Canucks 3 -1 Thrashers
Seemingly lacking in motivation, the Canucks were not what you would call "good" against the Thrashers. They were, however, good enough, which is all that was necessary. With the victory, the Canucks set a franchise record for points in a season, with 7 games still left to play. Unfortunately, Daniel Sedin had his point streak halted at 9 games and 16 points, but secondary and tertiary scoring stepped up to fill the void. And, despite the two-goal lead being the worst lead in hockey, the Canucks sat back, rolled their lines, and dared the Thrashers to come back. The Thrashers did not. I watched them fail. I watched this game:
- It should be awfully clear by now that the Sedins are terrible at penalty shots. With his first period failure, Daniel Sedin is now 0 for 4 in that situation in his career. You just know that Daniel wished he could decline the penalty shot in favor of the two-minute powerplay: Please can I have some teammates and opponents on the ice? Please? Actually, that's not a bad idea: in football you can refuse a penalty and take the result of the play instead. You should be able to refuse a penalty shot and take the powerplay instead, especially when you have the number one powerplay and your opponent has the worst penalty kill in the league.
- My theory on why the Sedins are ineffective in the shootout: one of their main weapons is their renowned patience. They constantly pass up what appear to be prime scoring chances in order to create better ones. A shootout is anathema to them: you get one chance, you can only skate in one direction, and there's no one to pass to. A Sedin with a penalty shot is a little like a mule with a spinning wheel.
- After five games without a point, Mason Raymond scored the opening goal with an assist from Raffi Torres and Chris Mason's five-hole. Torres makes a great play to intercept a pass in the defensive zone, attracts the attention of an overeager Johnny Oduya, slips a perfect pass to the streaking Raymond, then drives hard to the net, creating a perfect distraction for Chris Mason. Mark Stuart did a poor job taking away the pass, meaning Mason (of the Chris variety) had to stay open to the possibility of the pass. People will call this a weak goal and, to a certain extent, it is, but blame has to be put on the defense as well for playing the situation so poorly.
- Raymond's goal seemed to give him a shot of confidence with sugar on the rim. He seemed to be everywhere on the ice and seemed to be developing some chemistry with Chris Higgins, who was originally thought to be a potential replacement for Raymond. Instead, Samuelsson may find himself bumped down to the third line if Raymond and Higgins heat up. Higgins brings a very different set of skills to the second line, as he tends to work harder and play with more grit, where Samuelsson has more patience and vision. Vigneault may have a tough time valuing his options: should he go with the Black-Scholes model or the Heston model?
- Keith Ballard has figured out the secret to getting more icetime than Aaron Rome: play on the same pairing as him and skate more slowly to the bench. Ballard had a great game, making several key defensive plays early, hitting Daniel Sedin and Victor Oreskovich with perfect outlet passes, and finishing, with Rome, a game-high +2. He played 16:41, a full 37 seconds more than Rome. Clearly a big step.
- Victor Oreskovich showed tonight why Gillis wanted him included in the Ballard trade. He played a physical game, logging 2 hits and winning battles along the boards, but he also showed some deft hands, getting off 2 shots and making a number of nice passes. His setup of the Bolduc goal, however, was merely an okay pass, enabled by the perfect outlet by Ballard. Also an okay pass: Want to see my final four?
- So that covers the second and first assist: now to the goal itself. Alex "Howard Moon" Bolduc scored the eventual gamewinning goal with a gorgeous backhand. I haven't seen anyone with a backhand that devastating since Eve Cleary. Bolduc looked his absolute Moon-iest in his postgame interview with Dan Murphy, as seen above, not to be confused with my co-writer at PITB, who is at his Mooney-est at all times.
- Christian Ehrhoff had a bit of a rough game: his giveaway on the Thrashers' lone goal was thoroughly unfortunate. It did, of course, give Roberto Luongo another chance to put the Snack Goal Principle to work. While Mason Raymond came just short of a defensive play for the ages, Luongo instead decided to try falling over, an unorthodox goaltending technique to say the least. I don't think it will replace the butterfly anytime soon.
- Evander Kane was remarkable, so here's a remark: like an overzealous mob boss, he was putting a hit on everyone. He was only credited with 4 hits, while Dustin Byfuglien was credited with 6, but Kane's hits were certainly more noticeable. Kane was easily the best Thrasher, making an impact every time he stepped on the ice.
- Alex Burrows picked up his 22nd goal of the season with a shorthanded empty netter. Hurray!
- The subject of the first intermission feature was Dan "Community Man" Hamhuis, who looked kind and approachable in his nice suit with a golden tie. The last time he drew that much attention to himself was as a volunteer rodeo clown for the American Junior Rodeo when he played for Nashville.
- As pointed out by Harrison: this is the 12th time this season that a Canuck goalie has lost a shutout in the third period and the 8th time within the game's last ten minutes. It's the only reason Luongo isn't in the top 5 of every major goaltending category: he leads the league in wins and is third in GAA and SV%, but only has 3 shutouts. He made some simply unfair saves, as seen in the video above, some of them more absurd than a baby monkey riding backwards on a pig.
- Finally, because I know everyone will want to talk about it: the refs weren't great tonight. The Canucks did not get a single powerplay, despite there being many potential candidates, some provided by the Byfuglienian one himself, Dustin Byfuglien. That said, there's no conspiracy: the referees were not instructed to avoid giving the Canucks powerplays so that a team in a non-traditional hockey market wouldn't be embarrassed by the best team in the league. It would be career suicide for anyone in the NHL front office to try something like that as it would surely be leaked by someone. I can't imagine Gary Bettman or any of his cronies taking that kind of risk. Sometimes refs just do a bad job. It happens, especially in a meaningless game like this one.