The Canuck players had heard all about the "you haven't beaten these guys in nine games" ( two in preseason ) in regards to the Sharks, and I am sure they went into this one wanting to show everyone just how good of a team they think they are. They sure did that tonight, clearing outworking their rivals all over the ice.
Definitely, the team has reached the point where their grasp of what the coach is asking of them is more automatic as opposed to thinking about it. Every line was getting to their spots, handling dump ins well, pinching at the right times, and playing physical. How physical? Well, on a night where it seemed everyone was trying to finish their checks on both sides, the hit count might not have reflected it, though the Canucks did outhit the Sharks 22 - 18. But the giveaway number certainly does. You give the puck away when you are under pressure, and the Canucks won that stat by an astounding 22 to 10. ( takeaways, the Sharks edged them 8-6 ). In this game the pressure style was really working better than it had in the previous two games against the Pacific division foes.
They were always on the puck. The Canucks were awesome at puck support all night, with all four lines having guys there as the first guy just took the body. They were all pressuring offensively more in the first two periods, and quite happy to match the Sharks' Big Boy Hockey style in the third, keeping things on the boards.
When they didn't dominate the play wholly in the third ( where the Sharks outshot them 13-8, in spite of the Canucks having two power plays ), Roberto Luongo shrugged off what was a fluky goal ( great quote from Lui afterwards..." I was getting tired of talking about giving up a goal on the first shot, so I decided to give one up on no shots" ), and said "None Shall Pass" the rest of the way.
So, while Lui's heroics might inspire bringing up the Black Knight, ( the alternate title was "Just a Flesh Wound" ) ,it is the entire team that showed his influence in the #TortsStyle game tonight, which is all about aggression and a pugnacious attitude while doing it. It was apparent all night, whether it was reflected in things like Ryan Stanton responding to Andrew Desjardin's DB move of the big snow shower on one of the first shots after the flukey one by letting him know all about it in the kind of fighting I have zero problem with. The same goes for Kevin Bieksa's almost disdainful ( OK, it's Juice, it was disdain ) response to Wingel's mad rush to Couture's defense after the Shark center tried to get something going. All I can say is Wingels got lucky, as Bieksa would have probably hurt him a bit.
The Canucks were just the better team tonight, and fully deserving of the win. Let's go through our lines shall we?
ExtraSkater.com ( look at the way that graph separates in the end of the first and through the second! WOW )
Yeah, Henrik Sedin, for only the second time this year, failed to get a point, and had a career long 12 game points streak stopped tonight. He only went 4 for 11 in the circle. On a night where no one on the team was a minus, he and his linemates were all just even on the night. But that was against the Sharks first line a fair amount of the time, and, at least if you look at the shots ( Thornton had 4 shots...with one of those a very liberal interpretation of the word shot...and Marleau had 3, but Czech Wunderboy Hertl was only credited with 2 misses. ), the Canucks won that matchup handily. You are generally getting zone time when you have shots. The Shark guys had : Hertl - one miss after two periods, Marleau - 1 shot, and Thornton - 2 ( nee 1 ) after 40 minutes. Your #BeastModo guys all had 3 shots each ( Kesler 1 miss as well ) after two. Kesler ended up with 2 more to lead the game. Your top line did just fine tonight folks. Even with a 0 for 3 power play ( and the last one, at least, was a more defensive one anyhow ) they forced the play, played strong at both ends of the ice, and all played in Kesler's particularly stellar #BeastMode on the PK as well.
We call Alexandre Burrows "Mr Everything" around here, amongst other things, for his well rounded game that is granted in hard work and effort. Mike Santorelli came in, and immediately displayed similar characteristics, so Mr Everything Jr seemed pretty apt. And everyone knows how hard Chris Higgins works on the ice. This game may have been something of a coming out party to the rest of the NHL. It simply did not matter who was on the ice with them, they were determined to outwork them, and usually did. If it got in the other end, which it didn't too often against these guys, they were either blocking it or getting it out. Just check these stat lines : Alexandre Burrows - 2 assists, +1, 3 shots, 25 shifts and 16:37 TOI, and 3 hits. Mike Santorelli - 1 goal, +1, 2 shots, 4 blocks, 1 takeaway, and 27 shifts and 18:12 TOI. He was 5 of 14 on draws, which will knock him down the Top 5 in faceoff %, but the entire team was like a pack of dogs on red meat on faceoff losses all night anyhow! Chris Higgins : He was given the first star in an away building ( meaning the San Jose guys picked them. Richardson and Burrows were the others ), and was jumping all night. 1 goal, 1 assist, +1, 3 shots, 4 hits, and 28 shifts and 18:53 TOI. He had 1:55 on a PK that went 3 for 3, and is now #2 in the NHL, behind the Capitals. ( Mr Everything Jr had 2:20 PK time, most on the team, 1 second more than Henrik Sediin's 2:19 shorthanded time ). This is definitely a second line, and all for just over 7 million. Look around the NHL and find a line playing second line minutes for that cost. Santo has 5 goals, 7 assists for 4th on the team in points, and Higgins has 6 goals, 4 assists so far. Just wait until Burrows starts really producing NHL, and watch out for this line!
I might have been most impressed with this line tonight. Torts does not play his bottom six a lot if they are not going, but these guys all looked strong, had good zone play advantage, and contributed on the scoreboard. Consider Brad Richardson ( the line's leader tonight in ice time, with 23 shifts and 14:42 TOI, 1:20 on the PK. 2nd star, 1 goal, +1, 1 shot, 1 miss, 2 PIM that was a light call, considering that he lifted the stick and did not get the hands at all, 1 hit, and 1 takeaway, while going 7 for 11 in the circle to lead his team ), who is now # 6 on a suddenly producing from everywhere lineup with 5 goals and 4 assists ( 2 shorties! ) while averaging 13:25 TOI! Check here and see where all the other guys on that list are. Great bang for the buck. Zack Kassian now has 4 goals after a slow start. His goal tonight was a "power forward" goal, battling in front and having a shot go off him, but, again, a nice stat line. 1 goal, +1, 2 shots, 2 hits, and 20 shifts and 13:23 TOI that included 1:32 PP time. Maybe the revelation on this line tonight was Darren Archibald. His 1 assist, +1, 2 blocks, 1 hit, and 17 shifts and 10:43 TOI. He was so very noticeable when he was on. Responsible, and pretty good in his own end as well. He responded to one of the best pressure teams playing desperately with quiet aplomb on one shift in particular in the third under great pressure. He was up on the play. He was physical and strong on the puck all night. Torts may not trust his 4th line, but with Archie taking his chance and running with it, he sure trusted a third line that was very hard working tonight.
You have to feel a bit for the fourth line guys on the road. The other team is always looking to vulture on your line with the last change, and when they do, it ends up with guys like Tom Sestito ( TEAM guys just blathered on about him because of his PIM tonight. Yeah, the stick swing was a bit too "dramatic", but that is a call that is made maybe 10% of the time. He got the puck first. It was a week call guys. You need a whipping horse, I know, but settle down. Tom Sestito is only a -4 on the year, even if that is team worst! ) He had a decent game in spite of that, with a shot and 3 hits to show for his 9 shifts and 4:34 TOI. That's 1 more shift than Zac Dalpe ( 8 and 3:45 TOI, 1 shot ), and a little less ice than Jeremy Welsh ( 8 shifts and 4:40 TOI ). They didn't get vultured much, and were as "stiff" ( as Torts would say ) as everyone else was on this night. A better night.
Karlsson and Subban are leading the NHL, with 17 and 16 points, but there are several Canucks on the first and second page of that list. Jason Garrison has 2 goals and 9 points. Kevin Bieksa, 8 points, all assists. His partner living up to his nickname of Stats with 1 goal and 6 assists. Ryan Stanton is a wonderful value. Christopher Tanev has 7 assists. Alexander Edler has 2 goals and 6 points, and Dan Hamhuis has 3 goals and 5 points. That is tremendous production up and down your Top Six on the blue line. Tonight?
Kevin Bieksa - "The Swashbuckler," they were calling him tonight. His risk reward style was on perfect display. He had a risk play rewarded on the first goal for the Canucks, jumping up and getting the puck to the net on the Richardson goal. ( He jumped once later and left Stanton to face a 2 on 1 on Brown's goal against as well. It wouldn't be called a "risk" if it worked all the time! ) 2 assists, +1, 2 shots, 1 block, 2 hits, 1 takeaway and 2 giveaways in his 25 shifts and 20:41 TOI that included 2:55 on the PK.
Ryan Stanton - "Stats". I have to restrain myself when I write about this guy. It's funny. He was Juice's partner most of the time ( 13 shifts and 10:30 off all 5 on 5 TOI ), and just seems to read the play so well, with steady plays and smart decisions. 1 assist, 1 missed shot, and 2 hits. What a steal. Thanks once again Chicago. He's only 24!
Christopher Tanev - "Gumby" . We could refer to his ice veins demeanor and smart passes out of the zone, and how he has fit in so well with Edler. I call him Gumby because he seems to have no regard for the forecheck pressure when it comes to those smart passes. They hit him after ( sometimes during ) the pass, and he absorbs the contact like it's nothing. He was denying an assist on a great pass on the Santorelli goal, but ended up a +1, with 2 blocks in his 28 shifts and 19:48 TOI.
Alexander Edler - "Beast". No, not another nickname for E-Money. Just the perfect word to describe his game tonight. Whether it was tossing guys away like he did to Shepard in the third ( no, Shakrs fans, that wasn't a penalty. Just one player more bad ass than the other ), or clearing the net, there was some overall snarl to his game tonight that I loved. Coach must have thought so too, what with his 27 shifts and 24:15 TOI that included 2:55 on the PK and 1:32 on the PP. He had 2 shots, 1 miss, 2 blocks and 2 giveaways.
Dan Hamhuis - "Leading The Way" - The days of folks asking "what is wrong with Danny?" are long gone in the hypersensitive market. There probably never was, to be honest. Just a guy getting used to a new system. It is pretty apparent that he has now. The quiet leader not only led his team in TOI art 24:30, he led the blue line in both PP time ( 3:43 ) and PK time ( 3:17 ) while going a +2 ( team lead ), 3 shots, 4 blocks ( team lead with Santorelli ) , 2 takeaways and a giveaway. Wonderful in his own end tonight.
Jason Garrison - "Bomber". He didn't get a goal tonight, but did tie Kesler for shot attempts with 6 ( only 3 found the mark though ), and he only played 17:45 on 22 shifts ( 2:44 PP time ), while having 2 giveaways. Like everyone else though, he was strong in his own end.
Tonight, the team that has hovered around 50 shots a game recently, the Sharks, and were virtually unbeatable at home ( though they are 4-2-4 in their last 10 games, the Sharks have still been tough ) was held to about 10 shots halfway through the game, outshot 26-11 after two, and 24-24, on home ice. Anytime you can hold a team like that to 24 shots, job well done.
I don't know if we will look back on this one as one of those "turning points" the narrative builders like to refer to, but this was a great game by a great goaltender. You know how the narrative used to go. A "goal like that" would have "crushed" our #1 'tender. Check the extra video below for how he handled this one in the post game. ( Knowing his sense of humour, I bet he;s a Monty Python fan too! ) All you can do is shake off a goal like that and move on, and that is exactly what he did. On a night where he only saw 11 shots after two periods ( because of how well his team was playing in front of him ), had the Mother of All Fluke Goals and one of the few mistakes his guys made get by him on the Brown goal ( another he had little chance on ), Luongo made a robbery save in the second on the 10th shot that might have changed the entire makeup of this game, and was the best player on the ice in the third, with several of the 13 shots the home team threw at him forcing strong saves. While the Sharks trying to drive his crease only got through a few times, he stood up to all of that as well, and made at least 3-4 saves that shut the door in the third, and let the home fans know tonight was not going to be their night. I mean really...it should have been 4-1!!!!
So, there you go. A bit longer tonight, but hopefully you'll think the extra few minutes of reading was worth it. ( If not, enjoy this extra video. It's Gold Jerry! )
L.A's next...then the hot right now Ducks. If they play this way... ;-)