Canucks 3 - 4 Ducks
It feels like it's been forever since we've watched the Canucks suffer a home regulation loss, and I'm a little uncertain of how to feel about it. At this point in the season, it's not unlike like being gored by a unicorn: sure, it's undesired, but it's so rare that you're kind of impressed. Only the fourth time this season the Canucks have skated away from a home game without a point, it's pretty hard to muster up the usual fan despair. Heck, the Red Wings lost too, so the only thing on which the Canucks missed out was stretching their nine-point Western Conference lead into an eleven-point lead. They were going to lose eventually, and despite the brush with inevitability, they remain in pretty good standing. I watched this game:
- Of course, for reasonable, like-minded people that are finding it difficult to freak out at this loss, we have the terrifying problem of Dan Hamhuis's addition to the list of broken Canucks. Hamhuis is the backbone of the Canucks' defense corps; without him, the Canucks defense is an invertebrate. Hit from behind by Ryan Getzlaf, Hamhuis briefly went unconscious, which is not ideal, because he wasn't getting his wisdom teeth removed. Of course, while he was in the dreamworld, because he's such a community-oriented guy, he helped a young girl rescue her brother from Jareth, King of the Goblins, but that's another story for another time.
- The hit wasn't dirty. For people looking to cast blame: there is none. In a high-speed sport, accidents happen. Ryan Getzlaf was finishing a check, a move for which all coaches would applaud him. Yes, he was briefly off his feet, but it looks to me like it was the contact with Hamhuis--not his innate wickedness--that caused him to catch air. Some say Hamhuis shouldn't have turned away, but let's get serious. Do these same people curse out their kneecap when it jumps at the tap of a doctor's tendon hammer? Bracing oneself for impact is a natural reflex of the body. I'm sure Dan Hamhuis, a professional hockey player, would be the first one to tell you not to turn like that, but in a split second, the body doesn't always cooperate with the mind. Let's just hope he's okay and move on. Getzlaf isn't a dirty player.
- What he is, however, is a remarkable player. His pass on the Ducks' third goal was dangerously close to Wizardous Sedinerie, as he cribbed a page from Henrik's book of spells (otherwise known as the Nyturan Demonta), perfectly executing a swiveling backpass to Bobby Ryan. Ryan impressed also, receiving and burying that pass entirely on the backhand. I've heard rumblings that the Canucks can't handle the Perry-Getzlaf-Ryan line and that this is some sort of fatal flaw, but who can? They're one of the best lines in hockey, and there's no shame when they burn you. Let's try to give credit when due. Getzlaf is a superstar, and in his first game back from injury, he made sure we knew it. That said, when you steal Henrik's book of spells, you free some pretty malevolent spirits, so Getzlaf should expect some Evil Dead-style demonic high jinks.
- Speaking of malevolent spirits, a theory about these sudden injury troubles: for years, Sami Salo has been possessed by an injury demon. It's decades-old; it once lived in Bobby Orr's knees. Anyway, while rehabbing the Achilles injury, Salo finally rid it from his body, but the demon remains in the bowels of Rogers Arena, jumping from defenceman to defenceman, looking for a suitable host. Someone call Max Von Sydow.
- Christian Ehrhoff had an ugly game, on the ice for three of Anaheim's four goals on the evening and, in each case, the guy caught behind the play. He wasn't always the one to blame, but not once was he the last man back, and that's concerning. His rush-jumpy tendencies may fly when burgeoning superstar Alex Edler is the watchman, but when it's Chris Tanev or Aaron Rome, you might want to stay a little closer to home. With the blueline decimated by injuries, now is not the time for Ehrhoffian defensive offensivity. It's the time for sound defensive play.
- Speaking of Chris Tanev, he continues to look wise beyond his years. Is he in sync with the Sedins already? In this game, he pulled off Kevin Bieksa's jump through the middle and a slap-pass from the point to Daniel. Neither resulted in a goal, but still, these are specialized set plays. Not since Neo learned kung-fu have I seen someone learn something so complicated so quickly. I think Tanev might be The One. He doesn't even see the game; he's sees phosphorescent lines of code.
- Alarming thought which is no longer as alarming as it once was: Kevin Bieksa is now the rock of our defense corps. #JuiceWillSaveUs
- Jannik Hansen's high-pitched monotone gets me every time. During an intermission interview with Kristin Reid, he coughed, and his pitch didn't change a bit. That is commitment.
- Lost in the loss was the fact that last night was a three-point night for Daniel Sedin. He had a goal and two assists, and his line looked great all night. He narrowly missed tying the game in the final seconds, too, if not for the puck making a Barry Sanders-level juke. Yes, Sedin was excellent. For folks complaining that the Ducks' top line was too much for the Canucks, need I remind you that this street goes both ways? The Sedins were on for exactly as many goals as Getzlaf's line. By the by, on Daniels's power play goal, Henrik might not have gotten an assist, but did you notice his sneaky trip on Todd Marchant? It wasn't a slewfoot; Henrik simply shades in behind him and plants his skate, and Marchant, skating backwards, trips over it. As a result, Daniel has a buttload (a Byfuglienian buttload, at that) of room.
- Alex Burrows now has 6 goals in his last 7 games, and I loved the way he scored this one. Henrik and Burr do this all the time, and it works surprisingly often. Henrik gets set up behind the net and he just waits there for something to open up. Eventually, one of the checkers gets impatient and lunges at Henrik, and Alex Burrows cuts to the crease, and Henrik gets him the puck. The way Corey Perry played is is the wrong way to play it. The correct defensive play is to wait for Henrik to fall asleep.
- Did you know the Canucks had 38 shots and attempted 73? It felt like they had about 20. I don't recall McElhinney making many incredible saves, either.
- Mason Raymond's act is wearing thin. I know he's been picking up points lately, but that seems more a result of his linemates than his individual play. Somebody remind him that skating quickly around the outside is for Clara Hughes. Is he aware that a team's defensive strategy against any offensive threat is to keep him doing exactly what he does willingly?
- Ryan Kesler had a good game, scoring a crucial goal late in the game, and winning 15-of-21 draws, but he had too many rushes end for him when he gave the puck to Raymond and wound up not getting it back. Kesler and Raymond had chemistry last season, but this year, they've gone in completely different directions. Often, Kesler's best stuff comes when he doesn't pass to Raymond, or when he's on with the Sedins. This doesn't bode well for Raymond. It makes him an expendable, tradeable asset. If he doesn't prove himself untouchable in a hurry, he's in danger of being sent to a worse team. He'd better pick it up in a hurry, or he'll find himself playing for a seller.
- Speaking of acts wearing thin, nobody breaks up a promising rush faster than Raffi Torres. Far too often, he's a baffling, downright bungling presence. Watching him skate on a line with Jannik Hansen is like watching inspectors Holmes and Clouseau try to solve a mystery together. One does all the right things, the other breaks vases and falls down staircases.
- And finally, I have never, ever in my life, seen two men chew gum with more ferocity than Mike Gillis and Alain Vigneault as they waited for Dan Hamhuis to get up.