John Shorthouse and Cheech mentioned during the broadcast of this tedious hockey game that the in flight movie for the team was Slapshot, and that there were some on the Canucks that had never seen it.
I am sure there are more than a few that will remember the above clip as a reminder of Dan O'Halloran's work, and hope that they see little of him in the playoffs.
Me? I am really trying, but here are three things I know were true, and all had an effect on the game. Alex Burrows got a reputation call for doing nothing on the play that led to the only real goal in the game. ( The man that covers the Wild said that Daniel Sedin tried to spear Heatley in the throat there ... his words! ). Ryan Kesler deserved a penalty for his low bridge hit on Clutterbuck, but it was no where near as bad as the same man tried to say it was, and after I Tweeted that the contact was legal on the replay ( though I totally agree with the call, they don't get to replay it back and forth on the PVR on the ice ), I had to deal with all sorts of Wild fans coming out of the woodwork to tell me how I was a rioter and a Bertuzzi apologist that should just STFU and be wrong. Oh well.
That was all OK. I'm a big boy. I was troubled right after the penalty was killed that Kesler did get speared in the throat by Powe ( an errant stick, and he was looking for the puck, but thats no real excuse ), and there was no call. Thats kind of dangerous.
However, it was the not even a very good dive that O'Halloran called goaltender interference on Jannik Hansen that was the real headshaker. That one was PVRed back and forth, and I still can't decide whether it was a light touch from Gilbert's stick or Hansen's that caused Harding to go into convulsions in the crease. It certainly was not a penalty, and it took two minutes that the Canucks may have made better use of on offense late.
As you may have guessed, when the three calls mentioned above get so much attention, it was not that exciting of a hockey game.
Thats it for the reporting on the refs though. I hesitated to do it at all, but there were just so many plays that affected the game tonight. For all of that though, the Canucks got beaten by an inspired team playing their system. Its called the trap folks. I am sorry for using the term, but that is what that team does. They added some clutch and grab to their UberTrapping, and a dash of dominating the face off circle ( although the Canucks came back a bit, it was 14 to 5 after one, before ending up 34-26. ), but give them credit, they played the system that gives a team without any real stars in the line up ( OK, Heatley, and maybe Setoguchi, but Clutterbuck? Naaaahhhh) a chance to win. They played it very well, and they played hard. I am not happy with a loss, but I am not all bent out of shape by this one. Also, THAT is how you play the trap. One guy in, second along the boards to read the play, and back out immediately if the other team has the puck.
They did it well. They dumped the puck a lot, and had a bunch of icing calls in the third period. Thats also part of it. Know that I am not blaming the trap as a reason the Canucks lost. I am merely pointing out how it can stifle a good team. It gets beaten with speed and will through the neutral zone, and beating your guys one on one all over the ice. Kudos to the Wild for working hard and denying the space, but except for turnovers where they turned it around, did you see any open play from them? The Canucks did not show enough of speed or will through the clogged up middle to get a goal or two that would have opened this game up. I know the Canucks certainly tried to counter attack the few times the Wild turned it over while on a rare foray up the ice. They had some good chances from it. But its hard to trade chances when only one team really wants to come forward, except when they cause a tunover.
- The Wild did it without blocking a ton of shots like the Blue Jackets did in the previous game. They only totaled 14 shots. Where their trap system works really well is in their own end, when it is more of just playing sound defensive hockey. They had, in the parlance of hockey "good sticks" tonight that disrupted plays and passes all over the ice.
- Harding was the other reason. His glove was very good tonight. he had a couple where he was lucky that it hit him, when he had no idea, but thats what happens sometimes. Cory Schneider was not a bad goalie tonight either. He did not get "beaten by a better goalie" tonight, as the only goal came on a nice extra pass from Brodziak, and a high shot to the corner from Christienson. In a game where the shots were 34-33 for the Canucks, its debateable who had the better shot selection. The Canucks may have had more sustained pressure and more chances for a goal as a result, but Schneider had to be very strong on more than a couple great chances. The other team just got one by him on a power play. The Wild also benefited from having three power plays to buttress their shot totals ( though the last one, I think, was held with only 1 shot off of Schneids' head )
- To me, thats what is so aggravating about a game like this. The Canuck power play looked way more dangerous on its only chance, with 4 clear chances to score. Tip plays, screened shots, etc. Harding was on his game, and kudos for that. But in a game where the Wild deserved far more calls against than the ones they were lucky to get for, and have a dive help at the end as well, well, lets say that its frustrating for the Canucks to get the power play going. Perhaps this game showed that maybe Burrows and Kesler do have a "reputation" with a couple refs. There were certainly enough chances for them to draw a call than get one called against. I was OK with the Kesler call, even though the replay showed the contact looked like he will avoid more than a cursory look from Mr Shanabanner. I was less OK with the top PP in the NHL only getting one power play in a game that looked like it was being played in the Federal League at times.
- So, who had a good game for the visitors? Well, Daniel Sedin had 5 shots ( missed 3 ), and his brother went 10 for 17 on draws, best on his team. They certainly looked dangerous at times, though there were a couple plays where just not being strong enough on the puck caused turnovers. They were certainly not that bad in their own end overall, though I'll wait for the mathoholics to tell me the final Corsi events and whatnot. The Sedins were more positive than negative I imagine when all is said and done, but just could not make those little plays click at the end.
- Jannik Hansen gets a pass from me for doing his job and battling in front of the net, and getting penalized for it. he was the best player on his line, though Manny Malhotra had his moments. He looks like he will need another game or so to get back in his groove. He ended up 50% on 6 draws tonight, and had 3 shots in only 11:16 TOI ( and 2:53 of that was on the PK!) The Honey Badger tried to play like he just did not give a shit, but was only on the stat sheet with 2 hits. He was noticable, especially on the penalty kill.
- The AMEX line had a couple moments, and david Booth had a team high 3 hits, while Ryan Kesler had 4 shots to lead his line's production there ( Higgins had 2, Booth 1 ). perhaps, like most the lines tonight, they just did not battle hard enough to get through the traffic. The Wild had guys covering for each other below the goal line all night. Thats a place where our offensive players like to work, and they did a good job denying that, or pushing it up the boards where the fencing battles were. Like everyone in a loss, they were OK, but not great.
- The same could be said for the bottom six lines. Sure, the 3rd had some pressure here and there, and created a bit of pressure. The fourth line the same, though I would say that Zack Kassian is holding the puck too long. Perhaps that was because of the checking, but perhaps he needs to sit now and again too. Mind you, Dale Weise was not much better. Perhaps there are reasons for that. One's young, the other has limited talent. But Zack had 1 hit in 7:58, and Weezy had 2 missed shots in 8:09. For all the territorial advantage that line had tonight, they should have had a bit more production.
- The blue liners were OK, I guess. I liked that Kevin Bieksa was a sporting chap when he could have pounded Nick Johnson after jerseying him, and he did block 3 shots. But, while only credited with one giveaway, he was making a bad decision more than once that almost cost. Thank goodness Dan Hamhuis can read the bugger like no other on the team. Thats one of his biggest strengths, his smarts, and Hammer made more than one play to bail out his more swashbuckling partner. Hammer also blocked 3 shots while taking 4 of his own, and Alexander Edler deserved more in his team high 28:49 TOI. He had 3 shots ( 1 miss ), 2 blocks and a takeaway, and led the back end with 3:36 PK time. Aaron Rome could not block the pass that led to the only real goal ( the empty netter from your own end is skillful for getting it on net, I guess! ), and while he had the least time on the blue line ( 14:31, Tanev 14:44, and Gragnani 16:15 ), I think that was more a case of AV and Bones throwing the big guy ( Edler) out with all three here and there. The third pairing was the least powerful, and maybe they saw something they did not like with Gragnani on the right side instead of the usual left tonight that made them go away from him as Edler's partner, but thats what happens when you sit Sami Salo.
So, there you go. I could be more frustrated if you like, but honestly, I just do not care. They are going no where after the first week in April anyhow. The Wild won a game 2-0 on an ill deserved power play, an empty netter, and playing their trap better than the Canucks were at breaking it. I don't think they will take this one into Chicago against a team that most certainly does not trap, but as always with a trapping team, effort and speed in the neutral zone are the key. They were not able to do it tonight, but I expect we will see a far less frustrating effort on Wednesday, when both teams actually go forward. The Wild only did when they dumped a puck or had a turnover, and they got the win. That is detailed above. They played some Federal League rules that helped, but apart from noting that Dan O'Halloran may like pissing in the Canucks's corn flakes on occasion, that was not all that unusual in the second half of this NHL season, where its tough to get calls, if reports from all over the NHL are true.
I expect that the residual anger from this one will carry over. I may be shown to be off on this one, because you never know, but I will be shocked if they have any more conversation with officials in regards to the Kesler hit. He got a minor, and thats all that deserved. I don't like the optics of it either, but it will just be a little flavour to add to the stew that is the Hawks / Canucks, and I fully expect that game to be more exciting than this one was.