Canucks 4 - 2 Avalanche
Last night was an excellent return to form for Vancouver, who did something they haven't done in ages: they won a game with sound defensive play and sustained offensive pressure. The stat sheet tells us that Colorado outshot Vancouver 23-19, but it doesn't tell the whole story: the puck spent far more time in the Avalanche zone than it did the Canucks' end. The Canucks were leaps and bounds better 5-on-5. It was nice to see the Sedins cycle return, and it was nice to see all three members of the second line looking dangerous and sharing some chemistry. The line juggling appeared to be a success, as the new-look trios all did a good job of maintaining momentum and keeping the puck out of their zone. Here's hoping they stay together awhile.
But enough looking ahead. This series is about dwelling on the very recent past. You see, not too long ago, I watched this game:
- The sustained offensive pressure meant diminished pressure on the defense corps, which played better, but still looked shaky. Hammy and Hips are still trying to find their legs, but everyone else was solid last night. Edler was jumping into rushes smartly, Ehrhoff was carrying the puck out of his zone and starting them with regularity, and Andrew Alberts' work on the penalty-kill was top-notch. In one late 2nd-period kill, he blocked two shots, hit everything in sight, and downright picked on Matt Duchene and John-Michael Liles. AV justified sitting Rome over Andy Alby by pointing to Alberts' penalty killing, and we saw it on display last night.
- That said, the best defenseman on the ice was Kevin Bieksa. It's strange to say, especially in a game that featured two potential Western Conference all-star d-men in Edler and Liles, but Bieksa really was at the top of the heap. He scored his first goal of the season on a beautiful tip-in after smartly going to the net on a delayed penalty. He made some other dangerous offensive rushes as well, and he always seemed to be the first man back when the Canucks got into a spot. If he played like this every game, he'd be a fan favourite.
- Through his first ten games, Alex Burrows had looked a little off. He scored a goal (above), factored into another, and caused his special brand of positive disarray in the offensive zone all night. Last night he looked a little on. This is a good sign, and it is entirely possible that he will soon be a lot on. Eventually, with a little luck, he might be full on, all the way across the sky.
- Yes, the triple rainbow line was, as it should be, the Canucks' best line. A spoonful of wizardous sedinerie led to 2 points for each linemate and a plus-6. A good recipe for success: score twice and don't get scored on. I've personally found that if you score and the other team doesn't, you'll win most of the time. When won't you? Collecting abstinence pledges.
- That said, Burrows' second assist was bogus. Daniel centered the puck for him and he missed it. Henrik pick it up on the half-wall, then pulled off the slap-pass play with his brother. During that give-and-go, Burrows never touched the puck. So why does he get an assist simply for being nearby? I'm happy for the guy, but, let us please try to protect the sanctity of the second assist before some idiot suggests we abolish it. This ain't no Russian hockey league.
- It's not always readily apparent what Jannik Hansen brings to this team. We know it's not hands, which are a bit like the Swedish Chef's in that they're never quite in sync with the rest of him. Upon hearing that he was bumped down to the fourth line, opinion vacillated between Good, he's only got four points this season, and Why Hansen? He was playing really well. The truth is that Hansen's best asset is his skating. Often we talk about skating like it's just top-end speed, but there's more than that. Hansen is a master at puck tracking--he skates fast, but he can also change directions and get back to a high speed better than anybody else. Since nobody expects the fourth line to score, Hansen's team-best skating ability can stand on its own while he's down there.
- During one of the intermissions, the Sportsnet ticker told us the final score of the FC Kobenhavn vs. Rubin Kazan UEFA game. It read: RUB -1 FCK - 0. Take from this what you will.
- My favourite moment: Jeff Tambellini, waiting for the referee to reverse the decisions on Ryan Kesler's disallowed goal. Tamby was visibly pumped when the puck went in, and you could see him waiting breathlessly for it to count. When the referee came away from the booth, the camera catches Tamby mouthing "Come on, you motherf... come on." Hilarious and sweet. I love his elation when the call goes his way.
- That was, by the by, Ryan Kesler's 100th career goal. Congratulations are in order. And now, here they are: congratulations.
- But seriously, the fact that his goal was legal is ridiculous. Here's why the puck goes in: Tambellini whacks Budaj in the side of the head with his stick. As Budaj recoils from being bludgeoned, he actually butts the puck with the other side of his head and it falls into the net. Apparently, you're allowed to do that. Tamby, on the whack: “I pulled a Keith Ballard there [...]" Hilarious.
- Reason to sigh: now some people are complaining that the Canucks powerplay is bad. Oh, shut up, some people.
- And speaking of Budaj, poor Craig Anderson. For the second straight game, he had to leave the game with an injury suffered in the warm-up. Anderson can't catch a break, save the part of his body that does exactly that whenever he comes to town. Even the NBA is laughing at his problems with Vancouver.
- Joel Perrault is a forgettable guy, ain't he? I forgot he was even playing last night, and apparently, so did Alain Vigneault. Perrault logged a team low 5:15, and I don't remember hearing his name once. I don't think I've ever missed Alex Bolduc so much and, all things considered, I likely never will again.
- In the faceoff circle, the Canucks were very good and the Avalanche were a gallon of fail. Vancouver won 34 of the game's 52 draws, led by an 11-for-15 showing by Manny Malhotra that included 6 out of 6 in the defensive zone. Faceoff goat? Paul Stastny, who only won 6 in 21 tries. Sidenote: having coined the term "Faceoff goat" I am now envisioning a live goat who takes faceoffs. And now, I'm envisioning the classic John Woo movie, Face/Off. But with goats.
- I really like the way the Canucks do the Ring of Honour tributes. Short, sweet, and classy. Apart from a terrifying moment where the tarp professed its love for the plaque beneath it and refused to leave it behind, it was a perfect pre-game ceremony.
- And finally: I thought today about what a ridiculous idea Fin is. An anthropomorphic killer whale who playfully tries to murder fans by biting their skulls open? Not awesome. You know if his teeth weren't made of foam, Brody, Quint, and Hooper would be looking for him.