I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Montreal Canadiens, March 10, 2012

The Canucks had a strong first period in this one, outshooting the Montreal Canadiens by a margin of 15-5. Unfortunately, Carey Price held his team in the game, stopping all 15 shots. If he hadn’t done so, this game would have been very different, most notably because Vancouver would have gone into the second intermission with a 15-goal lead.

That would have been a fun “I Watched This Game” to write. But, sadly, that’s not how this game went down. Instead, this “I Watched This Game” tells of a game in which the Canucks scored 14 fewer goals. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Winnipeg Jets, March 8, 2012

This game was like the spaces favoured by The Dixie Chicks: wide open. There were 77 shots on net between the two teams, with another 43 shots blocked, and 21 missed shots. That’s a grand total of 141 attempted shots or, as the stats nerds would say, 141 Corsi events.

It’s a lot easier to understand now how the Jets were involved in a 9-8 slugfest with the Philadelphia Flyers earlier this season. The only reason this game didn’t devolve into similar silliness was the seriousness of Cory Schneider and Ondrej Pavelec, who combined for 72 saves. That’s still less than 77, which explains why goals were scored. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Dallas Stars, March 6, 2012

The Canucks were bad Tuesday night, and not the Michael Jackson kind of Bad, which is good. Rather, they were the Colour Me Badd kind of bad, which is so bad it transcends regular badness and bleeds over into “baddness.” (My wife: do they really spell it with two Ds? Oh, that’s bad. No, honey. It’s badd.)

Versus the Stars, the Canucks were badd. They flubbed passes, left massive defensive gaps, squandered powerplays, and generated next to nothing at even-strength. To make matters worse, they were rewarded zero points for their efforts, which, while an appropriate reward for zero effort, marks the second consecutive game they’ve walked away with nothing. It was the first time they’ve suffered back-to-back regulation losses since November 4th. I remember that game. I watched it. Also, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Buffalo Sabres, March 3, 2012

There were a number of storylines heading into Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada match-up versus the Buffalo Sabres. There was the obvious one, as Cody Hodgson returned to Vancouver less than one week after being traded to Buffalo, but there was also the undercard of the Olympic re-match between Roberto Luongo and Ryan Miller in the same building where Team Canada won the gold medal two years ago.

Oh yeah, and Christian Ehrhoff returning to Vancouver for the first time since leaving for a bigger contract in the summer. And Alex Sulzer was there.

But it turned out the real storyline was a desperate team battling for a playoff spot coming out firing on all cylinders against a complacent team sitting comfortably in first place. The game was essentially over after 5 minutes, but my job wasn’t. I didn’t just watch the first period, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs St. Louis Blues, March 1, 2012

The Canucks were in playoff form Thursday. How do I know? Because this game bore an eerie resemblance to a playoff game from last June. Let me break it down for you:

After two tough losses on the road, the Canucks came home looking to bounce back. The game was tight, with very little room for error, and the NHL’s top two teams entered the third period locked in a 0-0 tie. The contest appeared headed for overtime until, midway through the third, one of the Canucks’ point men put a shot just wide of the net. It popped off the boards and right onto the stick of a French winger that nobody likes, and he was able to jam the puck inside the post just before the goaltender could get across. Immediately after doing so, he scrambled to the boards to celebrate the game-winner with his linemates while Rogers Arena went nuts.

Yeah. Tonight’s game was effectively a shot-for-shot remake of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. I remember it clear as day, because I, like many of you, watched that game. And then I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Phoenix Coyotes, February 28, 2012

For the second time in as many weeks, the Canucks faced a fellow Western Conference division leader, though this meeting was a little less hyped than the previous one. Last week, the Canucks visited the leaders of the Central Division, the Detroit Red Wings, in a game that was everything a fan could ask for in terms of entertainment. This week, they faced the Pacific Division leading Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes are like a magic trick with just a pledge and a turn: no prestige.

That said, the Coyotes entered the game as the hottest team in the league, with a 10-0-1 record in their last 11, making them a tough test for the road-weary Canucks. There was also the intrigue of seeing the newly acquired Sami Pahlsson and Zack Kassian wear the Scowling Orca for the first time. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Dallas Stars, February 26, 2012

On Thursday, the Canucks snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, scoring the game-tying goal in the final minute and winning the game in extra time. On Sunday, Dallas turned the tables on the Canucks, as if the tables were stacked on top of an over-sized Lazy Susan that was resting atop of another, even larger table.

Since it’s the Canucks, there had to be a healthy dose of controversy, as the Stars’ last-minute, game-tying goal came after a blown icing call brought the faceoff all the way down into the Canucks end of the ice. I guess there has to be something to complain about when you get to game 63 of the schedule. I watched this game.

Since it’s the Canucks, there had to be a healthy dose of controversy, as the Stars’ last-minute, game-tying goal came after a blown icing call brought the faceoff all the way down into the Canucks end of the ice. I guess there has to be something to complain about when you get to game 63 of the schedule. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at New Jersey Devils, February 24, 2012

One night after accomplishing the nigh-impossible in Detroit, defeating the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, Vancouver set out to unlock an even more elusive achievement: winning a game with offence exclusively by Aaron Rome and Mason Raymond. It wasn’t easy, but after becoming the first road team in 24 tries to leave Michigan with two points, the Canucks were clearly feeling capable of anything.

Granted, it wasn’t exactly an exciting accomplishment to witness, especially after the high standard of entertainment set in the game prior. As sequels go, this was the Staying Alive to Thursday’s night’s Saturday Night Fever. Yes, I have seen both films. I have also seen this game, because I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Detroit Red Wings, February 23, 2012

The Detroit Red Wings had won 23 consecutive games at Joe Louis Arena, their advantage at home reaching Kevin McAllister-levels of unbelievability. Visitors to the building were bombarded with a dizzying array of booby traps — flamethrowers inside doorways, tar on the steps, paint cans thrown over balconies, Micro Machines on the floor, and, of course, Pavel Datsyuk lying in front of the doggy door, firing his air soft rifle into the unsuspecting groins of those that dare oppose him. It was a nightmarish place for unwanted visitors.

However, despite the Red Wings’ best efforts to break the Canucks’ spirits like the Wet/Sticky Bandits, they forgot to account for the flooded basement next door (played in this metaphor by Alex Burrows). And sadly, like the pigeon lady in the sequel, Jimmy Howard was unable to be the creepy bearded neighbour with the snow shovel. Yes, I’ve watched Home Alone many times. But tonight, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Nashville Predators, February 21, 2012

This game was meant to be all about Alex Burrows, as it was the 500th game of his career. For someone who started his professional career scoring just 32 points in 66 games in the ECHL, it’s a tremendous achievement. He worked his way into the Canucks lineup by being an agitating checker, but has become a sparkplug, top-line forward alongside the Sedins.

The Predators ruined everything, however, by not letting Burrows score 5 goals so someone could win Safeway’s Million Dollar Score and Win. So Burrows instead celebrated by getting under an All-Star’s skin, just like old times, taking Shea Weber off the ice with a coincidental roughing minor when the Canucks were down by one. It was a savvy move, but his teammates couldn’t take advantage. His 500th game was ruined, but I still watched it. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Edmonton Oilers, February 19, 2012

Sunday afternoon, it was announced that the Canucks had topped a poll asking NHLers to name the most overrated team in the league. This was just after Vancouver had pulverized Toronto 6-2 and just prior to making short work of Edmonton, 5-2. One wonders: if the Canucks are truly overrated, then how much worse are these teams than they seemed?

Of course, when it comes to polls of this nature, “overrated” is little more than a synonym for “disliked”, which makes sense: the Canucks are, as we know, loathed throughout Canada, and when you consider that they’re 11-2-1 and just spent the weekend batting Toronto and Edmonton around like a ball of yarn, it’s not difficult to understand why. Canada has one good team right now, a fact of which I would bristle at being reminded, were I not a fan of that team. But I am, so I was as bristle-free as a knitted moustache when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Toronto Maple Leafs, February 18, 2012

The Leafs came into Vancouver having lost 9 straight games to the Canucks and were hoping to prove that they’d made the changes necessary to be successful in the West, like the American Office. Instead, they just wound up being awkward and cringe-inducing, like the British office. It was initially exciting to watch the Canucks absolutely dominate an opponent, but by the end of the game I just wanted to look away. This game was executive-produced by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Colorado Avalanche, February 15, 2012

It’s been a month since the Canucks lost a game in regulation but, going into Wednesday night, it had also been 3 weeks since the Canucks won a game in regulation at home. The Canucks had gone to overtime in 4 straight home games, seemingly intent on giving their home fans more than their money’s worth.

Not in this game. Against the Avalanche, the Canucks stiffed their home crowd by only giving a 60-minute effort. Even worse, one of those minutes came after the Canucks extended their lead to two with an empty net goal, meaning Canucks fans only got to watch 59 minutes of meaningful hockey. Really, we should complain.

I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Phoenix Coyotes, February 13, 2012

It’s been said that the first game back from a road trip is really better considered the last game of the road trip, that it’s not a true home game if you still spend time on a plane the day prior. There was certainly evidence to this theory Monday night, as the Canucks’ first contest in Rogers Arena since the second of February bore an eerie resemblance to the games they played abroad during the 10 days between.

Sure, they were in their home blues, they went home to their own beds, and they were the team surrendering the late, game-tying goal, but everything else about the song remained the same — tight game, sloppy defensive zone breakouts, the absence of Sedinery and, for the fifth time in six outings, a shootout. By now, we’re beginning to wonder if the Canucks are addicted to shootouts. Do they get irritable after regulation victories? Is there a patch or a gum to help ease the cravings? These are the questions I was left with after I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Calgary Flames, February 11, 2012

Going into this game, the Canucks hadn’t lost in regulation in 8 games and had gone to overtime in 5 of their last 6 games. According to their record over their last 10 games, the Canucks were the hottest team in the NHL. According to anyone who actually watched those games, the Canucks were playing some of their worst hockey of the season.

Hey, I watched those games. Then I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Minnesota Wild, February 9, 2012

Leave it to the Minnesota Wild to put everything into perspective. The Canucks were 7-1-2 in their last 10 games heading into Thursday’s contest — the league’s hottest team — but most Canuck fans would admit that their record was incredibly misleading. Anyone who had actually watched those 10 games could have told you Vancouver had been playing some nigh-unwatchable hockey over that stretch.

Of course, then the Canucks touched town in Minnesota and played some actual unwatchable hockey. My goodness, Canuck nation, are we ever spoiled. For the past 5 games, we’ve griped about the Canucks needing overtime to solve their games, but at least it’s been exciting. Tonight, we were treated to a 60-minute regulation win, and when I say “treated to” I mean “stabbed in the brain with”. Somehow it felt like it lasted twice as long. Seemingly forever, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Nashville Predators, February 7, 2012

Byron Bitz came one element short of a Gordie Howe Hat Trick against the Predators. Surprisingly, that missing element was a fight. Who saw that coming? Other than Alain Vigneault, of course, who started Bitz on a line with Henrik Sedin.

The leading theory was that Vigneault was sending Henrik a message by putting him on a line with the 6’5″ winger; turned out he was just trying to get Henrik going. It worked. Henrik had his first multi-point game since January 10th thanks to a couple nice plays by Bitz. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Colorado Avalanche, February 4, 2012

The Canucks have been absolutely dreadful since the All-Star Break. Sure, they’re riding a 3-game regulation unbeaten streak since reassembling, but they’ve hardly reassembled. This team has been a disorganized mess for all three games, playing ugly hockey at both ends of the ice and allowing their opponents to dominate them consistently. They’ve been outshot 128 to 87 — yes, they’re allowing more than 40 shots per game — over these contests.

So how are they winning? Because life isn’t fair. When Kevin Bieksa scored the game-tying goal with the net empty and only thirty-five seconds remaining in regulation Saturday, all I could think was, if the Canucks manage to win and come away from this 3-game stretch with 5 of 6 points, there is absolutely no justice in the world.

As it would happen, there is no justice in the world. I know this for a fact because I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Detroit Red Wings, February 2, 2012

Most people in the hockey world thought a match-up between the Red Wings and Canucks, the two best teams in the Western Conference, would be the game to watch tonight. Instead, Sam “Him?” Gagner stepped into the spotlight, scoring 8 points against the Chicago Blackhawks and tying Paul Coffey and Wayne Gretzky’s franchise record for most points in a game.

Yeah. Sam Gagner did that.

But I didn’t watch that game. The game I watched was merely okay. What game did I watch? 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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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Edmonton Oilers, January 24, 2012

Last game before the All-Star break. Opponent from the basement of the conference. A busy schedule of community outreach. There were a number of reasons why the Canucks could have been distracted from playing hockey on Tuesday night, but the team seemed entirely focussed on taking care of business.

Far more focussed than I, at least. Through the haze of a nagging cold, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs San Jose Sharks, January 21, 2012

It’s amazing what a three-day break between games will do for a hockey team. For the first time in a while, the Canucks actually looked fresh to start the game. At even-strength, the Canucks dominated possession and out-scored the Sharks 4-1. Unfortunately, the referees called some penalties and Logan Couture plays for the Sharks, scoring a shorthanded and a powerplay goal to keep the game close.

The Canucks at even-strength and special teams were like two different teams playing two different games. I watched both of them when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Los Angeles Kings, January 17, 2012

After a truly terrible effort against he Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, many predicted a strong start from the Canucks in this game against the Kings. Boy, were they wrong. The Canucks were absolutely awful in the first period, getting out-shot, out-chanced, and out-scored. It could have been a lot worse, but Roberto Luongo was phenomenal.

Just like in Luongo’s first season with the team, he stole a point for the Canucks, making 39 saves on 41 shots through regulation and overtime. Like Harrison from the press box, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Anaheim Ducks, January 15, 2012

Once in a great while, the Canucks play a game so indigestible, and so utterly heinous that the only thing the Vancouver hockey fan can do is block it from memory like some great horror. Were Sunday’s game not so fresh in my mind, I’d be at a loss to provide any examples of such a game at all.

Unfortunately, I can’t simply flush Sunday’s loss to the Ducks from my brain; I have to solidify and stabilize it, like any toxic waste. With that, I advise you to please put on your hazmat suits, because I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at St. Louis Blues, January 12, 2012

Last season, the Blues finished 11th in the Western Conference, well outside the playoff picture. Meanwhile, Brian Elliott was arguably the worst single player in the NHL.

Somehow, combining the two has led to tremendous success, as the Blues came into this game second in the West, just behind the Canucks, while Elliott is second in the league in save percentage, goals against average, and shutouts. He went from the worst goaltender in the league to being named to the All-Star Game.

Who would have thought the all-star goaltender in this game wouldn’t be Luongo? On the plus side, the Canucks had four all-stars of their own, three of whom pitched in to put 3 goals past the Blues’ all-star. I watched this game.

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