Canucks 6 - 4 Red Wings
I feel like I gushed pretty openly about the Canucks' last game, so this might sound like a retread, but it has to be said: tonight was the best game the Canucks have played all season. Heck, it might be the best I've seen these Canucks play in years. Who wasn't absolutely spectacular tonight? I'm serious. I could pick on the fourth line for being the fourth line, or I could pick on Alex Burrows for not having midseason jump he couldn't possibly be expected to have. Apart from those small weaknesses, the Canucks played a nearly perfect game, and their excellent teamwork helped them part the Red Sea like another pretty great team, Moses and God (they were BFFs). I am thrilled--yes, thrilled--to have watched this game:
- I'm still auditioning to become a regular member of the mainstream Vancouver media, so rampant homerism of this sort will likely be frowned upon, but I think the intensity of my emotional ups and downs tonight may have so terrified my cat she'll never try to sleep on my lap during a hockey game again. Sorry, Zora. You can come out from under the bed now.
- The shots were 21-11 for the Red Wings at the end of the 2nd period, but it didn't come close to telling the story. The Wings were getting shots on net, but they weren't quality shots. The scoring chances seemed a lot more even. The pace of this game was insane. It was like watching an episode of Speed Racer. I pity the fans at tonight's Minnesota-Columbus tilt, where the pace was probably more like an episode of Wacky Races.
- Plus, whatever about the 1st and 2nd. The third period was where the magic happened, like an ellipsis. The Canucks had 23 shots in the final frame. Detroit had 28 in the entire game. I'm not sure if that was a case of tired, old Detroit legs, or the Canucks simply being sweet. Maybe it was both? Sweet old legs? Like Diane Keaton.
- As usual, all three of the Canucks' top faceoff guys were over 50%, with Ryan Kesler leading the way by winning 13 of 19. Malhotra was the star of the defensive zone, however, winning 7-of-9 in front of Luongo. I noticed a peculiar thing about his faceoff strategy: In the defensive zone, he gets down real low, and if he can't get his stick on the puck, he sweeps it back with his glove. Maybe it's the husband in me that noticed this--I know a thing or two about using my hand as a backup plan.
- Originally, I thought Malhotra was just a faceoff guru, but with his two goals tonight, he has solidified himself as so much more than that. He broke out of his funk on the breakaway, netting a shortie that would prove crucial after the Red Wings scored the power play goal less than a minute later. He also scored the Canucks' sixth and final goal to put the game out of reach.
- His linemates were almost as good. The Canucks' third line has been our most complete line throughout this entire winning streak. The Sedins are still waiting on Alex Burrows to get going, and Raymond and Kesler are still waiting on Mikael Samuelsson (who looks like it's finally happening). The third line has nothing to criticize right now. I talked about it on Wednesday, but it was impossible to miss tonight. Raffi Torres was a human wrecking ball out there, hitting recklessly, and downright attacking people behind the net. His work down low in both ends was spectacular. Jannik Hansen was an absolute warrior. I thought he'd broken his ankle after he took a puck to it in the first, but he was back in the second, and he scored the goal that tied it at four and changed the entire flow of the third period. His backchecking tonight was remarkable.
- What do Klaus Teuber and Andrew Alberts have in common? I really like their game. Alberts dumps bodies like Dexter Morgan. His hit on Datsyuk was massive; he knocked back that white Russian so fluidly The Dude would have been proud. He was excellent tonight, finishing at plus-2.
- Also plus-2? Kevin Bieksa. I've turned a drastic corner and suddenly find myself defending Kevin Bieksa. The announcers really like to highlight his mistakes. While he made one or two tonight, there was nothing any more glaring than anyone else, and nothing that can't be countered with the fact that he tied his defense partner for the highest plus/minus.
- I'm going to bring it up every time I can: the Canucks got offense from all three of their top lines. With balanced, regular scoring like this, I think the whole team should apply for Keys to the VIP. 11 guys got points tonight. Points for everybody. More points than a cat on its back, I tell you what.
- Ryan Kesler was given first star honours, and he played fantastically well, but the real star of the game was Alex Edler. He had a goal and an assist, he led all skaters in ice time with over twenty-five minutes, and I noticed him nearly every time he was on the ice. He was making crisp passes, jumping into the rush, and taking guys off the puck. Tonight Edler played like a superstar, and I think it's the first time this season I've thought that about his game.
- I wasn't at the game, but the crowd seemed to love it as much as I did. They were loud in the third period. On a related note, they seem to be Looing a lot less. Has that run its course? If so, why?
- And finally, Roberto Luongo. He was good tonight. That's all there is to say, and it's neither a good thing nor a bad thing. In past years, we could say this team would only go as far as Luongo would carry them. But tonight, the Canucks showed that they're a good enough team to win without Luongo playing all-world. He was good, and even against one of the best teams in the NHL, that's all the Canucks needed out of him tonight.