It is hard for the Canucks to not feel a little like they got "Cartmanned" in this one. Once again, they came into a game, on the last leg of a road trip, on a back to back, and put in a yeoman effort. They even got a goal from Tom Sestito! Unfortunately, against another good team, they did not get the result they did against the Blues at the end of the last trip.
It would be the only goal that they could tally tonight though, and even while outshooting their opponents by a healthy margin ( 36-23 ), and having the lion's share of possession in the third period as they tried to tie it up, it wasn't enough. They worked hard, they played pretty good hockey, and seemed to have the run of play quite a bit.
But it was not enough. Not when the Ducks are pulling goaltenders out of the Denmark who play like they got a whole body blood transfusion from Patrick Roy!
It started out pretty good for the visitors. They had a great opening period, with chances and zone time, outshooting the Ducks 13-5 ( 20-12 in shots at net, when you add up the blocks and misses ), and batting aside what should be a good power play like Mutumbo in an insurance commercial. ( The Ducks certainly mirror the Canucks in that. Even without the injured Ryan Getzlaf, a power play with that kind of talent should not be inhabiting the same Bottom 5 as the Canucks...another team with great talent on the power play! ).
But any chances were handled confidently by the Danish goaltender, and the Ducks forwards and defensemen were doing a great job at supporting him as well. They blocked shots pretty well tonight ( the Canucks won that stat 17-16 ), especially on the penalty kill, but really excelled at the body position and having "good sticks" that coaches notice but maybe we don't. They also ( and it has to be said. I may be biased, but I don't remember the Rogers Arena stats man being like this ) might have had a little help from the home town guy when it came to the physical stats. The Ducks are a big team that likes to play physical, but 13-5 in hits after one period? 24-15 after the whole thing was said and done? I saw two teams throwing the body all night, for what that is worth.
It wasn't until the second period that the scoring started to come, and when it did, it was on another strange one. Not anywhere near the level of that "moonwalking puck" Luongo had to deal with in San Jose, but the opening goal by Corey Perry had a bit of the unusual about it. It started when Eddie Lack made a save on a point shot. The puck went high into the air, and with the defenseman looking like he had Perry tied up pretty good, Perry did something I have only seen Daniel Sedin do. He headed the puck. Now, if you get deep into the rulebook ( I didn't know until they talked about it later either! ), heading in the puck is like using your hand or kicking it...verboten. But Perry's original play was OK because he got his stick free and got to the puck that was sitting on the goal line behind a helpless Lack before it went in.
It was not until about 5-6 minutes later tat the Canucks were able to get one to tie it up, and it came from the fourth liner who has made the most of getting a chance to play more, Tom Sestito. Yes, we all know his failings, and he is definitely not the best guy in his own end these days. But he made a very smart play, and displayed some offensive jam in tying it up as well. It started with a nice lifted dump in from Kassian, which Brad Richardson was able to get to first. Sestito made a smart read to the front of the net, and then shook off what was a pass in his skates by contorting that 6'5" body to lift one over the surprised goaltender.
Unfortunately, the "killer" in any hockey game always seems to be the late, end of period goal. While it seemed that the Canucks were OK, and about to go into the last period with a tied game, the Ducks used some solid pressure to get on a puck in the Canucks end, had everyone running around off a change, and scored what turned out to be the winning goal when Etem made a very nice pass across the goalmouth to a wide open Nick Bonino, who had the entire net to deposit it into, on a goal that Eddie Lack did not really have a chance on either.
It might have been a different circumstance if the visitors could get the power play working. They had two chances in the second, one in the first minute, and one in the last five minutes. Either one of those having some success, and the Canucks are in a very different position, regardless of the beautiful play the home team worked to get the winner. It just is not having any puck luck. Mind you, it is not really giving itself a chance to have those bounces. Unlike some sports, what we call "puck luck" usually seems to come for the team that earns it.
Now, it might be said that the referees could have called more in this game. It's a fine line, between "letting them play" and "calling everything". I had no problem with it. They called penalties that were all infractions made, and didn't seem to let too many things go that might have made a difference. We could nitpick about, say ( Burrows had his stick knocked out of his hand on a potential breakaway), a Sedin ( Daniel? ) being tackled without an arm going up, but those are judgement calls, and the refs had a good game as far as I am concerned.
They certainly had no need to think about it in the third, when Christopher Tanev lifted one into the stands for the automatic call. Those can sometimes be killers, but the Canuck PK just shrugged that one off, having a couple half chances off the rush shorthanded, as opposed to the one late in the penalty shot that Lack handled easily.
After that power play, it might have been the amount of times you can count on your hand ( OK, maybe the other hand was needed...maybe ) that the Ducks were able to put anything other than token pressure on the Canucks in their own end. The Canucks had a lot of zone time, and some great chances ( Burrows in front might have been the best ), but the home team did a great job of supporting their goaltender to bring this one home. All that was left was the goalie to be pulled for a last chance. The Ducks pushed it up the ice enough, and forechecked enough, to get a late race for a puck that was denied, but which put everyone, including the tired Canucks on the ice, in the wrong zone when you don't have a goaltender in both nets. Andrew Cogliano did the deed to seal the game for the Ducks.
So, a 1-2-1 road trip, where the Canucks could have made it a bit different with a smidge of luck. There will be a bunch written in the four days before the Sharks game on Thursday at home about that, and the team's relative chances in the toughest division in hockey. Suffice to say that, for me, it is too early to make that judgement. The Canucks are playing without a three players that would put their lineup in better balance due to injury, and while they have played the Sharks a lot already, they have only played the other powers in their division once each.
Let's wait to write them off like the TEAM callers will tonight, shall we? A few individuals and their nights :
Tom Sestito - Yeah, I am screwing with you a little bit by mentioning him first. While I do find our predisposition for railing against the relative talents of our 4th liners and 6th defensemen humourous, I get it. #TommyBoy is not the strongest in his own end, and has the added animus of being portrayed as "just another facepuncher". I also realize that it is the line up holes and the number of games in so few nights that has Torts slapping #29 on the back more than usual, but let's look at the stat line anyhow. 11:42 TOI, 1 goal,a +1 ( I KNOW! ), which only Brad Richardson and Zack Kassian also had ( both played well tonight ) amongst the forwards. 2 shots, 2 blocks, and 2 hits. He was seeing time in the third over Dalpe, Welsh, and Archibald, who all saw in the 6 minute range by comparison. It is what it is.
Henrik Sedin - I had to pick a Sedin, so I picked the captain. His brother had a better night by the stat sheet, ( a -1, 2 shots, and 20:39 TOI ), but I picked Hank, even if he had a shitty night. He was a team worst -3, had 1 shot, and 1 hit in 21:34 TOI. He also went 11 for 15 on draws, and while he saw time on lines with everyone from his usual mates, to his Burrows and Brother line from last year, and Higgins and Burrows, amongst others, in the third where Torts was tapping anyone with a pulse to get together and get out there. He still worked hard the whole game. Even though you could see that the guys were getting tired towards the end. We have come to expect no less from Hank, even in his worst game stats wise all year.
Ryan Stanton - Good ol' Stats. On a night where others played more, he was his usual solid self, with 16 shifts and 13:06 of all 5 on 5 ice time. 2 shots, and a team and game leading 4 blocks.
Christopher Tanev - Somehow managed to be a +1, and had 1 hit in his 26 shifts and 19:50 TOI. A little less flashy than Stats, but he did OK. He had a couple chances to shoot that he did not take, however. Yweah, the guy was getting out there on him to help deny it. But he needs to not think sometimes when it comes to that, and be winding up as the puck gets to him. He'll get better at that though. He gets better at everything if given time.
I could go through a few others, like Ryan Kesler leading the team with 5 shots, Alexandre Burrows having 6 attempts ( 4 on net, including that great chance in the third ), being a -2, while working hard and winning 4 of the 5 draws he took. Bieksa, Garrison, and Hamhuis had 3, 3 and 4 shots respectively, or Alexander Edler only having 1 shot, while leading the entire game with 5 hits. All four of them played from 19:35 to 22:30, as the coaches seemed to realize that everyone was running a bit empty, and would not be able to give them that extra 2-3 minutes of ice time they had been sucking up earlier in the trip.
But, basically, the Canucks played a good enough game to win, made a couple of mistakes in coverage that ended up in their net, and couldn't beat a goaltender and a team that was playing their support system very well. The line between winning and losing is sometimes that thin.
Onto a bunch of days off to really pick at all the stats, video, and whatnot before the Sharks come into our barn on Thursday. Make sure to stretch before coming to your conclusions, and remember that, when in doubt, always blame the 4th liners and 5-6-7-8 defenders first.