Canucks 5 - 1 Hurricanes
A slump-bumper of snipery proportions. It was very snipe-ish.
Now that, my friends, is much better. I say "my friends," because I know our audience consists largely of close personal friends and select family members. We are, however, just 4 followers short of an even 100 on Twitter, which means some people we don't know must like us because Harrison and I don't have that many friends. Or family members.
In any case, the Canucks played a hockey game and, as per usual, I watched it.
- Alain Vigneault is going to get praise after this game for the success of his line-juggling, and it will be largely undeserved. The Sedins and Raymond were uninspiring as a line, though they did have their moments, such as Raymond's second goal. They still did not control the puck down low like the Sedins are capable of and Daniel had no shots on goal. It's no coincidence that Raymond's other two points on the night came in combination with Mikael Samuelsson. After Raymond, Kesler, and Samuelsson were one of the best lines in the entire NHL last season, it's shocking that AV hasn't put them together yet this year. That said, the Canucks got the breakout of secondary scoring they were looking for, which likely means we'll see these lines again next game.
- Kevin Bieksa is a high-risk, high-reward type of player. Friday night we saw all risk; tonight we saw all reward. He made excellent judgements all game and stepped up offensively when the time was right. One of those judgements led to Mikael Samuelsson's 3-0 goal, which also features likely the finest pass of Tanner Glass's career. It was, dare I say, of a quality usually reserved for third-line players.
- Apparently, Andrew Alberts has good hand-eye coordination. Who knew? He also added 5 hits and 3 blocked shots. Solid night's work from Andrew "Still Took a Minor Penalty" Alberts.
- The second line of Hansen, Kesler, and Tambellini was buzzing throughout the first period, though they weren't able to combine for a goal. Kesler did manage to hit a crossbar on a wide open net, though. Tambo might have earned himself a longer look on the second line, but he took two pretty dumb penalties as well.
- I still don't like having Kesler on the first-unit powerplay with the Sedins because it weakens the second-unit, but you couldn't tell from Mason Raymond's 2-0 goal. Mikael Samuelsson fools everyone by not shooting it immediately, which clearly confuses the Carolina penalty killers. Unsurprisingly, he was just hanging on to the puck so he could shoot it later. Like John McClane's gun, Samuelsson has two modes: shoot now and shoot later.
- Also of note on that goal, Jeff Tambellini's blind, between-the-legs back pass to set up Raymond. If he were Henrik Sedin, I would claim he did it entirely on purpose. Since he is not, I will point out, quite rightly, that he was just trying to get the puck to the front of the net. Either way, it worked and looked pretty.
- Kristin Reid, in the first intermission, referred to the current NHL cause as "Hockey Fights Canada," which would be a stunning heel turn akin to Hulk Hogan joining the NWO.
- Cory Schneider was fantastic in net, making every save look routine with his solid positioning and big body. He made 32 saves and was only beaten by a perfect shot from Patrick "Baby Boy" O'Sullivan.
- I love that Kesler scored (on a beautiful one-timer as seen above) to bump his goal-scoring slump, but I hate that he did it on the powerplay with the Sedins as it seemingly reinforces the idea of having him on the first-unit, which I am against. He and Raymond were brilliant together last year on the second-unit and without him, the second-unit has no identity.
- It appears that AV listened to my suggestion and moved Peter Schaefer to the fourth line. In fact, he played as the fourth-line centre. We might see him and Rypien trade off on that position until Bolduc gets healthy again. I like that we have a useful fourth line, as Schaefer and Glass were both effective in a penalty-killing role, aiding in a perfect 6-for-6 performance.
- The real star on the penalty kill was Manny Malhotra, who used the unorthodox method of getting two consecutive breakaways to help kill off a 5-on-3 powerplay in the third period. He was also a ridiculous 15-for-16 in the faceoff circle. 15-for-16! As the colour commentators are wont to say, holy jumping.
- It looks like Hamhuis and Bieksa are no longer the top defensive pairing, as Ehrhoff and Edler played the big minutes tonight. I am in favour of this. I like both Hammy and Juice a lot, but they played the part of the victims on Friday. Fans are quick to put the blame on Bieksa because he's the one who's most often chasing the puck in the defensive zone, but Hamhuis was also uncharacteristically out of position and unable to tie up opponents sticks last game. I'm much more comfortable with Ehrhoff and Edler as the top pairing.
- Aaron Rome, filling in for the injured Keith Ballard, was completely unnoticeable on the ice, despite playing over 15 minutes. This is a good thing.
- To sum up this game: no one played terribly and, while the Sedins were largely invisible in this game, they still combined for three points. The secondary scoring finally kicked in, with Raymond and Samuelsson picking up 3 points each, and Alberts, Raymond, Samuelsson, and Kesler all picked up their first goals of the year. Hopefully they can take this momentum on the road with them, where they haven't won in two attempts.