I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Phoenix Coyotes, April 8, 2013

The Canucks have been in a lot of low-scoring games lately, but this one felt different. Prior games have been snoozefests — actually, scratch that. A snoozefest sounds amazing. Think about it: an entire festival dedicated to sleeping? That’s a yes. Sleep is fantastic. Snoozefest is the wrong word. But the prior games have been mundane.

This one wasn’t. The Canucks dominated the Coyotes for the majority of the night, peppering Mike Smith like he was a Caesar salad and they were the waiter at an Olive Garden. With a lesser goaltender in the opposition end, this might have been a blowout. But Smith kept the Coyotes close. By the end of the night, Phoenix had come to rely on him so thoroughly that, when he left the goal for the extra attacker, they got confused and scared and scored on themselves. Related: I watched this game.

Canucks 2 – 0 Coyotes

  • As mentioned, Mike Smith was the difference in this game, but only idiomatically. The actual difference was Ryan Kesler, because he scored what was, in effect, the lone goal. It came at the end of what had to be one of the worst executed 3-on-1s in recent history, as Zack Kassian carried the puck into the Coyotes zone, held onto it too long, then passed to the trailer, Kevin Bieksa, who fanned on a shot, which went to Mason Raymond, who put the puck off the post before Kesler mercy-killed the play by scoring.
  • Thing to note: as usual, Mason Raymond fell down on this play. He was crosschecked from behind by Antoine Vermette and sent flying over an outstretched David Schlemko and towards the end boards. But it all worked out. If he doesn’t fall to the corner, he isn’t unmarked at the side of the net when Kevin Bieksa’s whiffed shot winds up there.
  • Kesler stood out in a lot of other ways beyond scoring. He generated a ton of shots, allowed few, and won 9 of 14 faceoffs, the best win percentage of any Canuck. But what really stood out to me was the way he killed defensive zone pressure situations by putting himself in position to receive short little outlet passes, in stride, from his defencemen. The Canucks’ breakout tonight was as efficient as Tim Robbins in the Shawshank Redemption, which was a welcome change of pace after a season of the Morgan Freeman approach, in which they ask politely to be let out and are denied.
  • Cory Schneider wasn’t busy in this game, but when he was called upon, he was fantastic, stopped all 19 shots he faced for his league-leading 5th shutout of the season. Schneider swallowed everything that came his way, which is concerning since it means he swallowed a lot of rubber pucks. I think he has pica.
  • Great defensive game by the Canucks too. Good as Schneider’s been lately, the fact that the team has been so stingy in front of him has helped immensely. Really, the best sign about this game was that, while the offence has opened up with the additions of Kesler and Roy, the defence has not. The Canucks will be a dangerous club if they can increase their offensive output while remaining this miserly. For Alain Vigneault, the trick will be protecting them from the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and yet to come.
  • Alain Vigneault said he was going to keep Ryan Kesler off of special teams in an effort to limit his minutes, but the Canucks’ coach couldn’t help himself late in the second when his club was given an opportunity to take a two-goal lead on a man advantage. They actually scored twice on the powerplay, but both goals were waved off, the first because Smith was pushed into the goal, the second because Henrik Sedin kicked the puck in. In his defence, he was trying to kick it through Smith’s legs to Burrows and it went in by accident, which I don’t even need to prove, because if you know Henrik Sedin at all, you know full well that’s what he was trying to do.
  • Mike Smith causing a lot of problems for himself by initiating contact. Basically, he’s the goaltending version of a husband looking up ex-girlfriends on Facebook.
  • Alex Burrows and Michael Stone took off-setting roughing minors at the end of the second period. They should have been released 1:58 into the third. Instead, however, they were released at 10:30. What happened? Play went eight minutes without stopping, meaning they couldn’t get out and get back to the bench. Alex Burrows served 10:32 for a two-minute minor, and somewhere, Stephane Auger laughed and laughed and laughed.
  • The Canucks would eventually get the insurance goal in this one, but it wasn’t due to anything they did. The club saw the score double late in the game with the Coyotes’ net empty when Antoine Vermette attempted to make a pass, only to see the puck escape the zone and travel into the open goal. Poor guy. The only thing worse than being an accidental own-goal scorer is being an accidental racist. And the only thing worse than being an accidental racist is being the writer and performer of “Accidental Racist”.
  • Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis was the last Canuck to touch the puck, so he received credit for the goal. It didn’t seem right to him, so after the game, he went to Vermette and he gave it back. When Vermette told him he wasn’t allowed to take it, Hamhuis donated it to a Bibles For Missions.
  • One thing to note on the own-goal: Zack Kassian celebrates like Hamhuis scored it on a breakaway. While everyone else on the bench just stands around stoically, he grins like a kid at Disneyland and then delivers vigorous butt-slaps to Henrik and Higgins. Both ignore him.
  • Speaking of Higgins, he led this game on shots on goal with seven. He’s been dynamite since being paired with Derek Roy. The two of them have some high-grade chemistry. Breaking Bad-level chemistry. Really, it’s kind of scary. Before the game, they made a bunch of Ricin cigarettes.
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43 comments

  1. Kelvin Yu
    April 9, 2013

    C’mon bro you’re forgetting Derek “Death Scythe” Roy’s nickname.

    I THOUGHT WE AGREED ON THIS.

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    • immie_8
      April 9, 2013

      Is that a Gundam Wing reference? If it is, that’s awesome. (I don’t get how the reference applies, but anything Gundam is awesome! :D )

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      • ikillchicken
        April 9, 2013

        This was my first thought as well. Although I didn’t say anything because I was worried it was just a coincidence and nobody would know wtf I was talking about. (This happens to me a lot actually).

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  2. Kass
    April 9, 2013

    Oh my god, so glad you caught the Kassian exuberance after the own goal. I fracken just about fell off my couch laughing so hard. He was soooooo excited, like he just won the lottery. Higgins and the Sedins just looked at him like he was an idiot. Sooooo funny.

    Love what Kass brings to this team, it’s been needed for a LONGGGG time. Ray Ferarro said it best “Kassian is known around these part as a free spirit”. Lol. Definitely.

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    • Frank N
      April 9, 2013

      It WAS awesome seeing Kassian so happy and slapping butts. He is a breath of fresh air, a free spirit, and that is good for this team. Also, he is unpredictable on the ice. Who would have expected him to hold onto that puck for so long, causing all kind of chaos for the Coyotes? Totally put them out of position!

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  3. steveB
    April 9, 2013

    Thanks for the IWTG. Once again, I was unable to watch it myself, due to family obligations of an interminable manner. Knowing that PITB would be there for me kept me from gnawing my leg off in frustration.

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  4. Sean
    April 9, 2013

    Derek Roy had another impressive night as a Canucks. I’m not sure how his face-off numbers were, though. If anyone has that info, it’d be appreciated.

    Speaking of him, has anyone found video that shows a good angle of the sick move he made on that powerplay in the 3rd period to get away from one of the Phoenix defenders (who I can’t recall the name of)?

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    • jeremy
      April 9, 2013

      he was crappy, totalling 4 for 14 – 29%. most of those losses were against hanzal. who in turn was dominated by both henrik and kesler. roy certainly has room for improvement in the circle.

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  5. Square Ball
    April 9, 2013

    Did you notice, the Canucks now have two shorthanded goals, both with an empty net (and in consecutive games)? I have a feeling they get penalized on purpose just to score some shorthanded goals. They are tricking the opposition into believing they have higher numbers, while really making it easier to score some empty-netters.
    And with the six on three the opponents were tricked so well that they even did the empty-net scoring for the Canucks.

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  6. Josh D.
    April 9, 2013

    I like how well we can roll three lines that can be dangerous, although I’d rather see Sestito over Ebbett on the fourth to bang more bodies.

    I also like how we were carrying the play and we didn’t turtle down until the final four minutes, as opposed to the entire third period.

    Good things to come!

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    • ikillchicken
      April 9, 2013

      I wondered if that was meant to be insurance. If Kesler struggled or looked out of game shape it would have been wise to have another center on hand to fill his spot on the second line.

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  7. akidd
    April 9, 2013

    looking good, as good as one can look playing hockey vs the yotes. that’s getting close to a full lineup. the defence even managed to survive without tanev. i wasn’t sure how that was going to go but it went well. good ol’ alberts is pretty solid for a guy who sits and sits.

    but mostly i just got this feeling like they weren’t going to choke. even with the late pp against and the night-long taunting of the 1-0 gods the old pulse stayed pretty even. never doubted the win and was more concerned to see whether it would be henrik or higgins for the empty netter.

    just a feeling…felt through a tv set…but it’s better than not feeling it.

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  8. Justin
    April 9, 2013

    Pure gold today. I’m cautiously excited for another heartbreaking playoff run!

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    • Kenji
      April 10, 2013

      Me too! I am looking forward to having my emotions toyed with, becoming fractious with my family over monopolization of the television, and being emotionally destroyed and sour until the hockey magazines come out in August!

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  9. Nick
    April 9, 2013

    Schneider is rocketing up to the top of the goalie stats ranking, just like last season. Not counting Anderson, who’s only got 16 starts, Corey tied for 1st with a .928 SV%.

    He won’t be to match his amazing .937 SV% from last season … but that was also one of the best statistical years for a goalie in the history of the league.
    Hopefully, though, he’ll be able to better his .960 SV% in the playoffs.

    Hard to believe that the prevailing view on PITB not that long ago was that Luongo was the better choice, and that Schneider was too unproven to be a #1.

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    • Tom 1040
      April 9, 2013

      Indeed.

      What could have been, eh (2011)?

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    • Harrison Mooney
      April 9, 2013

      I don’t know that I ever said Luongo was the better choice. We were defending him from criticisms we found absurd. And we never said Schneider was too unproven to be a no. 1 — just that it was risky to give a guy the number one job based on such a small sample.

      All that said, Schneider’s been amazing and he’s definitely exceeded my expectations during this stretch. I’ll rain on his parade a little and say that the defence during much of this run, Calgary excluded, has been very good — good enough to make almost any goalie look spiffy. But he’s been lights out nonetheless.

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      • Schneids is Awesome
        April 9, 2013

        Come on…. you guys are big Luongo fans, it is your main biased point and I would say the only real weakness of the blog. We get it, Luongo is a great guy, and a great goalie, but Schneider is more poised. He isn’t going to say non-professional stuff to the media that the opposition can feed off of… the problem is that your defence of Luongo comes off as anti-Schneider….

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        • Harrison Mooney
          April 9, 2013

          The problem with Canucks fans regarding this issue is that they have this either/or mentality.

          Here’s all we’ve been saying: Roberto Luongo is a fabulous goalie. He’s the best goalie the Canucks have ever had, and all the bitterness and grumbling he draws from Canuck fans is a byproduct of his having been here for losses in big games they wouldn’t have been in without him.

          The same will happen to Schneider, the fans will get on him and demand the next guy, and if it’s merited, we’ll defend him. That doesn’t mean we hate the next guy any more than our defence of Luongo means we’re anti-Schneider. It just means the public opinion is silly. That’s been our stance all along, and the idea that not being anti-Luongo means we’re anti-Schneider is absurd.

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          • akidd
            April 9, 2013

            that’s okay. everyone has personal favourites. let’s just say that if the canuck lineup were a democratic process the pitb basement would be full of old “vote for Lou” election signs. they’d be leaning up next to the “vote for booth” and “say ‘no’ to Coho” signs.

            nothing wrong with that… but you gotta own it:)

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          • j21
            April 9, 2013

            You guys have admitted to overcompensating in an effort to combat overstated opinions, though. I don’t think you guys are anti-Schneider, but I do agree that you have damned him with faint praise a number of times, including when he outplayed Luongo last season. The Canucks have never developed a goalie prospect in house that’s anywhere close to this good — it’s something to be excited about.

            PITB also has a number of newish-to-hockey readers, and I agree with AKidd that the opinions expressed here (including on the issues he highlights) do seem to have swayed an awful lot of them.

            It definitely shouldn’t be an either/or thing, you’re certainly right on that. I think the vociferousness of Canuck fans flows both ways, too (HFBoards turned, on a whole, solidly “pro-Luongo” in the first half of the season, and has swung back the other way now. And a lot of morons do see it as “for one = against the other”).

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            • Daniel Wagner
              April 9, 2013

              Schneider is definitely worth getting excited about. I’m especially impressed with his economy of movement: his positioning is so sound and he rarely overplays a shot. Personally, I think he’s played himself into Vezina consideration. It’ll be interesting to see how voters weigh his performance against someone like Craig Anderson, who has better statistics but was injured for much of the season and has far fewer starts. That’s probably worth a post sometime this week.

              But how much need has there been for us to write pro-Schneider posts? How often has it been necessary to defend him from his detractors? We’ve been pretty clear about Luongo needing to be traded, though we’ve certainly wondered aloud if trading Schneider might be the better option, just because he has more value in the trade market. I mean, it’s not going to happen and we expect Schneider to be the number one in Vancouver for a long, long time and, hopefully, break some of the franchise records that Luongo has set.

              It’s just frustrating that us pointing out that the best goaltender in franchise history is, y’know, good, gets somehow spun as us saying that the potential best goaltender in franchise history is bad.

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              • akiddddd
                April 9, 2013

                you guys backed the wrong horse. but that’s okay, there’s room for everyone post-election.

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              • Daniel Wagner
                April 9, 2013

                We didn’t “back” anybody. Get over it.

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              • akiddddd
                April 9, 2013

                really? well maybe you didn’t officially back Lou but if you count the pitb articles last season where “Luongo” was in the title and those with “Schneider” there’s a huge disparity( i didn’t actually count but….) schneider was having a SPECTACULAR season and you guys basically didn’t say ‘boo’. didn’t even mention his gaudy numbers for months. You could’ve defended Lou AND given schneider his due but you didn’t.

                and that’s perfectly fine.

                and let’s not pretend there wasn’t a lot on the line last year. it wasn’t ‘linden or naslund’ it was ‘one of these goalies will be number one and the other will be traded’. let’s be honest, people took sides. how could they not? canuck fans are pretty impassioned and future goaltending is a big deal.

                so it really is fine. and it’s fine to support schneider now too. it really is ‘all good ‘and perfectly normal behaviour for sports fans. just don’t pretend you didn’t.

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          • Mark Ragnar
            April 9, 2013

            I’m totally with you on this either/or mentality. It was even worse with Linden/Naslund – it was as if cheering Naslund were disloyal to Linden. Are other teams like this? Did Avs fans pick one of Forsberg or Sakic?

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  10. Tom 1040
    April 9, 2013

    Well, at least the Canucks played pretty well. Until very recently it was they who weren’t getting shots or opportunities.

    I am a bit surprised how well Kesler played given the circumstances (he’s still a major knob, though).

    And, wow…Roy is pretty slick. He is, of course, playing for a contract. With that kind of skill, he is a bit of a waste at 3rd line center though he can’t win a face-off battle (game %age) to save his life.

    Schneider was Schneider. The team plays with so much more confidence when he is net (and have played for 2 years prior). .931 on the way.

    Injuries weren’t the only thing that cost the team a Cup in 2011 – it was the brain-trust (so-called) for keeping Luongo in in Boston.

    Phoenix – bad team, great goalie…boring hockey.

    But, not to be too optimistic, hard to judge the Canucks too much on that game. The Canucks major issues are at the back end under an aggressive forecheck. Phoenix doesn’t forecheck (okay, 1 man).

    As I always try to be objective, we (game-watchers) are seeing some good things from the on-ice team.

    Oh, as I speculated, McGrattan was more than a little injured by the (dirty) Weise hit. Don’t expect him to play April 10.

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    • Harrison Mooney
      April 9, 2013

      Tom, your assessment of that Weise hit — that he purposefully waited until McGrattan was in a vulnerable position, so as to injure him — is maybe my favourite of all your assessments.

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      • John in Marpole
        April 9, 2013

        I want to agree with you, but only if you typed that in full mockery mode.

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        • Tom 1040
          April 9, 2013

          First of all, he delayed 1 second or so.

          Secondly, (have to say it): “Never played, eh.” Done it myself and had it done to me, too.

          Finally, I will take back the ‘assessment’ if I can see another replay or two, if wrong. Until I do, that’s what I saw, so that’s what I say.

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      • Tom 1040
        April 10, 2013

        Sigh…(for two reasons)…

        First, my initial, detailed response has been suspended in the ether for eternity (info. is never lost – L. Susskind). And, it is my fault because I forgot to ‘copy’ prior to submitting given the server issues.

        Second, I am shocked that this basic hockey concept is apparently beyond your comprehension of the game.

        To assist you, let me change the verbage as you seem to be hung-up semantically on ‘delay’.

        If I had said, “Timed his hit for maximum effect.” does the clear things up for you? Does it make my hockey knowledge (learned in minor hockey) more plausible/comprehensible?

        Sorry, it is clear (to me) that you have never played organized hockey and most certainly not at any competitive level.

        This is so basic.

        If you would like me to educate you on the details, I will.

        I hope have not been impolite in my response.

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        • Harrison Mooney
          April 10, 2013

          “I played the game, so my asinine ‘observation’ has more merit.” — Tom 1040

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          • Tom 1040
            April 10, 2013

            “Tom 1040 was right, I didn’t play the game. How could he know? Is it that obvious? I’ll just say his observation is asinine. I don’t need to recognize that his comment may have merit or that actually playing the game may provide insights or perspectives not apparent to me. And, I have John in Marpole to agree with me though he never played the game either.” – Harry

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            • Daniel Wagner
              April 11, 2013

              It’s just plain flawed logic. If I told someone who had never played soccer that the best way to kick a soccer ball was to use the side of your ankle and he argued that I was wrong, it would be ridiculous for me to say that I was right because I played the game and he didn’t.

              I don’t have any stake in this discussion. It’s entirely possible you’re right and that he somehow knew that McGrattan was about to put himself in a vulnerable position and timed his hit just right. For fun, I went back and looked at the hit. Weise doesn’t seem to pause or delay at all from what I can see, but stops taking strides (like any player does in avoiding a charging call) and hits him at the only time he could have hit him: when their paths met. It’s a big check, to be sure, but there’s no indication that he changed his approach in anticipation of McGrattan clearing the puck. To me, the real reason that the hit is so devastating is because McGrattan is a complete plug with no clue what’s happening around him. A better player never would have reached for the puck to put himself in that position, which makes it seem completely ridiculous that Weise would anticipate him doing just that.

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              • Tom 1040
                April 11, 2013

                First, I fail to see the relevance of your soccer example. What you describe is not a basic concept of soccer, it is indeed – ridiculous (kicking a ball with your ankle, please).

                He didn’t pause he just stopped taking strides? What’s the difference? And, like I said, he delayed the timing of his hit for when McGrattan was most vulnerable.

                Thank you for that information – indeed he did delay.

                As for avoiding a charging penalty (sorry, gotta say it): you never played organized competitive hockey either. I can tell by that comment alone. I honestly mean no offense because there are many ways to avoid a charging penalty and often you take it anyway.

                But let me say this. Apparently you play/played soccer, correct? Hence, I would not deny your comment or call asinine any observation you would make on a soccer play or tactic or strategy based on your playing experience, especially when it is such an essential/basic part of a sport.

                Next, back to the hit itself, did he stop striding just before the hit or about ten feet back? I think the latter. Hence, he timed it beautifully – for maximum effect.

                Here are the details:

                1. there are two areas on the ice where, particularly along the boards, players are very vulnerable: a) 10 feet or so before the blueline and center ice. Why? Because a player’s first responsibility is to clear the puck from their zone, or gain the red line to avoid icing the puck. We always used to look to those areas and in those situations to lay a beating on someone. You can also include stancions (sic?) in this discussion.

                2. Hitting is an art unless one is a behemoth suck like Boogard was. In other words, timing is everything. The best hit is the best timed hit. For example, Pinnizotto’s first game and shift was a hit on the Nashville D-man. Same kind of timing yet open ice. He even stated as much post-game as I recall.

                3. The best timed hit is when the ‘hittee’ is most vulnerable. When is that? Well, blind-side hits have been banned, right? Why? Because players can’t protect themselves just like they can’t when they have just shot the puck or are in extension. Very vulnerable. We learned this early and no one had to teach it. It was clear from playing the game and seeing and doing so many times over many games over many years. Go back (sorry) and look at the Moore hit on Naslund – exact same concept and similar context.

                4. McGrattan is a 4th line goon. If he doesn’t get the puck out of his zone he knows he will ride the pine and remember he spent most of the year in the minors. He knows the consequences.

                5. Weise knows this too, and aggression is his livelihood. He has the opportunity to lay a big hit on an opposing goon that is taking liberties on his teammates. In fact, if he doesn’t hit with maximum effect he is not as valuable to the team.

                6. From the vulnerabilty, the speed and mechanism (along the boards) there is a high probability of injury and there was. Go back to my game night comment. I said McGrattan is more than a little injured and would be out extended even before announcements. It is/was that obvious.

                7. McGrattan may not have seen Weise but that does not mean a skilled player would not put himself in that position – as mentioned – look at Naslund and there are many more. Often, those kind of hits are not done to skilled players because of the code, and there usually suspensions. Unless it is playoffs – which, as stated, make Weise valuable.

                I apologize for this lengthy response though I have tried to be brief and I could comment more.

                I know you are supporting your friend, which is a noble thing to do. My observation is not asinine, in fact, it is more than plausible, it is likely.

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              • Tom 1040
                April 11, 2013

                Oh, Danial, I forgot to add…that wasn’t soft relativism. But good try, even the flawed logic part.

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  11. Cathylu
    April 9, 2013

    I’m glad to see Kesler back, and a goal from him too! I never thought we’d nurse that 1-0 lead to the end but Mike Smith was good (though I’m really getting tired of his shennanigans). I was trying not to feel sorry for the Coyotes but when they scored the own-goal I did a little. Looking forward to seeing more good play on the upcoming road trip.

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  12. jenny wren
    April 9, 2013

    Left in the frame twelve thirty-four
    When Kesler is the first to score
    (Beiksa flubs a blue line shot
    Which somehow Mason Raymond got
    Across the crease and off the post
    Where Kess converts MayRay’s almost)

    Two pucks into the Phoenix net
    But they’ve not scored their second yet
    (As on the first the whistle blew
    Before fourteen could poke it through
    And then the next was soccered in
    By double threes the elder twin)

    With not much left Kess gets the gate
    But two’s the one who’s scoring late
    (Then Garrison draws a hooking call
    But six on three no shots at all
    And while Smith was quite the story
    Tonight’s win belongs to Cory)

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  13. Cody
    April 9, 2013

    Was that burrows I saw on the Own goal on the ice with his hands in the air and a feces eating grin on his face. I love you Alex Burrows

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  14. Bolderevolution
    April 9, 2013

    This goal would make an awesome Breakdowning.

    1. 3-on-1, Kassian waits and waits
    2. 3-on-5
    3. Chaos descends as everyone waits for Kassian’s pass.
    4. Kassian feeds Bieksa for a fanned shot.
    5. MayRay Post
    6. Kessler shovels it into the net from 12 inches.

    Please unleash the irony of breakdowning it.

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  15. Cathylu
    April 9, 2013

    Hey, I just saw that Cory is the third star on NHL.com!

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  16. Hails from the East
    April 9, 2013

    Please do a breakdowning of how three wrongs made a right on Kesler’s goal. Please?

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  17. j21
    April 9, 2013

    I enjoyed seeing Keith “The Fuel Cell” Ballard back in the lineup, much as I enjoyed seeing Cam “The Question” Barker out of it.

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