Ahhh, Hockey Night In Canada. Memories of Saturday nights with fogged up windows, watching the Leafs and the Leafs, then some Leafs, and sometimes the Canadians. When the Canucks getting on the big Saturday night show was a rarity.
Now, I know you are saying that they don't get on their very much more now, and yes, you have a point. It seems when they do, it becomes a night of talking points for veiled and not so veiled insults to our sometimes thin skinned Canuck Nation. Tonight?
The Senators tried to play the tough style of hockey that is supposedly the Achille's Heel of the Canucks. A power play that went two for five effectively put a stop to that, as did the team standing up to that kind of play.
I might be biased, but I have not seen that many hands to the face in a game for a while. Chris Neil sure bought in. He had 7 hits tonight. More than a few of those were high. It did not work though. The folks that talk about the Canucks not being tough enough? How about 20 blocks to 4? How about 16 - 12 for the Senators in hits after one, 21-19 after a decisive second period, and even with a 27-21 Senators win on the hit count, a fairly smooth and dominant win. Which is the important thing right? It sure is important to the Canucks, on a streak of 9 wins in 10 games.
How about that crowd tonight? The Senator fans must feel like the most put upon Canadian team in the league. The @canucksgame feed estimated it to be 40% Blue and Green. Perhaps it was pissing off the home team to be jeered in their own barn, as they sure came out playing the tough game. I have no problem with that, and I don't think this team does either. But the guys on the mics sure thought they did. I guess it meshed nicely with the failed narrative of "thats how you beat this team". I counted about four Boston references in the first period alone.
Perhaps it was the frustration of taking a penalty that was all about Ryan Kesler and a perfect back check on a puck in the Canuck zone. Zach Smith went off, Kesler went to the net with Chris Phillips already there helping to screen the goalie on a power play, and watched a wrister hit the top corner for a quick 1-0 lead.
Neil made a huge hit on Manny Malhotra that made me want him on my team. He then made a run at Bill Sweatt that I thought could have easily been called a bit high. Sweatt avoiding the hit to the head at the last minute, and a rush and a good chance made everyone forget that one, but the tone was definitely set.
The second goal was a perfect example of the way this team scores goals. There was coverage for Mason Raymond if he does not make the poke of the puck on a pinching Runblad, but none for the young defender. At least none that cared to get in position. Hansen makes a nice play to a streaking Kesler who beats the defenseman and a slow reacting Jason Spezza, and it is 2-0.
Then, soon after. The hit. Honestly, I tend to agree with
Sens fan CBC colour guy Gary Galley that it was unintentional. You could point out that it was a defenseless guy, but really, Cody Hodgson lost an edge and fell into the hit. It may have been high if he was upright anyhow. It was definitely catastrophic with his stumble, and while he got up woozy, he was done for the night.
For those that want team toughness, here is Nick Foligno's next shift. Whether it was a win or not, the fight sent a message back at the home team attempting to run the visitors out of the rink.
Inside the numbers ; Canucks 1-1 on the power play in 4 seconds. Ottawa 0-2, and a Spezza chance in close really all they had to show for it. Kesler in 5:44 of ice time that included some great PK time ( 1:45 ). 1 G, 1 A, +1, 1 takeaway, and 6/10 on draws. Chris Neil credited with 7 hits. Asshole. Keep the arms down. Though he did goad noted enforcer Henrik Sedin into his second of three penalties on the night, creating a kerfuffle with the Twins that had a few guys off.
Some of his other rantings, like the praise for Thomas's hard chop on Umberger are hilarious, but he is an entertainer right?
The Canucks were basically a three line team for most of this game, with Bill Sweatt not getting much ice time. Dale Weise got another 3 minutes in the second period, but Sweatt only saw one shift. They were rolling along in the second period 5 on 5, but check this goal that made it 3-0 on another successful power play. Daniel makes a pass down low there through how many people? Hell no, it looks like he made a backhand pass behind the goalie's back!
Again though, it was kind of annoying to hear Mr Galley calling Burrows a diver on a play where Regin clearly took a penalty to prevent a sure goal. He tried to make the same excuses for Nick Foligno when he went for a hit on a guy that was in a vulnerable position ( Kesler ) and then got a misconduct for complaining. Oh well, at least we got Jim Hughson right? Even he was jumping on board the narrative. He has been in Toronto too long!
It also has to be said, Roberto Luongo had a great game. The Canucks had a fair amount of the territorial advantage in this game, but some of the Senator chances were top notch, and he was equal to the task. The only goal to beat him tonight was a play where he played Jason Spezza pretty well. His having to follow the shooter had him out of the net a bit, but that was what he has to do there. I think most every guy coming back went by the puck, and it fell nicely to Greening. 3-1.
stats and stuff ; The Canucks outhit the Senators in the second period 10-6, and the Sens made a good push back on the faceoffs to knot that at 21-21 after two periods. ( How many times did you see a winger win back a lost faceoff and race up ice anyhow?) KesLord was now clocking in at 2G, 1A, 5SOG, 2 takeaways and 9/15 on draws to lead his team. Aaron Rome 4 hits and more chemistry with a solid 3rd line pairing with Keith Ballard, Maxim Lapierre with 3 hits, Alexander Edler 4 SOG and 3 blocks, and Dan "The Rock" Hamhuis with a team leading 15:44 TOI. He was very good in his own end tonight.
The narrative of Garry Galley in the beginning of the third was shocking. When they finally showed us what horrible thing Henrik Sedin did to draw his third penalty on the night, it was shown, and it must have made his face drop to try and spin this one. Hank was just skating back up the ice in the neutral zone when Daniel Alfredsson skated into him and fell down. Of course, because Sideshow Alfie is a great guy and all, no one will call him on it tomorrow but me, and I am writing on a Canuck blog! The sound of Galley saying "Henrik takes him down" sure made me smirk though! Whatever. They got no shots on either side of the second/third period break.
The third period was turning into a special teams primer for the Vancouver Canucks hockey club. Being 1st overall by a big amount on the power play and only 5th on the penalty kill coming in was obviously embarrassing to the guys. So Maxim Lapierre took a penalty on Zach Smith, and then when the Sens got some rare pressure on that power play, Alexander Edler buried Neil with a cross check to put them two men down for 1:39.
Cue Ryan Kesler, Alexandre Burrows, and especially Dan Hamhuis. They were brilliant on the two man penalty kill. Shots blocked, sticks in lanes, and passes broken up contributed to no shots on goal. On a five on three. Even when the Sens had the puck and a one man advantage for the end of their last great chance, nothing doing. A block by Bill Sweatt on some nice puck movement, on Runblad I think it was, was excellent. He had 2 blocked shots in 4:23 TOI in the game, and this one was a big one. Well done kid.
Honestly, though the Sens outshot the Canucks 10-8 in the third, I never once had a feeling they were coming back after the kill. They played a very good third period. They made the rush ( and had several chances to ice it ) when it was there, and played a brilliant puck possession game when it was not to dump out pucks. Every time the Kesler line was on, they seemed to be more up the ice, but this was the kind of puck possession game that tells me the Canucks are in a groove.
Even when Dale Weise decided I did not need the three points in the SPW and did this...
It was the safe play on the ice. He just kept going. God I loved that it was Neil on the backcheck that was the culprit. Am I a bad person for that?
Add it Up ; Speaking of the Sen's bad boy, he finished up with 7 hits, not getting one more credited after that running around first period. It was David Runblad that was getting beat at the Canucks blue line and chasing all night. He ended up a -2, with 2 hits. Alexander Edler had a great stat line with 1G, 5SOG, 3 blocks, a hit and a giveaway, but this game was another example of the KesLord and his all around game. 2G, 1A, team high 6 SOG, 2 blocks, 3 takeaways and 13 of 24 draws won. Henrik Sedin? He had the 3 penalties, but one was bogus. He also had 2 assists.
So, though the TEAM guys will tell you that the Canucks are not tough enough throughout the day tomorrow, don't believe it. They stood up fine. They answered the bell, protected their stars and neutered the Senators aggression with a superlative power play that went 2 for 5, and a penalty kill that went 5 for 5. Nuff said.
On to the Blue Jackets. Another team the Canucks have a dominant record against. It won't be on Hockey Night in Canada though. Oh well...we'll have to listen to that homer John Shorthouse again! At least John Garrett talking about food will be a welcome respite from the colour guy tonight...