It’s been nearly a decade since the Canucks played a game without Henrik Sedin in the lineup. Henrik’s ironman streak, the 6th longest in NHL history, was broken on Tuesday against the Oilers and Canucks fans were curious to see how the team would perform without their Art Ross and Hart trophy winning first line centre. Thankfully, they were eased into Henrik’s absence with a game against the Edmonton Oilers, the worst team in the Western Conference.
While the Canucks lack of finish kept things close, for the first time in a long while, the Canucks looked like they were fully in control of the direction of a game. Meanwhile, I was fully in control of the direction of my gaze I watched this game.
Canucks 2 – 1 Oilers
- Ryan Kesler’s stint as the Canucks’ first line centre went well, as he led all forwards with over 26 minutes of ice time and had a team-high 4 shots on goal to go with his assist on the game-winner. The area where he struggled was the faceoff dot, where he won just 7 of his draws. While that was second most on the Canucks behind Zac Dalpe’s 8 wins, Kesler took 24 faceoffs, which totally just gave me a great idea for a TV series starring Kiefer Sutherland and Nicolas Cage.
- Kellan Lain has had one heck of an introduction to the NHL. In his first game, he lasted two seconds before getting involved in a line brawl and getting tossed. In his second game, he scores his first NHL goal. What’s he going to do in his third game? My money’s on posting a shutout, but I’ve jinxed it now that I’ve said “shutout.”
- The Canucks’ fourth line dominated that of the Oilers in this game and Lain’s goal is a good example of what even fourth line grinders can do when they go up against even grindier grinders. Tom Sestito started the play by smartly clearing the puck to an open wing from his own blue line, where Dale Weise used his much-vaunted speed to streak into the Oilers’ zone and get a good shot off that Ben Scrivens couldn’t handle. From there, Kellan “Albatross” Lain’s 6’6″ wingspan took over, allowing him to get his stick on the puck before both Oilers, who were between him and the net. He then flew around the arena flapping his arms shouting “I’m an albatross! I’m an albatross!“
- While this game lacked the physical edge we might have expected given Kassian’s previous altercations with the Oilers, there was one scrap, as Kevin Bieksa dropped his gloves with Ryan “Unrealistically Generic Name” Jones after the latter missed a check on Bieksa and went face first into the boards. Jones managed to jersey Bieksa, but Bieksa wasn’t fazed. He kept punching away, despite not being able to see where he was punching. Bieksa takes punching very, very seriously.
- The Daniel-minus-Henrik point counter gets off to a good start: one game, one point. He got his assist not with a slick pass but with some hard work along the boards, freeing up the puck for Ryan Kesler. Meanwhile, Jannik Hansen went for a line change and the Oilers apparently figured that he was just leaving and no one was coming to replace him. They were wrong. Zack Kassian came over the boards, went straight to the slot, and delivered Kesler’s pass inside the post like Amazon mailing a package.
- The first star of the game was Roberto Luongo, and deservedly so. While the Canucks carried the play for the bulk of the game, Luongo still had to make some tough saves, particularly on the penalty kill. His shoulder save on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was fantastic and his pad stop on Taylor Hall a moment later was great, but his best was his superb blocker save on Jordan Eberle. The only way the Oilers were able to score was by forcing him completely out of the net, then piling up bodies like a human sandbag wall to prevent him from getting back.
- Zack Kassian was a pain in the neck for the Oilers, particularly Luke Gazdic, who was unable to goad him into a fight. He wouldn’t stop chirping Gazdic, whether in a scrum, from the bench, or just skating past him on the ice. His best chirp likely reveals why he kept the gloves on: “You’re not even going to play.” Gazdic played fewer than five minutes and didn’t do much of note. There was little reason for Kassian to fight beyond giving the Oilers the satisfaction and keeping the Oilers frustrated seemed to make Kassian a lot happier.
- Poor Alex Burrows. He had three great chances to score in this game, but still can’t buy a goal. In the second period, he went hard to the net, then made a great move after getting a pass from Daniel, but was robbed by Scrivens. Then, early in the third, he got a pass at the backdoor with plenty of net to shoot at, but the puck hopped directly over his stick like it was being remote controlled. Finally, he picked up one of Taylor Hall’s 6(!) giveaways, then beat Hall with a nifty deke, only to have Hall haul him down as he cut towards the goal. The only way Burrows’ luck could get any worse is if it was responsible for the deaths of multiple horses.
- Here’s how absurd this is: Burrows has no goals on 53 shots. Kellan Lain has 1 goal on 1 shot. That’s just not fair.
, I Watched This Game