There will be many folks that will tell you the sky is falling after this one Canuck fans. The Sedins are slumping, the goaltenders are sieves, and they are only so high in the standings because they play in the weak Northwest.
Of course thats not true. They are obviously not playing their best right now, but this team is too good to slump much longer, one would hope. Perhaps there is something to the team that is most desperate having an edge. It certainly looked like the visitors were more enthused after the first period.
Stars fans might tell you that their team is the greatest since the invention of a round puck, but thats not true either. What is true is that they played their style at a higher level than the Canucks tonight. They may be chugging along at a good clip right now, but I still have my doubts. They were very opportunistic, but their goals tonight were far more often the result of the Canucks giving them the chances. They buried them. Good for them. But lets not make this "The Pacific division leaders versus the top team in the west", or "division leader versus division leader", like every damn pregame show made sure to mention.
With this win, the Stars are now 13 points behind the second place team in the West, and this is the first time in a while they have not been in first. The Canucks are slumping. But just as the worm turned in this delightful Mickey Mouse classic, so will it turn around for the Canucks.
Its tough for Canuck fans. We know how good this team should be, and have seen it be just that for a while now. When they are less than their best, and lose a game like tonight, the normal reaction for a good portion of this city, and its sports media, is to assign blame. In a loss, there is plenty to go around. I am certainly not going to try and convince you otherwise. But sometimes, puck luck just makes it a little tougher.
- Consider. Just 25 seconds in, Zack Kassian had a chance to make a huge first impression after getting bumped up to his new line. Fistric could plain not handle his size on a break, and he was awarded a penalty shot. But the young man looked like he thought about it too much, and took too many dekes that the goaltender was not biting on, and the puck rolled off his stick into the corner. The very next shift, Henrik Sedin made a smart play on a puck, poked it through the goaltender, only to have it go off the post. Ot could have very easily been 2-0 right away, but instead, the Stars dodged a bullet.
- For all that, it could have very easily been 3-0 after one period for the Stars too. How Jamie Benn did not score a couple times in that first period is beyond me. He was gifted a bunch of chances in front of the net, to go with a couple 2 on 1's. The Canuck defenders ( and whole team, for that matter ) have to realize that this late in the season, other teams have scouted how and when they pinch and activate the blueliners when they are in the offensive zone. It would come back to bite them big time later in the game.
First period numbers - The Canucks outshot their opponents 10-6, but the visitors probably had the best chances to score in the opening period. They were better in the circle, going 11 of 20 ( Manny Malhotra 3 of 3 ), while being outhit 15-11 ( though I doubt the count of the stats guy a bit. Burish was running around, but I did not see 4 hits for him! Maybe they were all behind the play. or late or something ) Those of you on the "Sedin line slumping" bandwagon will be happy ( or sad as the case may be!) to know that Alex Burrows had 4 shots, Henrik Sedin one, and they were probably the best Canuck line in the opening period, at least.
Personal Rant - Look NHL. I get that you want the teams with the crowds that barely outnumber the empty seats to do well. Really, I do. Hell, Canadian fans are paying millions so that team can play before all those empty seats in the revenue sharing plan. But when you just ignore stuff, its hard for long time hockey fans to not blow a gasket. Burrows was set up for a goal when Burish hooked his arm quite obviously. Looking right at that and not calling it is just wrong. There were several other infractions they got a free pass on, but I get you have "judgement" calls to make. But when it deprives one team of a fucking goal, and is right there in front of you, thats just unfair. Oh, and one more thing. Learn to count. There were at least three times throughout this game ( including killing a penalty late for crying out loud! ) where the Stars were allowed more than the required number of skaters on the ice. It has not changed in about a hundred goddamn years. There is no more fucking rover. Its not like the Canuck power play could put a puck in anyhow, but COME ON MAN!
- Stars fans, I like Steve Ott. I thought my team might trade for him at the deadline. But don't tell me how you can be proud of the shit that he pulls. He was excellent when he just played the game, and should have had a bunch of nice assists on all the setups his teammates missed tonight! I know its easy when your team gets little called on them to play like dicks, but there are two more games, and while they were able to get the points in both the last two, if the mouth, and other annoying bullshit that he and Burish pulled tonight is what is selling the game down in Big D' ( and when you feature Vern Fiddler as the player we see first when we go to your site, maybe it is. ) Honestly, I expect a very physical game the next time from the Canucks. They should certainly be angry. Your "hero" Mr Fiddler, just for the back story, is the kind of fine fellow that talked trash to a player after he, hopefully accidently, but who knows what is in his mind, after he cut a guys leg with his skate and put him out for the year. Think of that next time you giggle at your "mean Bieksa face" Youtube video and "caveman" retorts. Classy that. About as classy as running their mouths non stop all game ( probably all season ) and being 22nd in majors. People talk about the Canucks being "hated". At least they back it up.
- For all of that, the Stars were the better team in the second period. Their style is a trap, but with the second forechecker activated when he reads that the play will allow it. That puts more pressure on in the offensive end than the other teams that employ the trapping style, and I have to give it to them,when you couple that with a very disciplined approach in the defensive end, a willingness to block shots, and smart sticks in the passing lanes, it makes your team tough to play against.
- Perhaps Chris Higgins wants his spot back with his American compadres. He certainly was one of the best Canucks on the ice tonight. His goal to open the scoring was a fine example of his better qualities. He red the play, took advantage of Goligoski falling down, and picked the perfect spot ( over the pad, under the blocker ) to beat the goalie. It was a goal that should have opened the floodgates, but both the top lines just could not take that momentum and add to it. The fourth line tried, and Mason Raymond actually looked pretty good on that line. His one shot up to the second period was one indicator, and maybe its just me, but he seemed more engaged along the boards, and strong on the puck.
- This is not going to be a ref bitchfest, by the way, and the penalty that Burrows took late in the second he did deserve, but there is a reason why the fans were upset. He was grabbed by both defensemen when he went to go between them just seconds before. How it is OK for that, but not OK to let go a slash to the stick ( nice veteran move by Souray shaking the hand so everyone could see it, but the contact was glancing at best ) is what gets people talking about the reffing instead of the game. It turned out to be a big deal, as after Eriksson got to pile into the goalie on a down low chance ( at least Roberto Luongo sure thought so ) on the power play, he was in the right spot at the right time, as a Trevor Daley shot went off his toe and in.
- The killer goal was the one came for Mike Ribeiro with 23 seconds left. Where to start. The play along the boards was read poorly by Alex Edler, and he made an ill advised pinch. That would be further compounded by Samuel Pahlsson trying to prevent the puck getting off the boards for the two on one that he could see coming. Perhaps he should have backed off immediately. You will no doubt hear Patterson and Co try to blame him, and perhaps throw in a Cody reference to boot. That would be unfair. Sammy had to make a split second decision and he made the wrong one, as it turned out. But he would not have been put in that position if Edler had not jumped a play when there were more Stars along the boards than Canucks. Ribeiro made a smart shot, but he was also aided by Sami Salo being far too passive on the two on one. I get that there is a pretty good shooter over there Sami. But you backed right into your goalie almost, and gave a pretty good offensive player the entire middle of the ice. That goal was a killer.
2nd Period bonafides - The Canucks continued to be better on the draws ( 24 to 17 after two ), and had the shot edge ( 23-19), but were being outhit 27-21 by this point. Kevin Bieksa was a +1, with 3 shots, 1 block and 4 hits in almost 16 minutes after two, but would finish the night with only 1 more block while playing 24:16. Maybe the talking trash DID work! Mark Fistric, was more effective, with 1 shot, 4 blocks, and a team high 6 hits in only 12 minutes after two periods, and would add a shot and a hit in only a little over 16 minutes to finish this game. To say nothing of Stephane Robidas being a +4, with a goal and an assist, 6 blocks and 2 hits in over 24 minutes.
- The third period was where the Canucks flat out failed. They tried to respond with pressure to please the home fans, but just did not have it against a determined opponent. Jamie Benn finally got the goal he probably deserved when Ott made a nice pass as defenders executed the famed "Keystone Kops" defense, and then Edler got one he probably did not, when Fistric deflected a wrister from the blue line over his goalie's shoulder ( because he is short! 5'10", and when you go down on your knees, the top is open. A shame the Canucks did not take advantage of that earlier. ) Mike Ribeiro got another one on yet more defensive zone kerfuffles, and Robidas got the empty net, to put away a victory that they definitely deserved.
- There you go. It would be fun to give all the mistakes that led to all that, but in the end, while the Stars were the better team and won as a result tonight, but the Canucks are, I truly believe, the better team overall. The mistakes are all there to see in the highlights below. The better team is not playing their best right now is all. Slumps happen.
Final counts - The Canucks ended up overwhelming the Stars on faceoffs 39-23. They stayed at about the same gap on hits after the first, and it was only 32-25 for the Stars there. The Canucks had more shots ( 31-29), while probably having less scoring chances. But the big number is that the Canucks were 9-1 to the bad on giveaways. It was 4-1 after one, and it did not really cost them then. But it sure did at the end.
On to welcoming the Jets to Vancouver. I look forward to the stubblejumpers and their neat chants in the rink on Thursday. Perhaps that wil fire up the home team as much as it does when the Leafs and Habs show up. They need something like that!