There always seems to be a spirit to the visits to the Excel Centre for the Vancouver Canucks. Maybe its the past for the teams, but honestly, I don't think so, though that has been spirited games. Its certainly not for the fans of the Canucks as much as the home team this night. They get up for our team and their visits. The Canucks were 4 and 2 and outscored the Wild by a bunch last year, but two of the three games in there last year were pretty depressing. Whatever, the Canucks have owned these guys over the seasons. Just not sometimes at the Excel Energy Centre. They get up for the Canucks. We get it. The Canucks are 1-4 against this team at the St Paul barn.
One thing I do know, this one is not on the goaltender. There should be some statistical subset for having a save % of .889. in a game where you give up 5 goals. It looked like shootout practice for the Wild at times tonight. And perhaps another subset for games after the team finds out Sami Salo is injured. He is the best all around blueliner, and while "Tweaked Groin" may make a great band name, it is not something a hockey fan wants to hear about just before the start of the game, especially about our underrated and sometimes fragile Finn.
You know, I thought it would be a different result after watching that first period. For being Daniel Sedin's 800th game, you kind of hope for one of those memorable games. It certainly started out that way, with some typical Sedin play, those subtle little touches of the pucks and getting it where someone else can score if they can't. It led to Dan Hamhuis being able to feast on one of those pucks ( a nice little kick of the puck by Burrows helped ). 1-0.
But perhaps we should have looked to the opening faceoff when the Wild won it and got a great chance in the first 20 seconds. That was a more telling look at this game. Cory Schneider made the save, as he did for most of this night. The Canucks actually had some other chances in that first period at times. It was not the savage debauchery of the following two period. Though it was violent.
The Canucks came out hitting, a 3rd and 4th line shift where I thought everyone got one in. Weise and Lapierre ended the first with 2 each, but the Wild out hit them 13-9. Cal Clutterbuck made the boards rattle a couple times and somehow got credited with 4 hits. Typical.
Don't get me wrong. The Wild were the better team in the first two, it just was not the complete collapse of the period to follow. It was 12-8 in shots for them. They had a 3-0 edge in takeaways. A commanding 10-4 edge in faceoffs. But hell, Kevin Bieksa was a +1 with a hit, and led his team in ice time at 8:08!
The one power play they did get in that first, when they had a chance on the power play, the Wild would win and clear almost every draw at that point ( when it was 7-1 in draws for them . Cullen finished the first a perfect 5/5 ).
So, so far so good, right? Cory Schneider is stoning them at every turn, they are somehow overcoming losing almost 2 of every three draws, and letting the Wild look faster than them at times, something that is just not true. I don't think so, anyway. Perhaps it is as old players always say ( "you aren't going to be good all 82 games, as Garry Valk said afterwards ). Whatever the reason, the second period may just have been one of the worst I have seen from this team in a while.
You can see at the NHL link above that they will probably have a very thick file of Schneider saves. The first thing Josh Harding did when interviewed on SNET afterwards was to praise our back up and his amazing game. I am not going to go into describing every goal. Let's just say that there was a litany of turnovers, ill timed pinches, bad changes, lost faceoffs and battles for pucks through all the second and part of the third.
The second, a Daniel hooking call on the first shift did not help set the tone for that period, but it would not have mattered much. The Wild play good defense, but they were getting it given to them all night. Perhaps it could be argued that the fight between Staubitz and Aaron Volpatti was a catalyst. I do object though, to their not being an extra two for Staubitz there as well. This fighting a guy after he cleanly hits your guy ( Clutterbuck tried to hit Volpatti and got put on his butt instead ) should ALWAYS result in the extra two. It will stop shortly afterwards. Aaron Volpatti is a "fighter" but he would not have fought there unless the other guy started throwing them.
David Booth took a hooking call too, which is usually the call de jour when guys are chasing the play. That power play was a little better for the Wild ( the only bright spot for the Canucks was that their PK was 2 for 2. ) , and when Clutterbuck foolishly tripped Ballard and took his team off, I actually thought the Canucks could tie it up and make this game interesting. They did have some chances, and hell, Kesler had a puck go off two posts and not go in in the second.
But it was not to be, and the Wild, off another botched play and turnover fest, let Marco Scandella blast away with traffic, and Schneidz cannot stop them all.
Some interesting numbers after two? Well, it was now 19 to 17 in faceoffs only for the Wild. The takeaways number had increased from 3 to 4, and the stats guy was being kind by only giving the Canucks 4 giveaways to the opposition's 3. But come on fellas, 34-16 in shots, and 20-13 in hits? OK, I'll cut you some slack on the latter, knowing he is Clutterbuck's uncle. But help the goalie out fellas.
Kevin Bieksa is now an even somehow, has a missed shot to add to his stat line, and is not leading the team in ice time, his 14:59 surpassed by both Hamhuis and Alexander Edler, who is now, after two, a -2 ( now paired with Hamhuis occasionally, with Juice seeing a couple different partners in Ballard and Alberts ), has missed 3 of 4 shots, and even has a giveaway. Don Cherry will be happy to know he did have 3 blocks after two periods.
But the third only made it seem a mirage. The cluster#$%! of play was all over the ice. Though they had a truncated power play to start, it was stifled by some strong play from the Wild. I think they even had a breakaway on it. ( SNET reported that the Canucks gave up nine 2 on 1s, or 3 on 1's, or flat out breakaways this game. Nine! )
Even sitting back, they still outshot the Canucks 11 to 9 in the third. I was heartened to see that there was some level of push back, and it was comical when the linesman got popped in the mush by Clutterbuck ( did Dan Hamhuis get 10 minutes from the bench there, when Maxim Lapierre was trying to toss him into the bench? ). I am guessing he is thinking he should have just let them go, and it is comical that Cal got so angry by getting hip checked by Keith Ballard. Thats how he reacts to charging at him like that Mr Clutterbuck!
Best of a bad lot tonight were Sulzer and Ballard on the blue line, and Booth and Burrows up front. There were flashes from others, and some truly frightening final numbers ( like Alberts and Hansen both -3, and Manny Malhotra an eye popping -4 ), but I like to be positive, so I will point out that Henrik Sedin and Alexandre Burrows were both +1 tonight.
But come on. The shots were 45 to 25, and the only star worth mentioning from the Canucks was the goalie. Oh, and Kevin Bieksa? He finished a -2, and had only 1 hit added to his stats after two periods. It was probably on his own guy, knowing his luck. He stood up in the dressing room and said "thats the worst game I have played in a Canuck uniform..." So at least he is owning it. I expect there will be anger fueling the performance in St Louis.
There is the old belief that it is best to just play again as soon as possible, and that is going to happen here. I expect to see the twin fires of embarrassment and professional pride ensure a far more cohesive effort tomorrow. Otherwise, Roberto Luongo is going to be hung out to dry.
Back to backs, I would guess we see Andrew Ebbett instead of Manny Malhotra ( you know, he had 5 assists in 12 games before this one, even struggling, he was still a faceoff demon. 4/10 tonight ), maybe Mr Rome to save us.
As always though, lets not overreact to the stink on this one. Some places are just horror shows to visit. Myriad teams in myriad leagues have their own places where visiting makes everyone shudder. They need to pay more together tomorrow, and maybe the line juggling from tonight goes back to before, or not. Gives us plenty to talk about in the interim before puck drop.
Interesting times, my friends, interesting times.