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.
After a win over the Detroit Red Wings, the Canucks are sitting in second in the Pacific and boast the division's best goal differential. That said, a big part of that goal differential comes from the Canucks' league-leading 10 empty net goals. […]