If this was Roberto Luongo’s last hurrah in Vancouver, it wasn’t a particularly good one. After playing their best game of the season against their hated rival, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Canucks settled in and played a thoroughly mediocre game against their mildly-disliked non-rival, the Anaheim Ducks. With both teams stuck in their positions in the Western Conference, with no way to improve or injure their place in the standings, neither team had much to play for.
Still, it’s entirely possible that this was Luongo’s last start as a Canuck in Vancouver, which should have been some motivation. While the Canucks seemed to wake up in the third period and made a concerted effort to win the game for Luongo, by then it was too little, too late, two-one. And then three-one. I watched this game.
Canucks 1 – 3 Ducks
During the first period, this game took the off-ramp to Dullsville to stop for some gas, but then saw a sign for the Dullsville Museum, commemorating the many boring and unremarkable things that Dullsville is known for, and decided to check it out. After a humdrum time at the museum, this game spotted the Dullsville Antique Store and decided to peruse the various colorless paintings, dinged and dented furniture, and mundane knick-knacks of minimal value. There, time seemed to lose all meaning, until this game finally escaped, realized it was too late to continue on, and booked a plain and unexceptional room at the Dullsville Motel for the night.
The first period wasn’t particularly exciting, is what I’m saying.
To be fair, there was one funny moment in the first: when Alex Burrows took a hooking penalty in the neutral zone, he spent his entire time skating to the box mumbling “F*** me, f*** me, f*** me, f*** me, f*** me” under his breath. Like Lay’s chips, just one wasn’t enough. I’m pretty sure if I had actually heard him saying it, I wouldn’t have been able to understand him. Burrows is the only person who’s easier to understand when you’re just reading his lips.
Anaheim opened the scoring on the powerplay, only the second powerplay goal the Canucks have allowed in their last 11 games and 38 opportunities. Cam Fowler’s point shot was deftly tipped by Beleskey in front, while Jason Garrison stood to the side. On the broadcast, Garrison was admonished for not getting to Beleskey in time, but it looked like it was a conscious decision not to engage with Beleskey in front of Luongo, likely to avoid simply creating more traffic. Still, it seems like at least knocking his stick aside would be worth doing. I mean, I’m no expert, but even restaurants don’t always let people tip however much they want — there’s a standard gratuity on large parties.
Luongo was superb for most of the game, making numerous impressive saves, including a quick reaction to a Matt Beleskey tip, a slick kick save on Corey Perry after Frank Corrado misread an aerial dump-in, and an impressive recovery when Daniel Winnik’s centring pass on a 2-on-1 deflected off Alex Burrows’ stick on net. Luongo finished with 27 saves on 29 shots, but it was the one save that he should have made, a bad angle shot by fourth-line goon Brad Staubitz for his first goal of the season, that ended up costing the Canucks the game. Also costing the Canucks the game? Only scoring one goal.
In general, Alain Vigneault is like Eddie Valiant behind the bench: not animated. But when something sets him off, he gets positively gesticular. When Mason Raymond got called for unsportsmanlike conduct for giving Jonas Hiller a snow shower in the second period, Vigneault was beside himself, yelling at the referee, “Where do you want him to stop?” before rolling his eyes harder than Liz Lemon.
With the Northwest Division all sewn up, Vigneault has been experimenting a bit with his lineup to prepare for the playoffs. Corrado played his second game and once again looked completely comfortable alongside Alex Edler, with over 20 minutes of ice time, more than both Dan Hamhuis and Jason Garrison. Derek Joslin got into his first game as a Canuck and performed adequately, playing a pretty simple game. And Keith Ballard once again dressed as a forward, something he might get called upon to do during the playoffs, particularly if the Canucks’ defence corps gets completely healthy. In many ways, this was a pre-season game for the post-season: a pre-post-season game, if you will.
The experimentation continued in the third period, as Vigneault shook up the lines after the Canucks were out-shot 25-9 through 40 minutes. Kesler and Roy were split up to centre their own lines, while Kassian moved up to play with the Sedins. That’s a line that should work in principle but hasn’t fully clicked in practice yet. Kassian finished with no shots on goal and didn’t even have a shot attempt, which is simply not good enough.
The Canucks owned the third period, out-shooting the Ducks 20-5, but just couldn’t beat Hiller at even-strength. Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis came closest, picking up a great cross-ice pass from Mason Raymond on an odd-man rush before deking to the backhand, but Hiller kicked out his left pad to turn him away. Undeterred, Hamhuis spent hours after the game ensuring that unlike himself, homeless youths would not be turned away, as he helped with construction on an expansion to a local homeless shelter.
The Ducks conspired to give the Canucks one last chance to come back, as first Ben “Inflate-a-face” Lovejoy hooked Jannik Hansen as he went to the net, then Sheldon Souray inexplicably smacked Alex Burrows in the face for a hi-sticking double minor. Or maybe not inexplicably: Burrows is pretty annoying. Still, use your words, Sheldon.
The two penalties combined to put the Canucks on the powerplay for the rest of the game, with over a minute at 5-on-3. After the Sedins gained the offensive zone, Ryan Kesler and Jason Garrison rotated at the point, setting up Garrison’s left-handed shot for a one-timer from the right point. The puck entered the net at great velocity and the Canucks were awarded a goal with great veracity.
Garrison’s goal ended the two-man advantage, but the Canucks got it back by pulling Luongo in favour of Derek Roy. Unfortunately, this had the completely unforeseen consequence of leaving the Canucks’ net empty. Andrew Cogliano took advantage of Vigneault’s mental error and sent an Alex Edler rebound into the empty net from his own defensive zone. Vigneault should really be fired for such an inexcusable mistake.
My favourite moment of the game parodoxically came after the game was already completed. Henrik Sedin spotted a young fan wearing a Henrik Sedin jersey and passed him his stick through the photographer’s hole in the glass. It was classier than Education 321 – Curriculum Planning for the Classroom, which is a class about planning classes — pretty dang classy.
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. […]