The Canucks’ chances of making the NHL playoffs are slim. Fatboy slim. They’re not mathematically eliminated, but the fans in this city have never put their faith in math, and dammit, they aren’t about to start now. Glimmer of hope or no, I think we all know the Canucks are playing out the string.
That in mind, the games we’re watching now aren’t really games anymore. They’re game-length commercials for next year’s club. And as advertisements go, this one was pretty effective, showcasing two of next year’s stars in Eddie Lack, who busted out of his funk like Rick James busting out on the funk, and Nicklas Jensen, who continues to score like Hans Zimmer. I was effectively marketed to when I watched this game.
Canucks 2 – 0 Predators
- You had to feel good for Eddie Lack, who stopped all 30 shots he faced for the shutout. He’s endured a difficult trial by fire since the Sochi Olympics, starting 12 straight amidst all sorts of drama, and he’s looked both rattled and exhausted of late, posting a save percentage above .900 just once in his last five games. Fortunately, he looked a great deal more settled versus Nashville. It was easy to tell he was settled, because he was covered in tiny, winding, wooden roads, tiny wooden houses, and even a few tiny wooden cities.
- Lack didn’t have to make a lot of great saves, which probably had something to do with the opponents — when it comes to putting on the red light, Nashville isn’t exactly Roxanne — but the Canucks also had better defensive posture in this game than they have lately. One assumes they improved their posture by replacing their desk chairs with aerobic fitness balls.
- It took until the 46th minute of this game for us to get a goal: it came from the stick of Nicklas Jensen, who continued the impressive run he’s been on since the Canucks called him up a few weeks ago. After Henrik Sedin had the puck knocked off his stick while attempting to make a pass to Jensen, the puck came to Jensen anyway, and he lasered it like a problematic bikini zone.
- Thanks to another gloriously incendiary column from Tony Gallagher, people have been talking about whether the opportunities Jensen’s been given are fair, in light of Zack Kassian’s slow rise up the depth chart. But Kassian has looked shaky, risky, and inconsistent with big minutes. Jensen looks like he belongs where he is. It’s tough to argue with that deployment decision from John Tortorella. Granted, it’s tough to argue them anyway: when Alex Burrows left the game after taking a slash to the wrist from Shea Weber, Tom Sestito skated with the top line in his absence, so these decisions really aren’t based on reason.
- Kassian looked excellent in this one. He was making crisp passes, throwing his body around, and his 66.7% corsi was the second-highest on the team, just below David Booth. The optimist in me actually thinks the arrival of Jensen could be a good thing. It’s easy to think Kassian’s not getting icetime just because he’s a prospect. But Jensen is proof that the secret to breaking that glass ceiling is simple. Play the way Salt n’ Pepa pushes it: real good.
- Henrik Sedin assisted on both goals. He was a treat to watch. For much of the season, he hasn’t looked himself. But he did in this game, controlling the possession with aplomb and doing positively Henrikian stuff with the puck. It was enough to make you wish he had a twin brother. Imagine two Sedins. Oh man. Imagine.
- I loved the way Henrik ran down the clock during his shifts in the third period. When the Predators backed off the blueline rather than pressuring him, he’d stop up and turn the play back, maintaining control of the puck and killing valuable time. Who does that? Only Henrik, who’s thinking pass so exclusively, he even passes on zone entries.
- It was nice to see Brad Richardson back in the lineup. One wouldn’t go so far as to call him an impact player, but he was centering a pretty decent line with Kassian and Booth before he went down with injury, and John Tortorella went right back to it in his return. It’s a strong trio. To get a good handle on what they can do, watch the incredible shift they put together in the first. They don’t score, but they quietly control the action, like the witch’s prophecies in Macbeth.
- Poor Paul Gaustad. After being trapped out on the ice for most of that third line shift, he brought the puck the other way, then he was taken down by Alex Edler and ridden like a sled. Granted, Edler scored later, so maybe this makeshift sled ride energized him? Maybe sled rides make Edler feel like a new man. Maybe his childhoos sled means as much to him as Rosebud meant to Charles Foster Kane.
- This was a boring game. Seriously, as one point Garrett and Shorty started talking about some thing that happened on a plane. They never let us in on it, and it didn’t really sound all that interesting. Yet it was still the most compelling moment of second period.