Canucks 3 - 1 Flames
The Canucks showed why they're first in the NHL with a calm, easy-going win against the regrettably terrible Flames. As I've mentioned before, I miss the days when these games were bitter battles against a legitimate rival. Instead, the Flames are a sad-sack team that bears no threat. The Canucks were content to allow the Flames to set the pace and control the puck, confident that Luongo and the defense could contend with the Flames' efforts and confident that the forwards could capitalize on their opportunities.
They were absolutely right. The Flames outshot the Canucks 44-21 but never once threatened to win the game as the Canucks took the lead early and calmly repelled the Flames offense time and time again. Unlike Team Canada, the Canucks made their 3-0 lead going into the third period last, coming just 11 seconds short of giving Luongo the shutout. The game featured two milestones: Raffi Torres notched his 200th point and Daniel Sedin scored the 10,000th goal in franchise history. That, my friends, is over 9000. I watched this game.
- Luongo made 43 saves for his 3rd win in a row. He's 12-1-1 in his last 14 starts. After a rough start statistically, he's 11th in the league in GAA and save percentage. Don't listen to anyone who suggests that there's a goaltending controversy. Unless they're telling you to call 911 because there's a fire in the house. Then you should listen.
- The Canucks' first goal came just 1:10 into the first period (above). Mason Raymond makes Olli Jokinen look dumber than normal before feeding Kesler in front. Neither Tanguay nor Bouwmeester show much interest in taking Kesler, who now has 20 goals, putting him on pace for 42. Clearly, Kesler is a Douglas Adams fan. It's marvelous to see Raymond and Kesler together again, like when Andy Richter came back to join Conan O'Brien when he took over The Tonight Show.
- Kevin Bieksa had a stellar game tonight, with a goal and an assist in his near 22 minutes of time-on-ice. Juice has 7 points in his last 6 games and looks like he might actually manage 30+ points this season. There are many things to like about his goal: the patience he shows to allow traffic to pile up between him and the net, his ability to get the shot through said traffic, and the delightful grin on his face as Torres comes up to congratulate him. But the best part comes after the goal, as the camera finds an excited fan in a classic yellow V jersey holding a sign saying "WE ARE ALL BIEKSA" on it. And with that a ridiculous Twitter hashtag began and the Bieksa bandwagon filled up immediately.
- The Sedins and Burrows were the best forwards on the ice tonight. Burrows ended up with 2 assists (but only finished +1 because he was off the ice before Kesler could score), Daniel had a goal on 4 shots, and Henrik constantly made beautiful passes, the best of which had Shorty quit doing the play-by-play for a moment just to say "Oh my goodness." It was that good. Astonishingly, like "Dude, Where's My Car?" Henrik ended without a point.
- Daniel Sedin's 22nd goal of the year featured some great work by Burrows to gain the zone, a purposeful shot wide by Bieksa, and a perfect tip by Daniel to beat Kiprusoff. John Garrett instead insinuated that the puck only went in because Kiprusoff didn't have his stick and without it was like Linus without his security blanket. I am instead going to blame Jokinen for standing three feet in front of Daniel, carefully defending the completely empty slot.
- Dan Hamhuis did his best Olli Jokinen impression on the goal that broke Luongo's shutout, as he too decided to defend the empty slot instead of picking up Tim Jackman in front of the net. Hamhuis had a bit of a rough game, as this giveaway earlier in the third led to a flurry of chances for the Flames. The fourth line had the misfortune of being on the ice for his mental error, dropping each of their plus/minus columns by one.
- That said, Bolduc is the one who lost the faceoff: he actually lost all 8 of his faceoff attempts, dropping his faceoff percentage for the season below 50% for the first time. Kesler and Malhotra were both solid at 67% and 79%, including going a combined 15-for-17 in the defensive zone. Unfortunately, Henrik was not as good at 38%, with Olli Jokinen being his main antagonist. It was the only good thing Jokinen did all night and the only flaw in Henrik's game.
- Christian Ehrhoff was stellar defensively, once again using his stick effectively in the defensive zone to take away passing lanes and sweep pucks off sticks. I suspect that Ehrhoff has heard all the rumblings that he's more likely to be traded now than Bieksa as he seems intent on proving that he's not one-dimensional. In case anyone's forgotten, Ehrhoff is good at hockey.
- Jeff Tambellini throws his tiny body around as if he was a borderline NHLer on what might potentially be his last chance to prove he belongs in the big leagues. Which makes sense. He had 4 hits tonight. He now has 34 hits on the season, putting him third amongst Canuck forwards despite playing 13 fewer games. Also very hitty, Andrew Alberts and Jannik Hansen, who both had 5 hits tonight and lead all Canucks players with 83 and 82 respectively. Not very hitty: Harvey Danger. Despite three fantastic albums, they only had one hit, "Flagpole Sitta." Now that, Evander Kane, is a national travesty.
- And finally, my wife would like to let everyone know that Alain Vigneault's tie was very nice. Good work, AV.