After the sublime pleasure of watching the last two Canucks games, this game was excruciating. It wasn't just that the Canucks lost - though that certainly doesn't help - it's that they lost in such a lacklustre, boring way. The Canucks started the game flat-footed, were unable to string passes together, generally looked slower than a Shaun of the Dead zombie. Everything seemed to go wrong: instead of possessing the puck, they chased it. Instead of forechecking hard, they lazily coasted through the offensive zone. Instead of setting the tone with strong physical play, the Canucks were the victim of a couple early big hits, setting them back on their heels.
In any case, I watched this game. It wasn't fun. And while the IWTG posts are usually full of wit, in-jokes, and joie de vivre, it's a lot harder to do after such a terrible game. That said, it's a lot easier to take a game like this after a 6-game winning streak. Canucks fans have a tendency to go through rapid-fire mood-swings, like a terrible Katy Perry song. One loss like this is not the end of the world: the Canucks are still a good team that should be able to learn from this defeat and put together a stronger effort through the rest of their Eastern road trip.
- I'm sure some people will characterize this game as the Canucks running into a hot goaltender, but it really wasn't the case. Often when a goalie is on his game, he makes difficult saves look routine, but in this game, the saves looked routine because they were. Yes, Carey Price was as good as he needed to be and did make a few good saves, including a good one on Dan Hamhuis when the score was still only 1-0 and a great one on Jannik Hansen that would have been more meaningful if it hadn't been with only a few seconds remaining in the game.
- A revealing statistic: 9 of the Canucks' 34 shots came from Christian Ehrhoff, with an additional 9 from the other defencemen. That's a lot of shots from the point and nowhere near enough shots from the forwards. An inability to get shots from in close meant an easy night for Carey Price.
- The Canucks were generally terrible on faceoffs, going a combined 23 for 53, for a winning percentage of 43%. Henrik was disastrous at 13%, including going 0 for 8 in the offensive zone. It's no surprise, then, that the Sedins were unable to sustain much offensive pressure. Manny "Alternate Captain Mal" Malhotra was his usual consistent self at 57%. The only other centre at 50% or better was Rick Rypien, who won both of his vitally important faceoffs.
- In a game like this, it's hard to pick out one player or another who was particularly bad, because everyone was generally bad. Andrew Alberts, however, didn't do himself any favors with two careless penalties, the second of which led directly to the Canadiens' second goal. He also seemed to mistake himself for Shane O'Brien a couple times, attempting to skate the puck out of the defensive zone by juking out a couple defenders. It didn't work.
- At the same time, Alberts didn't play terribly, it's just that his terrible moments were exceedingly noticeable. Many will be calling for Keith Ballard to replace Alberts next game, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Aaron Rome in the pressbox instead. He played like what he is - a seventh defenceman - and Alberts overall hittiness is an essential component of the Canucks success. That said, Alberts was effectively benched in the third period, playing only 1:50 in the final frame, so...
- Andrew Alberts first penalty, a double-minor for highsticking, was a stupid penalty to take. Pro-tip: don't hit opponents in the face. On the plus-side, the Canucks got their first decent scoring chances while killing the double-minor and the Sedins managed their best shift of the game shortly thereafter. Considering the Canadiens' powerplay was only 6% going into the game, it almost seemed worthwhile to take more penalties as the Canucks seemed to play better shorthanded. Then Hamrlik scored on the powerplay. Forget that theory.
- The Canucks powerplay was anemic tonight. (It literally had anemia; please donate blood to the Canucks powerplay.) They were seemingly unable to gain the offensive zone and repeatedly attempted to do so the same way, by trying to skate it through the 4 penalty killers lined up on the blue line. Considering the Canucks played against the Wild's trap for years, it was incredibly painful watching them attempt the same method of gaining the zone despite its repeatedly failure. Definition of insanity, people.
- As an aside, Canadiens fans baffle me. One minute they're booing the home team (which is a great way to negate your home ice advantage) and the next they're chanting "Carey, Carey, Carey." They're moodier than Canucks fans and that's saying a lot.
- Jannik Hansen continues to be one of my favorite Canucks. He's essentially Burrows-lite, forechecking like crazy, hitting with abandon, and hounding opponents constantly to force turnovers. He's all over the opposition like slobber on a Great Dane.
- As for regular-strength Burrows, he had a reasonable game. Despite the top line's inability to get anything done tonight, Burrows was a complete nuisance to play against, with six hits to tie for Hansen for the most in the game. He and the Sedins need to start clicking as a line on this road trip or Samuelsson and Burrows might trade places on the top two lines.
Ugh. I'm tired of talking about this game. It wasn't entertaining and the Canucks didn't play well. It doesn't help that I'm writing this on an ancient laptop that goes into conniptions just opening a regular website. The bitterness is immeasurably heightened and even the rum and coke I made (with delicious Sailor Jerry rum) isn't making the bitterness go away. Hey, remember when the Canucks beat the Red Wings 6-4? That was awesome.