I Watched This Game is a recurring feature on Pass it to Bulis, chronicling the observations and insights of two people who watched a hockey game.
It's good to start things off right, isn't it? Mikael Samuelsson's game-winner 8:52 into the extra frame gave the Canucks a 1-0 lead in their first-round series against the Kings, and officially saved my heart from exploding due to the stress of the whole game.
The media's been spinning a little yarn about playoff upsets, and after day 1 of the playoffs had passed us by, it looked as if every underdog was going to walk away from game 1 a winner. I tried to laugh it off, but when Tomas "Jagr" Plekanec beat Theodore, I began to fear an inevitable cosmic pattern. My hands were clammy, my stomach was upset, and my skeleton was trying to lead out of my mouth and escape my body. I thought I might have Bonus Eruptus, which would have been terrifying, as I don't know if my MSP covers transdental electromicide. I was a wreck. Thankfully, Mikael Samuelsson was not.
This is why Mike Gillis signed the guy. He's been a boon during the regular season, but I don't think we'll be fully aware of his complete value until we see what he does for us in the playoffs. His calmness was obvious from puck drop. He didn't give the puck away, even under pressure, he didn't dump it in from the red line, and he didn't rush a thing. He played smart with it, bought himself some time, and jumped to the slot at the right time for two huge goals. I'm always skeptical of sports cliches like "playoff experience," but it was obvious that Samuelsson was a big calming influence and played with a sturdier head than the rest of the team. Here's hoping the tone that he set will be the difference-maker in more games than just one.
- I didn't notice Ryan Kesler all that much tonight. Then again, I didn't notice Anze Kopitar either. My guess is both observations are related. I assume kudos are in order, Kes.
- Alex Burrows looked dangerous all night, with something like six scoring chances in the first period alone. I also quite enjoyed when the CBC microphone caught him exchanging words with Drew Doughty. Quite a mouth on that cat. But! My favorite Alex Burrows moment was when he walked past the post-game interview with Scott Oake and Samuelsson, shouted something, then couldn't get the dressing room door open.
- The Sedins are incredible. To anybody who's worried about a series with Chicago, perhaps saying that both teams have improved at about the same clip, don't forget that the Sedins went from top-line players to superstars this year.
- Who spiked mild-mannered Alex Edler's coffee tonight? He was a frickin' freight train all night, especially on this hit on Doughty What a bizarre transformation. I'm sure I speak for every Canuck fan when I say, "Do that always. And forever."
- Have the Green Men been working with a choreographer? Because wow. I read somewhere that they had some moves planned for the playoffs, but I thought they were just blowing smoke. The Green Man meme is all over the place, but methinks Vancouver's cornered the market. The Green Eggs and Ham, as B-Mac [almost] called it this morning, may be as classic an original pose as we've seen at GM Place since Moir and Virtue's Goose. These cats are like an animated gif factory. They are also much-beloved by Puck Daddy and now, Deadspin. And the Kurtenblog is wrong. This won't get old until the playoffs are over, and it's associated with our annual playoff flameout. If we win the Stanley Cup and it's associated with that, it will never get old. See, Kurtenblog, it's not the antics that are hilarious. It's their level of commitment (again see: Green Eggs and Ham).
- How about that goal-line save by Roberto Luongo? Clutch. And you were all concerned about how he'd play.
- At the tail end of that clip, we see his stick get caught up in his own equipment. He literally skewers himself. What the heck? Mind you, it's nothing compared to Kopitar's careless high stick on Henrik that went completely uncalled. You've got a smoking gun and you do nothing? Come on, refs. I didn't mind the job they did last night, but a couple of their non-calls were fairly egregious.
- It should have been called, especially because the Kings were running Henrik Sedin all night. Gallagher agrees. The good news? They seem to have forgotten he has a twin brother... we can use this.
- The Canucks outplayed the Kings all night, but the penalty kill is now a concern. I think we missed Ryan Johnson tonight.
- That said, the real story for the Kings was Johnny Quick. I hope he cuts it out, because I don't know how many puns on his name I can take.
- Speaking of refs, was Stephane Auger reffing tonight? When Alberts got five and a game, it seemed like the Nashville game all over again. The ref made the call, and then Richardson popped to his feet. It was boarding, but that's all it was. Richardson should be wary of the "you embarrassed me" speech.
- It's a shame, too, because Alberts played well before he got thrown out. The pairing of he and Bieksa made me nervous (as well as CDC member Tatoes, I would imagine), but they were mean and had good sticks.
- One of my predictions--that O'Brien would stickhandle the puck out of his own zone only to throw it away for icing--nearly came true. He gained the red line, but then he threw it way out of play.
- Speaking of predictability, someone please explain these bizarro playoffs to me. Everyone is choking except the Canucks? It's a topsy-turvy world.
Some additional thoughts from Skeeter:
- One of the most impressive elements of last night's victory was the defensive awareness of every Canuck on the ice. It was also extremely necessary, as every Canucks defenceman jumped up into the rush and pinched hard along the boards. Bieksa, Ehrhoff, and Edler were the most effective in this role and it did not cost the Canucks defensively.
- The penalty kill, on the other hand, was extremely ineffective. I don't think it was a problem with the personnel, but rather with the strategy: the Canucks penalty killers put a lot of pressure on the points, preventing shots from the blueline, but the Kings responded with excellent passing and down-low pressure. The Canucks will need to avoid penalties in this series or get to work on fixing the penalty kill.
- Andrew Alberts certainly wasn't terrible, but the two Kings goals were scored on his penalties. With Aaron Rome practicing with the team today (according to Mike Gillis on the Team 1040), don't expect Alberts to suit up for the rest of the series unless there are injuries.