I'll be honest. The LA Kings played a good game. Not a great one, but a pretty good one. They did have a fantastic second period, and played their system well. They also got a few bounces to get the win. But after watching this game, I am hopeful the Canucks have much more to give. Some of the setbacks they did to themselves were self inflicted. That is not to say the Kings don't deserve to have a 1-0 lead in the series after this one. Just that they had a little help.
Anyone that watched this game, and was not a biased to one team or the other, would have thought the national broadcaster absolutely hates the home team for some reason. It was brutal. I only lasted one period before syncing up with Shorty on TEAM ( he also told it like it was, but without the bullshit ), and I fully encourage everyone else to do the same for however many games that remain. From the first goal for the Canucks, where Craig Simpson accused Ryan Kesler of embellishment (on the play, he stepped around the pad of Quick from behind the net, the goalie put his arm out and he went through it. Thats it ), to a scrum where Richards reached in and , quite hard, speared Roberto Luongo in the upper chest and neck. Mr Simpson called that a dive for a call. Even after the replay clearly showed that was unfair. The obstinate SOB was just getting started, if my Twitter timeline was any indication. ( Seriously folks. Just freeze the PVR at the first puck drop, start it again when Shorty calls the play, and you are golden. Its more enjoyable too! )
Look, I get that everyone is entitled to their opinions, and that haters are gonna hate. It was quite jarring to see the intensity of that bias, and that it was not just Craig, a good Alberta boy, but about all of them, all night.
Get used to it. Narratives are a funny thing. And when the guys that write that narrative do it from an ivory tower 3500 miles from where we live out here, well, lets just say it was surprising how much the CBC was "all in" on forcing us to #EmbraceTheHate so early. Here we thought they would give the Canucks some love this year!
Not if tonight is any indication. Maybe they were just putting us uppity, arrogant Vancouverites in our "place".
- Of course I am disappointed in the result. I imagine the players are too. But its important for everyone to remember that its four wins that are needed. The Kings got the first one by playing their defensive system, jumping on some mistakes, and getting 19 total minutes of power play time for a couple goals. But take heart Canuck fans. Your goaltender Roberto Luongo was very good, for instance. There was little he could do on two of those goals, and sometimes you have to doff the cap to the skill of the other player on the Richards tally. He knew the goalie was well aware of Carter open on the side, and he found a hole with a quick shot. But he also faced 39 shots and made many outstanding saves. He did not get a lot of help in his own end.
- Brutal reffing tonight. Just out and out brutal. Not all of the calls, of course, but a bunch of them. Everyone's favorite Irish hockey cop "O'Rourke was the main culprit tonight. The guy that made many questionable calls in the games that he has worked in the past featuring Vancouver was at it again. If you are going to call a game tight, than call it tight both ways. I have no problem with that. But he was not. He was exercising two standards tonight, and it was maddening. The "unsportsmanlike" call on Ryan Kesler was just wrong, considering that Roberto Luongo had just been speared with no call. And no, I don't want to hear a comparison to the one on the Kings player in the regular season, where he almost buried Lui in snow, and was very obvious about it. Kesler stopped way in time, and there was not even much snow! The two delay of game calls are automatics, but only came about because of the pressures of killing a call that should have not been made. After costing a goal, and after 3 straight calls, the one on Salo was perhaps a call that could have been let go. But OK. The one on Zack Kassian was just out and out ineptitude. Even after the even up call, the one on Maxim Lapierre was also light. Both are hits that were let go all night. ( Hell, all season. After watching the NHL the last two months, and remembering the playoffs last year, did anyone expect 13 power plays tonight?) The one on Bitz? That one was totally deserved. Clifford looked for the puck longer than I would for Waldo, and should have known to keep his head up, but that is totally on the Vancouver player. Bitz will probably miss a game or two.
- Don't get me wrong. I don't want to make the above paragraph all about the "refs are against us" ( though I am starting to wonder about O'Rourke! ). But it was just how wrong things were all night. From a spear to Luongo that has to be called, to late in an attempt to tie it up when a hand pass was wrongly called ( Hank got it with his stick ), it was a night where they just did not do their jobs well. Its a shame, when all the teams ramp up their game, that the officiating cannot follow suit. Tonight there were 13 total power plays ( Canucks 0 for 5, though one of those was on an overlap and was only around 30 seconds ) in this game, 14 in the Preds / Wings game, and in the one that was supposed to have the "bloodbath", only 4. I watched most of those other games. The best one was the Pens and Flyers. Yes, we fans are fickle. We want you to call things. But we want you to get it right. Tonight, the Kings got a huge assist from the striped shirts, both in results and establishing momentum. But mainly from taking away from a big advantage for the Canucks. They roll four lines. You could see in the third that they were having a more effective game that way. But the damage was done.
- I have to give it up for the Kings on the winning goal. Alexander Edler was just trying to clear a puck, and Richards got himself a turnover by getting in the way smartly. But the skilled play was how Jeff Carter used his skate to pass the puck to Dustin Penner. It fooled everyone, and there is just no way Luongo could have done anything on that goal. Richards got a goal and 2 assists, but I would not call him a "star" of the game. He was opportunistic. Plus, come on refs, two assists on an empty netter at the end, on a puck Burrows overskated? Yeah, Richards and Carter did a lot there! Maybe the refs play the playoff pools as well, and O'Rourke loaded up on Kings?
- It has to be said. The guy plays dirty. In addition to the spear on Luongo that was just ignored, he slewfooted Burrows in the final minute. He jumped into hits all night. I know this is how he got this "rep" as a "good Canadian kid", but thats bullshit. I would like him on my team, and he plays hard, but if there is one player in the NHL that gets way more hype than his game warrants, its this guy. I have mentioned his "skill" a couple times, and he has that, but so does most every NHLer, just to get there. You have to remember, he had the advantage of playing in Philly for years, where they are every bit as nuts as Canadians about this sport. That "skill" was pumped up to higher than it deserved levels, but you can bet that the hype on him will be amped up after those folks back East look at the scoresheet when they wake up in the a:m. They will have him and his buddy Jeff on a huge pedestal for Game 2, and whatever happens beyond. Even with the sound off on CBC, you could see the tale they were spinning. He is a solid player. He does some good things. He helped his team win tonight. But someone will have to convince me how its "dirty" when a player like Kesler or Burrows does the same things he does, to "go all out to win", but this guy is a darling and they are villains. I guess I should have expected it. #EmbraceTheHate and all that!
- To hell with it. How'd the players do? Well, I am sure that DanTheStatsMan1, and the usual suspects will have all your chancey data and such. All the fancy schmancy numbers of this opening disappointment. I just give my impressions...For me, it was a much closer game 5 on 5. I believe I read Mr Drance say the chances were only 17-13 for the Kings after two. That is after being on back to back 5 on 3's that only netted a goal, and a major that only netted one more. The penalty killers were wonderful. It probably killed their energy to have to exert so much in the first two periods, but every one of the regulars did a great job. The Richards goal was a skillful play, but Willie Mitchell's was a bounce ( deflected by Pahlsson's stick, much like Edler's goal at the end of the 2nd was the same type of thing off of Brown. ), and it has to be said that the Pkers deserved better.
- The power play, however, is clownshoes. Only the last one looked really dangerous, and that was when Quick earned his pay. He made several great saves then. Give the Kings credit , they did their jobs on the power play to make it look lousy. But some of that was self inflicted too. The visitors blocked 19 shots to 18 for the home team.
- Two players I want to single out. The first is Jannik Hansen. He was all in tonight. Its a shame he got a -1 on the night ( on the Penner goal ), and his 3 missed shots don't even include the post he hit ( but perhaps is the only downer of his night from a performance standpoint ). He was the leader on both teams with 4 takeaways. He was a beast on the PK ( 4:23 of his 16:04 was on the PK ), and deserved a goal for his hard work. He was the best guy on his line by far. The other is Ryan Kesler. He will get some stick from the narrative drivers, but that penalty was a tough one. He finished with a 15 of 27 night on draws, and had 2 assists. He was a +1. His 23:08 TOI lead his forward cohorts. His 1 of 2 shots on net was surprising, but his 3 hits were not. He was involved all night.
- Another player with a "night" was Alexander Edler. It was up and down though. I guess a case could be made for it being his fault on the game winner, but thats a tough one for me to lay on him. He went back hard on Carter, and was beaten by a slick play there. I know that they gave him a "giveaway" on that play ( tough one, just trying to chip a roller out ) for one of his team high 3 giveaways ( and thats bad ), but he also led his team with 4 blocks. He had 2 hits, and was jumping up smartly most of the game. The pass at the end was just not getting there.
So, there you go. I hope talking about the reffing does not sound too much like "typical Canuck fan whining." But on a night when there was over half the game time spent on the power play by one team or another, and more than a couple dicey calls, its hard not to mention them. I stand by my summation on Richards though. I know Kings fans will be elated, and say this is exactly the reason they signed him. Perhaps to a point. You'll excuse me if I am not in such a giving mood for a guy that plays the game dirty. I guess if the refs are not going to call it, its not dirty right!? He does straddle the line well. It was neat for his fans when he kicked the feet out from a guy when the puck was not there, but that will just be called "playing hard". I get it. Playoffs and all. But when the narrative is set up to laud a guy as some hero when he really was more "opportunistic", while the same "narrative" builders will vilify the hell out of the same type of player on my team ( Kesler, or even Lapierre, who had 6 hits and worked as hard as ever ), while spending my tax dollars as their wage...well...excuse the grumpiness!
Expect a more resolute effort in Game 2.