Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Avalanche, October 26, 2010

Canucks 4 - 3 Avalanche (OT)

Last night's edition of the Canucks got outworked by the Avalanche, outshot by the Avalanche, and outchanced by the Avalanche. Fortunately, they did not get outscored by the Avalanche, so all other statistical victories are secondary. Yes, the Canucks may not have been the best team on the ice last night, but tell that to the box score. For those who say the Canucks didn't deserve to win, may I remind you that Colorado's goal against average is the highest in the NHL? They gave up four tonight. They didn't deserve to win either. Tonight's game was a competition of who deserved it the least, and the Avalanche, by winning, lost.

Also winners tonight: PITB and our small community of committed readers, as our liveblog--I Am Watching This Game --went off without a hitch, save perhaps the dishonesty of the title. It is very difficult, you see, to simultaneously watch hockey and blog about it. But, whatever. It was fun. There was much humour, Qris showed up, Mason Raynmond was there somehow, and regular readers and commenters popped in to say what's up. We did it, and we'll probably do it again next month. Indeed, we watched this game, albeit perhaps not as intently as we usually do. Here are some things that stood out to us:

  • The story of the night was Roberto Luongo, who made a litany of amazing saves to keep the game in the winnable column for the Canucks. People are semi-ironically throwing around the phrase "goaltending controversy", as though the added pressure of such is what made Luongo play better, but he gave no indication whatsoever that he felt besieged by said pressure. Before the game, he joked, "We decided to give Schneids the night off tonight, so I got the tap on the shoulder and I'm ready to go." After the game, he joked, "I was disappointed. I was getting jacked up for the shootout, so, I'm a little disappointed we won in overtime." And during the game, he performed a side-splittingly filthy rendition of the classic Aristocrats joke, but the play was at the other end of the ice, so nobody noticed.

  • But seriously, though, folks, Luongo was great tonight. 39 saves. Some of the whaaaaaaat variety. The biggest problem is that we expect him to play like this every night. Not only can nobody sustain that, but nobody should have to. The Canucks need to be better in front of him. Schneider hasn't had to work this hard for a win yet.

  • Jeff Tambellini with the Sedins continues to go way beyond simply a viable option. For the second game in a row, they generated a goal, this one the result of some wizardous sedinerie. Tambellini has been excellent with them. It's incredible to me that both Sedins touched that puck, considering it went from Paul Stastny's stick to the back of the net in about one second. But such is the nature of their wizardry; they are truly wizards. Also: the less said about the blatant, missed hooking penalty that led to this goal, the better. In fact, the Sedins are all about hooking. They hook a lot. They are Captain and Assistant Captain Hook, as far as I'm concerned.

  • The Canucks' big three faceoff guys continue to finish above 50% in the circle. Malhotra, Kesler, and Henrik were 61%, 53%, and 57%, respectively. Among Avalanche pivots, only Paul Stastny was above 50% in the circle.

  • I'm interested in this stat: Henrik Sedin was 4-4 in the offensive zone, but only 1-4 in the defensive zone. The Sedins were both -2 on the night. I know I might get lambasted for saying this, but this isn't the first game where they've gotten on the scoresheet and finished in the minuses. Coach needs to address this before it becomes a real issue. I recognize they're a reigning scoring champion and the brother of a reigning scoring champion, but Vigneault might need to remind them they can't skimp on the defensive side of the game.

  • Peter Schaefer has played poorly 5-on-5 over the season; everybody knows it. We've been ragging on him since the season began. Alain Vigneault, an avid reader of PITB according to cherry-picked evidence, is starting to think similarly. Inititally he [wrongly] trusted Schaefer as a second line option, but Schaef's been bumped down to the fourth. Tonight, he only got on the ice for 13 seconds in the third period, coming on for Manny Malhotra during an on-the-fly change in which the Canucks had the Avalanche hemmed in their zone. Schaefer made the most of that time, however, scoring on a beautiful wrist shot.

  • Schaefer's doofy little fist pump after the goal was far less beautiful. What the heck was that? He looks like he just got the right answer on Bible Jeopardy.
  • While we're talking about the fourth line, it's worth noting that Schaefer, Glass, and Desbiens had 49 seconds of ice-time in the third period. This is unacceptable. Clearly, Vigneault doesn't trust them, and it's much, much too early in the campaign for the Canucks to be a three line team. If these guys can't get the job done, Gillis needs to find players who can. Shoring up the fourth line was an offseason priority, and it hasn't happened at all. Granted, when Burrows returns, one of these three guys will lose a roster spot, and hopefully Bolduc comes back, bumping another one out, but still. It's October. We need to be able to roll four lines.

  • Mason Raymond's game-winning goal (above), on a harmless poke, was the hockey equivalent of a Wet Willy. But it's a testament to his skills at taking the puck away, is it not? We mentioned it yesterday in the Big Numbers thread, and the game-winner was more evidence of it.

  • Ryan Kesler looks downright determined out there, doesn't he? He scored a goal while fighting at the front of the net, but there was one power play where he took the puck to the net, then just started whacking away at it like a noob. Homer Simpson whacks with more grace.

  • Nothing but good things to say about Orland Kurtenbach's induction into the ring of honour. It's a gorgeous piece of visual art, it was a beautiful ceremony. Much praise to the people planning these things this year. They've been a real treat for two reasons: 1) They look great and 2) they don't go on too long.

  • Christian Ehrhoff may have been tonight's goat. He seemed to be on the ice for every goal, for and against. Some of that has to do with the fact the Canucks really only have four defenseman (Rome and Parent play sparingly, which is fair), but much has to do with the fact that Ehrhoff just wasn't sound tonight. He and Edler aren't the best pair, either. There simply isn't enough defensive reliability on the pairing to make up for their offensive instincts. Typically, they both play with a stay-at-home guy, and, like most new, modern couples, they need to have a long, frank discussion about which one of them will stay at home.

  • As a result of the growing pains of the above pair, it pains to me to say that the Bieksa-Alberts pairing was tops tonight. They were physical and smart, and finished the night +1 and even, respectively. Alberts had more hits than Dexy's Midnight Runners. Which is to say, more than one.

  • And finally, the green men were back for the first time this season. They had some new moves (a little air guitar, for instance), and they did their thing at the penalty box. Part of me wonders if they have writers for their moves. It wouldn't be too surprising. If Jay Leno needs writers to be not funny, clearly you can use writers for anything. On a sidenote: after close inspection, we suspect that one of the green men has been replaced. Keep your eyes peeled for an announcement that Sully would now like to be called Dipsy.


  1. When Burrows + Bolduc return, I picture the forwards being like this:

    Sedin - Sedin - Burrows
    Raymond - Kesler - Samuelsson
    Torres - Malholtra - Hansen
    Desbiens - Bolduc - Tambellini

  2. Looks about right Mr. Anonymous. I wouldn't be surprised to see Tambellini on the powerplay as well. Given how much time Schaefer gets on the penalty kill, he and Desbiens may switch between the ice and the press box depending on the opponent.

    That said, it's tough to predict lines as more injuries may occur and Gillis may decide to call up a player or two from the Moose. Joel Perrault has 5 points in 6 games and may potentially get a look at 4th line center if Bolduc stumbles. Oreskovich has 3 points in 4 games and may get the call if Desbiens doesn't improve. It's a bad sign that the fourth line is getting so few minutes.

  3. 'captain and assistant captain hook' are the best nicknames ever.

  4. When Harrison and I went to a Canucks game last season, we almost went with a sign that said "Henrik: hooking is not a good way to make a living" but we decided it would be too long for a sign. Instead, we had "I Hart Henrik" and "Burrows = good at hockey." It was probably a good decision.


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