The Canucks have struggled versus the Colorado Avalanche for quite some time. No matter what they try, no matter what they do, they can’t seem to not get points. Coming into this game, Vancouver was 18-0-2 in their last 20 versus the Avs, and 10-0-0 in their last 10. You can understand how they might be a little complacent — these days, the Canucks could practically spot the Avalanche two goals and still come away with a win.
Unfortunately, there’s a difference between practically and literally, and the Canucks did it the latter way Saturday afternoon.
Even still, their struggles against Colorado continued — the Canucks still almost won. But, eventually, the Avalanche broke through, taking advantage of the complacency that had cleverly cultured for the last 20 games to finally catch the Canucks unawares. The result: the Avalanche won this game. And I watched this game.
Canucks 3 – 4 Avalanche
The Avalanche had no margin for error here. One or no points would have mathematically eliminated them from postseason contention, and that made them a far more dangerous opponent than the Canucks seemed to realize. They were clinging to their playoff lives, and if there’s one thing I learned from Jeff Goldblum (and there are several), it’s that life finds a way.
Kevin Bieksa got the Avalanche on the board first in this one, and yes, you read that right. The Canucks’ blueliner was largely responsible for the first Colorado goal, playing the Henrik to Gabriel Landeskog’s Daniel with a tape-to-tape centring pass that left Colorado’s young leader all alone with Cory Schneider. The blond boy king showed no mercy on the redhead. It was like a scene from Game of Thrones.
The Canucks got the goal back when a strange combination of Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, and Maxim Lapierre — perhaps the league’s most hatable trio — tied the game up early in the second. The play began with an absolutely absurd pass from Ryan O’Reilly, who spun in his own zone and blindly whipped the puck into the neutral zone. There, Alex Edler intercepted and one-touched a pass to Kesler, who moved the puck to Lapierre at the circle. From there, Lapierre tucked it in like Ben Stiller should have.
Edler’s play to start that counterattack was really reminiscent of the play he made to start the rush on Ryan Kesler’s goal versus the Coyotes, when he caught an errant pass from Keith Yandle in stride and immediately led the breakout the other way. In both cases, the lesson was the same: don’t throw passes to nowhere. Many of Edler’s plays teach lessons. He’s like Tyler Perry, except Swedish and, presumably, a better writer.
Speaking of passes to nowhere, it was yet another one — there were several in this game — that led to the Canucks taking the lead. With the Sedins pressing in the Colorado end, Greg Zanon took possession of the puck and had time to make a smart play that could clear the zone and end the pressure. Instead, he briefly confused himself with Daniel Sedin and made a no-look backhand bank pass to Henrik Sedin.
If you’re wondering why Maxim Lapierre was on a line with Kesler and Burrows in place of Zack Kassian, it was for faceoff insurance on a zone start. But if you’re wondering why Lapierre stayed on that line for awhile in the second, it’s because Kassian had a rough night. He was a team-worst minus-7 in Corsi, he seemed absent for long stretches, he made some odd choices with the puck, he overcommitted defensively, and if all of that wasn’t enough to get him in deep, he double-shifted when he wasn’t supposed to and then changed on a Colorado rush. Worse, he took too long to get to the bench and earned the Canucks a too many men penalty. That’ll do it.
Luckily for Kassian, things turned around for him early in the third. First, Lapierre pulled a Bieksa, turning the puck over and allowing Cody McLeod to tie the game 2-2. Then, on Kassian’s next shift, he was strong on the puck during a fourth line cycle, eventually leading to a Jason Garrison rocket to give the Canucks another lead. How much of a rocket was Garrison’s shot? As soon as it crossed the goal line, a little parachute deployed.
Garrison had six shots on goal in this game. They were all rockets. He’s a rocket man. He packed his bags last night, pre-flight.
Ryan Kesler is still getting up to speed, clearly. He had a breakaway opportunity in this game, but he couldn’t get away, because his acceleration still has a ways to go. As it stands, Bowser has better acceleration in Mario Kart 64.
Cory Schneider allowed 4 goals in this game, which may pave the way for Roberto Luongo to return to the Vancouver net for the next game, but truthfully, I thought he was great tonight. The Canucks were sloppy for much of the evening — perhaps because they’d been in Colorado for two days — but Schneider did well to absolve many of their sins with big saves. Unfortunately, he couldn’t stop Jan Hejda’s blast with 7.6 seconds to put the Avs on top for good. That goal was difficult to watch, both because it was disappointing and because of the chubby Avs fan pressed up against the glass behind Alain Vigneault afterward.
Finally, Dale Weise is a great skater, but he doesn’t have the offensive skill to play with Derek Roy. He’s basically the gremlin in Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. He shouldn’t be on that wing.
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