No, I am not going to put up a video of good ol Stompin' Tom. Rather, ahead of the observations and numbers hidden therein, I am going to put up the Ron MacLean pregame clip. I still am not quite sure what he was trying to say, but it sounded sincere. No one really hated you Ron, and the sentiment seemed to be positive, so no worries sir. We're Canadian. If guys can share a beer after knocking each others teeth out like hockey guys do, we should do the same right?
Thanks for the national press though CBC. I hope you weren't putting it up there to give us a shot, but its OK, as we are embracing the hate around here anyhow. No worries Ron. You can buy me a beer next time you're in town. ( 1:29 in )
Now, the game. We'll get to the ins and outs after the break, but for our Toronto friends, those Twins sure can play hockey huh? Honestly, I think the Leafs just got tired under the onslaught with some of the territorial dominance that began and ended with the Sedins. They had 2 goals, 4 points, and 12 shots from that line. They also entirely entertained what sounded like a sizable contingent of Canuck Nation, if the volume of "LUUUUUUUU's" means anything.
That's all you get before the break folks.
NHL ( lots of great saves in both guys' files. Goals...hits...you know )
Well, that was entertaining, wasn't it? I know that the Leafs got it close and hung in there, mainly due to Jonas Gustavsson doing his Roberto Luongo impression, especially in the first. But while it was maybe apparent that Brian Burke has been happy with how his Swedish Vacation acquisition played tonight, if the looks to his box by the CBC cameras can be interpreted by your humble reviewer, his longing looks at Daniel and Henrik were pretty plain to see.
Might have beens and all that. Vancouver fans are very happy with the result, and hockey fans in general should be after watching them tonight. The Leaf defenders did OK early on, as Burrows had their only two shots after one, but their team spent a helluva lot of time chasing, as evidenced by the mind blowing 16 - 1 giveaway stat for the Leafs. More than a bit of that was in their own end.
Take this goal from Chris Higgins.
It came early in the game to set the tone, but check how the Canucks are so much quicker on the puck early. The pinch and pass from Alexander Edler was a very slick play for our nominal #1 blue liner. ( who plays on the #2 pairing, because Bieksa and Hamhuis have such great chemistry ) We do things differently out here in LotusLand.
It did not last that long,however. A dumb holding call on Ballard ( it was not much of a hold, but come on Keith, right in front of the referee you reach out and tug? Oy Vey. ) on MacArthur gave the Leafs an early man advantage, and the #3 power play in the NHL clicked, with Luongo making the save on a point shot blast that was tipped, but having no chance when Joffrey Lupul out muscled Sami Salo for the rebound to make it 1-1.
It is funny. It might still be there at publishing, but on the ESPN site I use for stats, it has Ballard getting a goal at 5:29 ( unassisted? Come on guys, Kesler did something there! ) unfortunately, the referee made a mistake. Plain and simple. After getting the puck out from behind the net, Kes was hit by Franson, and The Monster even initiated what little contact that was called. It came after the puck was in the net. Poor Hips can't buy a goal.
That a chance for the Leafs was shot into a net that was long off will be the voiced as the counterpoint, but it should not be. The net was long off, even if it was Hamhuis that knocked it off. He was moved into that as well. Even with that though, the fact that it was 1-1 after a period was surprising. Check the NHL link above and go to saves. Jonas was good. He was the only reason the lone PP of the night for the visitors did not cash in. Luongo made some amazing saves, like the 2 on 1 glove larceny to take away a goal. He was locked in too.
shots, shots, shots, and other stuff ;
With only Ryan Kesler above .500 on draws in the 1st at 3/4, it was Tim Connolly powering his team to a 14/24 edge by going 6/9 in the first. Burrows was the guy with 2 shots and two blocks after 1 period to start off his superlative game tonight. Raymond and Edler also had 2 shots. The ice time was balanced out nicely, as AV looked to want to roll four lines all night. Cody Hodgson had 1 shot in his 5:31 TOI, and Mark Mancari was very noticeable in his 4 shifts and 3 minutes. No shots, or anything else stats wise ( I think he was blocked once or twice ) but he looks strong on the puck along the boards, and has taken the coach's instruction of "moving your feet" and done so.
The setting of a tone to start the second period was much the same as what happened in the first. Not the same play, but much the same characters, as Chris Higgins was once again hard on the check. This time it was Ryan Kesler making the hard check on the defenseman and a slick little pass to Mason Raymond.
That goal was followed by more and more pressure, and more chances or half chances that were broken up by desperate plays. Territorially, it seemed that when the Twins and Burrows were on, the puck was in the offensive end. Not all the time, of course but a great partion of the time,. They were definitely putting on a show tonight.
The young Torontonian was showing his skills too. While they did not have as many chances as the other top two lines, they sure had an impact, as a play just after five minutes, on some actual Leaf pressure, illustrated. Young Cody "Silent G" Hodgson read a play and made it look like the pass was intended for him instead of Grabovski cruising the slot. Even though this period would end up with another edge for the visitors, at 13-9 in shots, the Leafs showed that they are a solid team. They tried all game, and there was more than a few times where they could have pulled this one out.
Hell, on a time 4 on 4 ( and this was weird. The refs get involved in the game disallowing goals, but stayed out of this one as much as possible. Yet on a dominant 4th line shift, the puck was forced to the net and saved. Tim Connolly decided to show his truculence by repeatedly crosschecking Dale Weise down into the net. It looked like Mancari and someone else where the closest to actually fighting. Yet the call is two on Connolly, and two on Weise for ...getting crosschecked into the net? His reaction did not seem THAT unusual ) it was the Leafs that would cash in, on a play Edler probably wants back. He played Bozak bad on the dump, bad on the puck, and bad on the player after he got the puck. The backhand was quick, and surprised Luongo, going top shelf.
But even when it was 2-2, and Grabovski fed Frattin to force another save the very next shift, I did not feel too worried in the way this game was going. Cody Hodgson and Mark Mancari out on a line change almost connected, and the Sedins had a couple more dominant shifts, but I am sure that Canuck fans smiled smugly and Leaf fans muttered when this happened. Check out the pass from "Alex Sedin."
Simpson was bang on. That was happening all night, the Leafs getting caught out on long shifts. Part of that was the discipline of the Canucks to roll the four lines like they were the Red Army tonight. 45 seconds ( well, longer when they were dominating and trying to score in the offensive zone ) and off for the next guys.
hits and blocks and faceoffs oh my ;
Like the shots, the Canucks had a 13-9 edge on faceoffs to tie that stat at 23 per team after two periods. The home team was forced to block twice as many shots ( 15 to 7 after two ) as the visitors. Kevin Bieksa had an assist and 2 shots ( 2 misses ), a block and a hit as a+2 defender after two, as wasDan Hamhuis with 2 shots, and 2 hits. In addition to being a combined +4, they had 16:06 TOI and 15:07 respectively. Kesler was 6/11, and Henrik 8/15 after two on draws to lead the comeback in that stat, but it was Manny Malhotra going 7/11 after two after being under .500 after one (2/5). Most those were in his own end as well. Burrows was at 4 shots after two, tied with Raymond for the team lead.
That third period must have been so much fun for the fans in the crowd, for both teams. A good ol' hockey game for one and all. The Canuck fans were definitely happier on this night, but it should be noted that the Leafs do not give in. Even after Alexandre Burrows put it out of reach, seemingly, with this little bit of magic,
The home team pressed on. ( two things, the pass from Henrik seems to tease #46 with the hope he is actually going to get to that pass, and was that Burrows doing the "Kesler" with the two hands up on the goal celebration? )
They even outshot the Canucks 10-9 in this period. Luongo and his team were able to bend and not break, as Hamhuis was checked by Bozak, who made a slick pass to Kessel for his 19th, and another goal that the goaltender did not have much of a chance on.
That was countered by this next one late though. I have to giggle a bit at Dion Phaneuf on this one, as I think he thought he had Jannik Hansen, only to be fooled by that incredible speed Beaker has. It was like he hit the nitrous button. See for yourself.
The Canucks basically finished off the rest of this game after that with hard checking that twice forced late icings when they were trying to get Gustavsson off for the last gasp chance. A big win, in an entertaining game that must have been tougher for Leaf fans than us, as they looked like they had a chance a few times to knock this one out of the park. Luongo was a big part of that, but don't kid yourself. Even with Lupul and Kessel in the Top 5 in scoring, this was one team with a better offense than the other.
Vancouver won the F/O battle at 36 to 24, with Malhotra not losing a draw in the third to go 12/16. The Canucks blocked 10 shots tonight, but the on their heels Leafs had to block 25! ( Gunnarsson with 5 ) Combined with the 16 missed shots for the Canucks, and the 36 shots, that is 77 pucks directed the way of the net. Some stats lines - Mark Mancari had 15 shifts and 9:14 TOI, and that is as far as he made it on the stat sheet tonight. But I think he had a strong game. The same with Cody Hodgson and his 14:48 TOI. 1 shot, 1 takeaway, and 2/7 on draws. But he was good at what that third line needed to do, and his line had their share of pressure too. Not like the Sedin line 2 G / 2 A / 12 SOG, or the Kesler line at 2 G / 2 A / 8 SOG, but they were both OK in their roles. Like the Rock says...Know Your Role. Jambronies...
Onto the Wild on Monday. They owe us a game in hand, but gained a point tonight to sit 5 points up on the Canucks.