A "Missing Marquee Matchup" Game Recap ( 4-3 L s/o )

Justin K. Aller

The Canucks get what the announcers like to call "a hard earned point", but really deserved two from a game that was, like the "Game of the Year" against the Bruins after the 2011 Cup Final, not anywhere to be seen on the real "national" hockey networks on a Saturday afternoon ( I think it was Roots and NHLN in the USA, and SNET here ). So both teams decided to make this one maybe the game of the night, and it's not even 1pm yet !

How could you not enjoy this matchup?  Stars all over the ice, a couple of goalies that will probably be Sochi teammates later this year, and two teams who had built up to this one with recent success against some struggling teams, and were now looking to prove themselves against each other with continued great play.  It certainly did not deserve a shootout ending!

The Canucks, in particular, were being questioned about the horrible record of their past opponents and how they compared to the Penguins, totally ignoring the fact that the Penguins had done the same in playing such luminaries as the unbeaten goodable to win yet Devils, the one win Oilers, and the same as that record Flyers.

Regardless, this was a juicy match up that brought two "elite"  teams into the spotlight. I am not sure why this was not NBCSN in the States, and maybe CBC just thinks that T.O would not fit afternoon hockey into their busy days.  Their loss, this was an awesome game. One the Canucks had every right to win.

To Whit :

You numbers folks are going to love this one. Here's the ESPN Stats for the 1st2nd, and Final ...and the ExtraSkater.com analytics numbers ( check out how dominant the Canuck Corsi and Fenwick were in this game ) and ShiftChart ( when up ) numbers should be interesting for sure!

- The 1st period though, even while outshot 15-5,  the home team could have easily been able to run away and hide, if Roberto Luongo wasn't such a geometry ace.  I mean, there were 3 posts in that first period ( to 1 the other way against a Garrison shot attempt ).  Now, I hear you already..."but Dan, hitting the post means the goalie blew it and got lucky".  I say thee NAY good sirs and madams.  Ask anyone who plays goal.  You "got out just far enough that it was all the shooter had left. "  Roberto Luongo actually had to make a couple really good saves in that 1st period, when the Pens only had, after all, 5 shots. But even if you credited posts as shots, they were still outshot two to one by the visiting team, and probably outplayed. Yet they could have had this one home and cool by the 20 minute mark...if Luongo wasn't so "down with the angles."

- Mind you, one of those 15 shots the Canucks had in the first ( when they had 21 shot attempts, with only 1 miss and 5 Pen blocks, compared to the 5 shots at home, 6 miisses and 7 Canuck blocks...hey, when you add the 3 posts, its about equal! ;-)  created the "weird goal" of this one.  Alexander Edler has a hard shot, even from just over the red line, and he does do that "faking it around and shooting it on the goalie" thing, but that goal was all on Fleury.  I am sorry, but you can't be not leaning forward a bit there.  It was comical as hell to watch the forward momentum of the puck, coupled with the angle of the bounce ( oh hell, it was just another Puck Gods gift! ) as it trickled over his head though.

- It wasn't like the #BeastModo line was not carrying play, as they had some great shifts ( and Bylsma sending out his Crosby line, and mixing in Malkin shifts with him too added to the line juggling fun today ), but Chris Higgins was GOING early, with 3 shots ( as many as the 17-33-22 combo ) and a block in his 1st period 5:45 TOI.  And I do get that, "technically", his penalty in the first was callable.  But when a player is moving his feet, and it is a puck battle, and he is just trying to get position with the arm, that is a play that gets let go all the time.

- The only thing I ill say, in the end, when you are a fan of a team that is always expected to play a "clean" game against one of the "head office faves" that sometimes ( OK, a lot of times...how is that going to work, BTW, with the Wings in the East with the Penguins. Can you give them all the "they get those" calls, and who gets the nod in their head to heads? ;-) get the calls, it can be tough.  The call on Schroeder was another that you see get let go. But the Bench Minor was not. Even if everyone heard the Pens' bench "call it for the refs", there was 7 guys on for a little bit, and it was a good call.  That it was this one that resulted in the only power play goal on the day is frustrating.  The non calls when the number is 4-1 and everyone in the arena is expecting a call, ( and there were several, none of which involved any Canuck embellishment either ...of which they did not resort to in this game ), you can't depend on that.  The Canucks were by far the better team today, and deserved the win on merits of the game alone..  **** happens.

- They certainly battled and played Tort's Style well tonight.  It seemed that the #TortsBlitz ( g/t to FormerHab for that one! ) style of forecheck and puck pressure all over the ice, coupled with relentless defense and quick decisions can work against supremely talented teams as well. The Pens were going to get their chances with the kind of talent they have, and the execution ( like on the power play goal, with Malkin using the new angles behind the net to make a pass that would have hit the "bulge" last year to give Kunitz a shot that Luongo had no chance to react on ) of a team with stars is different than a struggling bunch of Sabres.  Even with Sidney Crosby being opportunistic and having a goal ( on the first period tying marker where Daniel Sedin tried to play it with his hand and inadvertently gave #87 two whacks at it from in close ) and an assist on that PP goal, the canucks did a great job of blunting his effectiveness. He was a -1, with 1 shot by the end of the second. He ended up with an assist in the 3rd, and another 3 shot attempts ( only 1 troubled Lui ). He's the best player in the world. But overall, even with the obvious effectiveness and bearing on the game he had, the Canucks carrying the play and shooting from everywhere while employing the #TortsBlitz can work against great teams too. They were the better team today for long stretches.

- The play Sid got his dash on was a fun one, that is for sure. With the 4th line getting ice because they deserved it, and because both coaches were rolling all four lines, a play developed where it looked like the Canucks had a 3 on 2 developing. Bieksa had jumped up with Weise and Richardson. Now, if you ask them, it was all "I meant to do that" touch passes and deft plays. But it sure looked a bit awkward. What wasn't was Brad Richardson doing his part to dispel the "Canucks depth scoring fails" that were predicted. He rippppppped it into the open net. I like when players finish plays off like that.

- So, we had a horrible goal, a lucky goal, an execution on the power play goal, and a scored in spite of themselves goal.  The goal that gave the Canucks their second ( and very brief ) lead of this back and forth spectacle was one that is definitely going on Zack Kassian's highlight reel.  It was such a strong shift by the third line ( with Mr Everything Jr in the place of a by now injured Jordan Schroeder, who hurt his foot ( Edit #1 : no update on his condition, but the Canucks recalled Jeremy Welsh from Utica,,,see stats here...he's 6'3 inches, 200 lbs, and plays centre anyhow! )  when he checked Tanner Glass earlier in the game going to the net.  It was one of those tie ups that maybe looked like a slewfoot, but are really just two guys tied up ) that included pressure in the offensive zone where the Pens had 4-5 chances to get the puck out, and where Kassian made the final great play at the line to get the puck down low, where he helped create the pressure that caused the puck to end up at the point, where Kevin Bieksa's perfect "looking for a tip" wrister was perfectly tipped by the 2009 13th overall pick.  The goal was a display of all sorts of things that folks have been looking for from Big Daddy Kass', and he delivered.

- The Pens, again, you have to give it to them. They responded. It was on a play where maybe Edler shouldn't go for the hit, and maybe everyone should have played their guys a bit tighter, but, again, the Pens have talent.  They got a puck to the net that "maybe" Luongo could have done a bit better job on reboundwise, and rookie defender Olli Maata was smart to jump first to that rebound, but "shift after a goal" is always talked about at all levels of hockey, because that is the time you have to bear down defensively. Perhaps they could have done more with it, and if they had, the Canucks, playing as they were, may have run it out. But if ifs and buts were candy and nuts.  The Pens did what they had to do.

- Now, I am not going to describe the fake shootout attempts later on, because you can just look at the video of how the tiddlywinks, coin flip, skills competition, shootout went ( but you do have to give it to the home team again. This turned out to be the 3rd straight game from these two teams that went to the shootout, and the Pens have won all three damnit!  OK, I'll say one thing. Luongo was awesome, and no one is stopping that sick move by Malkin. Lui getting his glove to it as close as he did was amazing enough. What a deke!)...but I will be very happy to describe the penalty shot for realsies that Luongo dealt with.  A Hamhuis jump up was countered by some deft passing to the open man by the Pens, and the Chris Tanev sweep at the puck did make a guy ahead of him go down.  Young Mr Sutter for the Pens certainly shot in a good place, just above the pad.  But Roberto Luongo followed him so well, and the disdain with which he flipped the puck away was great. He has now only been scored on twice in 23 penalty shots in his career.

So, an amazing game that could have been drawing eyeballs all over America, with scoring, stars being stars, and everything a spectacle could ask for happening.  Maybe we should just view these 10 am games as guilty pleasures!  If they don't want to know, the heck with them.  A great game, and one that the Canucks could have had, and perhaps deserved while definitely doing what their coach likes and playing "our game". The Canucks were mostly dominant against a supposed NHL Superpower. Perhaps they'll have better luck in Columbus tomorrow ( note, yes, it is a back to back. But the Canucks will be in Columbus hours before the BJ's, who play in Washington tonight. So there's that )...but they played "our game" very well.

Let's see what the stats sheet says :

- It certainly loved Kevin Bieksa.  He was paired with "Stats" ( Stanton ) most but not all of the times 5 on 5 ( Stats had 12:48 TOI ), and saw some :39 secs (PP ) and 3:53 ( SH ) in his 22:21 that was 5th ( !  ) on the blue line today.  But a 3 assist, +3, 3 of 5 shot attempts on net, 2 block, 1 hit and 1 giveaway day might have been the most productive.

- Edler was on for a couple goals like his -2 partner Garrison ( Eddy was -1 ) , and there were some edges to be smoothed off. But he did get ( albeit a hilarious one ) a goal, and had 4 blocks and 4 hits, with a takeaway. That pairing will be hard to play against by less talented teams though. They can, and did at times this afternoon, impose their will on the game.  They can both play better, and made mistakes.  But they, and the rest of the blue line ( Chris Tanev had 23:59 TOI, and 2 blocks and a takeaway...but did you see him make a mistake? They were trying to make the young guys like he and Stanton pressured all day. Both win the "Ice in His Veins" award today ) were certainly strong on breakouts, handled their own end well, ( for a game that had 3 goals ), and showed great depth 1 through 6.

- Sedins playing Torts Style stats lines.  Playing together and apart, with #BeastModo and not, they had a team leading 24:55 ( Daniel ) and 24:52 TOI.  Hank was 8 of 18 on draws against the best ( Pens tried to go strength on strength on whatever line had Hank today.  Had an assist on the Edler laugher, and got a dash that his brother ( even ) avoided. Both played so hard today, physically and otherwise.  That helped Hank have 2 of 3 shots on net, and 2 blocks to go with his hit and takeaway, as he filled some of the columns he never did often on AV's card.  But how about Sedin the Younger? He made his line go, had 4 of 5 shots hit the mark, and led all Canuck forwards with 3 hits.

- Stats Stanton. +1, 2 shots, 1 block, and 6 hits ( game best, and a couple of which were "big ones" on Vitale ) in 12:48 over 18 shifts.

- You have a 3rd line now Canuck fans. At least, if Jordan Schroeder is able to return, and maybe if he isn't hurt whto where he loses time.  Mike Santorelli ( 8 of 14, only Canuck over 50% against a team great on the draws, he was on for the 3rd line goal ) is Mr Everything Jr, and could fill there too, and Richardson ( another goal, +2, 3 shots, a game high 3 takeaways and 5 of 11 on draws while playing 20 shifts, only 6-7 with his normal, and effective 4th line  and a pretty high 13:11 TOI ) was good when he covered the third line today. Kassian ( +1, 2 shots, 1 hit ) and Booth ( 1 assist, +1, 1 shot, 2 blocks, 1 hit ) play a pretty power ul and straight ahead game that was pushing their counterparts hard on the Pen side today. Wait until Burrows gets back and that line up really shakes out!

- Jannik Hansen had a team high 5 shots, Chris Higgins had 3, and they seems capable of picking up whatever linemate Torts gives them and excelling.  You have to love that kind of plug and play depth that seems to be the hallmark of Coach's "play who's going" style.  Both these guys just play hard where ever they end up.

We could go on and on about such a great game, as there was a ton of things to mention.  But the average attention span and word count are reaching their nexus. On to Columbus!  Maybe they can use the fact the Canucks have the easier bedtime for that one and jump on another team!

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