The general opinion of Canucks fans is that pretty much no one had a good season under John Tortorella apart from, perhaps, Chris Tanev and Chris Higgins. In Higgins’ case, it’s simply that he performed about as well last season as he did in the previous two seasons, if not slightly worse. The reason we think of him as having a particularly good season is that everyone else around him cratered.
As a result, Higgins ended up with the second-most goals on the team, despite scoring at a lower goals-per-game rate than in both 2011-12 and 2012-13.
That isn’t to say that Higgins had a bad season, by any means. That he came close to maintaining his offensive production, despite Tortorella’s apparent best efforts to ensure the Canucks didn’t score any goals and his usage in the defensive zone against tough competition, is quite impressive. That’s like if I had managed to write this blogpost with a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old crawling all over me.
Wait, I totally just did that.
This goal comes during one of Tortorella’s experiments with splitting up the twins, with Henrik Sedin centring Higgins and Ryan Kesler partway through a game against Philadelphia. It paid immediate dividends, with Higgins finding some open space and Henrik finding some open Higgins.
Higgins has no business being this open. Look how many Flyers are near him, but just far enough away that they can’t check him. That is some atrocious defence.
You’re going to see a few goals in this series where the puck just seems to find Higgins’ stick by accident. That’s not a bad thing, as you have to be in the right place at the right time to take advantage of such things, but it is interesting. Here, Cody McCormick deftly intercepts Mike Santorelli’s centring pass to Kesler by making a perfect touch pass to Higgins for the one-timer. Lucky bounce? Sure, but Higgins’ top-corner finish is impeccable.
Here’s another instance of the puck just coming to Higgins, but it’s a result of going to the right area at the right time. Kevin Bieksa creates a turnover at centre ice, then gains the offensive zone and drifts a harmless looking shot in on Evgeni Nabokov. It’s nicely placed, however, low on Nabokov’s right pad, forcing him to kick it out to the backdoor, where Higgins is hanging around, hoping Gordon Lightfoot doesn’t find him.
“What a great shot by Chris Higgins,” says John Garrett, immediately after John Shorthouse points out that the shot deflected off Roman Polak’s skate. I mean, I guess it’s possible that Higgins intended to bank the shot off Polak and into the top corner, but you’d think that if he was capable of that, he’d do it a lot more often.
Now this is a nice shot. Alex Burrows does some nice work here to pursue the puck in the neutral zone, pass it to Higgins, then charge toward the net, forcing Cody Franson to shade towards the middle of the ice, giving Higgins ample space to beat James Reimer inside the far post.
Again, the puck just kind of ends up in the open for Chris Higgins to collect and roof. This one’s so unexpected that Shorty has to interrupt a promo to call it. Burrows again does the dirty work, creating the turnover, then taking out both Sharks defenders in the ensuing scramble. And by “taking out,” I mean “allowing them both to hit him.”
Puck up in the air, everyone swinging wildly at it? Natyrally, it falls at the feet of Higgins, who is in the thick of things as per usual. He does well to shovel the puck on net from an awkward position.
Another nice shot off the rush. This one comes in 4-on-4 overtime, with Higgins making the slightly risky decision to double-team the puck-carrier as Bieksa pursues him up the boards. This leaves Higgins’ man open, but the challenge is well-timed, leading to a 2-on-1. Higgins keeps, shoots, and beats Smith just under his arm.