The Canucks have looked quite good at times this season. The only problem is those times have generally been at the same time they’ve been facing some of their weakest competition. Their wins have come against weaker teams — the Oilers, Flames, Devils, Flyers, and Sabres — while they’ve lost twice to the powerhouse Sharks and couldn’t stick with the Canadiens after an embarrassing own goal.
The Canucks have faced legitimate questions about whether they can keep up with the stronger teams in the league, but this game against the Penguins, despite the end result, proved that they can. This was, by far, the most entertaining game of the season, even though it was obscenely early in the morning for a Saturday. Yes, 10 am is early for me. I’m a night owl with two young kids.
Thankfully, the Canucks and Penguins kept me awake and alert when I watched this game.
Canucks 3 – 4 Penguins (SO)
- Kudos to whoever came up with the line nickname “BeastMODO” for Kesler and the Sedins. That’s some quality punmanship.
- While this game got off to a wide open start, it took over five minutes for the first shot on goal, a long wristshot by Kevin Bieksa. It took another two minutes after that for the first whistle of the game, a penalty on Chris Higgins. It felt like they were trying to get the game over and done with before fans on the west coast even realized it was a 10 am start.
- Despite a 4-1 powerplay discrepancy in favour of the Penguins, the Canucks actually outshot the Penguins 39-28, particularly dominating the first period 15-5. The Penguins, however, had three shots hit the post in the first, including one off the stick of Chris Conner that banked off the back of Luongo’s mask after it hit the post, causing the Pittsburgh goal horn operator to jump the gun and light up the Canucks’ goal crease like he was Fallout Boy.
- The Canucks were lucky to still be tied as the Penguins hammered more iron than a Celtic swordsmith, then got some further good fortune when Alex Edler’s shot from centre hit Marc-Andre Fleury in the chest, popped over his head, and rolled over the goal line. Either Edler is a real-life Fulton Reed with better skating or Fleury is who we thought he was.
- After that stroke of good fortune, it was funny to see the Canucks try to replicate that luck, as both Bieksa and Hansen seemed to intentionally shoot up high on Fleury’s chest later in the game and both times he juggled the puck, almost giving up a dangerous rebound.
- The Penguins quickly tied up the game, however, when Luongo couldn’t snag Pascal Dupuis’ heavy slapshot, popping the puck up into the slot. Daniel Sedin couldn’t grab it with his glove either, instead knocking it down directly onto the stick of the most dangerous man on the ice. No, not Eddie Candell – Sidney Crosby. His initial shot was blocked, but he had plenty of time to pick his spot with his second shot.
- The Safeway featured product was Kraft Peanut Butter, leading to John Garrett calling peanut butter on Triscuits “good for you” and a “nutritional snack.” Keep in mind, this is the same guy who extols the virtues of Cheese Whiz and Kraft Dinner, so do your own research, please.
- The Penguins have one of the most dangerous powerplays in the league and the Canucks tempted fate with the number of penalties they took in this game. Fate was finally seduced midway through the second period, when Evgeni Malkin took advantage of a too many men penalty, making a great move behind the net to draw both Bieksa and Luongo to one side of the net before getting Chris Kunitz to take it on the other side. He didn’t believe it was bad, as the Penguins pulled ahead.
- It looked like the Canucks tied it back up again less than two minutes later, when Chris Higgins finished off a Jannik Hansen wraparound feed, but it was waved off immediately, as Mike Santorelli had knocked the net off its moorings. Clearly, Santorelli is desperate to hold onto his title as the Canucks’ leading goalscorer. Soon he’ll start questioning the quality of Higgins’ abs to try to shake his confidence.
- The Canucks tied the game on a pretty passing play by, oddly enough, the fourth line. Dale Weise neatly chipped Tom Sestito’s clearing attempt past Paul Martin, dropped the puck to Kevin Bieksa, who tipped it to Brad Richardson. The play was nearly broken up there, as Martin got his stick on it, but Richardson managed to get the puck back to Weise, who made a superb pass back to Richardson for the wide open net. It was the ugliest pretty passing play I’ve ever seen, but you have to give credit to Weise, who had the presence of mind to pass up the shot and shoot Richardson the pass.
- Jordan Schroeder regrettably left the game near the end of the second period, going down awkwardly in a battle with Tanner Glass. It looked like he may have twisted his right knee, but reports indicated that he was favouring his left foot, the one he injured blocking a shot in the pre-season. Hopefully it’s a minor injury and he’ll be able to return quickly.
- Richardson joined the third line in place of Schroeder and the line pitched in a go-ahead goal. It was mostly thanks to Zack “Action Package” Kassian, who showed some nice hands in close quarters to keep the play alive and onside, then went to the front of the net, where he was in perfect position to tip a Bieksa point shot past Fleury. Ryan Stanton would have had the second assist, giving him 5 points on the season, but David Booth evidently tipped the puck before it reached Kassian, making this the rare double-tip, which is infinitely preferable to a double-dip.
- After Luongo’s shutout against the Sabres, Canucks fans might have hoped that he had overcome his annual struggles in October, but Luongo was still a little shaky in this one, with two of the Penguins’ goals coming off rebounds when Luongo just couldn’t snare or absorb the initial shot. The second came just 22 seconds after Kassian gave the Canucks the lead, as Olli Maatta converted a Kunitz rebound for his first career goal. With better rebound control from Luongo, the Canucks win this game in regulation.
- Simultaneously, the Canucks don’t get this game to overtime to earn a single point if Luongo hadn’t come through on a late penalty shot by Brandon Sutter. Dan Hamhuis continued his sloppy play to start the season with a turnover at the blueline, leaving Chris Tanev with no option but to pull down Sutter on a partial breakaway. Luongo saved Hamhuis’s bacon with a snappy glove save, after which he tossed the puck away condescendingly. Luongo then said Not in my house, before remembering that he was in Pittsburgh.
- After overtime solved nothing but a crossword puzzle with the clue “Paycheck booster”, they went to the shootout, where all three Canucks shooters tried to go five-hole on Fleury unsuccessfully. They must have had a scouting report that indicated he was weak there in the shootout, but really they should have just aimed for his chest.
- Luongo, meanwhile, stopped Jussi Jokinen, one of the best players in the shootout in the league, then stoned Sidney Crosby, but got undone by Evgeni Malkin. Malkin’s forehand-backhand deke was so fresh that it temporarily turned Luongo into a breakdancer — Luongo’s backspin was doper than diacetylmorphine.
, dale weise
, I Watched This Game