The best thing that can be said about this game is that it wasn’t as bad as the last one. Like their game against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, the Canucks got soundly outplayed by the San Jose Sharks and similarly succumbed to their opposition thanks to a flurry of goals in a short period of time.
Unlike their game against the Oilers, however, the Canucks actually showed some gumption, battling back by creating scoring chances, scoring goals, and coming just short of tying the game in the final minutes. Thanks to that, it was a lot more enjoyable when I watched this game.
Canucks 2 – 3 Sharks
The beginning of this game was remarkably similar to the game against the Oilers, including the Sharks’ first two shots, which came in nearly the exact same situations as the Oilers’ first two shots, albeit in the opposite order. First, Marc-Edouard Vlasic took a shot from the top of the circle through traffic, then Martin Havlat took advantage of a defensive breakdown to go in alone on Cory Schneider down the right wing. The only difference was that Schneider bailed out his teammates and made both saves and continued to do so throughout the first period, making 14 saves in the first alone.
Nicklas Jensen made his Canucks debut and was immediately given the enviable, if intimidating, role of skating on the top line with the Sedins. Jensen didn’t look the least bit out of place, effectively using his size to protect the puck and frequently cycling the puck with the Sedins like he had been playing with them for years. The only problem is that he didn’t record a single shot on goal, though he had one blocked and one miss the net. Jensen will need to a little more trigger-happy if he wants to stick with the Sedins for any length of time; the last thing the Canucks need is yet another player on the first line who won’t shoot the puck.
Jensen finished with 17:32 in ice time, an impressive figure given Alain Vigneault’s supposed reluctance to give young players opportunities. A big reason why is that he wasn’t a liability defensively, as his positioning was solid and he had an active stick. He finished the game a minus-1 simply because he had the bad luck of coming onto the ice for a line change just 2 seconds before Joe Thornton scored the Sharks’ second goal of the game.
Putting Jensen with the Sedins freed up Alex Burrows to play on a line with Jannik Hansen and Chris Higgins, which was easily the Canucks’ best line against the Sharks, combining for both of the Canucks’ goals. On a more bizarre note, Burrows was the only Canuck over 50% in the faceoff circle, winning 9 of his 16 draws.
All of the Sharks’ goals came within a 2:13 timespan in the second period. It was the most horrifying 2:13 since, well, 2:13.
The Canucks have yet to score a shorthanded goal this season, though Jannik Hansen has had numerous chances. Just prior to Couture scoring on the powerplay, Hansen tipped the puck away from Patrick Marleau for a breakaway, but Niemi made like a PG euphemism and shut the front door.
With a three-goal lead and dominance of the faceoff circle, the Sharks were content to ice the puck repeatedly in the second period, including three times in 38 seconds shortly after Couture’s goal. Even Honey Boo Boo thought that was too much icing.
The Canucks pulled within two thanks to a turnover by Thornton. Burrows came back the other way and blasted a slapshot wide, but the Sharks never recovered defensively. Two quick passes by Bieksa and Hansen got the puck to Higgins in the slot and he whipped the puck under Niemi like it was a cigarette in the mouth of a bizarre, robotic pioneer woman.
Higgins came close to scoring his second on a spinning pass from Burrows, but Niemi played Higgins’ deke to the backhand perfectly. Higgins later set up Bieksa shorthanded, but like a bachelor in the 80′s, Niemi had a kickin’ pad.
Higgins did pick up an assist on the Canucks’ second goal. Dan Hamhuis pinched down the boards, freeing up the puck for Hansen, who passed to Higgins at the point. His shot deflected off Burrows as he went hard to the net and the puck dropped into the crease for Burrows to swat in. Burrows’ insistence on being called The Sultan at the bench, however, did not go over well.
Chris Tanev came agonizingly close to tying the game late in the third as his point shot snuck under Niemi’s arm, but deflected harmlessly off the post. Unfortunately, Tanev’s slapshot is a lot like Earth: mostly harmless.
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