Canucks 5 - 4 Sharks (SO)
With this game, the Pass it to Bulis California (and Glendale) road trip draws to a close with a 4-0 record. Clearly, fans should be clamoring to send Skeeter and Harrison out of Vancouver more often. The trip ended in an exciting and dramatic fashion, but I can't help but feel like the Canucks were the villains in this story. The Sharks showed energy and focus, and battled hard to come back three times. Logan "Bumblebee" Couture was constantly buzzing around and creating chances. Torrey "Jazz" Mitchell scored on an amazing individual effort that got the heart racing. Ryan "Hot Rod" Clowe managed two goals and nearly completed the hat trick to win the game, but all of them fell short, defeated almost single-handedly by Cory "Megatron" Schneider. Schneider won a game the Canucks probably deserved to lose -- and I would know, because I watched this game:
- Give the Canucks credit for being solid in the offensive zone when they could manage to stay there. They played a solid game except for their inability to get out of their own zone, and their inability to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Normally, their transition game is their greatest strength, but in this game, they fell victim to the Sharks' puck moving tonight. The Sharks must have stocked up on iron, zinc, palladium and osmium, as they showed a lot of transition mettle.
- The Canucks dominated much of the first period, before falling flat in the second. It's sort of a recurring theme. The Canucks are +28 in the first, and only +3 in the second. The thing that didn't go as usual is that the Canucks didn't Win Da Turd, where they're +34. Once the first period was over, the Canucks were outshot 16-42. That's insane.
- The Canucks' first goal (above) came on some truly wizardous sedinerie. What was most wizardous about it was that the Sharks were checking them hard, had active sticks, and the Sedins managed to keep puck control. I've said it before -- the Canucks are best when they create chances, rather than wait for them. On this play, the Sedins, like Harvey Dent, made their own luck.
- Still, no one's above capitalizing on chances when they're given. It seems every time the Sharks failed on coverage, Niemi was bailing them out with ridiculous saves. A couple even went in. On Raymond's goal (here), Niclas Wallin lost track of Raymond while Niemi lost track of the puck. It was a window of only a second, and Raymond deserves a lot of credit for capitalizing on the chance. Daniel Sedin's power play goal (here) was a clear demonstration of why the opposition should never ever give him time and space.
- The Canucks started the second by allowing two goals and then taking a penalty. On that penalty, the Sharks announcers said, "Vigneault looking very calm on the bench." "I don't think I've ever seen him really lose it." I've seen him lose it. Tell him Wellwood's playing like a man possessed.
- Man, the Canucks' power play generated a lot of scoring chances tonight, didn't it? It even generated some for the Canucks.
- Seriously, though, the Canucks' power play was dangerous -- for both teams -- and bailed them out of a game they would otherwise have lost. The Canucks generated 12 shots on the PP, but 3 of them were on Schneider, so it was back and forth for a while. Still, can't argue with two goals.
- The Canucks' penalty kill did well statistically, in terms of allowing only one goal, but they allowed 16 shots on 7 penalties, and couldn't seem to leave the zone. Cory "Megatron" Schneider was the only reason the Sharks' third-ranked PP in the league didn't bury the Canucks tonight.
- The referees were calling everything they saw and a lot they didn't tonight. Recently, the Canucks have had referees content to put the whistles away, and they didn't adapt very well to the new standard. As a result, they took 7 penalties, including one in overtime. The Canucks should be glad when the referees start calling everything. It lets them take advantage of their superior special teams.
- Besides Schneider, another bright spot on the night was Chris Higgins. The dude didn't log much statistically, but he provided a good screen for the Sami Salo goal (here), and adds another weapon to the second PP unit. Higgins is a three-time 20-goal scorer and those are typically nice power-play assets. In fact, Higgins is a lot like Wellwood -- a depth center in a checking role who can play a role on the power-play and jump into the top six should there be injury. Also, like Wellwood, he has something to prove. Unlike Welly, though, Higgins has the grit necessary to fit in the bottom six, so the Canucks give up nothing for his versatility.
- On the subject of the 4th line, Lapierre had a good game, too. He lost both faceoffs he took after the first, but still finished 3 for 5, and logged three hits and a blocked shot to go along with his three shots on goal. Glass wasn't bad either. In such a close game, Vigneault still confidently rolled his fourth line. Love to see that. Love it.
- Sami Salo has found his step again, hasn't he? He was victimized on the Setoguchi goal, but his missile from the point is back in force. More like Sami Silo, am I right?
- Only two Canucks finished plus one -- Sami Salo and Aaron Rome. Dan Hamhuis was a -2, but he wasn't all bad, with four blocked shots and over 26 minutes of ice time, including 7:36 on the penalty kill. The Sharks were constantly pressuring, and sometimes Hammy just couldn't get off the ice. It'd be wrong to say he was out of gas, though, because he drives an electric car. It's much better for the environment.
- Including the shootout, Schneider made 47 saves tonight. That's insanely good. Still, the Canucks weren't as bad defensively as the shot totals make them look. They were good clearing away rebounds and limiting shots to the perimeter... mostly. They got tired on a lot of shifts because they couldn't get the puck out, and that's when things got hairy. The culprit isn't their defense itself, but their puck possession and ability to get out of their zone. While at times it looked like a lot of things were wrong for the Canucks, it all came down to their trouble moving the puck up. Ask Gillis if he foresaw that the Canucks would have so much trouble moving forward.
- Megatron (yes, I'm going to call him that) was good in the shootout, stopping all three shooters, including Kyle Wellwood, who seemed destined to score. Also impressive was Alex Burrows, with a nifty move in the shootout we've all seen before. He's got two "go-to" moves for the shootout or a breakaway -- one on the forehand, and one on the backhand. They usually work for him, though, so one has to wonder why he's 0-3 on penalty shots. What's the difference?