Harrison Mooney

Feb 082011
 

[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.]

You’d have thought, from the tone of the media coverage leading up to this game, that Ottawa was coming in with a bag over their collective heads, while the Canucks had been spotted a guillotine, a French audience, and a death warrant personally signed by Maximilien Robespierre. From the outset, this one looked like a routine execution, the league’s best team up against, arguably, the league’s worst team. Of course, that’s not how it went. Rather than crush the Senators like the Crushinator might have crushed them, the Canucks jumped out to an early lead, indicating a crushing, then nearly lost it with some sloppy play in the second. As a result, this one was a lot closer than anybody had expected, myself included. My official prediction was a Canuck victory by the score of 50 million billion to 1. I wound up being off by one goal. I watched this game:

  • The big story was the play of the Canucks’ second line of Raymond, Kesler, and Samuelsson, which appears to be coming to life like the denizens of Stephen King’s Pet Sematery. They led the way last night, with 3 goals and 8 points between them. Kesler played the way he usually played, capable of giving straight men pause, and Raymond and Samuelsson finally looked like suitable linemates, using their respective speed and shootiness to great effect. The game-winning goal (above) was an excellent display of their reignited chemistry. Kesler fought the puck through the neutral zone before Raymond gained some room in the offensive zone with his speed. MayRay then fed it back to Kesler, who found Samuelsson in front. It was very cute, like Animaniac sister Dot.
  • Also worth mentioning is that Kesler made that pass with Jannik Hansen’s stick, given to him after his own lumber snapped in the neutral zone. I wondered what Hansen was thinking while Kesler was using it to dazzle. I suspect the following: 1) Why doesn’t it do that when I’m holding it? and 2) Maybe now they’ll finally let me join their study group.
  • Not featured in this clip of the Kesler goal is the post he hit seconds prior. His shot really is something else. Not literally, of course–it’s remains a shot. Kesler has become a remarkable player. I’m downright salivating at the thought of what he could fetch us in a trade. I’m thinking a top-line, two-way, power forward center and a late draft pick.
  • On the heels of being named one of the NHL’s three stars for the week, Mikael Samuelsson potted another two goals tonight. His empty-netter to seal the win was a reassertion that yes, he will shoot from anywhere (joke credit: @MFitz24). Thanks for reminding us, buddy, but next time, gain the red line. Samuelsson is like that member of the sniper team that picks off the bank robber right at the moment the cop on the inside is beginning to get through to the guy, and the audience is beginning to sympathize with him. Then bam! He’s dead. Not in Mikael’s bank!
  • If you’re not sure whether or not you’re the squeamish sort, have a look at Keith Ballard’s knee. Are you vomiting? You’re squeamish. I’ve eaten licorice that wouldn’t bend like that. Anyway, Ballard left the game with an undisclosed injury (early bet: knee) early in the first. The good news: this hardly disrupted Alain Vigneault’s perma-gameplan of giving all Ballard’s minutes to Aaron Rome.
  • Rome then exacerbated the Canucks’ lack of playable defencemen when he took 1140 seconds in penalties for fighting with Chris Neil, and I have to give a ton of credit to Neil on this one. When the Senators went down by two, Neil tried to start something with Rome, and Rome smartly declined. But here’s the thing: the Canucks have been playing with the lead so much this season, they almost always decline, and Neil was the first one to force the issue. The first chance he got, he took a run at Henrik Sedin. For those complaining it was in any way dirty (I’m looking at you, Garry “I only own paisley ties” Valk), it looked nearly identical to every Raffi Torres hit. It was fine. And, it necessitated a response, which was the point. Then, Neil smartly looked off Daniel Sedin, who was first on the scene for some reason (and took a Burrows-esque stab at Neil’s genitals) before pummeling Aaron Rome. That is how you get what you want. The fact that it put the Canucks down to 4 defenseman for much of the entire second period (during which Ottawa scored twice) was a bonus. You may hate Chris Neil, but his was an absolutely perfect piece of agitation.
  • It’s a small beef, but let’s talk about Aaron Rome’s delay of game penalty: really? Rome was lying on his belly when he swept the puck away. Can he really be blamed for the fact that it took off like a hornuss? I say no. If the Bible’s creation story has taught us anything, it’s that, once on its belly, a creature goes from treacherous to harmless pretty quickly. How can the referees not read this situation? In the third period, Roberto Luongo briefly lost his stick. Had it met the puck in the corner, would he have received a delay of game penalty too? The order to call this penalty by the letter of the law has only made the referees look like fools. In a parallel universe, they’re the guys ticketing motorists for turning right at a red light.
  • Andrew Alberts probably wasn’t expecting to play 17:10 (that’s Aaron Rome icetime) tonight, but he was pretty great in his first game back in the lineup. Alberts used his body to great effect (like Willa Ford), finishing with a game-high seven hits, two blocked shots, and a plus-2.
  • When Alex Burrows is playing with confidence, he becomes more than a Sedin linemate–he’s his own weapon. On his goal, he looks off Daniel Sedin to take the puck to the net himself. The power move completely surprises Chris Phillips, who cuts behind the goal, thinking he’s going to shrewdly take the puck away. Instead, Burrows finds himself alone in front, and shows a great bit of patience to put it past Elliott. There was an article in the Province only yesterday about Burrows working with Glenn Carnegie to take that extra second with the puck after missing four open chances versus Chicago. The extra work appears to have paid off instantly.
  • How about that 3-on-0 rush the Senators got? Granted, it doesn’t happen if the puck doesn’t jump over Daniel Sedin’s stick, but the rest of the team picked a poor time to have a tea party at the bench. I was surprised Luongo was even in the net.
  • Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis was the big-minute guy tonight, logging over 30 minutes in the absence of Ballard and Rome. He’s such a good guy he didn’t mind the extra work. He had plenty of energy left over, too. During the intermission, he freed Tibet.
  • I always wonder about the player that serves the bench minors. Is he aware he’s in there because he’s the least important? Coach says I’m the best at breakaways, that’s why I’m in here.
  • And finally, you had to feel bad for the snake-bitten Senators, who hit three posts in about a two-minute span when a goal would have tied the game. Not since the cast of Canada’s Worst Driver has a group hit so many consecutive posts.
Jan 252011
 

[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 that watched a hockey game.]

Friends, Romans, countrymen, I ask you, humbly, what is the cure for an offensive slump? Don’t answer; this is a rhetorical question. The solution, as everybody knows, is an opponent with porous goaltending and crap defense. It’s a fairly simple remedy, but the real trick is finding a major league team willing to provide it. Short of scheduling a shinny with the Washington Generals or the South Park Peewee Team, you can only hope that some NHL club is going to fly into town and generously lay an egg. Lucky for Canucks fans, that’s about what happened in tonight’s game which, by the way, I watched:

  • What a welcome return to form for the home team. The Canucks played with the energy and pace they’d hinted at during the Calgary game and then some. We also saw a recommitment to limiting shots against (only 26 for a high-scoring Dallas team), and a renewed offensive potency (7 goals, y’all). They played much better than they have in quite awhile, more in keeping with the level we know they’re capable. Still, before we get ahead of ourselves, it wasn’t only a return to form that caused tonight’s result; Dallas also played sloppier than a loose meat sandwich. What we saw was the Canucks’ get better and the Stars come apart at the same time, and this beautiful coincidence resulted in a nasty shellacking.
  • A number of slumps were bumped tonight, but none more important than the goals scored by both of Ryan Kesler’s wingers. Mikael Samuelsson’s was an especially nice wrist shot. Word is he broke his goal-scoring slump by imagining a logo in the top corner of the net, then hitting it dead center. Perhaps more impressive than the goal, however, were his game-high five shots, equal to how the number of shots he attempted. None were blocked, and none missed.
  • I’m not sure if Mason Raymond’s goal will stay his. The scorekeepers seemed so eager to declare another slump busted that they seemed to give it to him just because he was near it. Looks like Edler blasted it clean through to me; Raymond might be more deserving of a takeaway for stealing credit. But I won’t quibble over whether or not it’s his; I’m not Maury Povich. Let’s just hope it’s the first of many.
  • Speaking of blasting pucks, let’s take a moment to celebrate the long-awaited emergence of Alex Edler’s deadly slapper. He had two assists tonight, both on redirected slapshots (the aforementioned, from Raymond, and one from Kesler to take a 2-1 lead). Christian Ehrhoff also had a goal on one that got clean through. Ehrhoff’s been the member of this pairing most willing to shoot this season, which has always seemed silly to me. Edler’s got the hardest shot on the team. Now, they’re both shooting regularly, and it’s made them a lethal tandem on the blue line, with 12 points in the last six games. Letting them fire away seems like a wise move, especially after they broke the power play’s two-game mini slump by these very means.
  • Aaron Volpatti had a strong game tonight, and it’s possible that you hardly noticed. First there was a solid hit on Tom Wandell behind the Stars’ net. Then, Krys Barch tried to respond by drawing Volpatti into a fight, but Volpatti was smart enough to realize it wasn’t the right time. Instead, he responded by shouting, “F*** you, Barch!” loud enough for the cameras to clearly pick it up.
  • Later, Volpatti assisted on the Henrik Sedin 5-1 backbreaker halfway into the 2nd, skating well and centering a puck that would go in off Steve Ott’s boot after a touch from Henrik. If the assist wasn’t enough, Volpatti then “accidentally” tripped over Ott as he circled the net to celebrate the goal. It was a smart, sneaky play, and don’t be surprised that Volpatti’s a sneak; everybody knows Ivy Leaguers are shifty. I mean, they steal entire social networks from one another.
  • If you’re wondering why Henrik Sedin already has a mind-boggling 50 assists on the season, look no further than his puck movement on the power play. Watch him on either power play goal. On Kesler’s goal, he draws three defenders to him with a simply head fake before making a brilliant saucer pass to Edler for a one-timer. On Ehrhoff’s goal, it’s much a simpler feed, but this time Henrik uses a head fake to back his defender off. Opponents are so terrified he’s going to pass, you’d think they were auditioning for American Idol.
  • The perennially out for blood Daniel Sedin is now 4 points back of the NHL scoring lead. Earlier today, Elliotte Friedman suggested he might get picked last in the NHL All-Star draft. If that happens, I suspect he’ll coolly walk to the podium and shoot his captain in the chest, like Boomer on Battlestar Galactica.
  • Andrew Raycroft’s mask is as sparkly as a preteen girl’s binder. Or a preteen girl’s idea of a vampire.
  • How to make a player lose his mind: eye gouge him in a scrum. Just like the Rypien incident, you can clearly see Burish raging, “he was eye gouging me,” after the referees finally pull Burrows and him apart. Not to go all “Ron Maclean” on you guys, but, considering Burr’s reputation, he’s probably guilty here. That’s a finger to the peeper and a stick to the peepee in the last two weeks. He needs to be careful he doesn’t get a reputation as a dirty(er) player.
  • If he’s not careful, he’ll undo all the goodwill the Zen Canucks have built up towards officials this season. Seriously, the Canucks successfully argued for a call to be overturned tonight. When the last time that’s ever happened? I think we’re more used to the “On second thought, the Canucks lose” type of calls. Especially recently.
  • Dan Hamhuis dropped his gloves tonight. Dan. Hamhuis. What could Mike Ribiero have possibly said or done to make Hammy drop the mitts? Ribieiro: Frankly, I don’t think Haiti deserves our relief. And the children can read to themselves. Hamhuis: I’ll kill you!
  • Congratulations to Chris Tanev, who picked up his first career point, an assist on Hamhuis’s goal, the seventh and final goal of the evening. Tanev showed impressive poise tonight, finishing a plus-one with two blocked shots in just over sixteen minutes of icetime. Granted, everyone (in blue) looked good tonight, but Tanev is beginning to look like he might belong in the NHL, which is more than I can say for tonight’s opponent.
  • All credit to Tanner Glass, who spent some time tonight as the fourth-line center, and some time as the third-line winger. When he earned third line icetime last season, it was more an indictment of the Canucks’ lack of forward depth. This season, however, he’s been so defensively responsible and so smart with the puck that he’s earned every extra minute he’s been given, and I’m happy to eat crow when it comes to his stints in the top nine. I’m still not sold on his scoring ability, but I think, when your third line hasn’t scored in ten games or more, Tanner Glass certainly can’t make you offensively less potent.
  • Kevin Bieksa’s eye doesn’t look too bad… if he’s planning a trip to McDonaldland. His face is so purple he could pass for The Grimace. Speaking of passing, Bieksa did take advantage of the distinguishable mark for some brilliant duplicity. Rather than serve a second period penalty, he traded places with a wax #statueofbieksa (hashtag credit: @RE4713), and nobody noticed because, like the real Bieksa, the replica had a black eye.
  • The Canucks dominated the faceoff circle tonight, winning 40 of 65 draws. All four centres finished over 50%, with even Glass winning 4-of-7. He’s won 17 of 31 on the season now, which is pretty impressive, considering he was 3-for-18 last season. He’s developing this skill really quickly.
  • This is the second consecutive game versus the Canucks where the Stars have lost their composure, and you have to consider their sources of leadership. First, Marc Crawford’s teams have never been known for being particularly mentally tough (and Crow’s never been good at knowing when to pull his goalie, either). Second, Brendan Morrow’s captaincy might be a good cautionary tale for those who think Kesler should have gotten the “C” in Vancouver. Like Kesler, Morrow plays an intense, gritty game that’s a nice example when he’s focused, but he has a tendency to get overemotional and lose focus. When he does, the team follows him. He’s simply not a calming force.
  • Henrik Sedin, on the other hand, knows how to channel his emotions. He digs so deep, you might say he chunnels his emotions. He was solely to blame on Dallas’s only goal, but rather than beat himself up about it, he simply upped his resolve. He looked downright determined to atone for the remainder of the period. Then he did. Not since the award-winning film based on the novel Atonement have I seen such atonement.
Jan 192011
 

[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.]

Give the Canucks credit for showing up to play this one. After a horrendous outing in Minnesota exposed their tired road legs, the excuses for a second consecutive poor performance were readymade. Instead, the Canucks vehemently defied the wishes of their bodies in Colorado, and kept up with the speedy Avalanche. They outshot the Avs 43 to 30 and picked up a well-earned point. It could have been two points, even, had the Canucks managed to push through their mental sluggishness the way they did their physical sluggishness.

Unfortunately for them, it was not so, and the mental mistakes came fast and furious. Bad penalties; bad passes; bad reads; lazy backchecks. Against a young, aggressive team like the Avalanche, that crap’s not gonna fly. Although, by getting the regulation tie, I guess it sort of did. Hmm. Okay, it did, but then, in the end, it didn’t (not unlike the Avro Arrow). Whatever. I watched this game:

  • Likely, neither team will be particularly happy with the way they played tonight (the Canucks were slow and sloppy, and the Avalanche let a tired road team take the lead three times) but both teams will be happy to leave the stadium with points. It’s like sports day in grade school. Everybody gets a ribbon!
  • The Canucks’ power play covers all manner of sins sometimes. Both Edler and Ehrhoff blasted PP goals from the point that gave their team the lead, and these goals were vital. Had the Canucks had to open up and play from behind for even one second in this game, their suspect defensive play would have been even more prominent, and it could have gotten out of hand.
  • It’s been a long time since the Canucks have had a sexy callup like Sergei Shirokov, so it was nice to see him play a standout game in his first NHL action this year. He scored his first career goal on a beautiful move (above), and he had a game-high six shots. But, before you get excited, consider he’s played two fewer games this month–and nine fewer NHL games. He had fresh legs. He was like Anne Bancroft on skates, his legs were so fresh. Let’s wait to see whether or not he can be a standout when the rest of his team isn’t playing on fumes, but he was a breath of fresh air tonight. Most importantly, he looked capable of creating his own offense, something Kesler’s wings have to be able to do. A good start for Shirok.
  • The other callup, Chris Tanev, acquitted himself admirably as well. He finished the night a minus-1, but it’s hard to fault him on the Luongo misplay that gave David Jones his first of two on the night. Jones was his man, for sure, but everyone in the building thought Luongo would swallow up that puck as it came off the boards. Other than that, Tanev was solid. He got on the ice for just under thirteen minutes, far more than anyone would have expected. He admirably broke up a 3-on-1 when Keith Ballard heeded Qris’s advice to step it up, pranks-wise and decided to pull the old fall-down-so-the-rookie-has-to-fend-off-a-3-on-1 routine. Funny guy, that Ballard.
  • Don’t tell the Vancouver media I said this, but here’s your proof that the star awards mean nothing: Alex Edler was named the game’s third star. Clearly, someone didn’t watch the game (probably John Garrett, who has made a living watching games, but always seems to be attending his first one). While it’s true that Edler had a standout game offensively with a goal and an assist, he played one of his worst games of the season defensively. He constantly lost his man, he bobbled pucks at the blue line, he looked dreadfully slow. Despite finishing the game even in the plus/minus category, Edler was on the ice for two Colorado goals, both on the penalty kill, and both times he got absolutely embarrassed by David Jones in front of the net. Jones isn’t a small guy, but Edler’s bigger, and the fact that Edler allowed himself to get moved right out of the play twice is unacceptable. Watch the highlight package. Colorado goals one and four are mirror images of one another, as Jones simply shades Edler into the useless area, opening up the exact same cross-ice pass. On the first goal, you can find Edler at the side of the net when the pass comes across. On the fourth goal, that’s him in the middle, lazily dropping down to block nothing, opening up the same pass and rendering himself helpless to prevent Jones from finding the rebound. A terrible game from #23 tonight.
  • Kevin Bieksa, on the other hand, played solidly. Nearly every shift, he was breaking up an odd-man rush or clearing the zone before things got dangerous. He finished with 2 hits, 4 takeaways and 3 blocked shots, and considering these three stats are typically undercounted (especially when you play for the road team), that’s one hell of a stat line.
  • Keith Ballard had a decent game as well, but has anyone noticed how often this guy falls? He’s like an ancient empire on skates. Methinks Keith “Babylon” Ballard needs to heed the words of the prophet Jeremiah.
  • Is Adam Foote a diplomat’s son? He’s clearly got some sort of immunity. Foote’s a handsy guy, but it doesn’t seem to matter who he grabs, punches, or holds–there’s never a call. He could grope the First Lady and someone would call it a smart, veteran play.
  • The referees missed some egregious offenses, but Raffi Torres sure made it easy on them, huh? Both of his penalties tonight were of the are-you-kidding-me variety, especially his second one. Who tugs on a jersey? Not since Theodore Tugboat have I seen such pathetic tugging. Skeeter and I observed that Raffi Torres has three modes: 1) skateskateskateskate 2) get puck, and 3) put puck. Unfortunately, none of the three modes is any more detailed than that, and Raffi often skimps on the details. Torres is playing some dumb hockey right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if he suffers a benching in the near future.
  • Speaking of penalties, Henrik Sedin’s penalty in overtime was fully warranted. Granted, his man went down easy, but everyone knows there are a two situations where you should never stick your arm out. The first is when you’re chasing to break up a two-on-one. The second is when you’re on a school bus. That’s how you lose a limb.
  • A better performance by Roberto Luongo and the Canucks probably leave Denver with a win. He’ll get no pass tonight; he was the freshest Canuck and he should have played like it. When your star goaltender is rested and your team isn’t, you need a star goaltending performance, and the Canucks didn’t get it. The second and third goals are both ones he probably should have had. Know what else he should have had? A Bacon Mushroom Melt. It’s only ever at Wendy’s for a limited time, and it’s delicious. But now it’s gone, and who knows how long he’ll have to wait for them to bring it back? /regret
  • And finally, Jeff Tambellini was the fourth-line center tonight, and while he did a fine job (especially in the faceoff circle, where he was 5-for-6) I’m not sure I like he and Mason Raymond on that line together. They’re too tiny, and tiny on the fourth line is a bad idea, unless it’s an ironic nickname for someone huge, like Tiny, the classic character from SNES’s Clayfighter.
Jan 142011
 

[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.]

It is the worst letdown in the world when the Canucks suffer a shutout loss. It’s a worse letdown than Urkel O’s (the cereal that showed so much promise). Not only am I forced to watch the Canucks lose, but I’m forced to watch as they’re held off the scoresheet. Truth is, it’s boring. Plus it means the highlight package will also be boring: Don Taylor: in the second, Mikael Samuelsson streaks into the zone and shoots–it is blocked. It means the post-game breakdown will be boring. Blake Price: Henrik Lundqvist is a good goalie. It means fan conversation will be boring. Fan: I thought the Sedins weren’t that good tonight. Like the pace of the game, everything slows to a crawl until the next one. It’s a torture.

That’s right. Watching bad hockey is literally torture. I, like any good Canadian, would sooner give away national secrets than watch a shutout loss. This is why Canada should never go to war with the United States: we’re too easy to torture (and boy, do they torture). Sigh. I watched this game:

  • Well everyone, the Canucks lost in regulation. Don’t panic, but this can only mean one thing: it’s the end of days. How will it happen? I theorize the following: the human race is about to be overthrown by a coalition of marmots and marmosets. Their combined brainpower will allow them to crack the evolutionary code and evolve at alarming rates. Their combined military power will create an unstoppable marmy. People: it’s marmageddon.
  • I’m exaggerating slightly. Nothing can evolve that quickly, save Canuck fans’ opinions on their team. This loss isn’t the end of the world. It sucks that the Canucks’ point streak and Cory Schneider’s point streak both had to end, but it was going to happen eventually. Hopefully, this loss is just a loss, and not the beginning of a streak going the other way. It’s going to take much more winning to remain atop the NHL, where the Canucks maintain a three-point lead on Detroit and Philadelphia.
  • Let’s get right out in front of any potential navel-gazing and establish that the Rangers played one Hell of a defensive game. The Associated Press called it an all-heart performance, and while it may not have been the hockey equivalent of trying to liberate Scotland, it was certainly commendable. The Rangers swarmed the puck, had 13 different guys combine to block 24 shots (including 5 from Dan Girardi), and forced the Canucks to shoot from the outside all night. Against a team like Vancouver that scores the majority of their goals a foot from the crease, that’s a solid recipe for success.
  • The Canucks lost this game along the boards. Sadly, there’s no statistic to back this up, but when the Canucks are playing well, they win their offensive zone puck battles and sustain offensive pressure. Led by pinching expert Kevin Bieksa (the grandma of the NHL), they keep pucks inside the blue line and break down defensive structures by throwing it around the zone willy-nilly. Last night, the Rangers prevented them from doing this.
  • Also, Henrik Lundqvist stopped all the shots. That helped too.
  • While New York’s 24 blocks came from thirteen guys, Vancouver’s 12 blocks came from only four defensemen, including four apiece from Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis, who quietly played a stellar game. It’s always a bummer when a team loses 1-0 because the strong defensive effort of the losers goes relatively unnoticed. The Ham n’ Juice pairing looks as defensively sound as any Canuck tandem this town’s seen in years, Bryant Reeves and Stromile Swift notwithstanding.
  • Ryan Kesler continued his shootiness, throwing five on net, and attempting another five. However, the shot king last night was Mikael “Shooty McShooterson” Samuelsson. He had five shots as well, with two blocked and four more missing the goal. He’s a funny player. He shoots when he should pass; he holds the puck when he should move it, such as when he dragged the puck back in the neutral zone when any other player would have dumped it in. Sammy’s not unlike Daniel and Henrik in that he plays the game at his own, mechanical pace, and can frustrate by appearing take it easy or playing without urgency. He’s just a measured, intelligent player. Last night he was our best forward. Let’s keep him.
  • Let’s not keep him on the first unit power play. Why, I ask, did the Canucks put him on the point instead of Ehrhoff for the five-on-three? Why did they take Kesler out from the front of the net and put him at the point? If you’re wondering why they did not score, tackle these first two whys and you’ll probably have your answer.
  • Mason Raymond had some jump as well, but he seems to have forgotten how to capitalize on a chance. Even in Monopoly, all he gets are parking fines and poor taxes.
  • Cory Schneider had a fine game, but there’s definitely something to Richard Loat‘s observation that the team plays better defensively in front of him. I agree that they tighten up a bit. Combine that with the run support he’s been getting in his starts (and his own strong play) and you have a recipe for a going this many games without a regulation loss. Last night, however, the run support dried up and Schneider saw the goose egg in his middle column disappear.
  • Speaking of middle columns: perhaps realizing that his team wasn’t about to sneak one past Henrik Lundqvist, Alex Burrows went five-hole on Marc Staal instead. Thanks a lot, Burr. Not only do I have to defend your hair-pulling when I tell people you’re my favourite player, but now I have to defend your groin-spearing? It’s embarrassing loving a man who pulls hair and stabs groins. And yet my love persists. Burrows will probably get a phone call from the league, as nether attacks are never cool–unless you’re making a short film. Here’s hoping he sees some discipline, as it’s fairly warranted, especially after the refs decided instead to instead punish Marc Staal for failing to protect his testicles.
  • Such are the foibles of a young goalie, but this is the third or fourth game in a row where Cory Schneider’s made a pretty egregious error. Last game, it was the slapstick fall that gave Jamal Mayers a freebie. He nearly handed the Rangers another when he coughed the puck up behind the net. The look on Roberto Luongo’s face afterward was priceless.
  • According to the stat sheet, the Rangers had 38 hits to the Canucks 31. No they didn’t. Madison Square Garden employs one of the most liberal stat guys in the country. Note that the Rangers have 573 hits on the road and a league-leading 731 at home. Who is this guy, thinking everything’s a hit? He’s probably the guy that greenlit Kesha. This is a surefire hit. Also, I bet the police answer domestic abuse calls at his house all the time. She hit you again, sir?
  • Daniel and Henrik did have a quiet game, though it probably helped that the Rangers were allowed to latch onto them like brain slugs. I’ve heard some criticism of the Sedins for disappearing, and I think it speaks to their expectations as the offensive leaders of this team. All this talk of Ryan Kesler as a dark horse for the Hart is silly if he’s not even the one held accountable when the Canucks get shut out. That said, when your scoring leaders don’t score, that’s a problem. Score more, Daniel and Henrik.
  • And finally, I realize that playing Aaron Rome semi-regularly is a good way to prevent him from playing like he hasn’t played in months, but when he plays that way in spite of this approach, you have a problem.This is the catch-22: Aaron Rome plays like he shouldn’t be playing, but he’ll only play worse if you don’t play him. Unless you never play him again. Get well soon, Salo.
Jan 122011
 

[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?
Jan 102011
 

[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.
Jan 082011
 

[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.]

I don’t think there was ever really any concern that the Oilers might win tonight. There was, I guess, a nagging concern that the Canucks might lose, but seriously, this Oilers team isn’t built to win hockey games. It’s built to accrue picks, like Questlove’s hair or Tenacious D.

My favourite thing about this year’s edition of the Vancouver Canucks (apart from all the winning, naturally) is that they don’t seek revenge through fighting. They just embarrass you by scoring more goals. Seriously. This is the team we have. No retaliatory fighting, just retaliatory goals. We saw it tonight as the game began to go pear-shaped for Edmonton, and they tried to salvage some measure of respect by picking on Tanner Glass. The Canucks’ response? Bury them in goals. Get hat tricks. Bury them like Beatrix Kiddo. It’s fun to watch. And I did watch. Yes sir, I watched this game:

  • Like a high school Home Ec. class, the Canucks created a lot of turnovers tonight. The Oilers really struggled to get the puck out of their zone. You’d have to think the absence of Ryan Whitney accounts for this sudden transitional ineptitude, as the only puck-mover on the Oilers’ defense continues to miss games with a bad ankle. You’ll recall that he played nearly thirty minutes in a game between these two teams on December 10th.
  • In Whitney’s absence, we saw a lot more of Theo “Huxtable” Peckham, who continues a storied tradition of black Theos who can’t seem to stay out of trouble. Among his comedy of errors: tripping Mikael Samuelsson; needlessly punching Mikael Samuelsson in the head; hitting Ales Hemsky in the face with a puck. He’s lucky Bill Cosby isn’t his dad, because he’d get a real talking to about responsibility.
  • The Oilers came out flying, seeming to think if they won the first ten minutes, they wouldn’t have to play the rest of the game. Despite not winning the first ten minutes, they stuck to their game plan.
  • There are games when the Sedin twins are unnoticeable, except on the scoresheet. There are other games, like tonight, when it’s apparent from puck drop they’re going to make their opponents look silly. Both Daniel and Henrik finished with 3 points–Henrik his customary 3 helpers, and Daniel 2 goals and 1 assist. Their first goal was a lesson in how to hit an open net (Mason Raymond, take note). Their second goal (above) was classic Wizardous Sedinerie. It also showcased the Third Law of Sedinery: if one pass is customary, the Sedins will make two. On a breakaway, Henrik makes one pass when others would make none. On a two-on-one, Henrik and Daniel make two passes where others would make one. In school, teachers hated the way they would hand in the same test twice.
  • Also of note on Daniel’s second goal, Alex Burrows’ savvy flip pass to spring the Sedins. The line has been pulling this play all season, and it tends to catch defenders sleeping. It’s safe to say the Sedins are the only players in hockey cribbing plays from Dwayne Robertson.
  • A word about Daniel Sedin, who makes a living getting upstaged. Daniel scored two goals before Kesler did. This was rightfully his hat trick. But, just like Henrik took all the credit during his Hart-winning season, Ryan Kesler stole all the glory tonight, winning their impromptu hat trick fight.
  • Sidenote: I imagine a hat trick fight to be two magicians pulling various weaponry out of their top hats. In the climax, the first magician pulls a grenade, and throws it at the second, who catches it in his top hat. Then, the second pulls out a bouquet of flowers. It explodes in the first magician’s face, killing him instantly. Flawless victory.
  • Anyway, Daniel even had his chance to match Kesler’s hat trick, but his power move to the net was stopped by Khabibulin, and Alex Edler, the snake, ruined everything by scoring. Dick move. Daniel’s subsequent fist bump looked a little aggressive to me. Out for blood.
  • Kesler’s hat trick was really something, huh? He scored three times, no lie. Thrice, in fact. His first goal came on a wrist shot so hard it broke both the Bulin wall and the fourth wall, turning to the audience and soliloquizing. His second and third goals were both tips. It was like the debit machine prompted him for a tip, and he felt obligated and tipped too much. At 2 of 3, that’s a 66% tip, which is a drastic overtip.
  • The best moment of Kesler’s hat trick goal comes sixteen seconds into the video, as a dude wearing a hat suddenly realizes what just happened. Wait! I’m wearing a hat!#HatTrickKid
  • The real story, of course, is that the Canucks continue to put in 59-minute efforts. They blew yet another shutout tonight, as Cory Schneider lost his post on a scramble at the end of the second. Ales Hemsky got the goal with 0.3 seconds on the clock. This is unacceptable. Were I at the game, I would have booed vociferously. It is my right as a ticket buyer and I’m an idiot.
  • Anyway, apart from that Cory Schneider was good. He usually is. Whatever. We could talk about how the Canucks are 8-0-2 when he starts, but it’s getting boring. The Canucks just win a lot. You could make up an absurdly positively stat and it would probably be half-true. The Canucks are 13-0-1 when Raffi Torres eats a pregame ham and swiss sandwich. This is a Tru Fakt.
  • In his inaugural game as the fourth-line center (a promotion he clearly relished) Tanner Glass went 4-for-6 in the faceoff circle. He also had a game-high six hits in 11:38 of icetime. He looked pretty good.
  • His positive faceoff numbers would have been quite the accomplishment had the Oilers not forgotten that the purpose of a faceoff is to try to gain possession of the puck. The Canucks won 37 of 54 faceoffs, led by 14-for-17 and 8-for-10 nights for Kesler and Henrik, respectively. Kesler won all 7 of his defensive zone faceoffs, and that, Reid’s friends, is why he takes them.
  • Ales Hemsky is a giant shovel. After being obliterated on a clean Glass hit, Hemsky proceeded to chase the Canucks’ fourth-line center across the ice, hooking and cross-checking all the way. Glass, the zennest of zen Canucks, ignored this antagonism, likely reciting Scrabble’s allowable two-letter words as a mantra.
  • And finally, Daniel (Wagner, not Sedin) pointed out early on that this game would get chippy, as the referees missed some early warning signs and didn’t manage the game well in the first. By the third period, the Oilers were clearly frustrated, and began taking out their frustrations in a frustrating way. In the funniest moment of the night, Tanner Glass was assaulted by Hemsky and Jason Strudwick, only to have Raffi Torres leap to his assistance from the top rope ala Randy “The Ram” Robinson, horse collar him, and then fall down. Torres, you lovable fool. Thankfully, he provided a goofy-looking cushion for Glass to land on when he was tackled.
Jan 042011
 

[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 came into San Jose to play their third road game in four nights. Unbeaten in five, and expected to be dog-tired, there was a sense among Canuck nation that a loss to San Jose was as inevitable as the extraplanar robots that chase down lawbreakers. The Sharks came into this game fourth in the Western Conference, and with their continued employment of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, and Dan Boyle, looked to be formidable foes.

They were formidable foes. That said, they still got beat, by a Canucks team that has seemingly forgotten how to lose. As a born loser, I’m here if they need the help, but I don’t think they’ll call. In the meantime, I guess Daniel and I will just have to sit around watching them win, like we did tonight when we watched this game:

  • The Second Law of Sedinery: if the Sedins find themselves alone behind the defense, you may as well go line up at center ice. They will score. The opening goal (above), off a turnover by Joe Thornton (and not Jason Demers, as crazy old John Garrett insisted), is a classic case of Wizardous Sedinerie. Antti Niemi made a common mistake and got Daniel confused with Henrik. Had he realized that Henrik had the first touch, he might have realized Daniel was about to get the second. Instead, he anticipated a shot from Henrik Sedin. Rookie mistake. Also a rookie mistake? Letting Gary Busey date your mom.
  • Speaking of Rookie of the Year, let’s talk about casts. The second-line featured a rotating one, as Jannik Hansen, Jeff Tambellini, and Mason Raymond all saw time as Ryan Kesler’s wings. When Tambellini and Raymond were together, they showed the potential to be the fastest duo since Northstar and Aurora. (Other similarities: both duos are Canadian, and spend an inordinate amount of time in dark blue. Differences: Raymond’s not gay, and Tambellini’s not a woman.) Anyway, Raymond and Hansen finished the night on that line, and Hansen may have re-won his spot there with this game-tying goal late in the second period. Early in the second, I grumbled about Hansen spending time on the second line–normally he finishes his checks, but not his scoring chances. That said, like a piece of furniture haunted by the ghost of a carpenter, Hansen has magically developed finish. #WorstAnalogyAward
  • What was going on during the Canucks second goal? Ehrhoff and Edler apparently switched places with Daniel and Henrik, briefly becoming the forwards on the rush. They didn’t do too badly, either. Perhaps Edler felt slighted when Skeeter suggested he didn’t have the stuff to play center, or perhaps the Sedins felt pigeonholed as offensive wizards and wanted a chance to play defense. Third option: the Sedins forgot that the teams switched ends for the second, and were thrilled about being in behind the defense for a second time.
  • Tanner Glass played 8:25 tonight, which is about on par with his usual minutes, except that he spent ten minutes in the box for two fights (a full one-sixth of the game). The fourth line in general was noticeable tonight, spending a lot of time in the offensive zone. Chalk this up to the return of Mason Raymond, which has banished a top-nine player to the bottom three. And, while the line may not have seen an increase in minutes, they saw a definite increase in third period minutes, as Alain Vigneault trusted them with late shifts in a close game.
  • Part of this might have been a desire to play fresh guys on the back-to-back games, but another part might have been that Alex Bolduc was winning faceoffs when Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler weren’t. For the third straight game, the Canucks lost the faceoff battle, although this time by a very narrow margin. Manny Malhotra was his usual stalwart self, winning 14-of-18, including all six in the defensive zone. Just Manny being Manny. The other two big drawmen were kind of crummy. Kind of really crummy. Kesler was 35% in the circle. Henrik was 27%.
  • Continuing the negativity, on San Jose’s first goal, Rome needs to cover Clowe in front of the net, not the random patch of ice to Schneider’s left, which he so ably defended. On San Jose’s second goal, Henrik needs to not be in the box. Captain Hook strikes again. On San Jose’s third goal, Schneider needs to remove all banana peels from his crease prior to the start of the period. Open letter to Rollie Melanson: get on that.
  • Christian Ehrhoff was good tonight. He facilitated breakouts like working at McDonald’s, had 5 shots, blocked 4 shots, and picked up two assists. I’ve heard fans saying that, now that Bieksa’s playing well, we should trade Ehrhoff instead. Tonight, Ehrhoff showed San Jose why they never should have let him go; let’s not wish that same regret upon ourselves.
  • Like Evangeline Lilly in a Live Links commercial, Mason Raymond draws a lot of calls. It’s good to see him buzzing around the offensive zone, falling down like Cory Schneider.
  • Not to rag on Cory Schneider too much. Despite his shaky moments, such as collapsing like a Jenga tower in a rowboat, he made some incredible saves, and also let in less goals than Antti Niemi. These are both positives. The Canucks are now 7-0-2 when Schneider starts.
  • Worst outfit of the night goes to Dan Murphy, who wore an ugly tie that looked like it was made of dried beef broth. Someone needs to get him on What Not to Wear immediately. Seriously, where did he get it? The toilet store?
  • Observation: every time the puck goes over the glass, pro hockey players become children stargazing with their fathers. They point with such enthusiasm it’s embarrassing. Look, Dad, a shooting star! Didja see it? Didja?
  • Word was Kesler might sit this one out after taking a shot to the foot in the game prior, but he wound up playing twenty-three very effective minutes. He put up four shots, as well as attempting another six, one of which hit the crossbar after a beautiful tip.
  • Speaking of shots, the Canucks put up 47 and attempted 70. They peppered Niemi like a flavourless steak. A ton of those shots ended up in Niemi’s glove, which the Canucks apparently hate as much as the shooter in The Jerk hates oil cans. The Canucks won the last game against the Sharks with considerable hittiness, but tonight, shootiness was their primary asset.
  • And finally, let’s give major credit to Alex Burrows, who took it upon himself to win da turd by scoring the game-winner halfway into da turd. The refs reviewed it for something that isn’t reviewable but, since many officials still sort of hate Burr for that thing that happened, it makes sense.
Jan 032011
 

[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.]

With a gritty, hard-fought win against the Avalanche, the Canucks have won 5 straight, haven’t lost in regulation in 12 games, and have the best goal differential in the NHL. And, oh yeah, they’re first place in the entire NHL right now. Now, there are plenty of spoilsports out there who will complain that being first place in January is meaningless, or that no one cares about the President’s Trophy, just the Stanley Cup. To them I say, “Boo! Boo! Boo!” I, for one, am a Canucks fan and I will take pleasure in the Canucks doing well, whether you like it or not. I take pleasure in watching the Canucks win, and I watched this game:

  • Alexandre Bolduc got his first NHL goal (above), added a particularly savvy assist, and finished a game-high +2, but let’s not lose perspective. He still played only 5:52 in the game and didn’t see a single shift after Paul Stastny narrowed the lead to one. That said, he made the most out of his limited time tonight. His heads up play on the odd bounce that led to Mason Raymond’s goal was very nifty. I suspect he got a brief lecture on knowing where his teammates are on the ice after confessing in a 1st intermission interview that he had no idea where Glass was on the 2-on-1 that led to his goal.
  • The scorekeeper for tonight’s game was apparently feeling generous, as somehow Kevin Bieksa received an assist on Mason Raymond’s goal despite about 5 different players, including a couple from the Avalanche, touching the puck between his last touch and the goal. Unless Bieksa’s giant forehead gives him telekinetic powers, there’s no way he should get an assist, although that would explain the bizarre bounce that puck took off the seamless glass.
  • Unsurprisingly, Mason Raymond got the most ice-time for the fourth line as he saw some penalty killing duty and briefly skated 4-on-4 with Jeff Tambellini. He still played under 10 minutes in his return to the lineup, but it seemed clear that his hand wasn’t impairing his shot, as he fired 3 on net including the snipe from the slot for the gamewinning goal. Welcome back, Raymond, we missed you.
  • While the fourth line did all the scoring, Roberto Luongo did all the saving. He was fantastic in net, making 31 and a half saves. He battled hard through traffic to make saves and didn’t give up many rebounds, unless he clearly meant to, like when he sprung Glass and Bolduc with a great kick-save pass. Seriously, he got credited with an assist on that one. I honestly was not aware that they gave assists for giving up a rebound. That’s like saying the wall in Shaolin Soccer was passing the ball to Mighty Steel Leg Sing.
  • Ehrhoff and Edler were solid as a tandem. The duo played the most minutes for the Canucks and made nice plays at both ends of the rink. Ehrhoff was connecting well with his passes, had 3 shots on net, and was smart with his stickwork in the defensive end, getting credit for 2 takeaways. Edler was the more physical of the two and was credited with 3 hits, including this destruction of T.J. Galiardi. If that video doesn’t work, try this one, it’s a bit of a better angle.
  • In a show of solidarity for the Make it Seven campaign, the Avalanche played the dying moments of the game with 7 skaters on the ice. J.J. Guerrero from Canucks Hockey Blog has the picture to prove it. The refs were getting a fair amount of criticism from Canucks fans during this game and that gaffe won’t help their case.
  • For my part, I think it’s just nice to see the Canucks winning in spite of the difference in powerplay time. The Canucks penalty kill was perfect at 5-for-5 and didn’t even give up a single shot on net for the latter 3 powerplays. Lost in the hubbub of their record and powerplay has been the steady work of the penalty kill which jumped up to third in the league with their performance tonight. They are far better at being shorthanded than Dr. Curt Connors.
  • Despite not recording any points, the top three lines did not play particularly poorly. The Sedins had several shifts where they penned the Avalanche in with strong possession and the second line shifted the momentum several times with their speed. It was a solid shift by the third line that led to the possession on which Mason Raymond scored his goal. Part of the problem was all the penalties that prevented them from icing their normal lines for large chunks of the game. It’s incredibly encouraging, however, to see the team pick up a win without any points from their top offensive contributors: balanced scoring is the key to playoff success.
  • Part of the reason the normal offensive contributors didn’t show up on the scoresheet tonight was faceoffs. Manny Malhotra was the only centre above 50% and even he had a relatively pedestrian 53%. It’s troubling because the Avalanche are a sub-50% team on faceoffs. On the plus side, they were 5-for-8 shorthanded, which aided their killing abilities like a golden gun.
  • During the broadcast, Shorty promoted an interview with Alison Sweeney, host of The Biggest Loser, on Breakfast Television. Garrett: Alison Sweeney is on “Days of Our Lives.” Do you watch that? Shorty: No.
  • Mikael Samuelsson apparently had 5 shots on goal. Did you even notice him tonight? Because I didn’t. Torres, on the other hand, was very noticeable, unfortunately for the wrong reasons. He took two very dumb penalties. You can criticize the officiating if you want, but the 4 minute difference in powerplay time can easily be pinned on Torres.

And on that critical note, congratulations to the Canucks for moving to the top of the NHL. Continue being awesome, boys.

Jan 012011
 

[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 closed out 2010 the same way they opened it: with a win over the Dallas Stars, but don’t let the 4-1 score fool you into thinking this was just another rout of a good team. Vancouver outscored Dallas, but that’s about the only stat category they won. Thankfully, it’s the only one that matters after sixty minutes, but they were lucky to escape Dallas with a victory. I’ve been skeptical of the Stars, especially after hearing about their astronomical shooting percentages and their litany of one-goal wins and overtime points. Ignore the cynics: Dallas is good.

The Stars have evolved into the prototypical Marc Crawford team. At their best: highly-skilled, offensively strong, and gritty. At their worst: unpoised, defensively suspect, and undisciplined. After living through Vancouver’s ultimately failed Marc Crawford era, it was great to see his team have its weaknesses exposed by a smarter team without it meaning a Canucks loss. I watched this game, and it was cathartic:

  • There are two ways to look at the massively lopsided shot totals: You could say, with forty-five shots to Vancouver’s 22, Dallas outshot the Canucks by a margin of 2 to 1. Or, you could say, with 44 saves to Kari Lehtonen’s 10 or Andrew Raycroft’s 8, Cory Schneider outsaved both Dallas goaltenders by a margin of 4 to 1. I choose the latter.
  • Yes, Cory Schneider was incredible tonight. He had a bit of luck and Dallas hit a couple of posts, and he got himself into a bit of trouble (including the lone goal against) with his indecision with the puck, but he was still incredible. His lateral movement was as strong as I’ve ever seen, he was square with the shooter every time, his rebound control was sound, and he was strong along the ice. If the Canucks are hoping to showcase this kid for an eventual trade, I’d save tape of this game. He soundly outplayed twoNHL goaltenders and was rightly named the game’s first star.
  • My only quibble with Schneider: his nickname. In the blogosphere, folks are calling him Ginger Jesus. I don’t like it. I’ve been racking my brain for a better nickname, but the only redheaded goalie I remember is Archie Andrews, who played goal for Riverdale High in many a strip. (In a classic, Betty & Veronica go to see him play, not knowing he’s the goalie, and when they can’t find him–due to the mask he’s wearing and because they’re dumb girls–they leave.) Anyway, Archie’s nemesis Reggie often called him Frecklesnoot. Let’s go with that.
  • As the calendar year ends, it was nice of Marc Crawford to remind us that one thing will never change: he will always, always have the worst hair in hockey. He looks like he killed a hedgehog and glued it to his scalp. Someone needs to find the stylist who keeps dying only the top and not the sides of his hair, then gingerly feathering it, then slicking it back, and convince them to pick a new career.
  • It’s no surprise that Alain Vigneault’s shutdown pairing munched the big minutes against an offensive machine like Dallas. Bieksa and Hamhuis skated for over twenty-three minutes each. In that time, Hamhuis had 1 assist, 3 shots, 3 blocks (including one that surely saved a goal), and 2 hits; Bieksa scored a goal and added an assist to go with 2 blocks, a hit and a takeaway. The pair was shaky at times (Hamhuis had 3 giveaways), but the Canucks don’t win without their contributions.
  • It was a rare rough night in the faceoff circle, as the Canucks lost 35 of 58 draws, and only Ryan Kesler finished at 50%. Henrik Sedin, who really is hot or cold in the faceoff circle, was colder than supercooled beer, at a frosty 3-for-12, including 0-for-6 in the defensive zone. If you’re wondering why you hardly noticed the Sedins at even strength, it’s because they spent the whole game scrambling to get the puck out of their zone after Henrik lost the draw.
  • I heard Grumpy Old Man Gallagher on the Team 1040 today complaining about the Sedins, as he often does. He grumbled that Henrik and Daniel are points machines, even when they don’t play particularly well. He was probably pulling his hair out tonight when the Sedins did exactly that, by putting up a goal and an assist each while playing badly, for the most part. Somebody needs to remind him that points are awarded when your team scores goals, and the team with the most goals wins hockey games.
  • That said, the Sedins helped Vancouver put this one away early by engineering two very similar power play goals (one above, the other here). Along with Torres’s solo rush, they came suddenly, and were major momentum killers. On the opening goal, Henrik whiffs on the pass, but Karlas Skrastins is so busy fighting with Ryan Kesler he doesn’t even see the puck until it trickles to Daniel. Vancouver’s power play went 3-for-6 tonight.
  • Poor Kesler. Though his work in front of the net on the two power play goals might have deserved an assist, he didn’t get one. His streak came to an end tonight, but that’s why they call it a streak: because, eventually, it stops. A streak that never stops is called a nudist colony.
  • Kesler will have to settle for the other streak of which he’s a major part: Vancouver’s 4-game win streak, which sees them finish 2010 with an NHL-best .708 win percentage.
  • In typical Raffi Torres fashion, he had a so-so night, but scored a goal on a sudden burst of skill against the flow of the play. He fought off a can opener from Karlas Skrastins and deked out Kari Lehtonen forty-seven seconds after the Canucks had opened the scoring.
  • Brad Richards had a message for the homers saying Kesler is the best player in the Western Conference. Something along the lines of: I am also good. He had 6 shots tonight, with another 5 missing the net and another 5 blocked. He looked dangerous every time he was on the ice, which was quite often. He played 23:41, more than any Canuck player, save Kevin Bieksa.
  • Keith Ballard had a strong game, finishing with 4 hits and 2 blocked shots. He had a respectable 16:29 of ice time, but consider the Canucks were up 4-0 going into the third. Vigneault also gave nearly ten minutes to the fourth line. Tanner Glass had 11:04.
  • Awesome Glass moment: after Jeff Woywitka horse-collared Alex Bolduc, Tanner Glass was the first man into the scrum, and can be seen quietly wailing on Woywitka before becoming lost in the mess of bodies.
  • What, exactly, was Jannik Hansen doing tonight that was making the Stars so mad? Stephane Robidas gave him two gloved punches with no regard for the penalty he was about to take. I can’t imagine Hansen chirping. He’s got the highest voice on the team. It’s like getting chirped by Kristen Schaal.
  • And finally, PITB would like to wish every Bulie from here to Australia a happy new year.
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