It's pretty bad to have a divisional rival who even after tonight will have a whopping 5 games in hand, but that is where we find ourselves tonight. I'd like to say the Blues are off to the kind of start befitting one deemed by many to wear the crown when it's all done, but how the hell would we know? Can anyone actually recall them playing a game? This may as well be the season opener. Anyway, with a winning record for this road trip secured (something I thought was definitely doable, but to have 4 wins is still pretty awesome) is impressive for a banged up team admittedly not playing it's best hockey.
We still find ourselves surrounded by those giving out style points for the wins, a leftover trait from the Alain Vigneault reign. The problem with this line of thought is that when the Canucks play like crap, John Tortorella will tell you exactly that, where as AV would be spit-shining the turd to convince us otherwise. For all our insecurities, the Canucks do have a fairly knowledgeable fanbase. We know a good performance, and not one. What we need to get a better grasp on is context. Given the scenario we found the team in, a boring 3-2 shootout win, with this schedule, and the injuries suffered during the game would earn praise in other markets.
A win tonight would be an exclamation point on a potential season-shaping road swing. 2 points in this game, would see the Canucks end the night as high as 2nd place in the Western Conference, and first in the Pacific. Let that sink in for a moment. It speaks volumes to the perception around this team that they could be ahead of the current golden boys in the Pacific, 'Saint' Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche. But by all means, continue to wax poetic about how the Canucks are struggling. There will be much said about how the Canucks can't hang with big teams after a loss tonight, but the context would be completely missing from that line of thinking. And who knows, maybe they can actually pull this off. It's not like we haven't seen teams, even good teams come out flat after a long lay off. Eddie Lack is certainly going to be motivated tonight after that regulation loss in Columbus. Could he steal in one St. Louis tonight?
The injuries last night to Dale Weise and David Booth may have been the source of much Twitter comedy, but still present a serious obstacle to the Canucks. As much as we'd love to see the guy we know around here as Mr. Everything back in the lineup, I don't anticipate the Canucks putting Alexandre Burrows in the lineup tonight. The Canucks put out the call to Utica last night, and it is great to see Darren Archibald (who will be playing his first NHL game) as well as Pascal Pelletier in the lineup tonight. Another thing we've seen before is callups for the Canucks have an impact in their first game with the parent club.
The bottom line here is; it's a long season, and it's easy to get bent out of shape over individual games. You have to keep the big picture in mind here. It's a compressed schedule thanks to the Olympic break, and that means a number of occasions where the Canucks will be playing numerous games in a short period of time. Getting the points they need to succeed whilst trying to adapt to new systems, with the injuries they have and without a functioning power play should be a source of pride. It is okay to give this team a pat on the back once in a while, but hey, if you're happy spending your time and energy on outrage over anyone that finds positives, have at 'er. I know there's issues that the team has to be addressing as the season rolls on, and I believe they're actively trying to do so on the ice level. What management is doing about this, well that's another matter altogether (and not one we have the time to get into today). I'm of the belief that GM Mike Gillis may not be able to get the kind of help in the bottom 6 they need right away, but the more this team continues to rattle off gritty, even lucky wins, the better.
Traditional English Breakfast *burp*
When Alex Edler received his suspension for the hit to the head of San Jose's Tomas Hertl, I didn't have a problem with it so long as the Dept. Of Player Safety and Brendan Shanahan showed some semblance of consistency, which has been one of the biggest knocks on Shanny's reign as NHL disciplinarian. And for the most part, he's been bang on, handing out well-deserved suspensions. Yet we've now seen 2 hits in the last 3 days that could very well have fallen into this category, but aren't and it's a real head-scratcher. Now I am not really suggesting a suspension for the Islanders' Frans Nielsen for his hit on Ryan Kesler Tuesday, but a fine to send a warning that Nielsen's run at a player who never saw him coming is crossing a line the NHL wants players to mind wouldn't have been a bad thing in any way, shape or form. By fining him, it's a minimal punishment for sure, but it gets him on record and sends the message that his play is on the wrong side of acceptable. Instead, you've given a green light to a hit not light years removed from hits that received punishment this season. And while I admire and respect Harrison Mooney, and consider him a mentor of sorts, I couldn't possibly disagree more strongly with his assessment that there was no hearing for Nielsen because Kesler dove. If that were true (and the video certainly doesn't make a clear case for it), and the NHL actually used this as a rationale for not punishing a player, that would indeed be a dangerous precedent. And that's the kind of precedent that a league trying to reduce the number of head injuries suffered simply can't afford to be making. And that brings us to Zdeno Chara. I simply cannot fathom the inability of the NHL and it's disciplinarians to look at the string of high, dangerous hits he's doled out over his career and not see anything wrong. For all the hand-wringing and concern trolling about players like Patrick Kaleta and John Scott (and please understand, I find the two of them to be useless wastes of roster space, and a disgrace to the game) I would not at all be shocked to see Chara ending the career of a player before he's done in the NHL, having been given carte blanche to do so, it would seem. By not even calling Chara on the carpet for another high hit, Shanahan does nothing but fuel that speculation.
KICKASS METAL TUNE OF THE DAY
One of my favorite bands from the St Louis area are the beer-soaked, weed-addled mosh freaks Cross Examination. They're currently working on some new tunes (about damn time, slackers...) but this is off their last disc Menace II Sobriety.