Sunday, December 12, 2010

I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Lightning, December 9, 2010

Canucks 4 - 5 Lightning (OT)

So I don't think the Tampa Bay Lightning realize they were supposed to treat this game like a ceremonial faceoff: show up, smile for a photo, then stand back while Henrik Sedin picks up the puck and hands it to the Queen. It should have been fairly simple. Instead, the Lightning came out trying to win, and did, which I found completely classless. Somebody needs to delicately tell them they ruined a fabulous night. I watched this game:

  • A lot of people are going to want to pin this loss on Cory Schneider. Let them. Ignore the pundits eager to criticize his infrequent usage, eager to pin this on coaching and continue to innocently plant the seeds of a goaltending controversy. The Canucks outplayed the Lightning and needed a few stops to make sure the final score reflected that. If Luongo never gets a pass (and he never does), then let it be so for all Canuck goaltenders. Schneider didn't look so good on a few of these goals; he needs and has the capability to be better. So what if it had been nine games since his last start? He was slotted, at the season's outset, to start every fourth or fifth game. With a nine-game break, he actually only missed one start. Players miss starts. They're still expected to be good when they get back in. Schneider did make a couple of very impressive saves, including a brilliant toe kick early in the first period that made me think, maybe, he was going to have Stamkos's number. It was not meant to be.
  • Steven Stamkos is pretty good at hockey, don't you think? If I was picking teams, and he was one of the guys waiting to be picked for some reason, I'd pick him pretty early on. Stamkos had 3 points last night, including the game-winner on an incredible one-timer. The last time I saw a shot that unstoppable, I ignored the desperate pleadings of everyone at my intervention and I drank it.
  • How to explain this loss? I'll tell you what happened: The Lightning saw Brian Burke in attendance, and assumed this was a winnable game. Zing.
  • How badly did the Canucks miss Christian Ehrhoff? Ehrhoff facilitates more breakouts than the grill at McDonald's, and Vancouver could have used him on more than a few clunky-looking rushes. Realizing the importance of his contributions for the first time, I spent the whole night humming Big Yellow Taxi. The Hoff was especially missed on the powerplay, where the five-man unit was sorely lacking in a guy who does what he does. Dan Hamhuis, his replacement, did different things, and unfortunately, those things were counterproductive.
  • Alain Vigneault would be forgiven for bumping Kevin Bieksa to that top special teams unit. Bieksa is a good puckhandler, and nobody on the Canucks pinches along the boards better. But I wouldn't recommend it. Bieksa's shot isn't overly threatening; his presence would allow defenders to shade off of him and attack the open passing lanes this unit exploits so well. Rather, this might be Keith Ballard's best opportunity to show what he can do. His end-to-end rush that resulted in the game-tying goal was, while a bit of a softie, an impressive display of offense and skating from a defenseman who has yet to fully convince his coach of his skill level. Ignore the terrifying fact that Cory Schneider has as many points as he does; Ballard's been exploding out from behind the net for a few games now in a way that only Christian Ehrhoff could emulate. What other Ehrhoffian traits does he possess?
  • Andrew Alberts' return to the lineup coincided with a suspicious upstick in team hittiness. The Canucks had 23 hits to Tampa's 13. My theory: Alberts is an instigator of violence, akin to Mookie from Do the Right Thing. Keep him away from Brooklyn, trash cans, and Italian restaurant windows.
  • The Markus Naslund retirement ceremony was a thing of beauty, and done with penultimate class, but who expected Nazzy to talk for that long? We've come to expect brevity from him. Instead, we discovered that Markus Naslund is, like any other retired father, prone to rambling. That said, his reunion with the Vancouver fans still seemed much too short. We needed a left winger last night. He should have just played.
  • Best tie of the night goes to former Canuck goaltender Dan Cloutier. Daniel suggested Alain Vigneault was also sporting some pretty spiffy neckwear, but my wife insisted, "Cloutier never won anything; let him have this one."
  • Mason Raymond's absence was felt yet again. Even when he's not scoring, he's a threat to do so, and it gives Ryan Kesler a bit more space to work with. Kes was going full tilt in the opening frame, but once the Lightning realized he was doing it alone, they smothered him like an only child. Related: Kesler never gets through with those bullish sprints up the middle, but I hope he never stops.
  • The Canucks won 64% of faceoffs, led by Manny Malhotra winning 14 of 19, including 9 of 10 in the neutral zone. Henrik went 11-for-19 and Kesler 11-for-16. The dirty underbelly of this stat? The Canucks only won 5 of 12 in the defensive zone, thereby failing to take advantage of their faceoff superiority by giving up possession on their defensive zone starts too often. Alex Bolduc lost all three faceoffs he took, by the way.
  • Food for thought: Manny Malhotra finished minus-1 with a game-high 3 giveaways, and only won 1 defensive zone faceoff. He may have scored a goal, but you'd have to call this a bad game for him. As the Canucks' defensive center, he didn't do the things he's in the lineup to do.
  • Spend a shift or two watching Raffi Torres. He makes some bizarre decisions with and without the puck. He makes cross-ice passes that suddenly end promising odd-man rushes. He puts himself out of position to make needless (albeit sweet) hits. In one instance, he tried to one-time a puck that was bouncing like Li'l Bow Wow on roller skates. My favourite Torres moment: when he sat down in the box after a first period penalty, the camera caught a nearby lady in a Bertuzzi jersey (with a Degrassi haircut) give him an amorous eyebrow raise. You know what they say about a guy with big eyes.
  • Ron Maclean still thinks it's Mardi Gras. During the first intermission, he talked about how Guy Bocher doesn't focus enough on threesomes. Not everyone is into your kink, Maclean.
  • I actually really enjoyed the broadcast team last night. Mark Lee's vocabulary was incredibly entertaining, and Weekes is steadily improving as a commentator. My wife: didn't Kevin Weekes used to play goalie for the Canucks? Us: Kind of.
  • Before you lament the lost point, consider that the Canucks made an impressive comeback to get one. Furthermore, consider that comeback was led by two distinct instances of Wizardous Sedinerie. As the broadcast team showed Henrik's goal (above) is scored on a shot so accurate it bent the space-time continuum.


  1. While Kevin Weekes was okay for most of the night, my favorite comment by him was in a replay of Ballard's goal: "Well, Mark, here's the value of skating." I know what he meant but like what he said better -- skating is important in hockey. Although, really, for a former goalie, that might be news.

    Schneider didn't make the saves he had to. He wasn't bad, but he just wasn't good. A couple of shots just beat him cleanly. I'm not used to that happening.

    I noticed Ehrhoff missing mostly when the Kesler line was trying to get set up in the offensive zone. The pucks just kept disappearing along the boards. One of the reasons the Canucks didn't generate enough shots on Ellis is that too many rushes into the zone resulted in one shot before the puck was gobbled up and cleared. Know who was great at holding the puck in? Salo.

    Raffi Torres took a penalty that resulted in a goal, and he took it for being hit and the other guy falling down. I am not pleased at this. There's always some miscall, and I understand that, but I really hope Colin Campbell is sending some nasty emails about this.

  2. I was at the game with my brother, and I really enjoyed myself, despite the loss. Can't win them all - we get effed on some ugly penalties, and that lost us the game. Happy we squeezed a point out of it.

    You are right, Corey Schneider has some blame with his name on it for the loss tonight.

  3. It's funny, because I don't really want to rip on him. I just don't want everybody blaming Luongo for every goal--even ones he could never have stopped--and then giving Schneider this wide berth for reasons that, effectively, place blame back on Luongo. It's ridiculous.

    Interestingly, while Schneider wasn't great, I thought he played better than Ellis, despite letting in one more goal.

    I think the Canucks could have scored six or seven. I really thought the Canucks' offensive pressure suffered without Raymond and Ehrhoff. The whole team seemed distinctively slower.

  4. "Well maybe if Luongo didn't play so much maybe Schneider would play better!!!!!"

  5. Schneider was having some #danellisproblems in the second though... 3 goals on 5 shots? That's rough.

    While I appreciated the comeback and that fact that I couldn't get to sleep for an extra 40 minutes because of the adrenaline, I would really like to see more effort earlier in the game. Too many times this year it takes until they are down by 2 goals for the Canucks to wake up, and by that time it's normally too late.

  6. "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."

    I started singing that mainly because I've been very critical of Ehrhoff lately, noting that he makes the same mistakes Bieksa makes, lately at a more frequent pace, and doesn't get near the flack Bieksa does. That said, his absence was a palpable presence last night and the Canucks are a better team with him in the lineup.


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