[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 this post and other
foolishness insightful takes on the Canucks and the NHL, visit Pass It To Bulis.]
That was fun, huh? Incredibly, last night was already Ryan Kesler’s fourth multi-goal game of the season, the 13th of his career. However, despite his propensity for scoring in bunches (like a blaxploitation hero), Kesler had yet to net three goals in sixty minutes.
Inspired by the Twitterverse’s suspiciously familiar #PassItToKesler hashtag, Kesler finally rose to the occasion, and he might stay standing. Other players–lesser players–have scored hat-tricks and it hasn’t meant much for their careers in the grand scheme. But in Kesler’s case, considering the way he ruled the ice last night, I suspect we may be looking at a milestone that signifies his emergence as a bonafide NHL superstar. I would be okay with that. I watched this game:
- Kesler was the only Canuck to score last night (oh noes! without him we got shutout!). His three goals are most definitely the story. Here’s the thing, though: he could have had five. Kesler directed a game-high 11 shots at the Columbus net: 3 went in, 1 was saved, 3 were blocked, and 4 more missed. He finished with a crazy 75% shooting percentage, and it could have been higher. The save was a highlight reel one, after Kesler got in behind the Columbus defense and roofed the puck, only to have Mathieu Garon come across brilliantly to stop it with his chest. Considering that all the talk about this game, pre-game, was about how Columbus hoped to shut down the Sedins, it must have been infuriating when Kesler decided to compound their concerns by going Wolvey Berserk on them himself.
- To the uninformed, Jan Hejda, who took a boarding penalty and put the Jackets down a man in overtime, will be the goat. But if you want to place some well-informed blame, your man is Antoine Vermette: it’s his lazy defensive work and his single-minded Sedin-watching that allows Kesler to get in close and bury the game-winner. Look at him, meandering about like a spectator, with his stick lazily outstretched. That’s not taking away the passing lane; that’s beach combing. In fact, Vermette’s backchecking is so lazy, Kesler literally glides past him. Tip for the young’uns: when the best player on the ice is streaking to the net, you take him.
- Rusty Klesla’s going to take some flack for his boner on the second goal as well, but cut him some slack. You never know when the spirit of Christmas is going to rest upon your shoulders and inspire hardcore giving. More giving: Klesla was also the guy who backed in a bit too far and found himself lying down while Ryan Kesler scored the first goal. Some might say he gave too much.
- I watched the game at a pub with Daniel and his wife. They handed out pucks with Canucks numbers on them–if that guy scored a goal, you won a free beer. We drew Ballard, Bieksa, and Rome, respectively, so we knew up front we’d be paying. Meanwhile, three of the four guys at the table next to us, in some sort of karmic orgasm (which probably looked something like this), drew Kesler. Thankfully, they weren’t loud drunks.
- The Canuck powerplay went 1-for-5, only scoring on the 4-on-3 overtime frame, a goal that came on the rush. When they got that powerplay, I remarked that they would probably score, because the 4-man unit doesn’t include Mikael Samuelsson. He wasn’t terrible in Christian Ehrhoff’s place on the point, but the powerplay is now 0-for-10 when he’s back there. And if you’re still uncertain about Christian Ehrhoff’s contributions, consider: the Canucks’ powerplay is 3-for-17 in three games without him, with only one of the three goals scored by our star five-man unit.
- Tony Gallagher keeps giving it to the Canucks for not blowing out teams he feels they should, but he needs to consider the Western Conference logjam: yes, the Blue Jackets are in 11th, but they came into the game only two points behind Vancouver. Parity mitigates blowouts, Tony. That said, Columbus took some dumb penalties. You should probably bury a team when they do that. Seriously, it felt like Columbus was on the penalty-kill all night. When you’re playing with fewer men that often, it’s time to ask your doctor if Cialis is right for you.
- Kevin Bieksa looked dangerous all evening, but his production has really dried up; I can’t help but shrug at his scoring chances. In a month or so, it will probably be Sami Salo–he of the much better shot–on the receiving end of Sedin set plays. I look forward to this development.
- Can we get some consensus on whether or not the Sedins are predictable? Scott Arniel says they aren’t, but they seem sort of predictable to me. You know they’re good for an assist each game. Heck, when we went into overtime, I knew we were going to win because they had yet to get their points. I say predictable.
- Jeff Tambellini is suffering through some manic raymondlessness, but just because his scoring has slowed down doesn’t mean he’s not contributing. He still hits impressively for a little guy, and his speed on the backcheck is second to none. Last night was the second time he covered an insane amount of ground to take the puck off the stick of an opposing forward.
- The Canucks continue to only find pleasure in one-third of their fourth line. Tanner Glass had four more minutes of icetime than his linemates, leading the team in hits with 4, and Jonas Andersson was sent back to Manitoba after the game in place of the hitty Aaron Volpatti. Let’s hope Volpatti doesn’t crap the bed in his first trip to the NHL, or we’ll have to call him Aaron Volpotty. I’d hate to have to do that.
- Alex Edler had a game-high 27:45 of ice time, and I’ll tell you why: in the absence of Christian Ehrhoff, the Iceman is the only truly offensive defenseman. It’s always interesting to note who Vigneault double-shifts when he’s looking for a goal. Last night, Edler was the guy. He was on the ice for all three goals and no goals against, and he finished the night plus-2.
- The only other guy to finish plus-2? Keith Ballard, who again had over 20 minutes of icetime. He appears to have earned his coach’s trust, which is more than I can say for my wife. You promised me tortellini and then you made sandwiches. The trust is broken.
- And finally, a word about the Sportsnet intermission segment in which newspaper journalists who are not comfortable being on television are put on television: stop. It’s a visibly cheap segment. Get these guys a studio, a desk, a dress code, a makeup crew, and some lapel mics. I’d be uncomfortable too if I knew the camera was too high and the lighting made me look like Skeletor.