The big story heading into this game was Ryan Kesler getting moved to the wing alongside Derek Roy in order to load up the top-six with offensive talent. It turned out that story was a big, fat lie and everyone who told that story was just a big, fat liar and a generally terrible person. Just awful.
What actually happened was that Derek Roy moved to the wing alongside Ryan Kesler. Completely different.
Some chemistry experiments lead to a slow descent into moral ambiguity. Thankfully, the chemistry experiment that threw Kesler and Roy together produced offence instead of methamphetamine. Still, I suffered from withdrawal symptoms after I watched this game.
Canucks 5 – 2 Predators
Here’s a great sign for Canucks fans: Ryan Kesler’s wristshot is back in full effect. After a great zone entry by the Sedins on the powerplay that pushed the Predators back, Henrik set up Kesler in the high slot. Kesler pulled the puck in tight to his body and whipped it past David Legwand and by Pekka Rinne’s blocker. To be fair to Legwand and Rinne, I’d be hesitant about touching anything that was tight to Kesler’s body as well. It’d be just a little awkward, that’s all. Not a problem for many of our readers, of course.
Just before Kesler opened the scoring, Roberto Luongo and Pekka Rinne traded massive saves, with Luongo robbing David Legwand shorthanded and Rinne making an even bigger save on Burrows a moment later. For a moment it looked like this would be a great goaltending battle, but then the Canucks lit up Rinne like they were in Amsterdam. In that simile, “Rinne” is the street name for a particularly fine strain of marijuana.
Okay, we’re just two bullet points in to this IWTG and we already have a meth and a marijuana reference. Oh dear.
Putting Roy on Kesler’s wing paid off less than five minutes into the game, as the third member of that line, Jannik Hansen, stole the puck on the forecheck, set up Dan Hamhuis for a one-timer. Hamhuis’s shot was low and hard, forcing Rinne to give up a rebound, which Roy swiped into the net while diving. If only Rinne had time to say “Roy, no swiping!” three times, he could have prevented the goal.
I don’t mind hockey fights. In fact, sometimes I quite enjoy them. I hated Steve Pinizzotto’s fight against Rich Clune. Hated hated hated hated hated this fight. Why? Because of the timing. Clune was hassling Pinizzotto to drop the gloves right from centre ice and he finally obliged right as Maxim Lapierre was heading towards the net for a scoring chance. It was a terrible decision for Pinizzotto to fight while the Canucks had a chance to score their third goal. A borderline fourth-liner like Pinizzotto needs to pick his spots better. He can’t make decisions that cost the Canucks a scoring chance, particularly when they only have a 2-0 lead, which is, as John Shorthouse reminded us, “the most dangerous lead in hockey.”
Nashville came out flying in the second period, out-shooting the Canucks 19-10 and tying up the game with goals from Nick Spaling and Bobby Butler, with assists to some shoddy defending by Kevin Bieksa and Andrew Alberts. On the first goal, the puck hopped over Bieksa’s stick behind the net, allowing Sergei Kostitsyn to easily set up Spaling in front. On the second goal, Alberts’ gap control was atrocious, giving Butler far too much space to load up his wristshot and pick his spot, putting the puck off the far post and in. Those defensive errors were emblematic of how the Canucks played throughout the second and most of the third period; fortunately, Luongo was fantastic, making 36 saves.
The powerplay that has struggled so much throughout the season has started to click at just the right time. Over the past six games, the Canucks are 5-for-19 for a solid 26.3% conversion rate. Jason Garrison helped that along with the second powerplay goal of the game, blasting a slap shot past Rinne after a nice interchange between Mason Raymond and Kevin Bieksa at the blueline created some space. Jannik Hansen provided a more effective screen than Flex Seal on a screen door.
The Canucks’ new-look second line was down to just one player by the end of the second period, as Roy left the ice after an uncalled high stick to the face and Hansen struggled to the bench after falling awkwardly after a collision in the defensive zone. Canucks fans collectively held their breath, then passed out because there was an intermission break. When they collectively came to at the start of the third period, they were relieved to find both Roy and Hansen out on the ice to start the period.
As an aside: the Predators have a player named Austin Watson. I hear he used to hang out with Dallas Sherlock.
Like they did against Calgary on April 10th, the Canucks flipped the switch in the third period, scoring twice to seal the game after Garrison pulled the Canucks ahead at the end of the second. The top line got things going: Henrik set up Daniel at the point as Burrows battled his way to the front of the net. Daniel’s point shot was deliberately wide, looking for the tip. Burrows obliged, pulling the puck back towards the net and bouncing it past Rinne.
The second line experiment paid off again for the Canucks’ fifth goal. An Alex Edler wristshot deflected off Hansen, who was once again screening in front, directly to Roy, who smartly swung the puck across to Kesler to deposit into the open net. A pairing hasn’t delivered results this quickly since Mentos and Diet Coke.
Unlike Pinizzotto’s fight, I had no issue whatsoever with Zack Kassian taking on Pekka Rinne. After Rinne gave Kassian a quasi-butt-end and a full-on cross-check, Kassian took a look over his shoulder, saw Shea Weber coming and thought, Eh, it’s worth it, and shoved Rinne.
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. […]