A little on the nose? perhaps. I would posit that Three Dog Night is a Canadian band and probable Leaf fans that know how lonely One really is for hockey fans. How much hope and fan bravado comes from it will be another thing, until Sunday. Its one game. A big one. One in which we finally saw the Canucks playing their game instead of reacting to the Kings game. But they have to just put it in the past, repeat the game of periods two ( some luck helped ) and three ( lockdown for the most part ), and do it on home ice to even really get in the Kings heads. Make no mistake though, the Canucks were the better "team" tonight, no matter the shots ( 44-30 deficit ) on net.
It did not look that way after twenty minutes, but Cory Schneider built a Wall early. And kept adding bricks throughout a fantastic game for #35.
In honour of the win, and because I have been waiting for one to pull it out, here's a much delayed A-B-C breakdown of a huge win. Rinse and repeat guys.
A - Is for everyone that brought their "A" game tonight, and also for AV, who quickly realized who did not, and surgically excised their ice time. Case in point ; Zack Kassian had 3:52 total ice time. Part of that was a 4th line for the Kings that was the best King line tonight causing a matchup nightmare. ( they were tough to play against sometimes for all the lines, actually ) In that time, Zack had 2 hits and a takeaway. But the coach saw what we did, that he was struggling, and it became a 3 line game, with a couple guys ( Malhotra and Lapierre chief amongst them ) getting situational shifts. Put it this way. Maxim Lapierre had 8:44 and Mason Raymond had 10:55 total time. Who did you notice more in a positive sense tonight ?
B - Stands for Big Time Saves. Without a BTS, the game is tied on that penalty shot. Without a bunch more of them in the first, second, and third periods, a close game is even closer, or I am even A-B-C-ing a loss. Cory Schneider had himself one helluva game. The shot that beat him from Kopitar was a top shelf laser, and was almost more on Mase's "Ole" move. He more than made up for that goal with saves that had Kings' players shaking their heads. I love Roberto Luongo, you all know that. But Cory Schneider will be in net for a while now. He has to do it in more than one game. But damn, he sure looked like he is capable of that.
C - Clutch. While it took a bit to get going, and the Canucks were outshot in the second period 2 to 1, the clutch players played clutch. You saw why I was making a serious note of the loss of Daniel Sedin and its way of making this team less effective. Its not just because of his game, its because, even though Hank was a warrior without his brother, those two are better together than apart. How many perfect passes did we see? Here's the goal everyone will be talking about...
..and yes, that is Sedinery that we have not seen in this series yet. It only works when the Twins have the Wondertwin powers activating. Coach Sutter, when asked what was the difference? "#22 and #33..." Nuff said. Both a +1, both just under 20 minutes. A far more effective power play with them on it going 2 of 3. Hank and Danny both had 3 shots on net ( Daniel missed 4 more ) Hell, they even got a gloved half shot in on Dustin Brown!
D - Has to be for David Booth. Even with the couch coaches wondering why he was on the Twins line in a must win game ( and those wags getting early indications that they were right in the 1st period ), he looked like he was clicked right into the "thinking the game" style of the Twins. A lucky assist on Bieksa's lucky goal ( thanks Richards, for that and the turnover that led to it ) rewarded him for his hard work, and he was a +1, his 1 shot was on a perfect read on a Sedin Cycle, and his 15:10 was mostly spent playing well.
E - Edler. Alexander the Great may not have been back in totality in this game, but he sure was better in his own end and on a whole tonight. His goal was with a big uncredited assist to Ryan Kesler for his perfect screen on it ( he got an assist on it for the perfect face off win ), but that is such a smart shot. Just get it through, and it was a good hard wrister. 3 shots, 4 hits, a block, and 2 giveaways and a minor for over exuberant dealing with Colin Fraser slightly colouring his night. A definite step in the right direction, however.
F - Colin Fraser. The man had a definite impact on the game, positive and negative. His penalty on Keith Ballard led to a goal, and was dumb, dumb, dumb, and ended up costing a goal. He won 1 of 9 draws. One shot forced a good save, and 3 hits was noticeable. But his motor made that line go. He was playing with a definite edge too. Richardson was a welcome return to the line up for them, and helped that line too. If there was one thing I noticed tonight, it was that Bitz at least will be back in the lineup, I hope!
G - Is for goaltending. Before this game, that question was one that everyone was answering in the positive for the L.A team. After tonight, it can be argued that Schneids might have gotten into a few heads, in much the same way the "experts" were saying Quick was in the first games.. I know that Bieksa's goal was off a Richards' tip, but there was a perfect screen there too. In the same way that Kesler's screen was perfect on Edler's. In the same way that Kesler and others all crashed the net on the Henrik power play tally. The traffic had more purpose and thought tonight. That is big moving forward.
H - Hunter S Thompson once applied to the Vancouver Sun for a sports writing position. It was a long time ago, and he may still have followed the path that he did, but can you imagine Hunter instead of Tony Gallagher as the maven of Vancity sportswriters?
I - Daniel called it "indecision", and admitted that he himself was a little like that at the start. He also mentioned that after the Kings got the first goal, it was "like, we got to get going here...". Nice to know even our athletic heroes are human, huh?
J - Jousting. Full Metal Jousting is insane as an "extreme sport". More so as an "extreme sport created for television ". I think the NHL is blowing it away in the ratings, but I don't know the numbers. Both have casual violence. Coincidence?
K - as in Keith. Not the guy that knocked out Daniel that I brought up before. Keith Freaking Ballard. The man may have had his best playoff game as a Canuck. Safe plays all over the ice. A couple giveaways were rightly credited to him, but he recovered for both well. He covered for Chris Tanev very well, and that pairing was very good under pressure. He was credited with 3 hits too. His robust style was a big part of the penalty kill going 3 for 3, and he even led the team in shorthanded TOI with 2:33, as part of a very good 16:35 TOI.
L - Lapierre. I know I already mentioned him, but is there anyone with more "giddyup" in his game than this guy? He had 4 shots, and the only guy with more ( 6 ) was Dan Hamhuis, had 3 times the ice time! 2 hits, a takeaway, and a faceoff win in his 8:44 TOI. There was a reason why he was getting shifts when the coach went to a three line game for most of the second half of the game.
M - Manny Malhotra. In much the same way that Jarret Stoll was the faceoff ace for the Kings in his own end ( and late with the goalie pulled ), he was one better than Stoll's 12 of 16 on draws. His 2 shots were OK considering the matchup was getting owned by the home team when it was 4th line vs 4th line. The work of Manny was huge on the penalty kill and on draws in his own end. The man gets a lot of stick for relative production and what his contract number is. But there is a reason he is a leader. The man performed well under pressure tonight.
N - Not to cast aspersions on the stats guy at the Staples Center, but does he really think that there were 50 hits to 26 for the Canucks tonight? N is also for No Way Dude. I think we would have noticed them getting run out of the building 2 to 1. The Kings were finishing their checks, and sure, they were hitting. But so was the other team!
O - Offence. The Canucks offense was very good at reacting and jumping on pucks in the offensive end. They made more of their chances because of offensive execution. Now, which is the proper spelling? The red line comes up when you spell it with a "C", and I read somewhere that it is correct to use that spelling in sports. Any of you cunning linguists want to weigh in?
P - The PhD line. Pahlsson, Higgins and Jannik Hansen did not have their best game ever. But they did show exactly why that line should just stay together. They were all hard on the puck. That line had 1 shot. In total. But we know that they can be more productive, and I was confident in that line regardless of matchup. I am guessing AV saw the same, even with the lack of statistical acumen for them. They played smart.
Q - Not for Quick. But for 4th line quality. There will perhaps be changes to the line up, even with a win. Byron Biz and Andrew Ebbett could well draw in on the 4th. But I think that AV found himself another line with the addition of Mad Max to the Terror Twins line. Ryan Kesler and Alexandre Burrows looked best with him there. Sorry Mase, but you might get to watch the next one with the amount of quality that can jump into the line up game to game.
R - Raymond. Mason Raymond gets the whipping boy treatment all the time, but tonight, he deserved it for that play on Kopitar's goal. How you can go for a hit on a bigger player like that when you have position, and the right play is to just keep the puck moving back around the boards ( his defenseman was back enough ). A rightly deserved -1 on that play, and 1 shot in 10:05. That 10:05 is far less than he usually averages. AV obviously saw he was not going, and there is little room for error when one loss equals golfing at this point. Sorry Mase.
S - Sedins. Two are infinitely better than one. Oh, and for Wizardous Sedinerie as well. I missed those little passes that turns checkers into corkscrews.
T - Time. The time of our next game on Sunday is TBD. Really? We'll find out Friday what time is puck drop.
U - What gambler would take the under in that Pitt/Philly series? The same one that take the under on shots in this series.
V - Value of those shots. While it is not a specific stat, the Canuck chances and shots seemed to have a greater value today, rather than just throwing it at the net. That same judgement, it has to be said, was a bigger positive for the opponent tonight. That is one thing the Canucks can do better, deny valuable scoring chances in Game Five.
W - Writing this while hoping that my first job interview in a long while goes well tomorrow morning. No wonder the lines are getting shorter for some of these! ( and STILL over 2000 words! )
X - X-tra special mention to one Dan Hamhuis. In addition to playing very, very well defensively, he led his team in ice time at 25:24 TOI, he led his team with 6 shots, he had an 2 assists, tied his partner for the team high with 3 blocks, added 3 hits, and looked very good as the Hammer in the Juicy Hammer #1 pairing that played like a #1 pairing tonight.
Y - Yes, they won, but did you notice that the blocks were tied at 14 each tonight? Take away Willie Mitchell's game leading 5, and the Canuck blue line had a 10-7 edge. yes, the Kings style is all about the collapse, but even with a 12-10 edge in blocks from the blue line for them, it was noticeable how everyone on the blue line blocked at least one ( except for Ballard...piker! )
Z - I know sometimes the refs get the stick, but I have to admit it, O'Halloran and his partner were pretty good tonight. Everything that was called was mainly a penalty, and they even ignored the 5-6 dives in the first half by a few of the King players trying to draw calls. Yes, I am a Canuck fan, but I did not notice anything egregious in that regard for the visiting team. That is very important going forward. Hell, O'Halloran actually protected Daniel and Henrik ( who were playing a belligerent style too ) a couple times! Reffing Dan actually liked? 'Zackly!
OK...Sunday is a big game. I am sure that that last line will be viewed as an attack or negatively. I don't really care, but it was not intended as such. Just what I saw.. Tell Richardson, Richards and others to be stronger on their skates like the Canucks were tonight! To the Kings' credit, they backed off of it when they noticed the refs weren't in a buying mood in the first half of the game.