Saturday, December 04, 2010

I Watched This Game: Canucks at Blackhawks, December 3, 2010

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.


  1. what a great game. glad to see LU on top of his game.lets hope CS gets to start next game before he becomes to rusty

  2. Totally agree Louie's best game in recent memory but can't help but to feel like the defense hung Lu out to dry a few too many times. how did Chicago get a 2 on 0?

  3. The game was superlative. I kept nearly having a coronary, expecting the 'Hawks to score and get back in the game, but Luongo was just like is old 2007-era self. I've never given up on Lu, and it's nice to not only see him show flashes of that brilliance again, but to have fun (both on the ice, and the poetry. My fave was the Gold Medal poem).

    Early on in the game, I noticed that the 'Hawk players were doing some crazy head fakes, trying to get a little fancy. I don't think that lasted long. Even the little jabs and trips between the two teams, for the most part, disappeared by the third period. The Canucks kept their game fairly simple, and although the 'Hawks got their chances, I think the Canucks largely forced the 'Hawks to play their way. The Canucks might have been the cake in this rivalry, but sometimes, it's just nice to be the fat kid (DGB).

  4. Yoda to Turco on the Sedin goal: "Tsk, tsk. Always two there are!"

    Stupid Newbie Question: what is the possibility that the team were all struggling with various stages of the flu during the last game against the Blackhawks? I'm not making excuses for them or anything, I wouldn't even know how, but their play really looked . . . odd.

    Do teams ever admit to being sick and having to play anyway, or is that just not done? Are players allowed to take cold meds? Would it make them skate around all dopey and sluggish if they did? I've seen how quickly a bug gets passed around an office or school, and it's hard to believe that a team of guys that constantly travel together wouldn't have at least -one- point in the season where they were all sick from the same thing.

    Forgive me if there's an obvious answer; I'm just a dirty little bandwagonner who's only been watching hockey since last year when we moved to Canada. :)

  5. pseuccubus, I think the Canucks were just really fatigued. It was the first-game back from a long road trip, which is essentially the last game on the road. Their sleep doctor said it would be their toughest game of the season in this regard.

    The same sleep doctor predicted Calgary would suffer similarly in their game versus Vancouver.

    I think fatigue plays a larger role than we think. When talking about top-end, highly conditioned athletes in a league with much parity, the slightest bit of fatigue could be the catalyst for a blowout.

  6. I've seen a lot of people complaining about the Sedin's predictability. Personally, I love it! They will predictably combine for at least one goal a game.
    After the second goal last night didn't result in a point for Hank, I said to myself "Awesome! I guess this means that the twins will score another goal." That's how predictable they are, and I wouldn't trade that kind of predictability for the world.

    Other than that, it was really fun watching Luongo get in the heads of the Blackhawks for a change.

  7. Thanks Harrison! That makes sense; that in fact even the "worst" professional teams are still really, really good teams, and it's these seemingly minor details that can end up making the difference between winning and losing some nights.


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