Canucks 1 - 2 Sharks
Before we go any further, a brief dissertation on the first game back from a road trip: we saw, in The Game That Shall Not Be Named, and in the wise words of the team's sleep doctor, that the first game back from a road trip often yields a team at the peak of their exhaustion. In fact, while some expect the game to be renewed with energy, the game is usually more an extension of the trip that just ended than the first game after it. Take a look at the Canucks' schedule after their last five-game road trip: after petering out on the road, they came back and dropped games on back-to-back nights versus Chicago and Phoenix. That's because they had yet to have any home rest. Then, when they finally got it, they recuperated and began the jaw-dropping streak that is only now coming to an end.
All of this is to say that the team we saw last night could have played much, much worse, and we can reasonably expect the team that shows up Saturday night to be much, much better (and I'm sure it won't hurt that they're playing Calgary). Anyway, I watched this game:
- I should say I'm not offering this as an excuse; I'm simply making the point that the Canucks deserve more credit for taking points from their last two games than they're getting. That's what you have to do in the current NHL--get points when you're outplayed. The Canucks have done it twice in a row and it deserves, at the very least, a golf clap.
- In the last game, I said that, while the Canucks were playing without rest, Roberto Luongo had seen plenty of it. Superstar goalie that he is, he needed to bail out his sleepy team. If you recall, in Denver, he didn't, but last night he did. While the Canucks were a little sounder defensively, they were still giving up shots all over the place: 46 in total, 25 of those in the second period alone. Thankfully, Roberto Luongo stopped all but one, and without his strong play, the Canucks don't get this one to overtime. He made some stellar saves, too, like getting the cheater of his glove on Joe Thornton's breakaway wrister. His rebound control was excellent as well--he was smothering the puck all night. Not since Othello killed Desdemona in her bed have I seen such thorough smothering.
- The funny thing about the shot count is that it didn't tell the whole story. San Jose had most of the shots in the second period, but they really didn't dominate the way it appears they did on the stat sheet. The Sedins had a litany of extended shifts in the offensive zone that didn't always yield shots, but did a good job of stalling San Jose's attack for long stretches.
- Man, were the Sedins good. While they only produced one goal on the night (the pretty one, above), they lived inside San Jose's blue line most of the evening. They had a ton of chances and a ton of shots. Line you thought you'd never hear: Henrik Sedin had a game-high seven shots. In fact, he and Daniel combined for 13, over a third of Vancouver's shot total. Tony Gallagher often complains that the Sedins regularly put up two points apiece but don't play consistently dominant games. Last evening, they did the opposite. You just got served, Tony.
- Alex Burrows had a decent game too, but the poor guy was thoroughly manhandled every time he went to the net. I didn't think you could do that. Apparently you can.
- The shootout remains a stupid way to decide a hockey game. May I suggest, instead, two mouse traps and one mouse.
- So it turns out those moronic bits where John Garrett talks about snack foods he likes are planned. During a stoppage in play, Dan Murphy introduced the featured product of the night: Quaker Crispy Minis. This was followed by about seven seconds of dead air, as John Shorthouse waited for Garrett to say how much he likes to eat them. Instead, Garrett briefly forgot he existed, and Shorty had to prompt him. I've long felt Garrett watches the games from behind a sleep mask, but in this case, he was genuinely asleep on the job.
- I was briefly puzzled by Sergei Shirokov's third-period benching, but on second glance, it makes sense. First, Shirokov was playing overly flashy--twice he cut to the inside of the ice instead of putting a shot on goal with traffic heading to the net, and both times waited too long and wound up accomplishing nothing. Second, he wasn't winning his puck battles. Until Vigneault reunited Raymond, Kesler, and Samuelsson, the second line wasn't getting any sustained offensive pressure at all, and much of that had to do with Shirokov's play. He's still good, though. Hopefully he remains with the team and adjusts his play accordingly.
- Speaking of Samuelsson, it was nice to see Angry Samuelsson return. While fighting for a puck along the boards, he took a check from Jason Demers, and rather than not taking a stupid retaliatory penalty, he turned around and punched Demers in the head. Way to go. But, as detrimental as Angry Samuelsson can be sometimes, he plays better when he's like this, so this might be a good sign.
- With another subpar night in the faceoff circle, it's clear that Ryan Kesler's thumb is still bothering him. He's not Wolverine (as far as I know), so he might need rest or treatment or something. I'm concerned that eventually it's going to turn completely blue like the band in that Daft Punk movie, then fall off. You need your thumb to flip coins. How will Kesler ever decide between two things?
- Dan Hamhuis had a fabulous game with an assist to go with four blocked shots and three takeaways. You don't always notice him, but he always seems to be in the right place. This is excepting that one shift where he led a botched rush and found himself two zones away from Joe Thornton's breakaway. I haven't seen a guy this out of position since my wedding night. I did a lot of guessing.
- Tanner Glass fought Jamal Mayers, whose name, if slightly mispronounced, rhymes with bears. Coincidence? No. There's no connection whatsoever.
- Christian Ehrhoff had four blocked shots and an assist. Unfortunately, the goal on which he assisted was scored by Logan Couture. You can't make a play like that in front of the best player on the Sharks, or you'll get burned. But cut Ehrhoff some slack--I'm sure, like most of us, he couldn't believe that, on a team with four Olympians, rookie Logan Couture is their best player. It's not a good thing.
- Had the Vancouver power play been as effective last night as it was on Tuesday, the Canucks might have won this game going away. Unfortunately, it was drier than Stephen Lynch and not nearly as enjoyable to watch. They went 0-for-5 on the night, including an overtime 4-on-3 that probably should have been automatic.
- And finally (and most importantly), it was good to see Kyle Wellwood back, and you can tell that he's ecstatic. He was smiling from ear to ear all night. We love Welly here at PITB, so this meant we were smiling from ear to ear all night. Seriously, I smiled so hard my hair parted like the grinch, which is impressive, because I'm bald.