Don’t let the 4-0 score fool you — this was a very different game than the last time the Canucks faced the Oilers. For one thing, the team that scored four goals was the Canucks, which was nice. For another, Cory Schneider made one save. He didn’t do that last time. He followed it up with several more, too.
But if there’s one stat that really demonstrates how different this one was from last time, consider the following: On Friday night, when the Canucks faced the Oilers, the game was effectively over by 7:15. This time around, the game hadn’t even begun by 7:30. Just think about that. That’s some improvement right there. I watched this game.
Canucks 4 – 0 Oilers
Kevin Bieksa put the Canucks on the board in this one with that rarest of jewels this season, a powerplay goal. Even rarer, it came via a 5-on-2. Allow me to explain: after Magnus Paajarvi took a high-sticking call and the Oilers exacerbated the issue by pretending he didn’t and putting five dudes on the ice, the Canucks found themselves on a 5-on-3. It became a 5-on-2 when Jason Garrison’s first attempt at the goal hit Jeff Petry, doing to him what Randy Johnson’s fastball did to that bird.
The Canucks outshot the Oilers 13 to 5 in the first period, looking like a danger to score several times. It was weird. In recent games, they’ve looked like they could grace the cover of Lisa Simpson’s favourite magazine.
One reason for the difference: new Canuck Derek Roy, who was fantastic in his debut. According to Canucks Army, the Canucks outchanced the Oilers 10-2 with Roy on the ice. Roy skated with Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen, looking dangerous all night, and giving the Canucks two lines for the first time in over a month. And when Ryan Kesler comes back, they’ll have three lines, which is a recipe for success both in hockey and in haikus.
The Canucks doubled their lead in the second when the Oilers briefly forgot there were two Sedins. As all three defenders down low watched Daniel at the far circle, Daniel spotted Henrik camped out at the side of the Oilers’ goal and fed his brother with a nifty saucer pass. Henrik responded with a saucer pass of his own, right into the Oilers goal. The craziest part, for me, was that both of Henrik’s skates were below the goal line when he shot the puck. Henrik practically had to curve the shot like Angelina Jolie. He should have written “goodbye” on the puck. He had time.
It was a great night for John and John in the booth. In an early highlight, Garrett mentioned Ilya Bryzgalov’s Yoda mask, which led to Shorty inexplicably giving viewers at home the worst Yoda impression of all time. It didn’t sound like Yoda. It sounded like a demon had taken over Shorty’s body. I half-expected his next line to be, “What an excellent day for an exorcism.”
Shorty’s best moment came in the third, however, when Chris Tanev walked a puck into the slot and was hooked off the puck like a rainbow trout. Seriously, after the snag, I thought someone was going to bang his head against a rock and throw him into a bucket. But there was no call. It was baffling enough to break Shorty, who went silence for a good five seconds. I’m told bits of his head exploded like a game of Perfection.
Back to Roy, who combined with Higgins for a perfectly executed 2-on-1 to put this game away at 3-0 early in the third. The feed from Roy was sublime, as he drew in the Oiler defender before making a perfect pass to Higgins for the tap-in. And after the goal, Higgins showed Roy why he’s known around these parts as “Kiss Huggins”.
Trivia: the point made Roy the first deadline acquisition to record a point in his Canucks debut since Ossi Väänänen, who played as many games for Vancouver as there are umlauts in his name.
Derek Roy wasn’t the only Canuck making his debut tonight. This game was also the first appearance of the new and improved Zack Kassian, who played all evening like he had something to prove, with 5 hits and 3 shots in just over 15 minutes of icetime. He was active and noticeable all night, although, he didn’t always make the right decisions — on one 4-on-2 with the Sedins, he looked off the Sedins and passed to Cam Barker. That’s the hockey equivalent of getting Joey Fatone to sing the lead vocal on Bye Bye Bye.
Another fun Kassian moment: with Pavel Bure in the house, and not long after the Russian Rocket received a massive standing ovation from the crowd, Kassian paid him tribute by attempting his classic skate-kick move as he came across the crease. It didn’t work, but it would have been cool if it did.
But Kassian was rewarded for his hard work in the end. With only seconds remaining in the game, he pounced on a loose puck thrown on goal by Max Lapierre and put it past Khabibulin to make it 4-0. It may have been a meaningless tally, but for a guy that hadn’t scored an NHL goal since January, it was anything but. Kassian celebrated by singing “Finally” by the unfortunately named CeCe Peniston.
Cory Schneider picked up his fourth shutout of the season in this one and the third in his last 7 games. He was a wall, even though he didn’t have to be all that spectacular. The Canucks put in a strong defensive effort, meaning the Oilers shots weren’t too taxing. Also not too taxing: Mexico. That’s right. The Oilers were Mexico, and Schneider was a wall. This game was a Republican dream.
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