I Watched This Game: Canucks 5, Blackhawks 4 (OT)

In a recent podcast, Harrison and I discussed whether hockey fans really like exciting hockey or if they just like to see winning hockey. This game came incredibly close to being a test case for that question.

This was an incredibly thrilling game, full of high-tempo, back-and-forth action, with the Canucks playing some of their best hockey of the season against the best team in the league through the first two periods. Then the Blackhawks showed why they’re the best team in the league, mounting a late comeback in the third period and pushing the game to a white-knuckling, edge-of-your-seat overtime.

If the Canucks had lost that game in overtime, I have a feeling that many fans would deride it as a terrible game, when, no matter the result, it really wasn’t. It was a fun, entertaining, exciting game that showed the Canucks can compete against any team in the NHL when they’re playing well.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to confront any tough questions about the entertainment value of a loss when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 4, Blackhawks 1

It was Daniel Sedin’s big night, the occasion of his 1000th NHL game. He was honoured prior to puck drop in a pregame ceremony, given a painting by Tony Harris (but, sadly, not Tony Harrison), and sent on a Disney cruise (which delighted his young daughter beyond measure). And then Jannik Hansen went ahead and stole the damn show.

We probably shouldn’t be surprised. He’s not named the honey badger because he lives alone in a self-dug hole. It’s because he doesn’t give a [hoot], and there’s really nothing more honey badger than choosing to score the first Canucks hat trick since Daniel Sedin did it in 2011, on the night set aside for honouring Daniel Sedin. Screw your big day, Daniel. Sunday, November 23, 2014, will henceforth be known as Jannik Hansen day to all those who watched this game, and I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks, January 29, 2014

The Chicago Blackhawks came into town riding a four-game losing streak. (Well, actually, they flew in on a jet. But you know what I mean.) They were struggling, having recently dropped a 5-4 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames, and through the first period and change of this one, it looked like their struggles were going to continue. They appeared to be exactly what the Canucks needed.

Until they weren’t. Shortly after the Canucks went up 2-0, they turned into exactly what the Blackhawks needed. It was an unfortunate inversion, like when that kid swung over the bar and became Inside-Out Boy. Actually, come to think of it, that kid got special abilities. The Canucks appeared to lose whatever abilities they had. And, unlike Inside-Out Boy, they showed very little guts when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Chicago Blackhawks, December 20, 2013

If you only watched the first period of this game, well, that was stupid of you, wasn’t it? That’s like watching Home Alone and shutting it off right around the time Kevin leaves the church after his heart-to-heat with Old Man Marley. I mean, granted, you’ll see the clip from Angels With Filthy Souls, which I guess could be analogous to Chris Higgins’ breakaway chance, but that’s pretty much it for early entertainment in this slow-building holiday classic.

Now, I can see why you might have wanted to turn it off after the first, since the Canucks didn’t turn it on until around then anyway. They were outshot 10-3 by Chicago in the opening twenty, and two of those shots were by Andrew Alberts and Tom Sestito, who are about as threatening a duo as Harry and Marv in Home Alone. But after that, this thing really picked up, with the Canucks turning the tables on the Blackhawks like Kevin turns the table on Harry and Marv in… okay, I’ll stop.

I decided I would be watching Home Alone tonight while I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks, November 23, 2013

This game featured 5 fewer goals than the previous night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets and was simultaneously 5 times more exciting to watch. The game had an insane tempo, like John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”, with both teams flying, particularly in the first period. It was fast-paced fun, like Contra, but with an even less satisfying ending.

Once again, the Canucks played well, out-shooting the Blackhawks 36-29, but just couldn’t score more than one goal. That said, the “played well, didn’t win” narrative isn’t a particularly fun one to reiterate again and again. I could go for a few “played terribly, got lucky” games any day now. I was entertained, but disappointed, when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks, April 22, 2013

There’s a lot to take away from this game, but let’s begin this recap with something no one can EVER take away: with the win versus the Chicago Blackhwks, the Canucks clinched their fifth consecutive Northwest Division title! Five in a row, baby!

Say what you will about the division title. Sure, it’s as easy to get as your first Pokemon. But the Canucks were the 1956-1960 Montreal Canadiens of the Northwest Division: that’s a half-decade of pure, uncut domination. I watched the Canucks cement a mother-flipping dynasty when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Chicago Blackhawks, February 19, 2013

The Canucks first meeting with the Blackhawks this season was a massive disappointment. It lacked the emotion, excitement, and intensity of a typical game between these two teams. There was no rancor on either side, making for a dull affair. When Roberto Luongo stopped Patrick Kane in the shootout, they smiled at each other and laughed, like it was a game of shinny. It was enough to make one wonder if the air had been completely let out of the rivalry.

Turned out they were just saving all their hate for their second matchup of the season. This game had all the best and worst elements of a fantastic playoff game: controversy, terrible reffing, emotion, back-and-forth scoring chances, and stupendous goaltending. It was a complete gong show. It was a hot mess. It was an incredibly stupid game. And it was entertaining beyond belief.

I enjoyed every minute that I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks, February 1, 2013

There were plenty of reasons to get excited for this game. The storylines! The drama! The controversy! It was Duncan Keith’s first game against the Canucks since he concussed Daniel Sedin with a dirty cheap shot last season. It was Roberto Luongo’s third straight start despite Cory Schneider supposedly being the number one guy heading into the season. It was the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks against the water-treading Vancouver Canucks, in the first game of the season between these two rivals.

Yes, there was a lot of hype heading into this game, and none of it paid off.

It seemed pretty clear that both coaches wanted their players to avoid the emotional rollercoaster like we saw when Buffalo played Boston the game after Milan Lucic took out Ryan Miller. Both teams played a controlled, defensive style and there were minimal post-whistle scrums and such that we’d see in even a normal game between these two teams. Luongo played well, easily justifying Vigneault’s decision. It was disappointing.

Well, it was disappointing to anyone who actually believed the hype. While it wasn’t the prettiest game, it’s always nice to watch a win, which I managed to do when I watched this game.

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Shanahan and the Shana-vengers suspend Duncan Keith for five Shana-games

One wonders if the Department of Player Safety realizes that Duncan Keith’s decision to waive his right to an in-person hearing did not also negate their right to suspend him for more than 5 games. They know that, right?

You’ll forgive me if I don’t have the utmost confidence in the Shanavengers. When a blatant elbow to the face receives only a middling suspension, it’s clear that the NHL’s crusade to crack down on headshots deserves to be taking as seriously as, well, the Crusades.

After a two-day deliberation, Duncan Keith has been suspended for 5 Shana-games. (The NHL’s equivalent of Disney Dollars. They’re like NHL regular-season games, but worthless.) Let’s let Shanahan take us through it:

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Chicago Blackhawks, March 21, 2012

After a long streak of sub-par play from the Canucks, all the talk leading into this game was regarding whether they would wake up for a meeting with their hated rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks. That likely won’t be discussed as much after this game, where the Canucks put forward a hard-working, physical effort and played with a passion and emotion that hasn’t been seen in some time.

Unfortunately, one of the causes of that emotion was an ugly, ugly elbow by Duncan Keith that knocked Daniel Sedin out of the game. The result: a massive outpouring of concern and vitriol from Canucks fans, an entertaining game on the ice, and a certain suspension for Keith. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks, January 31, 2012

For only the third time this season, the Canucks played an entire sixty-minute game without being given a powerplay but, incredibly, it was the second consecutive time this phenomenon has occurred versus the Chicago Blackhawks. What’s more, this game was called by Ian Walsh, who called the last powerplay-free affair. Is this evidence of some kind of conspiracy?

No. Uncanny though the circumstances may be, there’s no agenda here. The Blackhawks simply played a fabulously disciplined game. Furthermore, while the Canucks may have played an entire sixty-minute game without being given a powerplay, they hardly played a sixty-minute game. You draw penalties by outworking the other team, and frankly, only Cory Schneider seemed interested in doing that for much of this game. So why didn’t he draw any penalties? Well, he was a little busy. So was I. I watched this game.

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Drance Numbers: Bolland is hardly Sedin kryptonite

When Chicago Blackhawks’ defensive ace Dave Bolland referred to the Sedins with the hackneyed “Sisters” moniker this week, he set off a new wave of feeble trash-talk between the Vancouver and the original six club, who are something of a perpetual thorn in the Canucks side.

It was the latest chapter in an increasingly heated rivalry, not just between the two teams, but on an individual level between the Sedin brothers and Dave Bolland as well.

Every protagonist must have a foil, and the Sedins’ foil is undoubtedly Bolland. He’s the Rommel to their Patton, the Prince Joffrey to their Rob Stark. If you listen to Blackhawks fans (which, for the record, I don’t recommend doing), they’ll tell you a tale of how Dave Bolland “has the Sedins’ number” and how the twins “just can’t figure him out.”

Many in the media will probably tell you the same thing.

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So long, Chicago. So long, Minnesota! Canuck pros and cons of realignment

I always assumed that NHL General Manager meetings were like Interfraternity conferences, where all the men tell their wives they’re going to be in dry seminars all day and then rent out the top floor of a hotel and party the weekend away. But, it would appear that things actually get done at these meetings: yesterday, the NHL GMs approved a drastic divisional realignment that would dissolve the 6 current divisions in favour of 4 more geographically appropriate groupings.

Needless to say, this completely changes the landscape of both the NHL regular season and playoffs. It’s kind of a big deal. But what does this mean for the Canucks and their fans? Like the Provincial Convention of Professional Conmen*, there are plenty of pros and cons.

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We will defend the Sedins against the common accusation that they’re girlymen any day of the week. They’re not soft. That said, this doesn’t mean they don’t occasionally take a hilariously unmasculine photo. Case in point: this pic of Daniel Sedin, bristling at some unwanted attention by the Chicago Blackhawks. One assumes that, if this picture also captured sound, you’d be able to hear Daniel intoning “Doooooooon’t” or “Quiiiiit iiiiiiiit”.

But, while this photo doesn’t exactly make Daniel look tough, anyone that’s observed the way the Chicago Blackhawks play against him knows for a fact that he can take a beating like no other. While Patrick Kane can’t handle a few slashes without complaining about it, Daniel Sedin regularly takes a high-sticking and keeps on ticking, especially when it comes to tilts with the Hawks. They’ve been beating up on him for years. Consider the following five photos.

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This one started out promisingly, like that movie Vanilla Sky, as Chicago and Vancouver came out flying in a high-paced, nearly even first period. It began to come off the rails a little in the middle portion, like that movie Vanilla Sky, as the Canucks took the lead, then immediately surrendered two powerplay goals to finish the frame down by one. And then, like that movie Vanilla Sky, everything went to crap in the end, and the final twenty minutes was so freaking bad you doubted whether any of it was ever any good, even the stuff you initially liked. Vanilla Sky sucks, and I was reminded of it when I watched this game.

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For the first time this season, the Canucks’ defence looked calm, composed, and organized in their own end. Is it a coincidence that this was also Aaron Rome’s first game in the lineup? Of course not. Like a book under a wonky table leg, Rome is a steadying influence. Rome did it all tonight, seeing icetime in all situations, and scoring the first powerplay goal of his career. With that goal, Rome is on pace for 67 goals this season. Is it too early to start the Rome for Norris talk? If anything, it’s too late. Norris buzz needs to start in the pre-season. I watched this game.

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To those looking for evidence to back up the claim that rivalries are made in the playoffs, look no further than the antagonism between the Canucks and the Blackhawks, who have faced each other in three consecutive postseasons.

No, there’s no love lost between these two organizations.

It’s no surprise. Good and evil have clashed since the dawn of time, and when one team is objectively good, such as the Canucks, and one team is objectively bad, such as the Blackhawks, acrimony is all but guaranteed.

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Qris Johnson is the third man in. Just when you thought there were only two writers on PITB, we blindside you with a third writer. It’s like Qris Johnson is Mark Messier and you guys are Mike Modano. Wait, don’t we hate Mark Messier?

In this edition, Qris tackles the Canucks’ rivalry with the Blackhawks and touches on Milan Lucic, prima donnas, and headshots. Yes, headshots. In the summer. It makes sense, I swear.

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Yesterday’s big story was the ongoing saga of Christian Ehrhoff, whose rights have become such a hot topic of conversation that Sean Avery recently appeared in a PSA for their support. That said, Ehrhoff isn’t the only coveted UFA blueliner on the market. While Ehrhoff negotiations (with Vancouver, then New York, then Buffalo) dominated yesterday’s hockey news, the Chicago Blackhawks quietly acquired the last days of rugged defender Steve Montador’s contract with the Sabres for the paltry price of a 7th round pick.

Early today, Greg Wyshynski looked at the reasons the Blackhawks made the move, noting both his physicality (he’s mean) and his right-handedness (he’s not left-handed), both qualities Chicago’s back end lacks. But, truthfully, there’s another reason why it makes sense for the Chicago to go after Montador today, rather than try their luck tomorrow: he’d be a fabulous fit on the Canucks and, if he makes it to the open market, there’s a pretty good chance that’s where he’s headed.

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I don’t know why teams think they can get away with sacrificing goaltending.  It started in 2004 after Tampa Bay won the Cup and subsequently dealt Khabibulin, only to plummet to the bottom of the standings.

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The reactions to the Vancouver Canucks round one victory over the Chicago Blackhawks were many and varied. There were two particular reactions, however, that were such polar opposites that they bear investigating. For every person who cried out “The Canucks have defeated the Stanley Cup Champions!” there was an equally loud voice saying “The Canucks barely managed to beat the 8th seed!” The Blackhawks were simultaneously hailed as one of the best teams in the NHL and derided as a weak team that backed their way into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season.

So which is it? Who are the real Blackhawks? Were the 2010-11 Blackhawks a terrible team with remnants of past greatness still clinging to them or were they a great team that for some reason had a terrible regular season? Should the Canucks feel proud for defeating the Blackhawks or should they feel shame at their narrow escape?

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We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of the 2010-11 Chicago Blackhawks. We will be cremating the team, then sprinkling the ashes around the NHL, just like Stan Bowman did after they won the Stanley Cup nine months ago.

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The similarities between this game and last February’s Olympic gold medal game are uncanny. The remarkable performances by Ryan Kesler and Jonathan Toews; a star-making showing from the losing goaltender; Roberto Luongo losing the shutout on a goalmouth scramble in the final minutes; an overtime goal coming out of the corner less than ten minutes into the extra frame; the fact that it happened in the same freaking building; the fact that it will go down as of the finest games in the history of Vancouver hockey. This game had everything: it was intense, emotional, terrifying, heart-attack inducing, and then, in the end, immensely satisfying. And I watched this game:

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Let us step back from our book-stealing, cheerleader-tossing, muffler-biting, pool-flipping ways for just one moment and take stock of what we just observed: that was an incredibly exciting hockey game. It was a nail-biting, innard-twisting, heart-pounding thrill ride filled with unexpected plot twists. The Canucks, after two complete no-shows, returned to form and played well enough to win the game; unfortunately, due to a couple puckhandling errors, an unfortunate bounce in overtime, and the posts not counting as part of the net, they didn’t. That shouldn’t take away from the sheer entertainment value of the game, nor should it take away from the excellent play of the Canucks. But it does. It takes everything away. In these few hours since the game ended, I can’t shake the feeling that the game sucked and that the Canucks were terrible. Because I’m a reasonable human being, capable of logical deduction, I can convince myself that such is not the case, but the emotions remain. This game was both exhilarating and excruciating. I watched this game.

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Chicago fans are calling the Canucks gutless for their unwillingness to fight John Scott. Gutless, perhaps, but smart. If only Viktor Stalberg were so smart.

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