Canucks 2 - 1 Blue Jackets (SO)
It's a shame that the Canucks weren't wearing their retro jerseys, because this game was a total throwback. The team played poorly, showing a complete lack of offensive flair and a general disarray throughout, but thankfully, Roberto Luongo stood tall and singlehandedly kept them in the game. You'd have thought it was 2006. Funny Bob made 30 stops on the night, and it seemed as though every other one was a game-saver. He was in perfect position all evening, too, making partial breakaways and point-blank chances look completely non-threatening. And his reward for perhaps his best effort of the season? The longest shootout ever. Lucky Lou, you know how he loves a breakaway competition. Thankfully, he was game for that too, just like I was game to watch him, when I watched this game:
- Luongo had tiger blood tonight (second only to unicorn blood from blood unicorns). His best save of the evening came when he stopped RJ Umberger on a breakaway, but it wasn't just about the save. It was the way he made sure to get a piece of Umberger's ankle as the center went past, putting him off-balance and sending him, spinning, into the corner, so as to prevent any rebound chances. That was most definitely on purpose.
- Aaron Rome took an interesting "illegal stick" penalty at 6:14 of the third period. His stick hadn't broken; he merely lost it. As he skated to the boards to cut off the Blue Jacket puck carrier, he picked up Scotty Upshall's stick, also-dropped, and used it to tie up the man. Originally, it seemed like a heady move, but the referee blew play dead immediately to call an infraction. What was it? Rule 10.3 of the official NHL rulebook states: A player who has lost or broken his stick may only receive a stick at his own players’ bench or be handed one from a teammate on the ice. Hence, Rome can't pick up Scotty Upshall's stick without getting a penalty. You can't play with an opponent's stick. For instance, Mikko Koivu is not allowed to lose his stick, then rip Bobby Ryan's stick from right out of his hands, and use that instead. And neither can Ryan then pick up Mikko Koivu's dropped stick, score a goal, and taunt Koivu with his stick immediately afterwards. That would be a penalty for sure.
- The crowd was eerily quiet. It was like classic Buffy episode Hush; you'd have thought all their voices had been stolen by The Gentlemen. I can't help but wonder if a little home crowd support might have spurred the team to, you know, play well, but on the plus side, the muted crowd allowed the play cameras to pick up a number of on ice F-bombs.
- I love when power forwards like Rick Nash have full beards. They look so freaking intimidating. Mind you, it's not just posturing with Nash. Any time the puck is on his stick, it's concerning. It's a shame he plays in Columbus. Imagine if he played in a city that knew they had an NHL team.
- Mason Raymond finally broke his scoring slump with a pretty little backhand goal (above) generated by some great board work by Ryan Kesler. Watching a player break an extended scoring drought like that is one of the rewards of following a team closely. Knowing the context, it was hard not to feel his joy, to beam while he was beaming. He was visibly excited, letting out a triumphant "Woo!" on the bench after the goal. I haven't seen Raymond that excited since the team pitched in to buy him a new alarm clock (joke explained: Mason Raymond is boring). Raymond seemed inspired by the goal, and he netted another beauty in the shootout with some fabulous stickwork and skate control to freeze Steve Mason. Raymond had four shots on goal, tops among forwards. Raymond wasn't perfect, mind you. He missed a whopping five shots on the night. In perspective: the rest of the team, combined, missed eight.
- Mind you, that's not as bad as Ryan Kesler, who had zero shots on net last night, with seven attempts blocked. Do you think getting in front of his wrister has become a top priority? Now that he's a known sniper, he's going to have to work a lot harder to create a shooting lane. Later that night, in the shootout, Henrik Sedin showed exemplary leadership when he modeled for Kesler how to get people to quit respecting your shot.
- I liked Alain Vigneault's smirk at the bench during the shootout. What was so funny? My guess is he was imagining the Bluth family do their various chicken dances.
- Keith Ballard had five blocked shots and three hits in three minutes of icetime fewer than Aaron Rome. Aaron Rome may be a forgotten Scrabbler, but Alain Vigneault never seems to forget to play him.
- The great thing about having a shootout go on for so long is that you're guaranteed an unlikely hero. Seriously, Vigneault's next shooter was Frodo Baggins. That said, this thing could have been over much sooner if one of the coaches had realized the secret to the shootout: send out guys who used to play for the opponent. Instant win. No surprise, then, that Raffi Torres was the game's unlikely hero.
- You have to feel bad for Maxim Lapierre, whose first game went about as poorly as it possibly could have. He only played five minutes, but boy, were they eventful. In his first shift as a Canuck, he took a minor penalty. During the first intermission, he likely told himself to calm down, because the worst was over. Then, in his first shift of the second period, the Blue Jackets scored. During the second intermission, he probably told himself things could only improve, and he was likely quite excited when nothing untoward happened on his first shift of the third period. Unfortunately, this would be last shift of the game. On the plus side, he finished on a positive note, and was named the game's thirty-first star.
- Scotty Upshall was kind of amazing last night. His shot on Columbus's lone goal was downright unstoppable, like picking a fight with a warlock.
- Dan "Community Man" Hamhuis's hipcheck on Jakub Voracek was a real thing of beauty. I like how, when Keith Ballard pulls off a hipcheck, the recipient gets pissed, but when Hamhuis does it, the recipient just understands. Mind you, maybe it's because Hamhuis is such a nice guy, he only hipchecks when he suspects a guy need a minor spinal adjustment. Hamhuis runs an on-ice chiropractic clinic. Of course it's free.
- The Canucks' powerplay is beginning to dry up in the absence of its quarterback, Alex Edler. There have been games where Mikael Samuelsson has been able to keep it humming along, but when he has a lackadaisical outing like last night, the unit falls apart. Sami Salo saw a promotion to the top unit in the third period, but it wasn't enough to get the game-winner during a four minute powerplay to close out regulation time. There was a lingering sense that this would come back to haunt them, like some sort of powerplay poltergeist, bringing clowns to life and whatnot.
- And finally, we would be remiss not to talk about the high number of pratfalls in last night's game. People were running into one another, tripping over blue lines, and flubbing on shots and passes all evening. It was high octane physical comedy. Halfway through the game, the organist abandoned the setlist and started playing music from Buster Keaton's The General.