Like death and taxes, lately the Canuck and Shark match ups seem to follow a pattern. The games are always good, the hitting is always hard, Logan Couture is always more dangerous than the guys on his team that get paid more than him...and the Canucks win by a goal.
Its something like 10-1-2 now in the last while. That is the kind of dominance this team usually has against teams like the Blue Jackets. Not to compare last year's WCF-ists to the Columbus team. They are not that of course.
Personally, I think it is the respect that the Canucks have for this team, and the fact they know that the line between winning and losing to these guys is pretty fine.
Whatever the reason, another Canuck win, in a one goal game, against their Northern California rivals ( Hello Ned!!). At least it was 4-3 instead of 3-2 !
- American Express, Team America ( Fuck Yeah!), Young Americans...whatever nickname they go by, this was a game where we saw the line that was flying before the Booth injury and the Higgins medical problem. All three were beasts on the boards, strong on the puck, and tough on the forecheck, as well as solid in their own end. The +/- stat for them was weird (Kesler a +2, Booth a +1, and Higgins an even ), but the shot stat sure was impressive. They generated 5 shots in the first, added another in the second, and finished up with 7 ( each had 1 miss as well ). Ryan Kesler finishing 11 of 20 on draws was mitigated by the wingers getting on pucks all day. When you have a line like that, playing against Thornton's line to boot, it makes the matchups fall in the Canucks' favour. A goal and an assist for Booth, a definitely "KesLORD" type goal for Kesler, and an assist for Higgins.
- The first line had a great game, without getting on the scoresheet at all. Burrows and Henrik Sedin got caught out on the Boyle goal to get a -1 each ( Daniel on the bench already to avoid it ), but that line was in the other end more often than not. Their cycle was great ( actually better 5 on 5 than on the PP ), and only a great reaction by Couture when Hank was alone on the power play prevented a tally. Burrows had 2 shots on net ( 1 miss, and a post ), Daniel directed a team high 7 shots ( 3 missed ), and Hank had 2 shots as well. The Sharks blocked a lot of shots tonight as well (23 blocks ) today, and that definitely helped them keep the power play off the scoresheet.
- Cody Hodgson. The guy had 2 goals today, and was the first star. His name was chanted in the rink, and in the dressing room as his teammates gave him some love as well. He deserved it, as did the entire line. Jannik Hansen and Mason Raymond look to be developing some chemistry with Silent G', and that is only going to make this team more of a matchup nightmare for the opposition. Hell, he was even 5 of 8 on draws! The second unit power play looked very dangerous, almost more so than the Sedin unit. Stats? Cody had the 2 goals, a +1, 4 shots, a block and a hit. Raymond assisted on both, was a +2, 1 shot ( 1 miss), and skated miles. He deserved a goal on the one where he hit the post. Hansen was his usual self on the penalty kill, a +1, and a shot. The linemates had a good game, but Cody Godson was the straw that stirs the drink for them today.
- The usual situational starts was the bailiwick of the 4th line, and they did their job pretty well. Maxim Lapierre had a solid 4 of 5 day on faceoffs, had a team high 5 hits, and even had a shot on goal. His running mate Dale Weise had 4 hits, and while Manny Malhotra went only 3 of 8 on draws, he calmed things down when he was out there.
- Before we get to the defenders, I would be remiss without talking about the best San Jose Shark today. Logan Couture might be the best player on that team. he sure is when he plays the Canucks. His first goal was a shorty, and the result of using his speed and size to hold off Bieksa ( the turnover was by Hamhuis, but it should be mentioned that they bother screwed that one up ) and beat Roberto Luongo pretty well. It was a great move. His second was one that Roberto might want back, but that is quite the skillful play to get the puck up that quick on the backhand in close. He had 4 shots and a team high 5 blocks, including the one where he robbed Henrik of a goal. Honestly, how Joe Thornton is the captain and not this young man is a mystery. He can be on my team any time.
- The addition of Chris Tanev made all three pairings better. Practice, and attention to their clear outs was awesome today, as the Canuck defenders were very good at handling one of the more intense and big ( lots of guys with size ) forechecks in the NHL. 1 shot, 2 blocks, and a hit is what the stats guy saw. I saw a guy that is so cool with the puck that you can see his breath when he barely breathes hard! He made a mistake on the Boyle goal ( as did his partner to start that whole sequence ) by leaving the front to go to Pavelski, which left Burrows in tough. But Tanev was as advertised for most of this game. He made Edler look calmer, had an assist, 4 shots,( 3 misses ), a couple blocks, 3 hits, and 2 giveaways that Tanev probably recovered on immediately for him. That pairing definitely looks like a keeper.
- Juicy Hammer were a little more up and down, but they were solid late, in particular Kevin Bieksa. Yes, both were a -1, but Juice had 4 hits, 2 blocks, and a couple shots. His team high 4 giveaways is a little troubling, but I thought that the way they handled themselves in their own end under pressure while the Sharks came on in the final period was pretty good. Hammer had 3 hits, and had 3 giveaways as well. Basically, they were out against the top line, and bent but did not break.
- Its funny, the radio wags were talking about how Keith Ballard fighting for the second straight game was "because he is fighting for his job". While it is a fact that when Salo returns, they will have nine healthy guys, I thought he had a solid game. He brought the edge ( how he only got credited with 1 hit is beyond me), obliged Joe Pavelski asking him for a fight and kicked his butt ( Joe, he is a lefty. I think you know that now ), and was a +2 in 12:49 TOI. Aaron Rome had 2 more shifts and 13:57 TOI ( not because of that people! Ballard got five for fighting, remember?), was also a +2, had a shot and 2 blocks and 2 hits. The third line pairing was strong. Both played to their strengths. How that happens when you insert Tanev on the 2nd pairing is a bit of a mystery, but it can't be denied. "Cigarette" did a great job of replacing the "Finnish MacInnis" in his 15:41 TOI, but it has to be said, its the way everyone fits into their roles that makes the blue line stronger when everyone is in their proper slot.
- Roberto Luongo did not have the very best game of his career in Vancouver, but he is now the goalie in Vancouver with the most wins, passing Kirk MacLean with today's win. He made the saves when he had to. The second one was a goal that I think Couture surprised him with, but he made several difficult saves with a lot of big guys crashing the net. There was one play in the third where he mentioned being "slewfooted by someone, but they shot wide" where you knew he qwould have been hopping mad if they did score, but Luongo had a fair amount of help against a very good team that likes to crash the net, maybe even more than the Hawks do. His one save on a scrambled play on Marleau ( I think it was ) was a perfect example of battling to get the win when you don't have your shutout stuff. Congrats Lui, on the milestone ( I missed it on the broadcast, was it 211 wins?).
- The home team outshot the visitors 30-26, won 31 faceoffs to 29, and after being out hit 15-11 in the first, evened that by the end of the game at 31 apiece. The only stat that you know AV will be all over is the 13-7 edge in giveaways. The Canucks have three lines that present matchup problems with the way that the Cody Hodgson line is clicking. Cody is almost top of the NHL in points per minutes for rookies, but before everyone screams for him to be on the ice more, just remember that with a third line that can produce the way they are ( and those three could all end up around high teens, twenty goals apiece my the end of the season ) is a secret weapon. Just think of the way the match ups work in the Canuck team favour when other teams try to matchup to the Sedins and American Dream, and than think about Cody dishing to the speedsters he is playing with and STILL producing. Yummy.
Oilers are next. Perhaps they will dress Hordichuk and Eager. I have no problem dressing Alberts for that one, holding Salo out until after the break, unless he is really sure he is good to go, and watching the Twins get the points flowing against one of their favorite teams to beat down. A solid win today.