the Phoenix Coyotes? Surprisingly good. Ballard, freed from his defensive constraints, looked like he was having the time of his life. On his first shift, he made a great outlet pass to Weise to set up a 2-on-1 that resulted in Ebbett hitting the post. Later in the first, he went inside-outside on Derek Morris and rang the post with a wicked backhand. That’s right, he was two posts away from two points in the first period. He genuinely looked like a good forward and the Canucks out-shot the Coyotes 9-6 when he was on the ice. Of course, now we’ll start hearing complaints about how the Canucks are paying $4.2 million for a third-line forward.
Ballard’s most entertaining moment came in the second period. The Coyotes had a fantastic scoring chance, but Antoine Vermette was unable to jam the puck past Cory Schneider, who covered up. With Vermette still jamming away, Ballard grabbed him from behind and more-or-less performed a Reverse DDT on him. Unfortunately, Vermette broke kayfabe and refused to stay down after what was clearly Ballard’s finishing move.
Chris Tanev, of all people, opened the scoring for the Canucks with his second career goal, from the exact same spot he scored his first career goal. After starting the rush with a nice outlet pass to Mason Raymond, Tanev followed up the play, completely unmarked thanks to a bad read by Lauri Korpikoski. Unlike Korpikoski, Raymond found Tanev, who had all day to pick his corner.
I’m guessing that Harrison and I, as Jan Bulis enthusiasts, were the only ones who noticed, but at the end of the first period, Daniel Sedin appeared to emulate the patron saint of PITB by jumping on the back of David Schlemko for a piggyback ride.
In the second period, Daniel completed the Bulis impersonation by running into goaltender Mike Smith, though he didn’t mean to, getting pushed from behind by Michael Stone while on a breakaway. Smith reflexively stuck out his glove hand to protect himself and smacked Daniel in the face, causing him to bleed like Shane O’Brien: Blood Unicorn. Is Daniel secretly trying to get mentioned more on our blog by imitating past PITB-favourites?
That was just the first time an unassuming Swedish Canuck ran Mike Smith in this game. Late in the second, while on the powerplay, Alex Edler saw Smith corral the puck behind the net and didn’t slow down, lowering his shoulder into the goaltender. This understandably sparked a massive scrum and Edler ended up with a 5-minute major for charging. It was a dumb play by Edler, though I was surprised that he got more than a 2-minute minor. To me, it didn’t look like Edler connected with Smith’s head, while the refs seemed to think he did, earning him the major penalty. Now, there is talk of him potentially getting a suspension and Ben Kuzma even thought that Edler left his feet on the hit. I’m fairly certain that Brendan Shanahan will see it differently and I don’t think Edler will get suspended.
Just in case you think Kuzma changed his mind about Edler leaving his feet after tweeting it out…nope. It’s going to be in the Province tomorrow morning.
Weise came incredibly close to scoring his second goal in as many games, even going as far as to use the same move, but Smith stuck with him and made the save, then stopped Ballard on the rebound. With how Weise, Ebbett, and Ballard performed together in this game, I’m thinking it’s time to come up with a line nickname, as they’re clearly together to stay. I’m going with the WEB-line, for the awesome Spider-Man connection.
The Coyotes eventually scored during Edler’s major penalty, as a Radim Vrbata slap shot deflected off Cory Schneider’s stick, off the bottom of the crossbar, and right to Antoine Vermette, who had nothing but net. Even Larry Bird and Michael Jordan thought it was a little implausible.
One of my favourite little moments of the game was when Mikkel Boedker knocked the Canucks net off its pegs, then, since they still had a chance to score, he quickly tried to put it back, hoping the refs wouldn’t notice. What? Putting the net back in place? No…no, I was…cleaning it. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
The Sedins were largely hemmed in their own zone by the Shane Doan line, leaving it up to the Canucks’ secondary scoring, a dicey proposition given their patchwork forward lines. But the second line of Jannik Hansen, Mason Raymond, and Jordan Schroeder ended up providing both goals. Schroeder scored the gamewinner, cleaning up a Hansen tip off an Edler slap shot after missing the net on a previous glorious scoring chance just a moment earlier. You could actually read his lips on the bench afterwards: I can’t believe I missed that first one. Don’t worry, it looks just as good on the scoresheet.
It doesn’t look quite as good, however, when your own team’s website gets your name wrong:
Cory Schneider was solid in net for the Canucks, making frequent stops like an eager-to-please bus-driver. His best save came late in the third, as he robbed Martin Hanzal on a breakaway, caused by some bad gap control by Dan Hamhuis and Jason Garrison. That pairing got thumped by the Coyotes’ top lines: Hamhuis finished with a game-low minus-15 Corsi rating.
I have a feeling the stat-counters in Jobing.com Arena are slightly biased. According to the official scoresheet, the Coyotes out-hit the Canucks 50-to-19 in this game, which is simply absurd. Even worse, they had the hits at 24-to-4 after the first period alone. That is…slightly inaccurate. It’s worth noting that the Coyotes have been credited with 522 hits in 17 home games and just 294 in 14 road games.
This surprisingly entertaining game ended in the most anticlimactic way possible. As time ran out, Boedker slapped the puck towards the net from his own side of center. Jordan Schroeder touched the puck just before time expired and the horn sounded. Fans streamed towards the exits, the Coyotes began heading toward the dressing room, and the Canucks began celebrating. Meanwhile, the refs insisted that icing be called and a faceoff held in the Coyote’s zone. They spent a full minute ensuring that the correct amount of time was added to the clock: 1.2 seconds. The game essentially went from being an absurdist comedy to being an existential comedy, as everyone stood around, waiting for the game that was already over to actually end.
The best part: the cameras showing Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis essentially saying “screw it” and walking down the hallway toward the dressing room before the final faceoff. I don’t have time for your petty legalism! There are playgrounds to be built, dammit!
The true victim of the referee’s insistence on playing out the final second of the game was Andrew Gordon, who added a blemish to his otherwise fine stat-line for his first game as a Canuck: 0-for-1 on faceoffs. Poor guy.
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