There are times when a sporting event has you on the edge of your seat. Or with your head in your hands, bemoaning the fates of your team, and why the Puck Gods hate us so much. Times when you just can't see how that ref could make that call, ( and why the hell is the guy way out there making it?), times when the unexpected happens. Times when the game has all of that and more.
That was tonight's five star match up. This one had it all. Both these teams can play a defensive game, or a wide open one. Both are usually better than that in their own end, but give the offenses credit. Pressure creates diamonds, or blowouts. ( Like D.T said afterwards on TEAM, "this game could sell hockey anywhere". Damn straight! If you don't love the game after seeing this one, watch baseball...)
Tonight we got the diamond. Oh my, did we get a diamond. An A-B-C breakdown in honour of another "game of the year" candidate.
A - For the effort of tonight's game, the Sedin Twins and Burrows get an "A". People like to pick apart these guys like they are dissecting a republican debate on CNN, but there is no doubt that they are superstars, and that Alex Burrows is the right linemate. There was a few times tonight where they had the Wings ( I know!) chasing in their own end. Daniel Sedin had 2 goals and a game high 8 shots, while Henrik Sedin had 2 assists, and only one shot, that happened to force a huge save early in the game. They were strong on pucks all night, splendid on the cycle. Henrik won 11 of 20 face offs, including the important last one in regulation with the goalie pulled.
B - Is for Burrows, Alex Burrows in fact. While his contributions on the scoresheet were up and down ( a -1, 3 shots on and 4 misses, 2 hits, and a team high 3 takeaways ), his 19:07 was all in. Burrows played with his trademark hustle tonight, and did anyone really think that he was not going to go to "The Move" on that shootout attempt? Like he said when asked if the goalies know about it, "when I do it right, it does not matter". The guy is Money. Clutch. The fake break of the stick on the knee was a nice touch too.
C - Stands for coach, and a players' one at that. Everyone that has been at NM for a while knows that I like AV a lot, and do you think his players do not love him? After David Booth misses a breakaway late, AV taps him on the shoulder for the shootout, first man up in his first game in his hometown. Or, how about still throwing out Cody Hodgson's line, even though they were getting outscored, and occasionally outplayed, by the Helm, Abdelkader, and Miller line. Hodgson got a goal that went off a skate, but if it does not, then Booth is slamming home an empty netter. It was one of about a half dozen jaw dropping passes the kid made by being creative and playing comfortably. Tell Tony G to stick it with his whining about Cody and AV ( OMG, he only had 12:02 TOI tonight!)
D - Stand for Darren Helm, a Wing worthy of praise. His line was strong all night, and while the other lines had their moments, without the third line for Mike Babcock, the Wings lose their streak long before a shootout. Helm had a goal on a Bieksa turnover at the line, even if he had to get a bit of the Puck God luck on it ( the puck flipped up just as he shot it. I have no doubt Lui gets a real shot there, he was in good position, but the knucklepuck fooled him ), 2 assists, was a +2 and won 6 of 13 faceoffs. Wing of the Game, with a hat tip to Abdelkader.
E - Ebbs and flows, this game had a lot. A first period where the Canucks were clearly dominant, had a 17-5 edge in shots while having a 3-1 disadvantage on the penalty calls, only to be down 1-0. To a second where the Wings had their game going the other way, outshooting the visitors 15-8 while having to kill a few themselves, yet giving up a 4 on 4 goal to Daniel Sedin to leave it tied after two. Or being down a goal, early in the third, getting one back on a bounce, only to be beaten on another ( I get that there would be no call there, and not complaining, but Abdelkader got the go ahead goal on a puck laying there because he had his knee in Lui's chest. That makes it tough to get those "freakishly long legs" across to get that puck ) greasy one. Add to that a perfectly played last chance after the goalie was pulled to tie it, an O/T with some spectacular saves both ways, and a shootout that had Luongo outplay one of the top goalies in that category, and its safe to call this one a "barnburner".
F - Faceoffs. The Canucks won this stat ( 10-8 after one, 24-19 after two, and 36-31 at the end ), but in the third, the Wings won the faceoffs in the offensive end 6-1. That puts the defense on their heels.
G - Goals. I am picking this one as the visual, because of two things. Notice a subtle play by Ryan Kesler to regain possession behind the net, and then the pass through traffic from Henrik from behind the net to his bro' up top. We often take the brilliant passes from him for granted, because they happen all the time. Best passer in the NHL?
H - We all know that the "Hit" stat in the NHL can be a little suspect, with rink biases and all, but I think the Wings are full credit for their 25-11 lead in this one. They went from an 8-4 edge after one to getting "medieval on the Canucks asses..." to making it 18-7. The biggest hit of the night was Kronwall, of course. He seems to have that, "fake like I am backing up until you look for the pass" thing down. Like Cheech pointed out, its always on the edge. Did his feet leave the ice? Did he go for the head? I did not get a good look at it, but Booth popped right back up, and the Canucks did not seem that upset, so I am not either. Besides, Cheech is sometimes accused of a "Canuck bias".
I - Injuries. They are part of the game. Shame on you, any Wings fans and media that talked about this game needing a "asterisk" because Pavel Datsyuk is out. Also, icetime. CoHo had 12:02, and Kes' had over 23, and the Twins over 20, as the team tried to come back. Expect to see the 3rd line in New Jersey a little more tomorrow?
J - Here's a treat for you hipster kids ( though the members of the band are close to my age!), a video ( featuring skateboards and BMX bikes that you all ride ) from Dinosaur Jr called "Over it" ( because the Wings are as old as dinosaurs, and they still haven't figured out that they are "over it" on their streak. ) I love the drummer in this one too.
K - Ryan Kesler did not have his usual dominant at home game that usually happens when the Livonia native plays at the Joe. But, he was a +1, had 3 shots, was a beast in front of the net ( OK, he planted Kronwall on top of Howard and took his team off a power play, but that was just a plot to get the Twins more space on the 4 on 4!) had a hit and a takeaway, and was the man on faceoffs tonight, with a 12 out of 17 and a 70% by far the best man on the draw for wither team tonight.
L - Roberto Luongo. Did I hear a smattering of "LUUUUUUs" at the Joe from the Canuck fans that made the trek down to Detroit? Look, he wants that first one back, as it was on edge, and the knucklepuck fooled him. The Quincey goal was far harder, but again, the same thing but much harder. An on edge puck is just impossible for a goalie to read, because its going anywhere. ( ask Corey Crawford in the playoffs last year!) But he also held his team in with some dynamite saves when they were down a goal, keeping it close. Plus, he did the below in the shootout. Is it just me, or is he much better at not reacting and just giving them less? Another solid game for the Canuck #1.
M - Maxim Lapierre and Manny Malhotra. Hell, maybe we should change it to Dale Meise ( Mice not Meese ) and call them the Triple M line. From beating out an icing and creating another 30 seconds or more of pressure where they were buzzing, to being out there on defensive zone faceoffs, not winning that draw, and still getting the puck out with superlative board battles, the fourth line is getting better every game. They comblined for 4 shots, and the fact that Lappy only got credit for a hit ( and Weise none ), even though I saw them throwing the body, tells you all you need to know about hos hits are tallied on the road as opposed to at home. It all evens out though right?
N - Nyah nyah, ne - nyah nyah...your streak is over! ( just kidding. I know its more fun to say that teams should hate each other, but , I still like the Wings, even though you guys get away with more than any team in the league. The reffing was not top notch both ways, but like AV referred to in the presser the "legal interference" the Wings do is what "makes it tough". You have to fight through that shit, and the Canucks did. They earned the streak breaking win.
O - Offense. Its what the Sedins do. They were OK in their own end tonight, but did I mention that Daniel Sedin had 8 shots tonight?
P - Penalties. We had a debate on the threads a bit earlier about the benefits of the two referee system. Two of the more debated penalties tonight ( Lapierre's on what looked like a clean hit, and one on Abdelkader right after that the down low had no problem with ) were called by the guy at centre ice. I am not saying...just sayin'.
Q - Kyle Quincey filled up the scoresheet tonight. His first game as a Wing was good ( the goal) and bad ( looked to be running around, especially in the first ), but overall he was good. A goal, a +1, 4 shots, 2 blocks, 2 minors ( the bad) and 3 hits. Mike Babcock liked his game in the post game. I thought I am OK with them having him, because I remember that he turns over the puck a lot, at leas he did in Denver. Damned Wings system will probably stop that anyhow!
R - Aaron Rome. Dude, you should fluff Tanev's pillow on the flight to Newark, and make sure he is happy. He is making you a better defenseman, even though you might have done better on two goals against ( and still came out an even? WTF? ). 2 shots and 3 blocks, as well as a hit. But he had his moments of WTF tonight.
S - Sami Salo. He had a way better game than the last one versus the Preds. His partner too, as Alex Edler was pretty calm with the puck under pressure. How'd they do? Edler had an assist on the first Daniel goal, was a +2, 4 shots and a block and a hit. The Finnish MacInnis was also a +2, 3 shots and 2 misses. He was on the right side more often than not. Not like Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis. They settled down later, but were not at their shutdown best, with both a -2 tonight. They had their ups and downs, but its a team game, and the others picked them up tonight.
T - I could say team, but T is for Christopher Tanev. 4 blocks, a hit, and a giveaway is all the stats guys saw in his little over 15 minutes. But man, is this guy cool. There was more than once tonight where he was under intense pressure. In addition to making Romer better, he just keeps making the right play. The fact that this kid was a Tier Two junior less than two years ago is amazing.
U - Mason Raymond is underrated for what he does. Everyone gets all over him, but the guy was definitely not the problem tonight. He has 2 of his 3 shots hit the net, and only had a hit on the stat sheet in his 18:28 TOI. But he was flying, he made plays on the puck in all ends of the ice, and together with Jannik Hansen and Manny Malhotra ( 2:49 for Beaker, 2:46 for Mase, and 2:37 for Money ), was a force on a penalty kill that went 5 for 5, and now has killed 20 straight against the Wings. Add to that guys like Higgins and the Terror Twins ( Burr and Kes ), and the penalty kill is going to look as impressive as it did tonight. Lui had to make some saves. He did not have to make that many on the penalty kill.
V - Value. The trade deadline deals proposed are all over the place until Monday. You and I both know that we don't need to make a deal for a Carter guy. Yes, they could use a depth guy, and maybe Mason Raymond goes, or they just add a guy for a pick. But, unless they are valuable, don't expect GMMG to make the huge deal. Our team is not desperate like the Kings. They just reunited two of the biggest party animals in the NHL in a city like L.A, because they can't score. It may work, or it may explode spectacularly. But that is a team with problems. Not like the one we cheer for in Vancouver.
W - The Wings and the Canucks in the Western Conference Final would be as good as a Stanley Cup Final. Can you imagine seven games of this!? Yes please.
X - X stands for"X-traterrestrial" according to this. And there is proof!
Y - I am guessing Jimmy Howard does Yoga with the way he was stretching tonight. The Canucks were the better team for longer periods, according to Mike Babcock, and they did outshoot the other guys 43-36. Jimmy kept his team in this one as much as Roberto Luongo did. A featured game, between two featured goalies, and one that was probably on in rooms around the NHL, and its the Vancouver team that breaks the streak. Yeah, we are happy tonight. I am not sure what is in the tank for a game against the Devils tomorrow. In Cory Schneider we trust, I guess. Look for a strong defensive game and a goalie standing on his head if they have a chance to win after expending so much energy tonight.
Z - ZZ Top. Two things. Only at whatever awards show this was do you see ZZ Top and Carmen Electra mentioned in the same breath, and I hope our playoff beards are all that long in June.