GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 28: Zack Kassian #9 of the Vancouver Canucks shoots the puck on goaltender Mike Smith #41 of the Phoenix Coyotes during the second period of the NHL game at Jobing.com Arena on February 28, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Its funny against the Coyotes. If you score on them first, they can play a somewhat entertaining brand of hockey, because they have to open up. Give them credit though, they still played a good defensive game even with needing a goal.
As usual, this was another quasi home game in the desert. Another game where the whiff of "game management" that drives Tony Gallagher nuts will perhaps be described in at least one post game story. Another game that went to the shootout, and the second straight where extra time and the numbers finally caught up to the Canucks. They are now 26-0-2 now when leading after two this season.
Forget Tony and his Tinfoil Hat Club. Yes, we know they are owned by the league TG. Sure, there was a call or two to bitch about. Its not like that is a new thing. Perhaps referees just have a tough time, like any would, catching every little thing in the fastest continual sport on the planet. For what it is worth, he sounds more rational lately on the pre games. Though, listening to the post game, I had to check the score again, as they seem to think the Twins are horrible again, and Mason Raymond is the worst player ever to wear Blue and Green. ( He did fall down a lot today. #RaymondDown !), rather than a game that they should have won but for a mistake. Its a game of mistakes, both forcing them and making them.
Hyperbole. Its what we do.
Truth is, this was a fairly entertaining game, and one where, try as he did to give it away with a couple puck handling gaffes, as Cory Schneider tried to match Mike Smith's skills with the puck, it was his one mistake that cost him a shutout.
Still, coming home with 8 out of 12 points, on a road trip that started in Western Canada, they traversed across all three time zones, included a trade deadline, a streak wrecking in Detroit, a defensive matching of the Devils, and a couple hard fought games against improving Pacific division teams is pretty good. I am OK with a 3-1-2 record under those conditions.
Consider that this is now, when you include the last home game, 7 in 10 nights, going back to the Leaf thrashing last Saturday night. Add that to it, and the Canucks are 4-1-2 with that home ice send off, and now have seven at home, versus the Burgeoning Blues on Thurs. , and including Cody's New Team on HNIC, The Dogs and Stars for some payback. All interesting matchups, especially a battle for first to kick it off. But it also includes the Jets, Habs, and Blue Jackets over the next three weeks as well. I'm pretty happy with all that. This is not the NBA and a shortened season Gary. Don't kill them all with the schedule. Its not like they are the Sharks going 2-6-1 on a 9 gamer and falling like a stone in their division right?
No, this is not a "thing" to worry about. Dallas made a nice play in O/T the other night, the Canucks owned the extra five minutes in this one, and only an ageless Wizard and the other teams' Dane deking Scneider out of his jock on the ridiculous skills competition prevented the visitors from coming home with one more point. I get that one might be thought too positive. But when you look at how they continue to play, I am willing to give them the Blues game at least before railing and raging against the wind. Thats Sean's job! ( Bazinga ) Now if the bastards lose that one...
- Two things AV said in his post game. His mom emailed him and said "8 points out of 12 aint bad" ( I agree with Mama Vigneault ) on a six game trip, and that, for being the last period on a six gamer, he was really happy with the play in the third and O/T. I have to concur there too. Apart from Cory's shitty rebound that gave up the tying goal, that is apt. He sounded pretty happy, and dropped a few other nuggets. He was happy with how Zack Kassian played when being asked, but acknowledged how the Coyotes dominated for about 14 minutes in the second. Its for that reason I am going to blame our superstar in waiting 1B goaltender too too much.
- AV also admitted that he was the one that screwed up, but that it was "caught" in time in regards to the pregame line up snafu. It would have cost him Christopher Tanev for the night, and he played pretty solid as usual. Its good to see the coach be accountable for his screw up as well. He went out of his way to acknowledge how a fourth line shift with about six minutes left in that got some chances and turned the momentum.
- Consider that, after they did, the Canucks had the next 6 shots to make the second period total appear better than it did in the first three quarters of that "worst period of the season, the Canucks suck at second periods" ( oops, hyperbole, I just turned Jeff and Blake off. Something about the power play being horrible...) run of play on their final road game, in the period that they have struggled in at times. Thats pretty good when you think about it. How many inveterate hockey watchers ( and bettors for that matter) look a the schedule and pick accordingly? I was impressed how they turned the game around. Its a shame one got in. Shit happens. They also did this against the hottest team in the NHL at the moment. At home. Coming in at 10-0-1.
- Yeah, yeah , yeah, quick pumping their tires, a loss is a loss, they went only 1 for 3 on the power plays they were given, and should have scored on the other ones damn it. Bunch of damn overrated chokers. In first still by smoke and mirrors. Imagine if they sucked at shootouts! Oh wait, they are only about .500 there!
- Damn, this hyperboolie, I better get it checked...what about the new guys? Well, the Kassassian Zack Kassian did not seem intidimated at all. In fact, if I was prone to be on the positive side of the trade discussions that enveloped Canuck Nation in the past 24 hours, I would smile knowingly and say STFU. Until that penalty at least. I thought Handzul suckered the kid there with the ol' chicken wing, but whatever. They killed that off for him. He was part of the turning of this game around with that chance that he was set up on the rush off a change, when he found himself out with Henrik Sedin. He'll cash those better once he gets acclimated, I would surmise. Because he showed a very good set of hands on numerous occasions, a definite skill for thinking the game that, while it may not rival Cody's, was something he was only marginally lauded for. Even his turnover in his own end was a play where they recovered, and the receiver of the pass could hold some blame. He was part of the swing of momentum when he moved up with Raymond and Ryan Kesler, and he looks to have some pretty prodigious skills to go with that size. His captain said he reminded him of playing with Todd Bertuzzi ( did he read that the kid's hero growing up was Big Bert?), and you can see shades of that in the strength on the puck down low. He had that 1 chance, and 5 hits in his 12:27, the same TOI as David Booth, basically. Grizz' did have 3 shots and 4 hits in his time. I think we can all agree that is a good thing. Size. I also think that we should not read too much into the line combos for the next bit. AV has a couple new pieces, and needs to check them out in different places. I imagine he liked what he saw. The kid was up first in the traditional "who plays with the Twins after a successful PK" shift. He sounded awed by that in a post game interview that gave the impression of another polite young man, like Cody. A 6-5, fire breathing behemoth of a Cody...
- The same should apply to the line combos on the third line, and the fourth ( where Booth ended up as Kes got to play with the new guy ). Even with that in mind, I liked what I saw overall from the Jannik Hansen, Chris Higgins ( Beaker and the Professor, just like Muppet Laboratories ) and Samuel Pahlsson. Here is Sammy's night. 3 shots ( and some decent work in the offensive zone overall) 2 hits, 1 takeaway, and a 4 for 8 night on draws, in 11:42 TOI. He did not supplant the Terror Twins from their perch as the second pairing up on the still excellent PK ( 4 for 4 ), but 1:58 of his tome on ice was with a man down. he seemed to be in the right place, and knows when to take the hit, or make it without getting out of position no matter what happens. Flashes, and I am supposing a helluva lot of course, but I liked what I saw from him. Once he gets used to the team, and AV gets used to him, I can see Daniel Sedin's best Swedish buddy being more or less what he is reputed to be. Thats a good thing.
- The Canucks usually dominant faceoff guys got shredded tonight. Perhaps that is where vestiges of being tired filter through, but a 37 to 27 total is something we don't see around here that much. Manny Malhotra was 6 for 8 however, to go with the above mentioned 50% for Pahlsson. It was hte other side guys that got whacked. Maxim Lapierre won 1 of 6. Ryan Kesler was only 8 of 21, and Henrik only won 6 of 18 draws, mainly with those two being bettered by the Dog's own new guy Antoine Vernette going 11/17 to better Handzal's 10/16. Vernette may have been the best Coyote tonight, with many of his team high 5 shots forcing Cory Schnedier to make some of his best saves. Oh yes, the Kassassian was not intitimated in his limited action as a faceoff taker, going 2 of 3, and even being trusted with an offensive faceoff while out on a 4 on 4.
- "Paying the price" is what they always call the art of blocking shots, and the Canucks were the slightly better there, stopping 12 shots from getting to the net to 11 for the home team. Dan Hamhuis blocked a game high 5 shots. The defense blocked 9 alone ( Bieksa -2, Tanev - 2 ). That coupled with good sticks to deflect shots out, and what i thought was a complete team effort on making sure that, in a majority of the times the Desert Dogs had pressure and chances, it was more a case of the goalie having to stop the first one. The play went the other way for both teams off that kind of play. Yet, for a "defensive struggle" that a person might think when considering who is playing and the score, there were 10 shots missed by the Canucks ( Kesler - 4, Bieksa - 2, and Edler - 2, though he overcompensated for that by having 6 hit the net, in addition to his seeing eye, double bank call shot that gave the Canucks the only goal it looked like they were going to need. ) 40-35 for shots for the Nucks, including a 5-0 o/t. A total of 61 directed to 55. Contrast that to the 15-13 trapfest the Rags and Devils put on yesterday. One might call the Coyotes a trap team, and the Canucks can play defense when they need to just fine as well. But its apparent that a team on a roll like the Coyotes is not "just a trap team". They play a disciplined game for sure. But they can play a more open game as well, and are underrated both for depth, and scoring ( Radim Vrbata has 30 goals, and Ray Whitney is so underrated. The guy has 18 goals and 57 points, and has 3 goals and 2 assists in his last 4 ). Just another tough out in the Western Conference.
- One thing that someone, and I am putting my money on AV and Bones, is going to do in a seven game series is make Mike Smith cost his team a goal. yes, that pass at the end of a PK chance to Handzul coming out of the box was wonderful, and you can say he is one of the more skilled goalies with the puck, in addition to shooting a mean stick in pool. But he cannot keep firing up the middle for the pass every time, no matter how skilled. Teams will adapt ( he does it on changes a lot, and someone is going to fake him out going to the bench and fire it right back at the net. He was the better of the
skills competition, after practice, tiddlywinks, pistols at dawn, coin toss, shootout, mainly because that is the slowest damn spinarama shootout move I have ever seen from Mason Raymond, or anyone for that matter. Perhaps it is time to move Burrows up a spot. Fuck it, there is only 20 more games of that contrived ending for games anyhow. Mike Smith and Cory Schneider both had save % of over .970 at the end of this one ( a .975 for the home goalie to a .971 for Schneids ). . Thats pretty good. But just because the other guy does it GinjaNinja, does not mean you have to too.
I think we can be happy with what we saw from the new guys, happy with the results lately, and know that there will be improvements expected and delivered now that they have three weeks to practice and play their next seven games. The grind still exists. It just does not feel like a meatgrinder, like the last 10 days must have.