I Watched This Game: Canucks 4 – 3 Islanders (SO)

[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.]

The Canucks had a season-high 51 shots tonight, the Islanders had 41; that’s 92 shots total. How odd, then, that I found this game, with its scoring chances hither and thither, exceedingly dull. Heck, the shootout nearly matched the entire game for entertainment value. Why so mundane? I suspect some of it has to do with the act the Islanders were forced to follow. They’re a pabulum team at the best of times, but in direct contrast with last Saturday’s Red Wings, they’re duller than airplane cutlery.

The Canucks didn’t help, though. Despite keeping rookie goalie Kevin Poulin plenty busy, they played a sloppy, uninspired game. After a strong first period, they slowed down for the last forty, and their defensive coverage was suspect all night long. They looked tired, and I suspect they still are. That’s not good. They’ve still got four more games on this road trip, and I’d like them to win most of them. I’d also like them to be more entertaining than this one, which I watched:

  • Just as was predicted, Ryan Kesler played despite his injured thumb. Word was that he might let his wingers take a few draws, and considering Jeff Tambellini and Mason Raymond took four between them, it’s probably safe to say Kesler gave them one extra faceoff apiece. He really knows how to cut back. The injury didn’t seem to hamper his ability to shoot the puck, either, as he still put a game-high eight shots on net. One of them went in (above). Then he scored the shootout winner. This guy’s ability to play through pain is mind-boggling, which, consequently, is what I call the mental exercise I perform when nobody will play Boggle with me.
  • Former Canuck Michael Grabner seemed determined to make the Canucks regret letting him go, breaking in past the defense on multiple occasions and putting a team-high 7 shots to Roberto Luongo. While none of those shots made it past the goal line, Grabner definitely looked like a threat to score all night. But, before you start navelgazing, take a look at the rest of his stat line. It’s blank. Grabner didn’t register a single hit, takeaway, or blocked shot, which is kind of remarkable considering everybody else did. Grabs is a uniquely pure goalscorer, so pure he neglects all other facets of the game, including even elementary things like passing. Consider that both he and Henrik Sedin are fourth in goals scored among their respective teams with 9 goals each. Henrik simply has 42 more assists. It’s unfair to be compared to Henrik Sedin, but it’s just an example of how scorers can be overvalued in some cases. Grabner may be an NHL-quality scorer, but to my mind he’ll never be a complete player.
  • I love Tanner Glass. Part of it is that he agreed to play Scrabble with me. The other part of it is because he does stuff like this. Glass’s fight may have salvaged this game, giving his team an energy boost when they began to skate on sand. Look at Kesler’s excited face on the bench after the tilt–he’s amped. Glass isn’t the best fighter in the world, but you can see in this bout that he’s a smart fighter. He patiently waits for Matt Martin to open up a bit, then he just slides in and pushes his off button. Hard. With his fist.
  • A word on Luongo’s All-Star snub. He doesn’t care. At all. He’s been before, and he fought to avoid the game two years ago when his wife had a baby. Hey, guess what, she had a baby this year too! I suspect we’ll eventually find out that Luongo had a chance to go to Raleigh, but declined in order to spend time with his family. He doesn’t want to be in North Carolina. Few people do. Half the state didn’t, which is why there’s a South Carolina. I would much rather spend a weekend with my newborn son than go to North Carolina. Heck, that’s just one on a long, long list of things I’d rather do than go to North Carolina.
  • Luongo was solid tonight, by the way. Ignore the fact he let in three goals and remember that he made 38 saves. Furthermore, nobody is stopping that John Tavares shot. That was like a summer’s day, it was so beautiful.
  • It may not have been perfectly executed, but it was nice to see the Sedins and Burrows pull off that faceoff play. They used it to perfection so many times last year that everybody’s wise to it, which is why we’ve yet to see it work this season. But my favourite thing about the Wizards of the Coast is that, while they know full well that every defense in the NHL knows what they’re trying, they still try it. Unlike Wile E. Coyote, they don’t try a plan once, then scrap it forever. Then keep everything in their bag of tricks and just hammer away at the defense’s scouting reports. Did you watch video on this? Did your coach tell you to watch out for this?
  • Jeremy Colliton seems a bit rough around the edges, doesn’t he? He took two silly penalties tonight–one on a hook and one on a hold–and both of them seemed as avoidable as a banana peel on Koopa Troopa Beach. The hold on Henrik Sedin was particularly egregious. If he thinks it’s okay to hold a person like that, I’d advise against letting him have a kitten or a bunny rabbit. He’d be like George from Of Mice and Men.
  • Today I realized we talk about Kevin Bieksa a lot here at PITB, but man, looking at his stat lines these days, you’d think he was Adam Banks. Apart from scoring Vancouver’s game-tying goal (on a lucky deflection, but still), he also put up 5 shots, 6 hits, 2 takeaways and a block. Michael Grabner, take notes: this is how you do other things.
  • I fell asleep during this game. More interestingly, I fell asleep while fast forwarding the PVR through the second intermission, and when I woke up, Don Taylor was telling me the final score. Not cool, Don Taylor.
  • The Canucks outhit the Islanders 38 to 24, but didn’t it seem worse than that? The Islanders, as currently assembled, are a team of semi-skilled young’uns, severely lacking in hittiness or old man strength. Meanwhile, the Canucks have more old man strength than The Crimson Permanent Assurance.
  • The Canucks now sit atop the NHL standings with 62 points, three more than Philadelphia and Detroit, and still with a game in hand on the Red Wings. It excites me, as a fan, to be checking the scores of the other top teams in the NHL rather than simply the teams in our division. I’m not used to being so inclusive. If the Canucks win the Presidents’ Trophy, all those Northwest Division titles will seem a bit trite, no?

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