The Canucks have had a strong start to their season-long seven-game road trip, picking up wins in both of their first two stops. Granted, it helps that those stops have been in Philadelphia and Buffalo, two cities whose NHL teams these days are making a compelling case for relegation. I mean, seriously, the Buffalo Sabres are to hockey what Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is to the action film genre.
The Sabres hardly showed up in this one. If I had to guess, I’d say their gameplan was to hang Ryan Miller so thoroughly out to dry that he gladly, gleefully waived his no-trade clause and agreed to go to Edmonton in exchange for Nail Yakupov, as per that stupid rumour. Either that or Buffalo didn’t really have a gameplan, because they’re terrible. I had a hard time making up my mind as I watched this game.
Canucks 3 – 0 Sabres
- The Canucks controlled this one right from puck drop, setting up shop in the Buffalo zone and peppering Ryan Miller like a Caesar salad. They outshot Buffalo 19 to 7 in the opening twenty. It seemed like Ryan Kesler spent about as much time in the Sabres’ crease as Miller did, but instead of chirping him over it, Miller just kept whispering, “Take me with you. They’ll think I’m Luongo. We sort of look alike.”
- Miller was actually fantastic in the first, and it drove John Tortorella insane. Smelling blood, he threw his star players over the ice time and time again. Henrik Sedin and Kesler played just shy of half the period, and occasionally, Daniel joined them, as the entire first-unit powerplay came over the boards at even-strength. That’s how impatient and entitled Tortorella was in getting that go-ahead goal. It was like the Canucks were being coached by Veruca Salt.
- Fortunately, after 15 minutes of pressure, the Canucks finally broke through thanks to Chris “Kiss Huggins the Snugglebuggins” Higgins. Well, actually thanks to Cody McCormick, who deflected a centring pass right to Higgins, who buried it. Said McCormick after the play: “There’s more where that came from… if you take me with you.”
- Despite Tortorella pretty much banishing the Sedins from the bench, the Canucks couldn’t get another one, and when they took a penalty midway through the second, one began to wonder if they were about to find themselves in an undeserved tie game. Nope! Brad Richardson scored shorthanded because the poor Sabres can’t do anything right. It was Richardson’s second shorthanded goal of the year, proving he’s a monster shorthanded, like Buster Bluth.
- Chris Tanev didn’t get an assist on the shorthanded goal, and it’s a shame. It was his pass that started the Canucks in transition, and it was a beauty. After a Buffalo dump-in in the corner, Tanev made a great play, opting not to power the puck up the boards where it might get picked off and instead holding it and making a slick little pass to Richardson to open up the rush. It was the best Rush opener since “The Spirit of Radio“.
- Boy, did Ryan Kesler look confident tonight. After some bad luck early in the season, the centre looked convinced everything was going his way versus Buffalo. Heck, scrambling back on an odd-man rush, Kesler didn’t even bother to check Thomas Vanek. And then a wide-open Vanek took Cody Hodgson’s feed and hit the crossbar, just like Kesler knew he would. Nothing bad could happen to Kesler on this night, either because he’s just in the zone right now, or because he’s not a Kennedy.
- Speaking of luck, Roberto Luongo got a ton in this game en route to his first shutout of the season. The Thomas Vanek goal is one example, but there was also the misplay that left the Sabres a wide open net, were it not for Ryan Stanton cavalierly throwing himself in front of the puck. He was more cavalier than Brad Daugherty.
- On the subject of Luongo’s shutout, is there anything more homeriffic than when the colour guy refuses to say “shutout”, so as to avoid jinxing his guy’s goose egg? Garrett danced around the word tonight and it was awkward, to say the least.
- That wasn’t Stanton’s only big moment in this game. The one he’s a little more likely to remember is his first NHL goal, a top-corner shot after some great work by the Sedins. Seriously, take a moment to marvel at Daniel’s feed. His stick all tied up by Henrik Tallinder, he kicks it like A Tribe Called Quest.
- Buffalo really heard it from the hometown crowd in this one, and you can’t blame them. At several moments in the game, the audience began calling for the cutest dog in the world, which makes sense, because he’s way prettier than Sabres’ hockey.
- Finally, the third line of David Booth, Zack Kassian, and Jordan Schroeder did great work in this game. They didn’t score, but honestly, if they’re going to spend two-thirds of their icetime in the offensive zone (which they did, with Booth, Schroeder and Kassian boasting 70%, 66.7% and 63.6% corsi ratings in about 12 minutes), that’s fine too. A third line that controls the play like that is a blessing, offensive production or no, and against Buffalo, this line controlled the play like Prospero in The Tempest.