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.
My sincerest apologies for the delinquency of the previous I Watched This Game feature, which should have followed the Blackhawks 7-4 drubbing of our Vancouver Canucks. It wasn't so much that I didn't want to do it after such a sour loss; it wasn't so much that it was my anniversary this weekend and I didn't have the time; it wasn't even that the game was so similar to the one before it that the insights would have been identical; it was, well, all of those things.
But let's not dwell on the distant past, where we lost a couple of games by a wider margin than even the score would suggest. Let's dwell on the recent past, where the team gutted out an impressive road win and sent the series back to a game six:
- First things first: Sami's testicle. I'm sure, by now, you've seen the video, tweeted about it, and cringed along with the rest of the province. Everybody has. In fact, since last night when I made the quick post about it, PiTB has received over 6000 hits, which is more than the entire blog had received up to that point. People care about Sami's gonads. I don't have an update for you, but let me point out that when men in the media talk about putting it all on the line, they usually whisper in their hearts, "except for balls." Balls are generally exempt from the line; no one expects you to put them on it.
- My wife: Salo's got so much heart. As a ghost, he could have let the puck go right through him, but he didn't, for the good of the team. Yes, what a guy. Okay, anyway, the rest of the team.
- How about the play of Kyle Wellwood these past few games? Wellwood's been the best player on the ice since game 2, and he earned himself a third star nomination last night for his 2 assist game. Wellwood has been bearing down (what?), winning puck battles along the boards (what?) and throwing hits (WHAT?) all series and it's paying off. Wellwood's play earned him a compliment from Hughson, who talked about the Canucks' depth at center. (An Art Ross winner, a Selke candidate, and dependable ol' Kyle Wellwood.) A month or two ago and that would have been a punchline. Good on ya, Welly.
- I should point out that Wellwood always tends to play great when the team plays terribly, and vice versa, as though he's playing a different game entirely. As we often assert here on PiTB, Wellwood is weird. That's all the explanation I've got.
- The difference between the last two games and this one? Roberto Luongo's rebound control. When he swallows up pucks, it slows the game down, takes away momentum, and gives the team confidence. When he spits out rebounds, well, we lose. It's that simple. He needs two more games like that one. Can he do that?
- Shane O'Brien has sure taken his lumps over these playoffs. He's been called a clown on numerous occasions now. In the last two months, every member of the media has taken a shot at him, and every opposing player has had something to say about him. This is a bottom-pairing defenseman, you guys. Let us remember this. SOB has been a great story, and he's going to need to be even better with Salo out. He's shown flashes. We need even more.
- Game six is at home, where the Canucks are 2-3 in this postseason. Were they not the best home team during the regular season? Let's hope that's the Canucks' team we see on Tuesday night. If it is, I've got a good feeling about the outcome of this series. If it isn't, I've got a good feeling about the Phoenix Suns.
- The secret to the Canucks' power play? Shots from the point. Heck, the secret to everything is shots from the point. What's inside the Ark of the Covenant? Shots from the point. I especially liked Kevin Bieksa's PP goal, as it came on a one-timer. How many one-timers have the Canucks flubbed this postseason with passes that weren't crisp? One crisp d-to-d pass and it finds its way past Niema. More, please.
- Am I the only one finding Kelly Hrudey completely intolerable? He says some of the stupidest things and then stubbornly refuses to hear the other side. I fully expect "I don't care--whales are fish" to come out of his mouth soon. Between him, Milbury and the ever-slipping Ron Maclean, it's like a black hole of good content between periods.
- Good to see the Blackhawks taking the dumb penalties they've been deserving of. Byfuglien, Toews, Hossa, Bolland, Ladd, Eager... these guys have been slashing, running the goalie, clutching, grabbing, and hitting after the whistle without any calls coming their way. Finally, however, in game five, we got a few. Why? Composure. The Canucks kept their heads and it became apparent who was starting everything
- Speaking of composure, there is no better example than when Andrew Ladd punched SOB right in his temporary stitches, and The Gun Show didn't go ballistic. I would have gone ballistic. I would have been suspended for the rest of the series for how I woud have reacted. That was classless and cowardly. The word in Maple Ridge is even Ladd's mother wasn't too proud of that one. Happy mother's day, Mrs. Ladd--your son's a little puke.
- Instead of only railing on Blackhawks all day, however, I'd like to point out that Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith are incredible. The Canucks have been dumping the puck into Keith's corner and trying to get a hit in, and it hasn't happened once, because the little bugger is so shifty. That's incredible. And Toews leads the playoffs in scoring, which surprised me. I thought Crosby had about eighty-one points by now. Nope, it's Toews. These are excellent players.
- Michael Grabner has been impressive, has he not? The guy's a player for sure, and his speed caught the Blackhawks off guard two or three times for good scoring chances. Let's hope he pots one tomorrow night. In my mind, he's due.
- Can you believe Mats Sundin spent a season playing with Luongo and still doesn't know the proper pronunciation of his last name? Lalongo? Come on, man. Well, you know what they say: you can take the hockey player out of Toronto, but you can't take the Toronto out of the hockey player. Nah, they never say that.
Skeeter watched this game as well:
- The Canucks put a lot of pressure on the points when Chicago was in the offensive zone, limiting the shots from the point, which is one of the reasons Luongo didn't give up as many ugly rebounds: fewer shots through traffic = fewer junky rebounds in front of the net. It's not coincidence that the 'Hawks one goal was scored from the point when Henrik and Burrows got their wires crossed and neither one pressured the shooter.
- Yes, Kyle Wellwood played an excellent game, as Harrison pointed out, but what was especially fascinating to me is that he was on the ice for the most crucial time of the game: when the Canucks were up 3-1 at the end of the third and the 'Hawks pulled Niemi for the extra attacker. He was on the ice from 18:07 until 19:15, when Burrows scored the empty netter (from a Wellwood assist, natch). Ostensibly it was for faceoff insurance, but I think it speaks more to how much AV trusts Wellwood defensively. Look for a post later today on the burgeoning defensive abilities of Kyle Wellwood.
- Ryan Johnson only lost one faceoff last night. He was 89% in the faceoff circle. Henrik won 63% of his faceoffs, one of which led directly to a goal. On the other hand, Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland were brutal at 36% and 15% respectively. When it's not called "hockey," possession is the name of the game.
- Surprisingly, with Salo out after the first period due to ball-distress (now will it burn when he pees?), it wasn't Ehrhoff who was the big minute-muncher. That honor goes to Edler and Bieksa, who played 27:23 and 27:04 respectively.
- According to the Team 1040, the story of the game was Luongo shaving his beard and refusing to talk to the media on game day. That's a pretty lame story.
- Big credit to Shane O'Brien for not even missing a shift after he was turned into a blood unicorn by an errant high stick. He played a solid 19:29 in the absence of Salo and was a +2. If Salo is out next game, SOB will be called upon to play bigger minutes, especially with Alberts only playing 10:38 with no extra shifts after Salo left the game.