I Watched This Game is a recurring feature on Pass it to Bulis, chronicling the insights and observations of two guys that watched a hockey game.
I'm not sure why, but I honestly thought last night's game was going to be closer. Before puck drop, Skeeter told me it was going to be like the Edmonton game. I goaded him into a prediction of an identical 8-2 score. Then I laughed to myself, and told him it was going to be low-scoring, tight-checking. Indeed, the Canucks were going to lose, but not by the laughable margin he thought they might. 8-2, I said? Come on, Skeeter! I hypothesize that you are a fool, and tonight's score will likely support this, I said. Unfortunately, exactly halfway into the game, it was 4-1. After that, I was much less sure of myself.
Unfortunately, last night's incarnation of the Canucks were in about the same headspace. It was a crummy, disjointed effort from a bunch of guys who, I would have assumed, were going to bring a lot more considering the stakes. I know it's just the fourth-line, but I feel like nobody's' really stepped up and claimed a spot. The next game needs to be a tune-up for the regular season, and a lot of these guys let their last shot at a roster spot slip away by sucking an orange peel last night. Here are some things:
- I know Raffi Torres scored both Canuck goals last night, but Jeff Tambellini might have been the best forward. He and Jannik Hansen simply seemed to have more skill than everyone else (probably because they do). The problem is that both Hansen and Tamby have similar skill sets and would likely be used as in a sort of sliding capacity as the third forward with AV's duos. You've got to think Hansen's got an edge because of familiarity, but I feel like Tamby's been the better forward these past few games. And if they both make it, what does that do for Brendan Morrison?
- I want Morrison on this team, but I wonder that has more to do with my concern he won't have a job. If he signed with another team, I'd be ecstatic, not upset. Ask yourself if you want him on the team because he's a good fit or because you like him.
- Last game, Skeeter suggested The Rog Mahal as a possible nickname for this place after Shorty called it the Rog. I think he's on to something with "Rog" puns, but I've got a few more. How about, the Jolly Rog? Rog al Ghul? Rog-stafarianism? The GaRog? That one would be an easy transition for fans. Rog Hashanah? Nah, too sacrilegious. I feel like these are getting worse, and they were terrible to begin with.
- Shane O'Brien had a weird game tonight. I hesitate to say it was bad, because I love Shane O'Brien, but it wasn't always good. His odd attempt to cover a loose puck in the first was hilarious as he laid down with his head nestled into Lack's torso. He looked like a piglet after its breakfast. Even he knew it was ridiculous. That huge smile of his was priceless. And later, during attempt to bring the puck across the blue line, he had a Lack-ian brain cramp and forgot what the lines were for. He crossed the line, then stopped and brought the puck across. After the whistle, he wore an "Oh-no-I-think-I-just-cut-myself" sort of cringe.
- As a scientist of sorts, I can pinpoint the precise moment Darcy Hordichuk got waived. It was just over five minutes into the first when he took a hooking penalty in the offensive zone.
- Guillaume Desbiens and Mike Moore had a spirited scrap in the first period. The announcer commented that they know each other pretty well from their time in the AHL. Well, they'll have plenty of time to see where that relationship is going this season, in the AHL.
- Is it safe to say James Duthie didn't read the Team 1040 handbook of dos and donts for interviewing Mike Gillis? He lost MG's respect early on when he asked, effectively, if any trades were brewin'. After that, it was all condescending lip curls and pat answers for Gillis. Tip for Duthie and all others who might interview a Canucks GM: if you want him to love you, start by ripping Dave Pratt, lob a few softballs, then tell him the mind room was a great idea.
- Skeeter pointed out that this is the first year we've heard anything about the 50-contract limit, and now we hear something nearly every day. Odd how that happens.
- Cody Hodgson needed to play like a superstar in the making last night in order to be here for the season opener, and instead he played like a guy who has plenty of skill, but needs to get back to game speed in the AHL. That's fine. There are so many examples of current superstars needing some seasoning I feel like I shouldn't even have to make the argument. Go elsewhere for that.
- The Canucks' penalty-killing was atrocious last night, which might be the only cause for concern. All of these guys are bottom six guys. That's going to be their job come mid-October. They need to be good at it.
- I'm a lot more enamoured with Lee Sweatt than Skeeter is, but I thought he was okay last night. He won't be making the team (he was in the lineup for this shellacking and the 8-2 debacle, so he's done), but he's going to push for a spot next year. Both Sweatts are, and that's awesome.
- Dan Hamhuis made one small mistake, by overcommitting himself on the beautiful Dany Heatley goal. Other than that, he continues to seem downright holy.
- Keith Ballard had good and bad moments, as usual. His footspeed is starting to look better, though. On a sidenote: Skeeter's been tagging posts that mention him as "Hips." Is this his attempt at a brand new nickname? If so, I'm on board. I love nicknames that are just body parts. Ryan "Balls" Johnson. Sami "Ball" Salo. I hereby declare Keith Ballard "Hips".
- "Hips" had good and bad moments, as usual.
- Skeeter and I made notes and there was more to say, but I forgot my notebook at home and now I'm at work. Sorry, Skeeter. Anything you want to add?
Why yes, Harrison, I do have things I want to add:
- Harrison and I pinpointed 4 times that Guillaume Desbiens was cut from the Canucks of our hearts. Fortunately, he will only need to be cut once for real. Still, he performed better than I expected and he made a decent argument for being a call-up if someone on the 4th line goes down with an injury. He hits and can fight in a pinch and isn't as useless as Hordichuk at the other elements of the game, but guys like Glass and Oreskovich are more likely to start the season as 4th-line wingers.
- Eddie Lack was reasonable, given the lack of support in front of him, but his biggest deficiency appears to be his lateral movement. He had trouble moving across his crease quickly to react to the passing of the San Jose powerplay. His save percentage was .890 at even strength and .600 on the penalty kill. I like Lack a lot, but he will definitely need some time in the AHL to adapt to the North American game and get a larger number of starts after being a perennial backup throughout his career.
- I hate that the referees don't get to use their discretion on delay of game penalties. Both Torres and Ehrhoff took them after batting pucks out of mid-air in the defensive zone and seeing them flutter over the glass. That's not a penalty, that's bad luck.
- I have some thoughts on the role of fighting and enforcers in the NHL (look for a post tomorrow), but both Harrison and I were thoroughly annoyed when the refs jumped in between Ehrhoff and Pavelski after both had dropped the gloves. There was a legitimate fight brewing for legitimate reasons (Pavelski had just hit Ehrhoff from behind) and it was broken up for no reason other than that they are not "designated fighters." To quote the Arrogant Worms, "Please Mr. Linesman, let the players fight."
- Also annoying, the fact that Ehrhoff got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for dropping his gloves. Are you kidding? Not only had both players dropped their gloves, making it ludicrous that one would get a penalty and not the other, but how is it unsportsmanlike to drop the gloves in preparation for a fight? Back in March of 2009, the NHL took action to eliminate "staged fights," but fighting after a cheap shot or illegal hit was considered to be okay. So why did the linesmen step in between Ehrhoff and Pavelski to prevent them from fighting and why did only Ehrhoff get a penalty for dropping the gloves?