Welcome to Vancouver David Booth. See all those mics and taping devices in front of you? That is what you can expect. Just go to some of the guys on this team and ask them about it. First, go to the Twins, and they will tell you about how they were the whipping boys for years. Bieksa, Alberts, Ballard, hell, everyone on the blue line has felt their wrath at one time or another. Its the white hot flame of "great expectations" in Vancouver.
But it all pales to the fires that burn under Roberto Luongo's feet. Its amazing. Yes, he had that mix up with Dan Hamhuis on the second. But the Eberle shot? The other on a five man screw up on the ice on a change, where several mistakes were made. But by all means lets blame the goalie. Cory Schneider is obviously playing better right now...so...GOALIE CONTROVERSY!!! Mind you, did you see that reaction save on Eberle? WOW
More after the break.
The first period was Booth and his line's coming out party, and they did pretty good. So did Luongo. Look, honest . Go to NHL.com and go to saves. Its right there. I even made note of it. Square to shooters. Big in his net. I thought he looked like Lockdown Lui. I thought it was a highly entertaining period. The Kid Line for the Oilers was using their speed, and almost every one of the Canuck lines had something going.
That was borne out in the stats at the end of the first, with a 13 to 10 advantage in shots. I was puzzled by the home faceoff stats guy giving The Nuge a couple f/o wins that he lost to Manny Malhotra, but whatever. There was also a penalty on Hansen after he made a mistake at one end and was hustling to get back that was I thought a bit unfair. He looked to have tripped, or nudged off a guy in front and then went into the net. But Luongo made that power play fangless with five saves. It did look troubling with the guys running around a bit towards the end of it ( that is foreshadowing folks! ).
So, after one, it looked pretty good right? The Beastie Boys were looking strong in the Oiler end on almost every shift. The Hodgson line looked OK, though Hansen continues to play below his standards. The Sedins were up and down, as it would turn out their entire night would be. Hank was 3 for 4 on draws, and Burrows looked to be engaged. Luongo playing well, the fourth line continuing to hit everything that moves. Bring it on right?
Well, maybe. The second was looking to be more of the same, until the remnants of the third line, and Daniel Sedin coming on, together with the defensemen decided to get their clownshoes out and see if that would help. Several chances to clear. Hodgson and Hansen both missing on a puck along the boards. Daniel reaching out helplessly as Jordan Eberle found some space and ripped a howitzer top glove. The kid can shoot, and he beat Luongo in a goal that no goalie should hang their head about to make it 1-0.
So, as teams seem to be getting back into the flow of a back and forth game that is very entertaining ( it was, I love fast hockey ), Dan Hamhuis and Roberto Luongo decide to give them a freebie. yes, the leave behind the net was iffy, but Hammer should have just chipped it farther, or something. It sat there long enough. Ryan Smyth made a good play in there, but how many guys are standing facing the wrong way? Henrik and his brother had a game where they were not that good defensively tonight. This goal was a partial example of that.
Thank goodness Ben Eager is the consummate meathead though. Truly. His boarding penalty for running Volpatti blunted some of that momentum between the first and second goals, and after Taylor Hall was given a gift on a rush that should have been nothing ( from Burrows going the wrong way, both Sedins not licking up anyone but the front of the net, to Ballard standing in the middle of no where...) and then, on the next shift, getting wallpapered by Alexander Edler ( who was a beast physically tonight ), whining about it afterwards (slamming his stick and moaning about it to the refs. Its called a clean hit kid. stop whining after every damn one. Actually, keep whining, if it gets meatheads like Eager to take dumb penalties) Ben Eager totally blunting the momentum your young team had just built up
The goal sent Roberto to the bench. I get it. 3 goals in 6:55. I honestly think that AV starts him tomorrow versus the Blues, with the line of "I was saving him for the next one, and wanted to get a momentum shift ". It worked, as his reeling team seemed to get better at doing things more fundamentally.
It worked too, with about eight and a half minutes left. Cody Hodgson started a nice chance for Manny Malhotra, who muffed it a bit by holding on to long. He made a good play behind the net to get it out to Edler, who made a nice pass to Hodgson for a hard shot that beat Khabibulin.
While the Canucks tried to give them that three goal lead back with penalties to Daniel Sedin ( yes it was ) and Maxim Lapierre ( bit iffy, but it is the New NHL!) late. They killed it off pretty well, and would go into the third down two goals against a young team.
The Oilers played just like that in the third. They had a wonderful chance by Eberle to put it out of reach, with Cory Schneider making an amazing save, but really, the third was all Canucks. With one power play ( a Belanger penalty was called at the 20 min mark...) that were equal parts too much passing and dangerous as hell, they just could not get one by The Bulin Wall. He made some great saves in the third. he could not get them all, and the Burrows goal with a little less than eight minutes gone ( a nice rebound effort, but how did he miss the chance on the previous shift after the Sedins set him up cold?), in that line's best period just made it more entertaining to the end.
- Ballard and Bieksa are now something like a minus 15 together. they were split up in the second, and it seemed that Ballard did not get a lot of shifts after that.
- David Booth. That guy can skate huh? He will get better at reading his linemates. Whether its the ESPN guys ( had him at 3 shots), or the SNET guys who said 4, he was involved. I had him at more than the one hit credited, but thats a minor thing. He was solid in his 15:49 TOI.
- Kevin Bieksa was a -2, but had a team high 24:43 TOI. He was better in the third, but that was without Ballard. Something tells me the Juicy Hammer pairing is back baby!
- Speaking of defensemen, the best tonight for the losing team was Alexander Edler. He was a +1. had 6 shots, including a couple howitzers that forced big saves, 2 blocked shots, and two hits credited ( I saw more, but whatever. Both were wallpapers on Taylor Hall. Had 9 seconds less time on ice than Bieksa, and deserved more.
- Look, if you want to hear a love fest for the Kids of the Oilers tonight, I am sure you will find it easily. They were good, but probably not as good as you will be told. Hall had himself a goal, and was OK most of the night. Eberle the same. But they were not THAT good. They might grow into THAT good, but the weight of the hyperbole might crush us all by that point. Like anything in this game, and especially when it is two Canadian cities and the "underdog" wins, that is to be expected.
- That is not to say I am denigrating the win for the Edmontonians. I thought Horcoff in particular had a great game, and was big killing penalties. I thought the Oilers blocked a ton of shots and sacrificed for it ( 31 blocks, and Gilbert, Petrell, Potter and Smid all had four each). But even with all that, they lost a big guy for them in Ryan Whitney to a freak accident when he touched skates with Potter. It looked like he might be gone for a while.
So, thats it. Our lads were not able to pull this one out, but if they can keep the offensive zone stuff with more screens and better shot selection to get through the blocks ( with 15 missed shots, 31 blocked, and 37 saves, they will be icing their arms on the way home with 83 attempts!), and not so many fire drills in their own end, they will be just fine.
But by all means, feel free to ignore all that and talk endlessly about Luongo and his "struggles". It is Vancouver... Did you see that? He broke his stick! He knows Schneider is better than him now! Trade him, if anyone will take him of course!
Back on the horse tomorrow, against the Beasts of the East. I imagine you will see the "#1" goalie in that one.
Note ; The NHL highlights were not up as of this writing, but feel free to click to NHL.com and find them there.