Friday, December 31, 2010

I Watched This Game: Canucks at Stars, December 31, 2010

Canucks 4 - 1 Stars

The Canucks closed out 2010 the same way they opened it: with a win over the Dallas Stars, but don't let the 4-1 score fool you into thinking this was just another rout of a good team. Vancouver outscored Dallas, but that's about the only stat category they won. Thankfully, it's the only one that matters after sixty minutes, but they were lucky to escape Dallas with a victory. I've been skeptical of the Stars, especially after hearing about their astronomical shooting percentages and their litany of one-goal wins and overtime points. Ignore the cynics: Dallas is good.

The Stars have evolved into the prototypical Marc Crawford team. At their best: highly-skilled, offensively strong, and gritty. At their worst: unpoised, defensively suspect, and undisciplined. After living through Vancouver's ultimately failed Marc Crawford era, it was great to see his team have its weaknesses exposed by a smarter team without it meaning a Canucks loss. I watched this game, and it was cathartic:

  • There are two ways to look at the massively lopsided shot totals: You could say, with forty-five shots to Vancouver's 22, Dallas outshot the Canucks by a margin of 2 to 1. Or, you could say, with 44 saves to Kari Lehtonen's 10 or Andrew Raycroft's 8, Cory Schneider outsaved both Dallas goaltenders by a margin of 4 to 1. I choose the latter.
  • Yes, Cory Schneider was incredible tonight. He had a bit of luck and Dallas hit a couple of posts, and he got himself into a bit of trouble (including the lone goal against) with his indecision with the puck, but he was still incredible. His lateral movement was as strong as I've ever seen, he was square with the shooter every time, his rebound control was sound, and he was strong along the ice. If the Canucks are hoping to showcase this kid for an eventual trade, I'd save tape of this game. He soundly outplayed two NHL goaltenders and was rightly named the game's first star.
  • My only quibble with Schneider: his nickname. In the blogosphere, folks are calling him Ginger Jesus. I don't like it. I've been wracking my brain for a better nickname, but the only redheaded goalie I remember is Archie Andrews, who played goal for Riverdale High in many a strip. (In a classic, Betty & Veronica go to see him play, not knowing he's the goalie, and when they can't find him--due to the mask he's wearing and because they're dumb girls--they leave.) Anyway, Archie's nemesis Reggie often called him Frecklesnoot. Let's go with that.
  • As the calendar year ends, it was nice of Marc Crawford to remind us that one thing will never change: he will always, always have the worst hair in hockey. He looks like he killed a hedgehog and glued it to his scalp. Someone needs to find the stylist who keeps dying only the top and not the sides of his hair, then gingerly feathering it, then slicking it back, and convince them to pick a new career.
  • It's no surprise that Alain Vigneault's shut down pairing munched the big minutes against an offensive machine like Dallas. Bieksa and Hamhuis skated for over twenty-three minutes each. In that time, Hamhuis had 1 assist, 3 shots, 3 blocks (including one that surely saved a goal), and 2 hits; Bieksa scored a goal and added an assist to go with 2 blocks, a hit and a takeaway. The pair was shaky at times (Hamhuis had 3 giveaways), but the Canucks don't win without their contributions.
  • It was a rare rough night in the faceoff circle, as the Canucks lost 35 of 58 draws, and only Ryan Kesler finished at 50%. Henrik Sedin, who really is hot or cold in the faceoff circle, was colder than supercooled beer, at a frosty 3-for-12, including 0-for-6 in the defensive zone. If you're wondering why you hardly noticed the Sedins at even stength, it's because they spent the whole game scrambling to get the puck out of their zone after Henrik lost the draw.
  • I heard Grumpy Old Man Gallagher on the Team 1040 today complaining about the Sedins, as he often does. He grumbled that Henrik and Daniel are points machines, even when they don't play particularly well. He was probably pulling his hair out tonight when the Sedins did exactly that, by putting up a goal and an assist each while playing badly, for the most part. Somebody needs to remind him that points are awarded when your team scores goals, and the team with the most goals wins hockey games.
  • That said, the Sedins helped Vancouver put this one away early by engineering two very similar power play goals (one above, the other here). Along with Torres's solo rush, they came suddenly, and were major momentum killers. On the opening goal, Henrik whiffs on the pass, but Karlas Skrastins is so busy fighting with Ryan Kesler he doesn't even see the puck until it trickles to Daniel. Vancouver's power play went 3-for-6 tonight.
  • Poor Kesler. Though his work in front of the net on the two power play goals might have deserved an assist, he didn't get one. His streak came to an end tonight, but that's why they call it a streak: because, eventually, it stops. A streak that never stops is called a nudist colony.
  • Kesler will have to settle for the other streak of which he's a major part: Vancouver's 4-game win streak, which sees them finish 2010 with an NHL-best .708 win percentage.
  • In typical Raffi Torres fashion, he had a so-so night, but scored a goal on a sudden burst of skill against the flow of the play. He fought off a can opener from Karlas Skrastins and deked out Kari Lehtonen forty-seven seconds after the Canucks had opened the scoring.
  • Brad Richards had a message for the homers saying Kesler is the best player in the Western Conference. Something along the lines of: I am also good. He had 6 shots tonight, with another 5 missing the net and another 5 blocked. He looked dangerous every time he was on the ice, which was quite often. He played 23:41, more than any Canuck player, save Kevin Bieksa.
  • Keith Ballard had a strong game, finishing with 4 hits and 2 blocked shots. He had a respectable 16:29 of ice time, but consider the Canucks were up 4-0 going into the third. Vigneault also gave nearly ten minutes to the fourth line. Tanner Glass had 11:04.
  • Awesome Glass moment: after Jeff Woywitka horse-collared Alex Bolduc, Tanner Glass was the first man into the scrum, and can be seen quietly wailing on Woywitka before becoming lost in the mess of bodies.
  • What, exactly, was Jannik Hansen doing tonight that was making the Stars so mad? Stephane Robidas gave him two gloved punches with no regard for the penalty he was about to take. I can't imagine Hansen chirping. He's got the highest voice on the team. It's like getting chirped by Kristen Schaal.
  • And finally, PITB would like to wish every Bulie from here to Australia a happy new year.


  1. Happy new year! I love the recaps! You guys are always a great read, so glad I stumbled onto your site one day.

  2. Ahh yes the Ginger Ninja was very impressive tonight. Was Two All Beef Patties' eye black from the elbow with minutes left in the game or from his first NHL fight? I only noticed it after the elbow.
    Happy NYE PITB I'm off to sink a couple frosty bronzes and ring in 11

  3. Happy New Year gents!

    (also, wracking #corrections)

  4. Good eye, Erik. Just to clarify, that's a straight-up typo, not an eggcorn.

  5. Happy new years guys. I really enjoy watching the Canucks because I know a hilarious IWTG is coming from you guys! Have a good night!

  6. Happy new years!

    Great game! Nice to see a storm whethered and a victory stolen. Gallagher needs to stop grumbling... One of those ancient Canucks homers who can't cope with winning,

  7. ...I really like Ginga 'Ninja...

  8. Ginger Jesus works.

    It's only fitting that Schneider is a lineage of LuonGod.

  9. Terrific write-up, as usual! :)

    At our house, whenever Corey Schneider makes a great save, the whole family yells, "DURRRRRRR!"

    Somehow, I don't think it's going to catch on.

  10. HNY PITB

    it’s time for another new year
    (though really each second is new
    forever there’s nothing to fear
    if moments not wasted are few)

    twenty ten is soon to be past
    your life starts again on the first
    the choices before you are vast
    and better each one than the worst

    (which is to go on as you were,
    for change is the essence of life
    there’s reason to not be unsure
    the future with chances is rife)

    each a lesson in learning how
    to surf the cresting edge of now


  11. score
    no fun
    nothing to say
    that’s okay
    who cares about hockey anyway

    NFL’s the place to be
    bears to win the NFC


  12. Hey, your link on the other sedin goal has the wrong url. imagine my surprise when getting ready to watch a high light and then I get a picture of Kristen Schaal

  13. I like the Stars and sorta knew they'd be good under Crawford after a bit. I've always firmly believed that having a defensive-minded coach take over an offensive team can be stifling, and will make a bad team good, but will never make a good team great. Going from defensive-minded to offensive-minded is great, though, because even if the coach changes, the players haven't. The players were forced to adapt to a defensive game by developing good habits -- lazy backcheckers and the like see their minutes diminished and are forced to adapt. So when an offensive-minded coach takes over, the players have more freedom, and can score more, but most of them still play solid defense.

    It's just like anything else -- as you're learning the rules, it's important to follow them religiously, because they're there for a reason. Once you're really familiar with them, though, you understand the much more complicated spirit behind them, and then you know when and how to effectively break them.

    Getting rid of Turco at the time they did was a golden move as well -- the goaltender was used to a tight defensive system that allowed him a lot of freedom to make decisions and plays he just couldn't safely under a Crawford regime. The dude was great in his element but Crawford took him out of it. His team usually didn't make huge mistakes so he wasn't good at bailing them out. They let him go and picked up two goaltenders who were used to being hung out to dry -- Lehtonen and Raycroft. Last night notwithstanding, usually these guys are more equipped for tough nights than your typical defensive system goaltender.

  14. @2:30 anonymous: Hilarious. That was probably the most annoying thing ever. Anyway, I fixed it.


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