Canucks 1 - 2 Kings (SO)
I Watched This Game is a recurring feature on Pass it to Bulis that records the insights and observations of two guys that watched a hockey game (sometimes with other guys).
The Canucks kicked off their fourtieth season with a ceremony that was unlike any other ceremony. How so? Well, for one thing, I really enjoyed it, and for another, it wasn't too long. So kudos to them for that. I'm not nearly old enough to recognize most of those players (save Orland Kurtenbach, but that's mainly because of a certain "blog" run by certain "bloggers"). I watched the ceremony with my father-in-law, however, and he seemed to recognize everyone. This is because he is the age of the universe. The ceremony was perfectly sentimental, perfectly aware of history, and perfectly timed to hold peoples' interest, especially considering they just want to watch some frickin' hockey.
Speaking of hockey, there was an NHL regular season game tonight. I watched it. I watched the Hell out of it. And, even though we lost in a shootout (I hate shootouts when we lose them), I was so hecka pumped to watch a game that mattered that the final score barely did. Here are some things:
- What a way to unveil the captain. I thought it might happen exactly like that, but, since I didn't tell anyone, I can't brag that I predicted it. But I did.
- Henrik was the right choice. Before the game, CBC cut to Henrik and Daniel in their dressing stalls and they both had As. I nearly lost my mind when I realized Kesler might be chosen captain, and not because I don't like him--because he's a turd. Everybody knows it. When the Euro guys are cheering against you in the Olympics because they know you'll be unbearable if you win, you're probably a turd. Kes is, therefore, a turd, and while he's our beautiful turd, well, you don't make a turd captain. If it's awesome enough, you try to show it to your wife, but that's all you do.
- Best moment of the ceremony: when Henrik seemingly forgot he was supposed to go become the captain.
- The Canucks defense was more physical tonight than I've ever seen them. Ballard and Hamhuis both came across the blue line for incredible open-ice hits. Edler was hitting like in last year's playoffs, and Bieksa and Alberts were taking the body on a regular basis. This top-six looked good together, and they looked mean. The best hit goes to Hammy, who leveled Ryan Smyth on a 2-on-2.
- On Alex Edler's headshot: it was a headshot. But, if you're reaching like that, you leave yourself wide open to get hit. It's stupid and you're going to get hurt. Keep playing that way, Edler.
- I thought Kopitar's chance was a sure goal, too. I remember David Backes scoring that exact goal twice against us last year. This year, with Luongo playing deeper, he got across, and Kopitar had nothing to shoot at.
- Speaking of Kopitar... oh my goodness his face. The shot of the trainer down on his knees, picking up teeth was unlike anything I've ever seen. I cringed all the cringes.
- On Henrik's player bio, the CBC misspelled Kurtenbach as Kurtenback. At the exact moment I pointed it out, the K changed to an H and everybody treated me like I was a big dumb goofus. Not cool, CBC.
- My brother-in-law, a diehard Flames fan and [lovable] loudmouth, drafted Roberto Luongo in his fantasy pool. Hearing him cheer for Canuck saves was a little like getting a backrub from Satan.
- More from my brother-in-law: "Kesler's good. Imagine how good he'd be if he was Canadian. He'd be a gold medallist, for instance."
- The Ehrhoff goal resulted from one of the most unique power play formations I've ever seen. Rather than having two defensmen at the point, Ehrhoff planted right between the dots, and the other four players formed a diamond around him. It gave everybody room to operate, because the Kings' players had to collapse in to respect Ehrhoff's threat, especially with the Sedins so obviously planning to pass it to him. They totally did.
- Mason Raymond's ability to gain the offensive zone and win board battles has gone from unremarkable to remarkable in two short seasons, which is the exact opposite of what happened to The Office.
- If you think this year's Canuck team is too similar to last year's, consider that 2 of the 3 guys out on that 4-on-3 penalty kill were acquired this offseason. Hamhuis and Malhotra were incredible on that kill, with Malhotra pressuring the point, and Hamhuis smartly protecting the crease. I don't even remember who the 3rd guy was. Edit: turns out it was Ballard, which only furthers my argument.
- I can tell you who it wasn't: Kevin Bieksa. While his minor penalty in overtime didn't cost the Canucks the game-winning goal, it did cost them the chance to play for it. That, coupled with a bad shift in the first period in which he got beat by Anze Kopitar for a scoring chance, then took his first boneheaded penalty of the season (he's on pace for 164), and it's clear that Kevin Bieksa is going to be this season's whipping boy. Whip.
- With the caveat that I missed the last half of the game, I thought Bieksa and Hamhuis looked rock solid together. I really like that pairing: Juice and Hammy. I'm also intrigued by Henrik picking Bieksa as one of his alternate captains. As much as Harrison has labelled him the new whipping boy (one game in, Harrison, really?), I'm a Bieksa supporter. I think he'll have a good season and Henrik obviously believes in him.
- I've been pointing out the work of Newell Brown all preseason and Harrison is absolutely right about Ehrhoff's goal being the result of a new and possibly never-before-seen formation. The Sedins weren't actually huge producers on the powerplay last season, but this new set-up (which seems to change from game to game to keep opponents off-balance) seems to really suit their style of play.
- Johnny Quick looked sharp in his old-school pads and mask. In fact, the entire retro look of both teams was fantastic; the only way it could have been more authentic is if they played without helmets.
- One of the only substandard elements to the Canucks season last year was the penalty killing, which hit its low point against the Kings in the playoffs. Take a look at who played the most minutes on the PK tonight, which went a solid 5 for 6, including two minutes of 4-on-3 in overtime. Dan Hamhuis and Manny Malhotra led the way, with 6:45 and 6:30 each, followed by Keith Ballard with 4:24. Peter Schaefer also chipped in 3:36 of penalty killing time. All new arrivals in the off-season because Mike Gillis saw the need and filled it.
- However, one of the main reasons those PK minutes were so high is because the Canucks took too many penalties. Pretty typical for a season opener, actually, as the play will be a little chippy and sloppy until they get into mid-season form.