The San Jose Sharks. The Shark Tank. Without a doubt, the Sharks have to be considered one of the top teams since the lockout. They are very good at home, just like the Canucks usually are. Deep, big talented players and multi-talented blueliners, sorta like you know who. There is even the kinship this team has with the Canucks as top teams that have not won it all.
The series that inspired yet another "hated rival" for the Canucks was very entertaining, and had some twists and turns as they all do. But, no offense to the Sharks and their fans, its not like they got it to a seventh game...
4-1. Yep, Ben Too Eager gifted a game, and the winning goal inspired The Stanchion to emerge from his high tech cave to delight and entertain, but to this day the Shark players talk about being the "better team" that just was unlucky. ("sigh") . It is hard to argue with the basic math of the result.
When Dr Snark Recchi Esquire, Ret. gave the benefit of his wisdom to the masses last week, Ryane Clowe and Douglas Murray decided to roll with the diagnosis of the good doctor. We should all thank them. Hell, I knew this was going to be a fun game when I saw it on the schedule, and trash talking just adds to the flavour, and usually makes for some inspired hockey on the ice. It also turned out to add some nastiness. Maybe they really do hate our Heroes of Hollywood North.
But, even if you think he said it was some sort of Keslurk smirk, here is how the Canuck assistant captain put it when asked before the game. At least our guy is trying right?
"That's them," said Kesler. "You know, they can say whatever they want. I don't understand. We play the game hard and we play it tough. We play their skilled players tough and most don't like it.
"We're going to stay classy and we're going to play our game and that's a fast-paced game and if we do that, I like our our chances."
Did the game live up to the hype? You'll have to venture past the break for that.
NHL ( video all there )
Damned straight it did, at least in the first ( OK, the whole damn entertaining wild ride!). How about the first work of his night shift for Mr Schneider on Patrick Marleau. That'll get the blood pumping. The Canucks's Team America line seems to be finding its identity, and that is as a fast forechecking,puck hunting, hitting style. We know that Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins relish that style, but the man with the memorable shifts was one David Booth early.
Thing is, the San Jose Sharks do not have the record they do by being a bunch of wussy perimeter players. They had some shifts that were spent entirely in the Vancouver end, playing our own style of hunting the puck down low to lead to scoring chances. The Canucks were passable, I guess, in their own end, but thank goodness Cory Schneider is in a stone cold groove right now. He was helped by a lot of good sticks in lanes and blocks ( a stat they led in, having 8 blocks, with Alberts, Ballard, Bieksa and Hamhuis all splitting it up equally. The Sharks had 6, with Douglas Murray getting his big butt in front of 3.
Now, you can call the first goal for the Canucks lucky. It certainly had all the hallmarks of that. But it was all started by Keith Ballard going to the net, getting bumped into Antti Miemi, and making him lose his stick. He drew an assist with Jannik Hansen, and Manny Malhotra was on the scoresheet once again for his carom shot off Murray's foot.
It was a shame that a pretty solid period for the Canucks against the tide ( SJ had the edge in territorial play and pressure in the first ) was somewhat mitigated by Andrew Murray getting a goal with less than five minutes left to tie it up. It was one of the few times they were chasing in their own end instead of finding your check and sticking with him. A nice play on Edler by Desjardins, and Maxim Lapierre being a bit late to Murray told the tale, and it was 1-1 after twenty.
Counting Crows - San Jose won most of the stats in the opener. They had 7 takaways to the visitors' 3. ( most of that down low ) They were ahead in the f/o's 9 to 5, with Joe Thornton going 4/4. Chris Higgins had 3 shots to lead his team, while Booth had 1 as well as a takeaway. ( the most noticeable in the non stat sheet category as well! )
It was funny in the opening period to see both coaches go by the book on the matchups, with the first through fourth lines all meeting their counterparts. That is a little harder to achieve in the second period for coaches, as the long change does not allow it. It is one of the reasons the second is often the period where a game turns.
But another aspect on what turns a game is adjustments, and the Canucks made a subtle one that led to great results in the middle stanza. They were a bit more structured in their support for the defensemen on dump ins and breakouts, leading to a great many times where the Sharks attempting to do what they did in the first, dominate the puck down low, and have it already going the other way, usually on the other side as the Canucks read the home team overloading one side to gang the puck.
So, you knew, inevitably, that even though the refs were letting them play, that there would be something called, and it was Lapierre, on a hit where Dale Weise had the guy already lined up. That led to some fantastic pressure on the power play by the Sharks, and 6 shots that Ginger Jesus turned aside. It also led to that paragon of class and virtue Joe Thornton, reacting to a good Burrows play by giving him a hack on the hand that TV showed drew blood ( probably a shattered nail, they said pinky. For non hockey players, it is soooooooooo painful ) and drew a power play for the #1 unit in the NHL.
No offense to the Sharks power play. They were very good tonight. But they are not the Canucks power play, which was far better at moving it from one side to the other. It all culminated in Dan Hamhuis getting a quick and accurate shot on net. Neimi made a save but gave a huge rebound, and Captain Ginger was there to beat Niemi coming across for the 2-1 goal.
The second line, and especially Ryan Kesler, would make what turned out to be the winner ( and I will lay big money that Andrew Alberts was no one pick in the SPW for the GWG ) happen with hard work, hunting a puck in the corner, making Demers look silly, and feeding Alberts for a hard wrister that made it through the screen and beat the goaltender high.
But even when that paragon of honorable play Joe Thornton ( and look, he had a great game. Sami Salo did get the stick in there. But I always giggle when the player hooked can turn 360 degrees in the air from it. Sure Joe. The Sharks never embellish or dive ) got his team on the power play, it was Cory Schneider sending pucks back with ease.
Counting Chickens - The Canucks outshot the Sharks 11-10 in the first, but it was 19-11 for the home team in the second. Daniel Sedin had 4 shots through two, while Joe Pavelski had 5. Burns and Boyle had 4 each through fourty minutes. Ballard had 3 blocks, but Murray had 5 as the Sharks blocked 14 shots to the Canucks 13 through two periods. Kesler was the best of a bad lot on faceoffs at 3/7, while both Marleau and Pavelski were 6/8. and Joe was 5/7.
I was thinking of just putting Ginja Niinja's fave clip here, the Black Night from Monty Python. ( well, he and his dad's fave. Its why its on the back of the mask.) Suffice to say that the Sharks had the edge in play in this one. 16 to 4 in shots ( even with one PP to zero...wow )
It truly was a team effort though. And I don't want to make it sound all that overwhelming. After the power play ( again with Joe Thornton being involved in things. He drew a hooking call on Henrik Sedin, but afterwards, and CBC showed it to us clearly, he got away with a two handed woodsman chop on Hank's feet without a penalty. It was a harbinger of things to come too, as the Sharks got away with a couple holds in the last 4 minutes as the refs refused to "be the difference" ) Not complaining though. It shows what they do and do not call though, as this was in the middle of the ice and near the puck, I doubt they all missed it.
But after they killed off that PK with maybe their best of a perfect 3 for 3 on the penalty kill. After that, while the Sharks were certainly pressing, the Canucks were able to play a solid defensive game and get pucks out more assuredly.
Joe would make a nice play from behind the net to Marleau, who beat Ginger for the game's last goal, but even though it got interesting in the last minute with a silly icing by Bieksa, the canucks held off the home team for an impressive win.
Counting Points( all the way back to Vancouver! ) - Ryan Kesler fought his way back to finish 6/11, as well as having an assist, a shot, a miss, a block, 2 hits, a takeaway, and once again was the motor of the game's best line. David Booth only had 2 shots, 1 miss, 2 takeaways and 3 giveaways, but may have had one of his better nights on that line again. Ballard had an assist, a +2, and 3 blocks, but the best guy by far was Cory Freaking Schneider. 47 saves.
Don't believe the hype. Pierre Lebrun's favorite team talked like they were going to run the Canucks out of this game. They outshot them, blew them away on the draws, were going to outhit them ( actually, no, they were up 16-11 in hits after 2, but the Canucks won that stat 21-19. The most devastating, a second period hit on Edler by McGinn that caused the Canucks to play 5 defenders in the third hopefully did not injure our #1 blueliner too much), and will talk about being the "better team" tonight from the comfort of their nice Cali Cool homes. But it was the visitors with the only stat that counts in the standings.