Canucks 1 - 3 Penguins
After a bit of a tumultuous day for Pass it to Bulis, the Canucks played a hockey game. I watched it. It was a sloppy game filled with turnovers, bad bounces, and a certain degree of boneheadedness. There were, however, some positives. Not many, but some, as in an unknown, unspecified, or undetermined unit. One of those positives? I'm wearing new jeans! They're pretty sweet. Another positive: Modern Family is on! What a great show.
- Let's start with a negative. One of the themes of this eastern road trip has been bad first periods. The Canucks have failed to score the first goal in every game of the road trip except against Ottawa, where they still weren't particularly good. This game was no different, as they were outshot 11-6 in the 1st period and found themselves down 2-0 early in the 2nd period. It's unhealthy for both me (as it does my heart no good to get that stressed out), and the Canucks, as it causes a lot more wear and tear to keep trying to come from behind game after game.
- Another continuation on a theme: bad turnovers in the defensive zone as, once again, the Canucks had a lot of trouble escaping their own zone.
- This may seem obvious, but it's probably a bad idea to give Sidney Crosby a breakaway. Just sayin'. Kevin Bieksa will likely get blamed for not keeping the puck in as the Canucks' first powerplay was ending, springing Crosby for the Penguin's first goal, but I'd rather ask why Mikael Samuelsson thought it was a good idea to throw the puck back to the point on the wrong side of Bieksa's body for him to play it. To be fair to Samuelsson, every single other Canucks defenseman shoots left-handed. Still, you have to be aware when it is a bad idea to throw a hard pass to the point on the powerplay. One of those times is when Sidney Crosby is coming out of the penalty box. Another is when the point man is Byron Ritchie.
- Speaking of Kevin Bieksa, the post-game show on the Team 1040 claimed that he was the best defenseman for the Canucks tonight. I'm inclined to agree. He KO'd Craig Adams with a sharp right to the jaw early in the first period, reminding everyone that he is scary in a fight. He played a solid defensive game and led all defensemen with 8 attempted shots, 3 of them on net. Then, with the net empty at the end of the game, he made a stellar diving play to stop a breakaway. Dan Hamhuis and Alex Edler also had decent games and Keith Ballard managed to be the only defenseman to finish the game as a plus player. Heck, even Alberts made the most of his minutes, finishing the game with 6 hits. Hit of the game, however, was definitely Keith Ballard's open-ice hipcheck on Evgeni Malkin. Absolutely beautiful.
- You might have surmised from the fact I mentioned five defensemen as playing decently, that one defenseman did not. Christian Ehrhoff had an awful game. The Penguins' third goal was especially egregious, as Ehrhoff attempted to catch the puck in his hand and drop it down to his stick; instead, he dropped it directly between his own skates. It doesn't matter if you shoot left-handed or right-handed, that's not where you want the puck.
- The Canucks will get slammed for a listless powerplay, as they went 0-for-5, but both units actually looked reasonable and were able to create a number of scoring chances, which they just weren't able to turn into shots on goal. It was odd. Unfortunately, one of those missed scoring chances cost the Canucks a shorthanded goal.
- The Canucks' only goal of the game, as seen above, came on a fantastic play by Alex Burrows, as he took two Penguins players out of the play on the rush with an incredible display of patience before feeding it out to Daniel Sedin out in the slot. Frustratingly, Daniel chose not to shoot it, instead trying to feed it to Henrik, who was covered by the only other Penguins' player in the zone. His choice not to shoot robbed Burrows of a well-deserved assist. If it wasn't for a fortunate bounce and a heads-up push pass from Henrik to Dan "Hammy" Hamhuis, then the Canucks would have been shutout tonight. Just look at this picture:
- Imagine you're Daniel Sedin. You are 4th in NHL goalscoring and you have an obscene 22.2% shooting percentage. You have the puck all alone in the slot without a defender anywhere near you. Now imagine you pass up that shooting opportunity to pass it to someone who is covered by Kris Letang, who leads the Penguins in +/- and is their best defenseman. Now imagine kicking yourself. Yes, it worked out for the best, but it is killing me to see the Sedins passing up prime scoring chances for worse scoring chances. Even a pass to Dan Hamhuis would have been a better option. Last season, the Sedins frequently passed up a possible scoring chance because they wanted to create a better one. This season, it seems that they're passing up great scoring chances for mediocre scoring chances. It's bugging me.
- AV switched up the lines a bit in the second period, moving Samuelsson up with the Sedins and Burrows down with Kesler and Raymond. That second line looked good, creating a lot of chances with strong skating and a hard forecheck. We'll see if AV goes with the same lines again on Saturday.
- There was some crazy shot-blocking in this game. In the second period, the Penguins could have had a fourth goal when Luongo tripped behind the net, but Dan Hamhuis sprawled out to block the shot. The entire team seemed to get into the act with the net empty and only a few seconds left, preventing Sidney Crosby from padding his goal total. It was rather meaningless, but it was still nice to see that commitment from the team.
- Solid work on faceoffs continues to be a theme, as the top-three centers were all at 60% or above. Malhotra was 7-for-8 in the defensive zone, which ended up not mattering too much as all three Penguins goals came more-or-less off the rush.
- Finally, the ice quality needs to be talked about. The puck was bouncing like crazy and there seemed to be little piles of snow everywhere. Apparently BizNasty2Point0 gets more ice time than the operations crew at the Consol Energy Center. It's not an excuse for the Canucks losing, as both teams needed to deal with it, but it is an excuse for this being such a sloppy un-entertaining game. A game between the Penguins and Canucks should be a lot more exciting than this one.
Yeah, not a great game. But I was actually encouraged by the performance of the Canucks defensemen, save Ehrhoff. They clearly had some trouble with the ice surface and there were a few too many turnovers in the defensive zone in the first period, but they seemed to play better overall than on the rest of the road trip. Ballard certainly had a decent return to the lineup and clearly made the argument that Rome should stay in the press-box for a few games. In addition to being a plus player and upending Malkin, he was entrusted with ice-time on a key powerplay and penalty kill in the third period. Hopefully that increased trust from AV will translate into results.