Thursday, January 13, 2011

I Watched This Game: Canucks at Rangers, January 13, 2011

Canucks 0 - 1 Rangers

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.


  1. Since the last regulation loss, the Canucks has gone 14-0-3. Now if we could just imagine what this loss will bring us!

    Optimism prevails... I hope.

  2. I watched this game on US TV so I'm not sure if SN showed this: The absolute elation from the Rangers, as if they'd just won their most important game this season; it actually warmed my bitter angry heart. This is the Canucks they're acting as if was Goliath. The announcers went on and on about what an important win it was, and I had to remind myself that this is rather a compliment. Somehow, I find solace in that.

    [insert Life of Brian closing tune...]

  3. Good point, Anonymous. The Rangers treated this game like they were climbing the Matterhorn. The whole idea that the Rangers beating the Canucks can only happen with an "all-heart performance" is baffling to me. But, such is this Canucks team nowadays.

    There's a post there. Hmm.

  4. Atilla the Honey is just over the horizon.
    C. Chick

  5. I agree shutout losses suck, and 1-0 games in particular. Like you say, usually the team has played very good defense in them, too, but that gets blown by the wayside in the minds of results-are-everything-no-matter-what-you-do fans. In this vein, I only saw the third period, but it certainly didn't look like an "effort" problem to me, though many HFBoards fans were using their usual stock phrase that no one but Schneider "showed up." (It's that simple! The Canucks could choose to win every single game if they wanted to!")

    "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."

    Totally agree. Samuelsson is a Moneyball player in many ways in that his failure to conform to the norm makes him more dangerous, because other players will anticipate his decisions incorrectly. This can pay off in spades in the playoffs, particularly in overtime, where there is a noted decrease in "normal" scoring and so many goals are flukes or unexpected.

  6. I made a short film in college, and it involved no hair pulling and very little crotch stabbing. Perhaps that's why it didn't win the Springfield Film Festival.

    Anyway, that was a sad, sad game to watch. It's disturbing that the Canucks have come out fairly strong in the first and rather weak in the second two games in a row. Negative patterns (no matter how small the sample size) get Canucks fans all riled up and ornery. That said, I'm really more worried about the fans than the team. They know what they need to do to win, and will do that more often than not.

    One last thing. I truly hope to never see Rome on the ice for the Canucks again. He's the only Canucks player that I don't particularly like. I share your sentiments about Salo.

  7. Completely agree on Samuelsson. I am befuddled by the recent suggestions that he be traded. Pure silliness.

  8. did anyone else see a green guy running around towards the end of the third trying to rally the crowd? have they franchised, now?

  9. I saw that, Ryan. Word was they were taking their act on the road for a game or two. I wondered if it was one of Vancouver's Green Men, but I don't think so.

  10. You are quite right Mr. Mooney, this loss is not the end of the world. It is what happens next that will be "the rest of the story". A loss was bound to happen, no team goes through the season undefeated and, although they did not play their best, they weren't that bad and the Rangers played out of their skins. A shame to waste such a good performance by Schneider but hey, they get another crack at it tonight. Which is just the point. Are these Canucks new and improved and should they be, as Mike Gillis suggests, absolved from any judgment based on Canuck teams and habits of the past? Or will they revert to their old bad habits and start a slide that will end up back in the swamp of mediocrity from which they have so recently emerged? I want to believe I really, really do. A strong performance tonight, even in a losing cause (god forbid!) is needed to calm the nerves of those of us who have been watching hopefully for forty years. Come on Canucks, show us something different.

  11. Further on that David/Goliath on the Matterhorn (mixed) metaphor is, how the US critics (or at least the US colour commentators and the guys) keep calling it a great game by the Canucks, whilst we here in Vancou(ldabeenbett)ver keep calling it a sub-par effort and a boring game. Is it b/c calling it a great Canucks game means the Rangers were that much more David-y to our Goliathic team?

    Lately, I've been having much better luck getting the stream from US channels (curses, SNP!) but I find it sort of interesting, now, because they wax poetic--as poetic as colour commentators can, that is--about Kess, and the Twins, et al in a way that actually makes me blush sometimes. Like, 'Woah, guys, get a Kess poster and keep on topic'. But, yeah. It's a welcome change...

  12. Hey, did anyone notice Rome try to awkwardly attempt an open ice hip check? it was sloppy and generic, much like the romer himself.

    almost as if to say "let me show you how it's done!" Ballard layed a nice one later in the period. unfortunately it was against the boards closest to the center ice camera and was obscured from vision, you could still tell it was a nice one tho.

  13. on the note of showing people how it's done.

  14. Too bad it turned out to be such a boring game. There was a period of about 3 minutes in the first where it looked like it was going to be a wide open, electrifying affair.

    We lost that game in the second period no doubt about it. NY took over, we couldn't get anything on net... Frustration thy name is New York Rangers

  15. It's pretty clear that Luongo told the team not to score just to show Cory Schneider that the things he said about "Oh, it's easy to win when your team scores," is actually TRUE. Luongo had to play for the 06-07 Canucks, where he lost plenty of games 2-1.

    Lu pulled Kesler and the Sedins aside and said, let's turn that false modesty into real modesty.

    Also, I figured you'd go for the Hancock reference with the All-Heart. Jason Bateman is trying to promote the All-Heart symbol, and Hancock helps by painting it on the moon. But the Braveheart reference was good, too.

  16. How dare you try to predict my references!

    Also, I fell asleep halfway through Hancock. Hardly remember it. Too bad. That might have been a better joke.

  17. I was at the Garden last night and had to listen to lots of 1994 being shouted at me. I was okay with that. knew i was going to hear it all night. my highlight was Gaborik not scoring on the breakaway. biggest let down was that Wolski scored I had a bad feeling he was going to haunt us.


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