Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I Watched This Game: Canucks at Avalanche, January 18, 2011

Canucks 3 - 4 Avalanche (OT)

Give the Canucks credit for showing up to play this one. After a horrendous outing in Minnesota exposed their tired road legs, the excuses for a second consecutive poor performance were readymade. Instead, the Canucks vehemently defied the wishes of their bodies in Colorado, and kept up with the speedy Avalanche. They outshot the Avs 43 to 30 and picked up a well-earned point. It could have been two points, even, had the Canucks managed to push through their mental sluggishness the way they did their physical sluggishness.

Unfortunately for them, it was not so, and the mental mistakes came fast and furious. Bad penalties; bad passes; bad reads; lazy backchecks. Against a young, aggressive team like the Avalanche, that crap's not gonna fly. Although, by getting the regulation tie, I guess it sort of did. Hmm. Okay, it did, but then, in the end, it didn't (not unlike the Avro Arrow). Whatever. I watched this game:

  • Likely, neither team will be completely happy with the way they played (the Canucks were slow and sloppy, and the Avalanche let a tired road team take the lead three times) but both teams will be happy to leave the stadium with points. (It's like sports day in grade school. Everybody gets a ribbon!) And the Canucks have to be pleased with their Temple of Doom performance, in which they reached inside of themselves and played their hearts out.
  • The Canucks' power play covers all manner of sins sometimes. Both Edler and Ehrhoff blasted PP goals from the point that gave their team the lead, and these goals were vital. Had the Canucks had to open up and play from behind for even one second in this game, their suspect defensive play would have been even more prominent, and it could have gotten out of hand.
  • It's been a long time since the Canucks have had a sexy callup like Sergei Shirokov, so it was nice to see him play a standout game in his first NHL action this year. He scored his first career goal on a beautiful move (above), and he had a game-high six shots. But, before you get excited, consider he's played two fewer games this month--and nine fewer NHL games. He had fresh legs. He was like Anne Bancroft on skates, his legs were so fresh. Let's wait to see whether or not he can be a standout when the rest of his team isn't playing on fumes, but he was a breath of fresh air last night. Most importantly, he looked capable of creating his own offense, something Kesler's wings have to be able to do. A good start for Shirok.
  • The other callup, Chris Tanev, acquitted himself admirably as well. He finished the night a minus-1, but it's hard to fault him on the Luongo misplay that gave David Jones his first of two on the night. Jones was his man, for sure, but everyone in the building thought Luongo would swallow up that puck as it came off the boards. Other than that, Tanev was solid. He got on the ice for just under thirteen minutes, far more than anyone would have expected. He admirably broke up a 3-on-1 when Keith Ballard heeded Qris's advice to step it up, pranks-wise and decided to pull the old fall-down-so-the-rookie-has-to-fend-off-a-3-on-1 routine. Funny guy, that Ballard.
  • Don't tell the Vancouver media I said this, but here's your proof that the star awards mean nothing: Alex Edler was named the game's third star. Clearly, someone didn't watch the game (probably John Garrett, who has made a living watching games, but always seems to be attending his first one). While it's true that Edler had a standout game offensively with a goal and an assist, he played one of his worst games of the season defensively. He constantly lost his man, he bobbled pucks at the blue line, he looked dreadfully slow. Despite finishing the game even in the plus/minus category, Edler was on the ice for two Colorado goals, both on the penalty kill, and both times he got absolutely embarrassed by David Jones in front of the net. Jones isn't a small guy, but Edler's bigger, and the fact that Edler allowed himself to get moved right out of the play twice is unacceptable. Watch the highlight package. Colorado goals one and four are mirror images of one another, as Jones simply shades Edler into the useless area, opening up the exact same cross-ice pass. On the first goal, you can find Edler at the side of the net when the pass comes across. On the fourth goal, that's him in the middle, lazily dropping down to block nothing, opening up the same pass and rendering himself helpless to prevent Jones from finding the rebound. A terrible game from #23.
  • Kevin Bieksa, on the other hand, played solidly. Nearly every shift, he was breaking up an odd-man rush or clearing the zone before things got dangerous. He finished with 2 hits, 4 takeaways and 3 blocked shots, and considering these three stats are typically undercounted (especially when you play for the road team), that's one hell of a stat line.
  • Keith Ballard had a decent game as well, but has anyone noticed how often this guy falls? He's like an ancient empire on skates. Methinks Keith "Babylon" Ballard needs to heed the words of the prophet Jeremiah.
  • Is Adam Foote a diplomat's son? He's clearly got some sort of immunity. Foote's a handsy guy, but it doesn't seem to matter who he grabs, punches, or holds--there's never a call. He could grope the First Lady and someone would call it a smart, veteran play.
  • The referees missed some egregious offenses, but Raffi Torres sure made it easy on them, huh? Both of his penalties were of the are-you-kidding-me variety, especially his second one. Who tugs on a jersey? Not since Theodore Tugboat have I seen such pathetic tugging. Skeeter and I observed that Raffi Torres has three modes: 1) skateskateskateskate 2) get puck, and 3) put puck. Unfortunately, none of the three modes is any more detailed than that, and Raffi often skimps on the details. Torres is playing some dumb hockey right now. I wouldn't be surprised if he suffers a benching in the near future.
  • Speaking of penalties, Henrik Sedin's penalty in overtime was fully warranted. Granted, his man went down easy, but everyone knows there are a two situations where you should never stick your arm out. The first is when you're chasing to break up a two-on-one. The second is when you're on a school bus. That's how you lose a limb.
  • A better performance by Roberto Luongo and the Canucks probably leave Denver with a win. He'll get no pass; he was the freshest Canuck and he should have played like it. When your star goaltender is rested and your team isn't, you need a star goaltending performance, and the Canucks didn't get it. The second and third goals are both ones he probably should have had. Know what else he should have had? A Bacon Mushroom Melt. It's only ever at Wendy's for a limited time, and it's delicious. But now it's gone, and who knows how long he'll have to wait for them to bring it back? /regret
  • And finally, Jeff Tambellini was the fourth-line center last night, and while he did a fine job (especially in the faceoff circle, where he was 5-for-6) I'm not sure I like him and Mason Raymond on that line together. They're too tiny, and tiny on the fourth line is a bad idea, unless it's an ironic nickname for someone huge, like Tiny, the classic character from SNES's Clayfighter.


  1. Depending on how you define a "hit", I'd say if anything they're over-counted, since I can usually only remember one or two true "hits" out of any game (i.e. impact, not passing contact three seconds after the guy has passed the puck), but somehow, officially, there are always scores of 'em.

    Anyway, I have to take issue with your Biblical analogy. Yeah, I'm going to be that guy -- Jeremiah's warnings were to his own people in Judah for disregarding Torah law, with the end fate being conquest by Babylon. The thrust of his warnings weren't directed at Babylon per se.

    I think warnings about the fall of Babylon are more the purview of reggae singers who have little or no understanding of Jewish history. :)

  2. Ha! Hey J21, you don't have to tell me Jeremiah was speaking to the people of Judah. I was homeschooled for years, with Christian curriculum; I know my Bible.

    That said, Jeremiah still prophesied the literal fall of Babylon, even though it was primarily a metaphor. Therefore, my Biblical reference stands. Maybe when I say Keith "Babylon" Ballard, I'm being metaphorical too. DID YOU EVER THINK OF THAT

    And yes, reggae singers know very little about Babylon.

  3. mazel tov

    vancouver 3
    colorado 4

    torres takes a penalty
    avs tie the score at three
    sedin takes a penalty
    avalanche win
    in OT)

    high coo for harrison:

    canucklehead fan
    suck it up
    i know you can
    fake it like a man

    clay pigeon

    mazel tov, shirokov!

  4. Heh, I don't think I was raising a question with whether it was a metaphor, rather whether it was the right one... :) Granted, Keith "Judah" Ballard just makes it sound like his middle name.

    If only you were talking about the fall of Aaron "Rome" Rome, how well that would work!

  5. It's hard to make a joke about the fall of an ancient Biblical empire. God appeared to take it very seriously.

  6. A bit OTT with the "road weary" comments. It comes off like you are making excuses for them. It was only a 5-game road trip (2-2-1). Recall last year, they had an 8-game road trip (4-4-0) followed immediately by a 6-game road trip (4-1-1) - before and after the Olympics.

    If you applied the same rhetoric to last year's road trip at the five game mark, you would have run out of superlatives for their performance. And last year's team bowed out in the second round. We have higher expectations this year and we should be holding them to a higher standard - not making excuses for them.

  7. @Anonymous

    Fair. I thought about that, too, but consider the Canucks played 6 games in 9 nights immediately before heading out on this road trip. They're gassed.

    And before you use the tired line about how that's not an excuse, know that I agree and disagree. First, all teams have to play through exhaustion, so it's not like the Canucks are at an unfair disadvantage, but second, it's still a valid reason why a team might have a poor game or run of games. In your own example, note how well they played in the second road trip (4-1-1), which came after the break. I assure you that rest or a lack of such makes a difference this time of year.

  8. I agree with Hank Mooney above. I think we'll stumble a little into the all star break, when all the players (except for three fringe participants) will get a good rest. The schedule definitely lightens up down the stretch - should see a good run into (and through?) the playoffs.

  9. Never once been called Hank. Was that a Californication shoutout? I will admit to watching that show, but only because of my ridiculous love for David Duchovny, and definitely not for the writing, which vacillates between chuckleworthy and upchuckleworthy.

  10. I hate when fans pull out the "making excuses" card when you note a very obvious, provable and scientific correlation between things like travel/health and performance.

    It has nothing to do with "excuses" (a very term loaded with judgment and tends to come from the same fans who expect nothing less than a 1.000 season), rather the ability to evaluate real-world events both in hindsight and in advance. That's right, in advance: if people drop the "no excuse for losing" mentality and instead actually put a little brain power into recognizing the impact of external factors on a sports team, you can do pretty well in gambling by looking at schedules.

  11. The Canucks knocked the Avs' net off, but the Avs had possession so the refs didn't blow it dead. I remember a similar situation against Dallas a couple years ago, when Jeff Cowan knocked the net off. Turco realized the Nucks couldn't score a goal like that, so he skated off for the extra attacker. This time, Anderson righted the net, just in case the Canucks needed to score before the whistle.

  12. It was a Californication shoutout, you got me. And no one watches it for the writing. Or for their ridiculous love of David Duchovny. You watch it for the boobs, Mooney. It's OK to admit it. (Unless your wife reads the comments, in which case, boobs? What boobs?)

  13. I hear you J21. But the Canucks were on a wonderful streak over those 17 or so games. Following your argument, one should have the ability to evaluate real-world events both in hindsight and in advance to account for such a streak. You might try but after a handful of games (totaling a lot less than 17) people would peg you as a bit of a know-it-all (no offense :-)) and stop listening to you.

    A streak by definition defies such explanations.

    So I try not to explain such streaks - just ride em out with a huge grin on my face.

  14. Fair points Harrison. Sorry if I was a bit harsh with my comments. You guys are doing a great job. I can't go a day without a full read.


    Anonymous @12:39 PM

  15. Not harsh at all, Anonymous. There is plenty of room to disagree with me and I appreciate you doing so in the comments. I like comments. It gives me that pleasurable sense that someone reads this blog.

  16. Is it expected that hockey teams should never play tired, because pointing out they might be tired would be the cardinal sin of making an excuse?

    I mean, the Canucks looked tired. I watched them play very tired. And since I'm merely observer, and nothing I say will ever have any impact on the team and coaching staff, I say...

    I say they're tired, and they're playing through it well.

  17. Well said, Wisp. And to Anonymous of 3:15, yes, you could definitely point to the schedule being a huge factor during the Canucks' lengthy unbeaten streak -- it was a pretty restful stretch of games! Not sure how it detracts from the enjoyment of a streak to note that there may be reasons for it.

  18. Sergei Shirokov needs a better nickname than "Shirok." I personally think we should call him Smiley.


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