In the first game, I decided to focus on how the new system looked, and was pleasantly surprised to see the Canucks go out the next game and totally implement the system. It sure is a lot more fun than sitting on a lead!
Tonight's task was something more varied and with different questions. Would the Canucks be able to do the back to back thing in the context of the style that Torts has them playing?
Well, yes. While it was tougher than might have been expected, given the relative talent and experience levels, the Canucks played the game "Torts Style" and got the two points. Well done lads.
It started out with the same fire and hard work. The Canucks being hard on the puck. They were rewarded on a smart smart shot from Jason Garrison, getting it through with no back swing at the perfect height for a David Booth tip to make it 1-0.
As opposed to last night though, the other team did not look for chances for themselves as goal sucks and puck hogs. There is not a lot of the "me first" that permeated the Oilers game yesterday. Bob Hartley has his guys playing a straight ahead, hard working game. That was enough to get them to 12 shots that forced a variety of great saves from Eddie Lack, before the 13th, a Giordano shot was unfortunately inly partially blocked by Jannik Hansen, going off his shin pad over Lack's should to tie the game with about five and a half minutes left. That would be about it, as they only got one more shot before the end of the period, while the Canucks had a couple other half chances to test Joey MacDonald.
They may have controlled more of the play, slightly. It was one of those games where looking at the stats sheet was not going to give any clues. Perhaps it had something to do with a hometown guy, who knows? But while the Flames played hard, were they really as good as forcing 6 giveaways to the Flames 1? I thought the home team may have been trying to by physical more, and they had the puck less, but a 10-2 edge in hits after one period? One stat the visitors had an edge in was faceoffs, where Henrik Sedin going 7 of 9 gave the Canucks a 13-9 edge in faceoffs, to offset the 14-10 edge in shots for the home team. ( for you "blockheads", the Canucks had 5 of those to 2 for the Flames, with Ryan Stanton leading the way with 2 in his 5:28, mostly, but not all, with Tanev.
The Sedins were decent enough in the first, with 4 of the 10 shots, led by Daniel Sedin ( with 3 ) doing exactly what he said he would this year, taking more shots.
The second started out a little less "intense" , as the Flames looked to be falling back a bit when they didn't have a neutral zone advantage, until Bouma hung a leg and tripped Daniel Sedin in the offensive end, but the power play was no where near as crisp as the other night. Again, credit the home team, as their pressure on the PK was more stout than the other Alberta team's was.
In the next five minutes though, you could see, ( if you squint a bit ) another aspect of the Canuck system in their own end, with support and structure replacing the pressure at the other end. But Alexander Edler would make a grab where it is not allowed, and gave the Flames a power play of their own. The first minute with Santorelli and Richardson was all pressure and reads, and the second 30 was all Sedins along the boards. By the time Kesler and Higgins got out there, the Flames had only a token bit of pressure. Another excellent penalty kill kept the game at 1-1.
Strangly enough, it was after a very good shift by the Kesler line ( where a Kesler point shot was easily blocked, stranding Garrison in deep ) was countered by a nice tip pass by Galliardi to Backlund, who just tucked it in on Lack. They were then given another one of those "goalie interference that really shouldn't be such, because other team contact ref!" that I have seen in highlights all over the league. Perhaps a "point of emphasis" is once again being looked for way too much by NHL refs?
Perhaps. Regardless, it gave the Flames another power play, and this one was very good, with most of it spent in the offensive end. The Stork made too saves of the robbery variety though, and while the Flames pressured ( and got away with a clear slash that seemed to hurt Bieksa without a call ) for an extra minute or so, the Canucks would hang on, with some tired guys forcing a whistle to get us to the TV break.
Once again, the Canucks would use that pressure style to hem the Flambes in, and once again let them off the hook with a penalty, this one on Santorelli in the offensive end, when he missed the puck but got the skate of Giordano for a late PP. ( Meanwhile, that uncalled slash that seemed to injure Bieksa? He was not out for any shifts since then...So much for the striped shirts being out there to prevent injury from those types of things. EDIT : 3rd period replay showed the injury may have been on a shot block with the hand...though he WAS slashed as well! ).
The Canucks would kill all but the 23 seconds that would carry over to the 3rd, as their PK once again showed more puck pressure with the lesser amount of manpower than the other guys.
The stats appeared to even up a bit, in a period that the home team was the better one, with the giveaways now only being 7-5, as well as the Canucks forcing more takeaways, leading that stat 7-3 after two periods. The hits stat stayed unbalanced, now at 14-6 after two periods. The Canucks did not have the puck as much in this period, and only had 6 hits? One stat that was definitely troubling was the one where the Canucks only managed 4 shots in the second, being outshot 12-4, and 26-14 after two periods.
The last few seconds of a power play, on fresh ice, can sometimes be a boon to the shorthanded team, and this was no different, as the visitors remained perfect on the season on the PK by completing the task. The Canucks went to work getting the pressure going, but Dan Hamhuis tried a pinch, and Shawn Monahan showed great mayturity for a rookie with a two on one where he kept Lack guessing and beat him by taking the shot for a 3-1 lead.
That seemed to inject energy into the Flames ( though, maybe the back to back team sagged a bit after that one increased the home team lead ). Torts responded by actually breaking up the Sedins, with Henrik out there with Santorelli and Higgins. It resulted in immediate pressure, a close call for Henrik where he missed a bouncing puck ( Higgins then missed the same ). Daniel Sedin came out next with Kesler and Hansen, and they kept the pressure up, which resulted, eventually, in a turnover by Glencross to Daniel, who fed Jannik Hansen for another shooter's goal in the slot, for his second in two games, to make it 3-2.
The changed up lines ( Weise and Booth with Richardson, Dalpe, Sestito and Weber on a slightly used 4th line ) all reacted to the Sedin Breakup like it was a cattle prod to the bench. That same type of pressure that took over the Saturday night game It just kept coming, and eventually, a McGrattan turnover was forced by Higgins, dropped to Henrik Sedin, who fed one of his silky passes to Mike Santorelli for his second of the season to tie the game with just over 10 minutes left.
The Flames tried a bit to push back, but the Canucks had their "tails up", and only a desperation stick save by MacDonald on Higgins prevented a goal before the TV break with 6:40 left. The skating and hard work continued, and Richardson, on a 3 on 1, waited for O'Brien to slide by, neglected the pass, and was robbed by Joey Mac's glove. That gave the home team a slight energy boost, but Eddie Lack returned the favour on an admittedly easier ( with a guy waving in front, it's never THAT easy! ) glove save.
The Canucks were just playing the game at a greater speed than the Flames as this game died down, and Dale Weise did the deed, when he created a turnover, got the puck to Richardson, and took the return pass to beat the goaltender for a great goal with a little under four minutes left. What then followed was a great shift by the Henrik Sedin, Higgins, Santorelli line, with great hustle, and smarts killing almost a minute in the Flames end.
The last two minutes, with the goaltender pulled at about the 90 second mark, was all shot blocking and Lack saves. After freezing the puck with 46 seconds left, the timeout was taken, and with 19 seconds left, a mad pile seemed to push the puck over the line, with Edler helping it along. There was enough for a review though, and while it looked like David Jones diving into the pile might have contacted the puck with his hand, it was hard to see. So, in that respect, you can't really overturn it, and a great push for the Canucks came up short, and the game headed to O/T.
Torts splitting the Twins definitely worked, but he;s no dumb bum, and put the Twins out 4 on 4. Of course they almost rewarded that immediately, forcing a great save on Daniel, and generating more pressure.
All the pairings that followed did the same, with only some token zone time for the Flames breaking the pressure. In the end, a simply excellent rush along the boards by Kevin Bieksa, beating an attempted hit by #6 ( Wideman I think ) with some wonderful skate work ( "looked like a figure skater", said Cheech ) before feeding a nice sauce pass to Mike Santorelli in close, who had to be deft himself to get it with his stick on the doorstep for the winner.
In the end, while it was only an 11 to 10 advantage for the Canucks in the shot count, they were clearly the better, more fit, and definitely more determined team. They could have sagged after the goal with 19 seconds left. Instead, they said "**** this", buckled down, dominated the extra frame ( 3-0 in shots ), and scored a nice goal for the winner.
What some numbers said :
- David Booth, in addition to getting a goal, was much more involved in this game, with 2 shots, ( 2 missed shots ) a block, a hit, and a takeaway, while playing 16:50.
- When Mike Santorelli made the team, there were some backhanded slights to the quality of the bottom six. Well, so far, with 2 goals tonight, including the game winner ( also : +1, the two scoring shots to go with a missed one, and 2 blocks ), he nis now tied for the team lead with Hansen with 2 goals, and was put with the Captain and Elder Sedin and immediately clicked there too. Good local boy makes gooder.
- A bonus glove tap to Ryan Stanton for once again for playing well, as he was thrown together with Bieksa about half way through this one ( on what was maybe the best pairing in the second half ) , but the best defenseman tonight was Kevin Bieksa. Which is weird, because at the start, you could see him struggling just a touch, fighting the puck. He finished with 25:27 ( Edler had 25:42 ), had the game winning assist, 1 shot, 3 blocks, 2 hits, to offset the 2 giveaways from the first period.
So, that is a well deserved victory, and the Flames are a harder working team than the Oilers at the moment ( when that was supposed to be what the experts were telling us was the "missing link" once Dallas Eakins got there ). All in all, it was a pretty entertaining game, considering. The Flames tried to give their fans that "inspired" win after the "flood opening" to start the game, and came just a bit short.
At least they seem to play a 200' game sometimes!