The playoffs didn’t exactly open the way that the Canucks hoped they would. What they wanted, and what most in Vancouver wanted, I think, was for the Canucks to kick off the 2013 postseason with 16 consecutive wins. Instead, they started with one loss, meaning it will take them 17 games at least to win the Stanley Cup. Nuts. So close.
What went wrong in this one? Nothing whatsoever, if you completely discount the 3rd period, where everything went wrong. If the game were 20 minutes (and it started after a 20 minute warm-up period) the Canucks win this game. Unfortunately, playing 60 minutes is one of the rules of NHL hockey — even in the playoffs, when a bunch of other rules are abandoned — so the Canucks lost this game. And I watched this game.
Canucks 1 – 3 San Jose
It’s not the optimal start, and Vancouver is prone to pessimism at the best of times (and the blurst of times), but there are plenty of reasons for optimism. First of all, the game we just witnessed was Game 1 of what most are projecting to be a seven-game series, so the Canucks are bound to lose a few either way. Second, while the Canucks were outscored, they did have the edge, possession-wise, at even-strength, which is a sign they can hang with San Jose. Granted, the Sharks probably have no interest in hanging signs with the Canucks. They’re not hosting a charity event together.
After 12 months of much ado, flurry, and travail (and about seventeen “this is the end” articles and a book from The Province), Roberto Luongo is still here, and thanks to Cory Schneider’s corporeal injury, Funny Bob got the start in Game 1. He was excellent, especially in the first, where he made four or five incredible saves to keep the game scoreless. There’s no reason to blame him for this loss, although that’s never stopped this city before. Luongo is to Vancouver as Canada is to South Park.
Ryan Kesler will also see his fair share of blame, for having the gall to play despite clearly not being 100%. (How dare he allow circumstances to befall him!) As for what ailed him, no one’s saying, save the amateur medical doctors on Twitter and in the press box who were suddenly skating stride and rotation experts. My best guess, however: the flu. Either way, Kesler was actually really good in Game 1. His plus-12 even-strength Corsi was the best among forwards on either team. Granted, he wasn’t the beastly Kesler that marauded about Nashville in 2011, but it’s important to note that Kesler was only that guy for six games. Most of the time, what he does well is what he did in the series immediately before and after that: lead the team on special teams, the penalty-kill, and at even-strength. He did that tonight.
The guys I would call out: Henrik and Daniel Sedin. They were outplayed tonight by Joe Pavelski’s line, and if that happens four times in this series, the Canucks will lose four times. Henrik seemed to get it. “We weren’t that far off,” he told the media after the game, “but everything has to be five times better.” Yeah, that about sums it up, although I would argue that if you have to multiply something by five in order to have enough, you’re pretty far off.
Only four Canucks failed to register a shot on goal: Andrew Alberts, Zack Kassian, Dale Weise, and Alex Burrows. That last name stands out. Burrows had a few nice shifts in this one, but he needs to show a lot more bite. Not literally, of course. Unless that’s what it takes to engage him. If it does, I am reluctantly for it.
The Canucks actually drew first blood in this game thanks to old friend Raffi Torres. During a scramble in the Sharks’ crease, Raffi tried to corral the puck, only to wind up pushing it under Antti Niemi. Poor guy. Raffi was all over the ice in Game 1, registering a game-high six hits, and reminding Canuck fans of the good old days when he was a staple on Vancouver’s third line. It was easy to picture him back there, especially when he hooked up with Vancouver’s third line for that goal.
Originally, Jannik Hansen was given credit for the goal, but once the scorekeepers recognized Raffi’s contribution to the play, it was marked as an unassisted tally for Kevin Bieksa. I didn’t like this, because I feel like Hansen deserved credit for his work on this play. His drop-pass to Bieksa was gorgeous. I guess you could say it was drop-pass gorgeous, which is like drop dead gorgeous, but with less Kirsten Dunst.
Also integral to that play: Mason Raymond, who shoved Antti Niemi down like a big meanie, which led to TSN’s Kerry Fraser suggesting that Raymond got away with one. It was, perhaps, the first time in history that Raymond was criticized for going too hard to the net.
Dale Weise couldn’t get a call to save his life in this one, probably because he’s a fourth liner and the officials didn’t really care what anyone did to him. Alain Vigneault tried to convince them that Weise was actually a second liner by swapping him and Kassian for several shifts, but the refs weren’t buying it.
Faceoffs are going to be an issue for the Canucks in this series, because the Sharks are better in this regard, and it showed. The Canucks won just 30 of 70 draws. Derek Roy and Maxim Lapierre struggled the most, going a combined 6-for-19, but no one was particularly good, save Ryan Kesler, the only Canuck centre to win more than he lost. Kesler went 13-for-25. Now, the stat line says he only won 12, but he was credited with a loss to Joe Thornton on penalty-kill draw that he actually won. Looking for a clear, Kesler got it by knocking Thornton’s stick back as the puck fell from the linesman’s hand, then shooting the puck straight ahead and out of the zone. It happened so quickly that the scorers and the announcers thought Thornton had won it cleanly. He hadn’t.
The green men were in the house, and they got under the skin of CSN Bay Area announcers Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda, the latter of whom called them “40-year-old virgins”. That’s ridiculous. I know those guys and they’re nowhere near 40.
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