Mind you, the maxim of a " hot goaltender out of no where " is certainly a tried and true narrative in the game of hockey. I am sure there is a research crew somewhere on the sports networks looking through Curtis McElhinney's past games to see if this is some kind of trend.
I just don't care enough. He has played for the Flames, Ducks, and a couple cups of coffee in Phoenix and Ottawa, and I do remember him having a good game for the Flames against the Vancouver team in the past. Be that as it may, McIhenney was the first star tonight, and the reason his team took all the points that were just sitting there to be taken from this game.
Good for him and the Blue Jackets. It is one of the markets with teams that need to draw that I hope does well, and with 2 losses at home already, the team with a Cannon, desperately needed a win for their young season to turn in the right way. They got it on a couple of well executed displays of offensive plays, and what has to be called, under the circumstances, a stalwart defense.
Of course the goaltender standing on his head is the most notable aspect of this kind of game, where the team with, by far, the run of play overall loses. But it isn't the only one. The Blue Jackets had 15 blocks, to only 8 for the Canucks ( another indicator of the run of play, when a team that looks to block shots could only block 8. Maybe because they were at the other end a lot? ). And while I have to question the home stats guy for the BJ's ( I had the window open all game, and had several "really?" moments as far as hits, takeaways and giveaways go ), that is another part of "home ice".
So, while the home team winning the hits tally 34 to 21 ( and again, they were trying to hit everyone in their own end to get the puck back. Not to say they were not finishing every check. Maybe the hand slipped on the button a few times and doubled up on a couple of the louder ones! . The Blue Jackets had 8 takeaways to only 3 for the pressing team, but those are interpretive stats for the fine folks that have the best job in the world. ( sitting in an arena and watching hockey closely every night. Where do I sign up? ). I do question how, however, in a game where it seemed the visiting team spent wide swaths of time pressing the play in the offensive end, they only forced 5 giveaways. Mind you, the Canucks supposedly only gave it away an average of once a period. Maybe he just has a sparse interpretation of that one.
The best way to describe the opening period? The home team did not have a shot until the 3:27 mark, when Artem Anisimov took a shot towards Eddie Lack. They then went until when there was about 4:25 ( I looked! ) left mark, when a weak knuckler from Wiz' barely troubled the rookie back up. But one moment of perfect execution by Marian Gaborik,( using about the only weak moment of the opening period for the 4th line, when they got running around a bit, and Garrison and Stanton lost Gabby with the defense caught between changes ) on a deft tip gave Lack zero chance. 1-0 after 20 minutes, when you outshoot the opposition 13-2, and all four lines spend vast portions of their time in the offensive end? Whatever works, they say!
- Poor Jeremy Welsh and his 4th line mates. After being on and getting the dash for a goal against on the first bit of defensive zone time of the night, he comes back and has a great chance on the back hand to make the perfect redemption. Between that and another chance, and another shot from Sestito, and on shifts where both guys and Weise were throwing their weight around while maintaining the zone, Sestito was credited with 1 hit over said 3 shifts ( had 4, but the goal one, remember ? ) ...and the other two were blanked. OK then.
- In a period where they were under constant pressure, the Blue Jackets sure were good with the puck, as the stats man saw not one giveaway for the team under constant pressure ( they forced two on those damn guys that ahd the puck most the time ), while taking it away 3 times ( to 2 for the Canucks ). In a game where the Canucks had 13 shots to 2 ( only won 8 of 14 draws overall after 20 ) , that really happened, over however the definition of takeaway and giveaway are measured or vary from city to city. I'm not sure which one I doubt the most, the one where a team under constant pressure has zero giveaways in a period like that, or how they ever found the time to get 20 hits to 6 in said period. Todd Richards must have brought his cousin from St Paul to Columbus to do the stats job. ;-)
- Five guys had one shot force a save in the first, Daniel, Juice, Higgins, Kes', and Tom Sestito, and four had 2 ( Edler, Hansen, Stats and the new guy Jeremy Welsh. Everyone on the ice probably made multiple passes, and the Canucks were by far the better team. But the Blue Jaclets had a 1-0 lead after twenty because they played the "collapse and help the goalie, try and get in the way, and dump it out repeatedly" Rope-A-Dope strategy.
The middle stanza looked like it might show more signs of life from the home team, as they did push the play more. The Canucks were still the stronger team overall five on five, however. When there WAS five on five play in the middle stanza. The Canuck penalty kill ( it would end up 5 for 5 on the night, once again perfect for the league leaders in penalty killing ) got to get some work in ( against a fairly good, at 9th going in, power play that had varying degrees of pressure tonight ) at the 3:40 mark, as the new guy Welsh got a hooking call against.
What followed was a classic example of NHL referees getting "involved" in the game. Ninety seconds after that PK, the Canucks were given a power play. It lasted 1:08, until the Canucks got another ( 2nd night in a row ) too many men call against. Then Ryan Murray got the hook in on Mike Santorelli at 9:39. It was this one, in the middle, that resulted in the Canucks getting a power play goal, of all things. It was one of those "take the shot, and then everyone crash the net" goals, and the Jackets complained that their goalie was contacted too much in the process, but the goal stood, and was Henrik Sedin's 12th point of the season ( 3rd in the NHL, tied with Pavelski, and 5 behind Crosby ). It was not pretty, and it was not on a traditional power play where you take the two minutes, but it counted as a special team's goal for that was not on the penalty kill, and at least tied the goal output for the time the Canucks have one extra man, as opposed to the time they have one less.
Have I mentioned lately how much I detest the automatic "over the glass" penalty? Just checking. A little over 4 minutes after the tying goal, Mike Santorelli responded to some pressure by putting one over on an attempt to clear the puck off the glass. It was the next one at about 30 seconds or so later that I wish was "ref's discretion" to give the Canucks a chance! Because while Edler was in his own zone by a stride, his attempt to hit the glass at the other end while Higgy had a step on the defender was in no way an attempt to stop the game, which was the reason they instituted that dumb rule anyhow. The power play was no match for a disciplined PKers who stayed in lanes, blocked a few, and gave Lacka chance to make some saves. It was an almost two minute five on three, and nothing happened. The power play will come around if they keep shooting as much as they are folks. That's just math. Unlike the PP though, the penalty kill is all about effort and sacrifice. In the end, it did not move the game into a win tonight. But the level of play the Canucks have is full of effort, five on five or a man or two less. That bodes well for when they do have to kill the big power play, and is certainly an indicator of how the #TortsBlitz message is getting through.
- The stats man saw a few things in that middle period as well. Of course, with all the special teams and a 5 on 3 to boot, the home team had the shots edge at 14-9 in that period. The Canucks obviously saw the stats sheet and felt shame, because they had an 11-8 edge, to make it a slightly more respectable, only down 28-17. It was the visitor's chance to be great with the puck while under the pressure of killing a bunch of time as well ( kidding, it could have been on the 5 on 5 or 4 on 4 time too! ), as now the BJ's gave it up 4 times to only once for the Canucks. But the home team sure was taking it away, with 3 more to make it a 6-2 edge there after two. I have to admit, I lost track of this stat in the middle stanza while all the special team time played itself out. I only post them for reference sake. I will note though, the BJ"s were still trying to finish every check as much as they were in the first. The Canucks didn't just "goon it up". But I am just watching my big screen. He's THERE!
This is certainly not a huge critique of Alexander Edler and Chris Tanev, because both logged a lot of minutes and didn't have particularly bad games. But they let RJ Umberger get behind them with 9:46 remaining in the most competitive period of the three, and Ryan Johansen made a great pass to find him for a break in alone from the blue line. The one time Canuck first rounder beat Eddie Lack cleanly, and it stood as the winner after an empty netter sealed the deal late. I want to be sure to state that the Blue Jackets deserved the win, for sure. But they were definitely the nail and not the hammer tonight. You win in all ways, but the Canucks deserved a better fate here, perhaps.
- After leading the stat 8-6 after one, and 18-14 after two, the Canucks won the faceoff battle 34 - 26. While the centres and lines moved around as is Tort's wont these days, consider that Mike Santorelli was 4 of 5 after two periods, and finished with 12 of 15 draws won on the night. Torts made sure he was out there for a lot of big draws. and it showed in his ice time, as 12:45 after two ballooned to 22: 09. Mr Everything Jr is trying to take that nickname for himself while Burrows is out, with 5 shots attempted ( 3 saved ) 1 block, 1 hit, and a takeaway. Not bad for a guy that was waived four times last year.
- It must have been tiring to throw all those hits for the home team, as they only threw 6 ( the visitors only 4 ) in the final period, to lead that stat 34-21 at home. Whatever. What I don't get is in a game where it looked to me like the Canucks were the better team all game, they were almost, according to the pro anyhow, almost 4 times as unlikely to take away a puck as the team they were all over ( 8-3 was the ending number in favor of the home guys ). I mean, I guess, sure, I don't want to go through the DVR and count every one. But really, sometimes the stats don't seem to keep in line with the game you are watching.
- Edler may have had a -2, and he bears some fault on both goals he was on for. But he had 6 of 7 shots force saves, had a block, a hit, and a team leading 23:39 TOI.
- "Stats" Stanton had 4 shots. Sestito had 4 hits. Ryan Kesler had an assist ( as did Jason Garrison, to give him 2 goals and 9 points, only 1 behind Subban for the lead for defenseman scoring in this early season ), but was a -2, and had 4 of 6 shots force some solid saves. He hwas credited with 3 hits, and was 50% over 16 draws.
- There are going to be stats like that. Chris Higgins was robbed in close twice tonight, amongst his 5 shots at net that forced a statistical response from the goaltender. He really should have tied this game late in the 3rd, on yet another dominant shift. The in close save was maybe McElhinney's best on the night to seal the deal for his team.
The Canucks get to go to the big city next, and I hear they are being given the night off tomorrow in New York City ( or maybe it is after this one and before the Devils game on Thursday ), before the Tuesday game versus the Islanders. Even without the result they probably deserved tonight, that time off is probably deserved for this 5-4-1 team. They play hard every game, and even on the road, their opponent knows they were in a game, and full value for their result. ( Seems to be a hallmark of our new coach. Count me a fan. )
I can handle that. Even though I did exclaim "are you serious?" when the Umberger goal was scored, the Canucks are definitely an "honest" team as far as effort goes. I take solace in the fact that it will mean far more positive results than negative ones, if the team has the effort it has had for the past week now.