With the Canucks playing their first of 17 (!!!) back-to-backs Sunday night in Calgary, John Tortorella turned, as many coaches do in such situations, to his backup netminder. That meant a couple of firsts for Eddie Lack. His start was the first of any rookie netminder this season, and more importantly, it was also his first ever NHL start. Granted, after hearing Calgary’s in-arena announcer introduce the Scotiabank Saddledome to their 2013-14 Calgary Flames (Ben Street! Lance Bouma! Joe Colborne!), you can understand why it might not have felt like an NHL start.
Fortunately, the Canucks are a tight-knit group. Sensing Lack’s skepticism over the NHL-ness of the Flames’ roster, Henrik, Daniel and the gang committed themselves to making the Flames seem like a truly formidable foe, even placing the outcome of the game entirely in Lack’s hands, and all for his benefit. After two periods of well-meaning listlessness, once they certain Lack would cherish his first start forever, they stormed back and won it for him. It was sweet to see, and I did see, because I watched this game.
Canucks 5 – 4 Flames (OT)
- On Saturday night, the Canucks played one of their first complete games in years. Vancouver was elated. But you can’t do that twice in a row, or people will expect it every night. This city’s entitled enough as it is. Wisely, the Canucks limited themselves to one good period this time out.
- The Canucks actually had a good start in this one: David Booth — seriously, David Booth — opened the scoring just five minutes in. Discounting his empty-net gimme last year, it was Booth’s first goal since April of 2012, so you can understand why he seemed a little rusty on what to do. Rather than hugging his teammates after tipping Jason Garrison’s shot home, as one does, he cut off Joey MacDonald’s head and took a picture with it.
- That was about it for Canuck positives for the next half hour and change. The Flames controlled the play for the majority of this game, which is downright embarrassing when you consider, if healthy, Calgary’s top four centres are Matt Stajan, Mikael Backlund, Joe Colborne, and Ben Street. The Oklahoma Thunder have better centres, and I mean for hockey. That depth chart is “The Room” bad.
- You can’t really expect Calgary fans to get up for this team. Their first-line centre wasn’t playing and, again, their first-line centre is Matt Stajan. But even still: It was so quiet at the Saddledome for long stretches of this game that I started watching through my fingers. I’ve seen a lot of horror movies. I know what’s about to happen when it gets that quiet: something super scary.
- I’ll be the first to admit I did not expect Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis to be the first defenceman in John Tortorella’s doghouse. But after a handful of blunders for the second straight night, Hamhuis was indeed the first to take up residence there, bumped to the third defence pairing with Chris Tanev. Unless that was Hamhuis’s plan all along. Ever generous, he may have just wanted to go in there and make sure the place was nice and tidy for the next guy. I saw him go in there with a mop and bucket.
- Hamhuis made yet another error early in the third, allowing the puck and the Flames to get past him in the neutral zone, leading to the Sean Monahan goal that made it 3-1 Flames. Of course, it was also the moment the Canucks woke up, so he may have meant for that to happen. Always thinking of his teammates, this guy.
- Most of the credit for waking the Canucks up, however, will go to John Tortorella, who chose to split the Sedins up for the third period and try some odd new combinations. His first combination was really outside the box, as Daniel skated on a line with Jannik Hansen and Flames’ winger Curtis Glencross. But it totally worked, with Daniel feeding Hansen for a point blank one-timer after a beautiful second assist by Glencross.
- Tortorella’s other trio was even more inspired, as the coach deployed Henrik Sedin on a line with Mike Santorelli and Flames’ tough guy Brian McGrattan. But it worked, with McGrattan banking a puck off the skate of Chris Higgins and right to Henrik Sedin, who gave it to Santorelli for his first as a Canuck. With that goal, one was left to wonder if the Sedins were ever, ever, ever, ever getting back together. Like, ever.
- After that, one of two things happened: either Dale Weise and Brad Richardson realized the Canucks weren’t the Canucks without a fancy passing duo and set to work orchestrating a beautiful give-and-go, or Dale Weise simply came alive upon realizing the Flames weren’t an NHL team. My money’s on the latter. This guy’s at his best when the competition isn’t NHL-calibre, as the lockout proved.
- Unfortunately for Weise, his bid to be the hero was for naught, as the Canucks couldn’t hold the lead through regulation, and David Jones was able to send it to overtime. The hero’s cape instead landed on Mike Santorelli, who scored his second of the game after Kevin Bieksa squeezed by Dennis Wideman along the boards, then centred for Santorelli’s game-winning tap-in. Full credit to Bieksa, who took a lot of flak from his teammates when he greased himself up like Groundskeeper Willie during the third intermission. But man, did that pay off.
- Finally, I’d like to thank the province of Alberta for this weekend. I’m still not used to the Pacific Division, and I’d been having some serious Northwest Division withdrawal after watching the Canucks lose to the Sharks so many times in the past few weeks. Thankfully, after this weekend, I feel a whole lot better.
, I Watched This Game