Coming into the final game on the "odyssey" roadtrip, after playing a gajillion more games than a team that has played the least in the NHL, who were coming back from playing golf and fishing in South Carolina ( yeah, sure you practiced that week guys ), this was one that all the pundits and such had already penciled into the win column for the Blues.
But the Vancouver Canucks came out with two new guys in the lineup, Yannick Weber playing fourth line winger, Tom Sestito playing the game of his Canuck life, and Eddie Lack determined to not let the schedule dictate the result. There were so many excuses for folks to latch onto in this one, and so many ways that it would have been viewed. But tonight, I saw a team that played a bit pissed off after the fights ( the second one, especially ), get there #TortzBlitz thing going, and play some defensive hockey.
The Canucks did that. They were so solid in their own end tonight. They got some scoring from Ryan Kesler once again ( along with Chris Higgins ), some jam from everyone in the line up,( up to and especially including the Sedins ), all playing their own version of #BeastMode that they saw #17 doing.
I do have to mention tonight's opponent. They played this game like they were going to be able to come in, as I said earlier, all "fat and sassy" after getting in a little golf after "practice" while a team like Vancouver was getting their grind on. It was obvious which team was, in the words of one Mr Cherry, "bringing their lunch boxes". The Canucks may have came in playing a bit more "safe" than usual this season to date. The Blues let them. Or, conversely, were unable to ratchet up the work ethic that they put in late when the desperation set in. The Canucks outshot them on home ice, in a "big game", 7 - 5 after one, and 13-12 after two. The visitors had the 8-5 edge in hits after 20, and were down 10-9 after two. It was , even with a five on 3 that was explicit in it's impact on how it got the Blues back in a game on home ice, 20-18 for the Blues after 60 minutes. They lived up to "fat and sassy" tonight.
Especially their captain. While I have not seen the reports yet, if David Backes was upset because there was a call in O/T ( it was a good call David, the stick was in Daniel's hands, and no, you didn't deserve a call five seconds later when he DIDN'T do the same thing... at all ), he has no shame after how easily the supposed Blues' "Beast" went down to get the second call on the 5 on 3 that got his team a point tonight. If he was trying to propagate the "see, the Sedin's dive" with his trying to attack the younger Sedin, well, it was only him that looked like a lunatic. Mind you, he got a soft call to get a 5 on 3, and was somehow able to interfere with Tom Sestito after a clean ( and brutally efficient play ) hit tonight as well. So, maybe he is stupid like a Fox. But for what it is worth, at least on this night, it was the Canucks that played the harder, more disciplined, honest game that Torts enjoys so much.
They Gave Their All, every one of the Canucks on the ice tonight. The Canucks earned a victory the hard nosed way. The played harder than their opponents, ( in the first two periods, they played harder and more disciplined, and in the last period, the Canucks really pushed the play at times as well ) on a night where the experts had given them all the reasons why that was not possible. There are many, many guys that gave to the victory tonight...
Those That Kicked Ass, Took Names, And Wrote Their Own In Their Place :
17 - It started and ended with Ryan Kesler tonight. Whether on the wing with his #BeastModo linemates, or centering anyone from Pelletier to Sestito, Archiblad to Richardson,. It was Kesler that was showing how it was going to be on puck battles. His coach may have pointed out tonight that he likes Kesler as a winger ( and who wouldn't with the way #BeastModo can put their stamp on a game ), but he did lead the team in number of draws, with 14. The fact he won only 5 was about the only blemish on a great night for the big #17. His play was integral in this entire road trip, but when you have two goals, including the power play overtime winner, are a +1, with 8 shots ( 2 more misses ) and 1 takeaway ( really, I watched this game pretty closely. For a guy that was in the corners and engaged as much as Kesler tonight, I am amazed the stats guy did not see him actually "hit" someone! His 31 shifts were the most on the team, and he looked just as #BeastMode in the last minute as he did in the first minute of his 24:24 TOI. That wrister on that first goal sure got some bend on his stick, hey folks?
33 and 22 - The Sedin Twins had one hell of an interesting night. They both drew assists on the overtime winner. On one of the few nights where the Canucks got destroyed at the dot ( 35 - 22 ), it was Henrik that was 6 of 12 on draws, once again led his team with 25:04 TOI, had a hit, 2 of 3 shots on net, and, together with his brother and linemate, had some effective defensive zone shifts. Daniel had only 1 shot tonight, and played 24:06, ( and got 2 and 10 for the silliness at the end that vaulted him up the PIM list for the team! ) but there is no doubt about his jam after the way he drew the o/t call by driving the net, made another play to get the goal started,and stood up in the face of Backes' little temper tantrum. Your best players are your best players, even when they are supposed to be tired.
31 - When your team is playing as well as the Canucks were in the first forty minutes ( and my personal experience is more at a rec level floor hockey goaltender's skills than an NHL one! ;-) , I would imagine, as a goaltender, it makes you want to bear down and reward them. I mean, before the power play for the Blues got them into the game again, they seemed to be just going through the motions. There were several shots that tested his mettle before that, and ( again, a couple goals that the goalie couldn't do much with ) its not like the Blues are a "bad team" by any stretch of anyone's imagination, but they played like they were still golfing for the first half of the game, at the least. Eddie Lack had to transition from that kind of, not a lot of shots, but more zone time against to a far more intense 3rd period. The Blues may have only had 8 shots ( to 5 ) in the final stanza, and a 4-3 edge in o/t shots, but they were pushing a lot more then too. Eddie Lack made some amazing saves in close ( his glove save on Pietroangelo may have been his best on the night ), battled hard, and even threw a gloved shot at fellow Swede Steen when he robbed him too. Eddie Lack is definitely someone the guys like to play for, at the least. That is all you want from a back up. He's gotten points for his team, and got them on a night where it was quite possible he could have been hung out to dry if the guys didn't like playing hard for him.
15, 20, and 25 - I am putting Mike Santorelli and Brad Richardson together, and in the upper category tonight because they all exemplify the style that their coach seems to want. They were one of his "go to lines" in a tired third period. Both the new guys are the type that can fit into the lineup anywhere. They were thrown in together with another adaptable player that deserves to be there for the same reason. Chris Higgins might be almost as hot as Ryan Kesler right now. His goal was one that folks might have said was "lucky", as his shot went off of Jackman, but he made sure it got over the block to get it there. That goal gave his team the lead, on a night where that might have been more important than most to get. Higgins 1 goal, +1, 1 block, 2 hits, and 17:34 TOI was all hard work. The 2 assists, +1, 1 block, and 2 takeaways in 17:00 TOI was all hard work ( a bad night on draws, at 4 of 11, Santorelli's faceoff skills was marginally worse than Richardson's 2 of 8 tonight ), but that perfect pass to Kesler on his 2-0 goal was all skill. Add in the hard work that Richardson ( 1 assist, +1, 1 missed shot ) brings, and it is no surprise that #15 and #25 were just under 10 minutes going into the third, and #20 was just over that mark. John Tortorella rides the guys that are going, and he knew he needed his grinders to get this one to the point, at the least. These three all battled through and were big at grinding that third period down when it looked like the team was running on empty.
Kicked Some Ass, Took Down a Few Names, Added In a Few Hairy EyeBalls Instead :
9 - Zack Kassian had a fight, and a minor penalty that let the opponent back in the game. His coach didn't like that call at all ( "they hear a noise and think they have to do something" ), and I didn't think it smelled that nice either, but what can you do? He missed 2 shots, had 1 block, and 1:22 of his 12:47 TOI on the power play. He tried to imprint himself on the game. Most of the time he succeeded. He'll continue to ( and needs to still ) improve in his own end, but I do like how his game is coming along in different ways every game.
29 - Screw all you guys that discriminate against "facepunchers". Tom Sestito did some of that tonight against Reaves, where he probably lost the fight. He also was fast, hard on the puck, and looked great in those shifts where he could use his speed ( which is actually looking considerable for a man of his size ) and play hard along the boards. He had a block, a team high 4 hits,( one of which was a perfect steal of the puck that inspired Backes to lose his mind, because a clean hit actually put someone on his butt! ), and maybe his best 11:24 TOI this year for the Canucks.
6, 49 and 44 - Darren Archibald and Pascal Pelletier were coming at this one from the AHL, but also from different points in their careers. Pelletier has had a few games in The Show, but this was the first for "Archie". Both looked just fine in their limited minutes, fitting into the composed forecheck. Pelletier was an empty sheet, but for a 1-3 on draws, and 8:34 TOI, and Archibald looked like he had even more to give, with 2 of 3 shots on net, and a hit in his 8:01 TOI. But give Yannick Weber some love too folks. The 7th defenseman role is a lonely one, and 1 shot, 1 block, and 2 hits in 8:23 TOI is very effective, and he was definitely that tonight.
13 - Jeremy Welsh. The man came as a throw in, because the Canucks are a rich team. He is looking more and more like a valued throw in, with 4 of 9 draws in his 12:14 of "plug and play me anywhere coach!" hockey. 1 of his 2 shot attempts on net, and a hit filled the rest of his sheet. He was another great example of guys playing the system well, and using his skills in the structure of what the coach wants. Another guy the scouts deserve credit for looking into. He has speed for a big man, and that offensive contribution is coming!
Kicking Ass Is Even More Fun When Your Blue Line Does It :
3 - Kevin Bieksa fought through it this game. He was on out of the box as the PK ended, and the Blues scored, to pick up a dash that'll go against his NHL lead in +/-. I'm not going to blame him for that, or even the penalty that, let's face it, David Backes embellished to get ( no way a guy that big falls, like that, from one stick in a horizontal position pressed against him! ), but that was it on this night in his 22:12 TOI. Less "swash", more "buckle"...as in buckled down in his own end against the top lines for the Blues in the third.
23 - On this blue line, there seems to be one or two that pick up the slack and show well form one game to the next. Tonight, one of those was Alexander Edler, who was playing a "hard" game for his coach. A +1, 2 of 3 shots on net, and a game high +5, in his team high 25:19 TOI. Yes, his 1:37 PK time, while also a team lead, saw a PP goal. But no one was going to get that Steen shot off a rebound on a 5 on 3. Edler was a strong member of this deep, deep defnse tonight.
5 - Another was Jason Garrison, whose +2 included 1 of 2 shots on net in his 20:53. He missed a couple on the power play, and that is something he has to focus on again ( last year, shots on net were a problem ). But his play in his own end was good tonight, The Canucks blue line were very, very good at passes out of their own end. Garrison is not just a big shot...
2 - Dan Hamhuis. The man is back. There were several plays tonight where he was "there" before the Blues player was on set plays in the offensive zone. He was reading it all like a Boss, and 1 shot, 1 block, and 2 hits in 20 :45 TOI only told a part of the story.
8 - Christopher Tanev. It is nothing that the second year man is playing 21:38 in a game like this. He simply does it all the time! His -1 ( on as the 2nd goal went in off the pressure of a failed power play ) and 1 block might not look impressive. But that 21:38 is not being given to the guy because they are desperate. It is because, while under pressure, he makes the right play an extraordinarily high amount of the time.
18 - Ryan Stanton barely lived up to his nickname "Stats" tonight. I mean, only 1 of 3 shot attempts on net, just 1 block, and 2 hits in a bit higher than normal 18:27 TOI. I guess we'll have to be satisfied with a freaking left handed clone of the ice water in his veins, makes the right play almost all the time style of the guy above that he seems to exemplify. Have I mentioned how great it was the hawks tried to waiver this guy down to Rockford this year? Because it was.
A wonderful 7 gamer, with great results. I have looked forward to bringing it to you, and will certainly do the same for the next road game. But you get to have Mr Larson back, starting on Monday against the Capitals at home. A great big hand for the team and their efforts the last couple weeks, would be, I am sure, greatly appreciated. They worked hard for you on this trip.
See you on my next one!