Canucks 3 - 0 Blackhawks
What a relief. I was getting tired of hearing people say that the Blackhawks were in Luongo's head. Apparently, not only are they not, but we learned what is: beatnik poetry. Louie thinks he's Allen Ginsburg.
Yes, Roberto Luongo's poetry off the ice was about as bad as Vogon poetry (3rd worst in the universe), but his poetry on the ice was downright Keatsian. He made 32 saves for the shutout, including more than a handful of the genus spectacular. His padstack on Pat Kane was reminiscent of Kirk McLean, and his toe kick on Tomas Kopecky was as great a desperation save as we've ever seen him make. I'm a shortsighted guy and prone to superlative, so take this for what it's worth, but this was one of the best games Roberto Luongo has ever played. And I watched it:
- As far as I'm concerned, the intermission poetry gag actually played right into how the Canucks are beginning to approach the Blackhawks: lightly. Apart from the sleepy Voldemort game (which shall not be named), Vancouver has taken 3 of a possible 4 points in two games with the Blackhawks. Interestingly, neither game has been particularly filled with bad blood. I'll touch on this later in a guest post for Canucks Hockey Blog, but this year's Canucks seem to be playing lighter and with a lot less emotion. It's very zen. Is it the calming captaincy of robot Henrik (Robotrik)? Is is an organizational mandate from Gillis on down? I speculate that it's both. Either way, the Canucks have quietly beaten their two worst rivals in back-to-back games with calm and collected efforts. Luongo even asked mortal enemy Pat Kane if he was all right after a stick caught him in the face. That's like Wario offering Mario a fire flower. Kane seemed bemused, to put it mildly.
- Jeff Tambellini didn't net a goal last night, thereby ending his point streak, but he had a couple of incredible chances, and he led the team with 6 hits. 6 hits! I think he's earned a permanent spot in the lineup. He better have. The Canucks are now 9-0-1 when he plays, and their forward lines are considerably better.
- That includes the fourth line, responsible for last night's game winner (above). I've caught some flack for my insistence that Tanner Glass remains on the fourth line, but the truth is, as much as I don't like him on the third, I love him on the fourth. He's done some yeomanly work there considering his rotating cast, but now that he's been paired with Jannik Hansen and a center that isn't terrible, we're beginning see why the Canucks were so high on him. Speaking of yeomanly, I once played that word in a game of Scrabble. Huge points. Look out, Tanner. I'm coming for you.
- That kid from the tunnel who hit Luongo in the face (#headpokekid) is obviously good luck. Here's my proposal: Fly him to Vancouver, give him season's tickets, and let himsmear his grubby hands all over our starting goaltender before games. Apart from when Luongo comes down with weird kid sicknesses like chicken pox, head lice, mono, and whooping cough, we'll be unstoppable.
- In the faceoff circle, Manny Malhotra went 15-5 last night. You've likely heard this stat elsewhere last night, as faceoffs only ever seem to get talked about when Alternate Captain Mal has a good night. Also of note: of Malhotra's 20 draws, none were in the offensive zone, and 13 were defensive zone faceoffs. The rest of the team, collectively, took nine behind their blue line. Henrik had a rough night, only winning 5-of-15, but he took seven of the Canucks eleven offensive zone draws. There is an interesting, unwritten article about zone faceoffs, the Canucks uniquely multi-faceted faceoff trio, and Vigneault's personnel preferences. One day PITB will write it.
- The best defenseman on the ice last night: Christian Ehrhoff. I noticed him on every shift, and since he played 23:15, it was a whole lot of noticing. Ehrhoff played with a grit I've never seen and an intensity I've never seen. He even stood up for Luongo when Toews got in his crease. When has Christian Ehrhoff ever done that? On the offensive end, it was his excellent transitional work that led to the Henrik Sedin goal, and his seeing-eye wrist shot that buried the Blackhawks on the powerplay. Ehrhoff had been playing a bit spotty of late, and I was beginning to hear concerning murmurs about which Canuck defenseman was on the block. But, if Ehrhoff can play like he did last night on a regular basis, he'll be beyond invaluable.
- Keith "Hips" Ballard only played 12:45 last night, but he registered 6 blocked shots and 4 hits in that time, including one big hip check on Tomas Kopecky. Ballard appears to be finding his legs, which is more than I can say for Lady Helen Port-Huntley. In fact, the whole defense corps is rounding into form. It's about time.
- Speaking of blocked shots, the Canucks had 19 last night. Couple that with Luongo's 32 saves and you can see why the Blackhawks and their fans left frustrated. Add that to the 9 missed, and you've got 60 shots directed at the Canucks net and nothing to show for it.
- I loved Chris Cuthbert's call last night, especially when he was complaining about how many players on the Hawks had names that began with the letter B (Bolland, Boynton, Brouwer, Bickell). Cuthbert: "It's like they drafted alphabetically for four years."
- I talked yesterday about Ryan Kesler as the team's top powerplay skater. He is the catalyst for this powerplay goal, as he gets the winger win on the faceoff, and then gets to the net quickly for a perfect screen. While he doesn't get a point out of it, this one's all Kesler.
- And finally: can I gush over the many set plays the Sedins and Alex Burrows have? We all know about the one they do off the faceoff, but how about their lob pass for the breakout? We see this work for a scoring chance--usually a 2-on-1 or a breakaway--about once a game. Here it results in a goal when Patrick Sharp takes the shift off, and Henrik glides in alone to clean up Daniel Sedin's rebound.