[I Watched This Game is a recurring feature at Pass it to Bulis, the hockey blog that knows who needs the puck. It chronicles the insights and observations of two guys who watched a hockey game. To view all the other wonderful stuff PITB does, visit Pass It To Bulis.]
You hate to see a game like this go to a shootout. I did. After 60 minutes of the top two teams in the NHL strutting their excellent puck movement, remarkable defense, and fabulous systems play, suddenly everything that made the game so stellar is taken away and a coin is flipped. Because that’s what the shootout is, really: a coin toss, a crapshoot. So before you go blaming anybody for the loss (i.e. Tambellini, for missing on that breakaway, or Luongo, for getting beat by Hudler), take a deep breath and recognize that this game, like all games decided in a shootout, was a tie with an extra point pulled out of a hat.
Then recognize that, in their sixth games in nine nights, the Canucks still skated away with a point, just as they did in the other five, and just as they did in this season’s other two intense games versus these Red Wings. I tell you, if we’re lucky enough to see these two teams in the playoffs, I’d cancel Christmas to watch every second of it. I’m serious. I’d watch so freaking hard, much like how I watched this game:
- Jimmy Howard was the game’s deserving first star. He made 32 saves, many of the incredible variety. He flatly robbed Henrik and Daniel once each, controlled rebounds, and swallowed up shots like they were merchant ships floating above the nest of the Krakken. Then he stoned all three shooters in the shootout. He stoned them just like Jelly Roll. Howard was out of this world tonight, not unlike another famous Howard in red.
- Were it not for Howard’s play, you’d be hearing a lot of talk about the Sedins (or, the Wizards of the Coast, as per @victoriado, brilliantly). They were consistently dangerous tonight, especially on that lob play that they seem to have perfected. I counted about three times that Burrows or Henrik vaulted the puck into the air, only to have Daniel glove it down and start an odd-man rush. There should be a law against lobs that sweet. That’s right. A Lob Law.
- By the way, we’ve seen that play a lot this year. We take for granted the way the Sedins innovate ways to create offense. They’re always scheming, from their set faceoff plays to the slap-pass to these lobs. I guess that’s what happens when you share a duplex with a perma-linemate.
- Chris Osgood is nearing forty, but you’d never know it. Not because he plays like a younger man, but because he looks like a younger man. Osgood didn’t play tonight, but the HNIC producer couldn’t stay away from shots of him sulking in the hallway, and he looks about sixteen. He also looks a lot like Ian Walker. Think Bif Naked is the victim of a brilliant switcheroo? Probably. Foxy celebrities marry athletes, not writers. Who does Walker think he is? Arthur Miller?
- Keith Ballard had a fantastic game tonight. He was named the game’s second star, which was enough to earn him about a whole two extra minutes of icetime. Not too shabby. Though he was only credited with 3 hits, one of the hits looked like this. That’s good for an extra minute right there. Ballard had a solid overall game. He rushed the puck out of his own zone well, played physical, and rang a shot off the post that might have put Vancouver over the top. If we get this kind of play regularly from our fifth defenseman, we’ll probably do all right.
- Ballard didn’t actually deserve the second star, though–Kevin Bieksa did. Juice played 24 minutes, seemingly all of them engaged in a cross-check fight with Tomas Holmstrom. Despite battling the big jackass all night, Bieksa managed to get off five shots, attempt another five, block three, and collect three takeaways. Apparently, like the marriage of Stanley and Stella Kowalski, Kevin Bieksa is better when he’s fighting.
- Both teams were clearly exhausted tonight, but I really recognized it in the Canucks. Mason Raymond and Jeff Tambellini, who normally fly, instead did whatever it is turkeys do to get around. The rest of the Canucks, too, seemed to lack jump, especially in the third. After limiting the Red Wings to less than ten shots in both the first and second, they Canucks looked like they just ran out of the steam. This is a team known for their ability to #WinDaTurd, but they couldn’t keep pace with Detroit in the third period tonight. Detroit rattled off seventeen shots and had the Canucks scrambling in the defensive zone for most of the final frame. Were it not for the stellar play of Roberto Luongo, I don’t think this one would have gotten to overtime. Like Kanye West, the Canucks were all over the place, but like Mike Myers, Luongo seemed desperate to salvage the point.
- Jim Hughson with the Lord of the Rings reference of the night: “Helm couldn’t smeagol by him along the boards.” How does one smeagol, exactly? I’ve never heard this term before in my life. I take this to mean Helm tried to bite Alberts’s finger off.
- Though the Canucks’ powerplay only scored one time (above) in five opportunities, they looked absolutely awe-inspiring at times. At times the Sedins threw the puck around. At times Kesler tried to muscle the puck through. At times, Christian Ehrhoff showed why he’s the motor of the back end, zipping around the zone like Ben Stiller only wished he could have. It was fun to watch.
- @GutsMcTavish24 observed that Todd Bertuzzi still has moments of soft perimeter play. Almost immediately upon tweeting that Bertuzzi wasn’t “willing to sacrifice,” DJ Dave threw on Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice.” How he knew to do that is beyond me.
- I’m interested in Ryan Kesler only taking 12 faceoffs. He won 6, but for a guy who’s top ten in the circle, you’d think he’d take more. Any theories? Here’s mine: Kesler is the best skater on the team, and Vigneault wanted to start him on the fly.
- Speaking of faceoffs, after narrowly gaining his coach’s trust in the faceoff circle, Alex Bolduc is clearly back to square one. A few games ago, he was taking eight faceoffs. Problem was, he lost all eight. Tonight he took two, and he won them both, but do you know who else took two? Mason Raymond. Bolduc’s got his work cut out for him; it’ll take some time to regain that trust.
- Manny Malhotra, on the other hand, was a faceoff machine, and in a playoff-atmosphere game like this, it was impossible not to notice. He went 18-for-28, but it seemed like he never lost, especially in the defensive zone, where he was 13-for-18. Red Wing centermen tried everything to combat his technique; they seemed highly irritated with how low he was getting. Nothing worked. Like a guy who wants to be startin’ something, Malhotra was too low to get under.