I Watched This Game is a recurring feature on Pass It To Bulis, chronicling the observations and insights of two people who watched a hockey game.
Taking off my Canucks fan hat for a moment, I just want to acknowledge the fantastic entertainment value of this playoff series. In my egotistical opinion, this series has had the most drama, excitement, and fun of the entire first round. Game four was no different. Here are a few of my thoughts:
- It's a sad day when killing a single penalty is lauded like the Canucks had won a major victory. The penalty kill still needs a lot of work, but it looked stronger towards the end of the game as the Canucks put some good pressure up ice on the forecheck and clogged up the neutral zone.
- The Sedins showed why they're two of the best players in hockey, as they took over the third period with their typical sublime passing and puck control. But what impressed me most was their dogged effort, chasing down every puck, playing the body, and covering up the puck to waste time at the end of the game.
- Henrik's unadulterated glee at scoring the game-winning goal was fantastic, but my favorite part was when he immediately skated to the bench to celebrate with the entire team rather than just the four skaters on the ice. That's team unity.
- With a 2 point effort, Henrik was named the second star on the night by the NHL and first star on the night by Puck Daddy. I prefer Puck Daddy's ranking, but I'm blatantly biased. Daniel had 3 assists on the night, none better than this slap pass to Mikael Samuelsson.
- No one celebrates a goal quite like Sami Salo. I'm just glad he didn't hurt himself with the double fist pump.
- Kyle Wellwood made a couple of uncharacteristic bonehead passes in this game, but he also played solid defensively, controlled the puck well along the boards against much bigger competition, won 64% of his faceoffs, and recorded an assist. Not bad at all.
- At 0:25 of this video, Luongo gets his mask knocked off by a fan. The look on Luongo's face is priceless. Personally, I imagine the fan was thinking the same thing as the bleeding woman from Matthew 9:20-22: "If I can only touch his mask, I will be healed." And Luongo turned and saw him. "Take heart, son, your faith has healed you." Then he gets his mask back and high-fives some Canucks fans.
Back to Vancouver we go, the series knotted at two wins apiece. I'm ecstatic that we won last night's game, but the stress of this series is killing me. My wife--normally not a hockey fan, that one--is a nervous wreck after taking in her first playoff series. Last year, we went on our honeymoon during the Chicago series and we missed all the infuriating parts. In year's before, she just avoided hockey like the plague. But, in a basement suite, with one television, the volume up as loud as ever, and, often, guests aplenty clogging up the available space, she's been forced to hop on the bandwagon with everybody else. And its stressing her out.
That said, it'll do her good to have her patience tested by the Canucks. It's why British Columbians are typically so relaxed, methinks. It's not the pot. It's the inept history of the Vancouver Canucks, which has taught us all to accept even the worst disappointments calmly. Excepting when we don't.
- It's strange to say that Roberto Luongo was better tonight when he let in four goals, but he didn't get pulled, so, he was better. That said, he was also pretty good when it counted, if we only consider specific moments where he made crucial saves as when it counted. Too much parsing. It also counted in the first period when he couldn't make the save and incurred the wrath of Tommy Larscheid on the radio broadcast. "You deserve to fish it out the back of your net," he spewed, in reference to Lu's failure to cover up a loose puck on a scramble. Ouch.
- Luongo was the better goalie tonight and I think the Canucks might have the book on Quick: the guy is the antonym of quick on the stick side. To wit: he was slow. With the exception of Samuelsson's glove-side tip on the slap-pass (called a shass by the Versus color in this highlight package, which is not a good name for it), every one of the Canucks five goals on Quick was fired across Quick's body and went just over the pads on his stick side. Expect this trend to continue.
- I agree with Skeeter on Wellwood, who has been his typical hot/cold self, but we need Wellwood, the playoff warrior ("Wellwood Smash!"), not Wellwood, the existential functionalist ("Oh, shucks"). The guy's calmness with the puck has been taken to epic levels of late, resulting in remarkable puck possession (third period last night) or horrible turnovers (the Richardson goal from the last game). Problem is, it's a coin flip on which one we'll see from shift to shift. It's also a lot of wear and tear on my arms, as Wellwood has me shaking my fist on every shift, either out of excited pride or rage. Kyle, you are making this friendship so difficult.
- I am still waiting for Ryan Kesler to show up. LA scored a couple times tonight when Kes lost his man. And yes, I'm calling him Kes. The suffix -Lord will return to his name when he earns it back. I don't see his speed, I don't see his grit, and I don't see his recently developed playmaking ability at all. The guy is tight and he's not playing like he played all season, when he could have been our MVP (were it not for that other guy, who tainted the whole ballot by being a league MVP). I don't mean to harp on Kesler and Wellwood, but the Pittsburgh Penguins are a good example of why strong play from your centers is often all you need.
- Can Vancouver collectively send Doug Wilson candies and flowers for giving us Christian Ehrhoff for nothing? He was a beast last night, giving us an offensive answer for Drew Doughty, if at least for one game. Not sure if we realize how much of our offense he generates.
- I thought Nolan Baumgartner looked shaky last night as did Tom Larscheid, who disliked his game enough to say on the radio that maybe Alberts should come back in. Matthew 27:21: which of the two do you want me to release to you?" asked the governor. "Barabbas," they answered.
- What in the heck was Shane O'Brien doing? I play basketball with a guy like him sometimes. He gets incensed about something, and then you just can't talk any sense into him. And then he elbows someone in the solarplexis on a harmless crossover. Anybody who questions Luongo's leadership should refer to the moment in which he talked SOB down after the coaching staff couldn't. Seriously. That was an excellent bit of captaincy.
- Were it nor for the referees, Wayne Simmonds might have been on the receiving end of Bieksa's patented Superman punch. It would have been nice to see his skinny chicken legs buckle after taking in The Fist that Felled Fedor(tm).
- The Canucks are brutalizing the Kings 5-on-5, outscoring them every game when the play's even. But, since the refs refuse to let us see much of this type of hockey and continue to make terrible, terrible calls, we need to win these special teams battles. Last night, it was a sawoff, as both teams went 2-for-4. That's okay. A draw in special teams means the game is decided 5-on-5. Little shock who won, then.
- It goes without saying, but Mikael Samuelsson has been the best player on the Canucks all series long. He seems to score crucial goals exclusively, he's always dangerous, he gets into open areas, he displays an unparalleled patience with the puck, and his clutchness and calmness is the perfect way to lead by example. The man has been a star, and he deserves every minute of top-line ice time he gets. The tip he made to Daniel on the Salo goal was maybe the play of the game. Terry Murray's imperative to his team to "know where Samuelsson is at all times" should really flatter the guy.
- I've been thinking: We've seen SOB and Samuelsson both play better when they were left off teams they should have been on. Perhaps in practice AV should exclude them off a scrimmage? SOB's seems pretty dense; they might even be able to convince him it was the real game.
- Tanner Glass looked pretty bad last night. Why isn't Rypien playing in his place? He's faster, hits just as much, has more skill, and plays the same position. Seriously, one game as a center and AV forgets he can play the wing? Even Hordichuk might be an upgrade to match the Kings' size.
- And finally, how did Gary Bettman manage to address and dispel the rumours of an Eastern bias while making it glaringly evident in his own statement? The quote: I think Mr. Murphy was trying to explain at 1 o'clock in the morning as best he could exactly what was going on and if he wasn't as articulate as those looking to parse his words, so be it." So wait, he was tired? The game was on too late? Isn't that exactly what the jingoists in the Vancouver media always claim is the real issue with the bias? The time difference and the Eastern guys' unwillingness to stay up that late? These are grown men. They can stay up past their bedtime on occasion. It sounds stupid as Hell, but here, Bettman actually admits the lateness of the games is a factor. WTF? The bizarro playoffs continue.