I was looking at the schedule before this road trip, and truly thought it might be asking a bit much. The Coyotes had played well and deserved the win the last time the two teams played. Add to that a 12:30 Saturday start at the Kings, and a game the next night at the altitude of Denver for the Avs, and this three gamer had "whoof" written all over it.
That was before the slew of injuries that required a line up that featured a call up, another call up, and a tough guy, to go with Lapierre, Dutch Gretzky ( otherwise known as Dale Weise ) , and one Keith Ballard playing left wing on the "3rd" line.
Or maybe its a 4th line. Whatever. Hard work from Sestito, Gorden and Ebbett supplemented the surprising contributions from Bally, the top two lines did enough to make it work around goals from Chris Tanev and Jordan Schroeder, and the goaltender was awesome.
So let us start there.
.971% - is the save percentage you get when you allow 1 goal on 34 shots. Thats always pretty good, but more than the number of saves was how he looked making them. This is the Cory Schneider that I remember. The calm one in the net, where he is almost always in the right place, and has an economy of movement that brings to mind Mr Miyagi versus those Cobra Kai kids. He is just "there" when he is on. The one goal tonight came when the Ginja Ninja made the save on a blast with traffic, only to have it go off him, off the post, and to a wide open Vermette for the freebie. ( to be fair, Schroeder's game winner had a slightly similar feel ) That looked like the only kind of shot that was going to beat him tonight. I think my favorite was the breakaway of Hanzal, I think it was, that was followed up by an immediate rebound save on Vrbata. In the last two minutes. THAT's the goaltending we were looking for. You would think he gets the start in L.A.
11:39 - was the amount of ice time Keith Ballard had tonight. He was credited with 1 shot on net, but his best chance was when he made a nice play one on one in the first period, going inside out, and hitting the post in the first period against Derek Morris. It deserved a goal. But he really excelled at playing the "system" up front. I continually noticed how his forecheck was airtight, surprising defensemen with his speed and physicality down low, and forcing bad passes and even turnovers at both blue lines. When his line has a few shifts in the defensive zone, they mainly did pretty well, and his defensive experience seemed to help at that end as well. Give him time AV, it looked like he was getting the hang of in front of the net too! You have to say that he was noticeable for the right reasons tonight. I'm pretty sure the coach liked that performance.
24:11 - Is just one of the impressive numbers on Alexander Edler's stat line tonight. That number was second to Dan Hamhuis having :39 more. Edler had an assist on the winning goal. He was a +1, and had 4 of his 5 shot attempts hit the net. He tied Jason Garrison for the team lead in blocks with 3, tied Kevin Bieksa for the team lead in hits ( such as it was. Really, every time someone on the home team hit the boards within a couple feet of a Canuck player, I am pretty sure his finger stabbed the button ). He led his team in penalty minutes with 5 ( which seems like the wrong call, no? It looked like he was going for the puck. Give it a minor, that's fine. I guess either Morton or Joannette is a devotee of the "theatAH" or some such. Or maybe Mike Smith should be up for the Emmy this year. Either / Or ) for his debatable major. The main thing is that he was involved. Whether it was a subtle play under pressure behind the net or along the boards, or an active stick that sent another puck into the netting, Edler played pretty solid overall tonight.
2 - Not to continue to harp on poor Cal Clutterbuck's uncle, but in a game where both teams played a hard forecheck, is Uncle Clutter' really going to tell us that there was only 2 giveaways by the home team tonight? ( 5 for the visitors ) Ballard forced more than that on his own or with his linemates tonight. Maybe thats another stat that has "local bias" issues. Or maybe the statute for a "giveaway" is just really, really hard.
10/12 - The faceoff stat is sometimes another that is subject to that, but its usually pretty cut and dry. The team that ends up with the puck off the draw is pretty easy to see most of the time. On a night where the Coyotes edged the Canucks 35 - 32 at the dot, Maxim Lapierre was credited with winning 10 of his 12 draws. When you look at his ice time, you have to give the coaches a bunch of credit. Lappy has 10:57, while Dale Weise clocked in at 12:41. Tom Sestito was the low man at 8:13 TOI, but take a guess who the top minute man up front was. If you said Henrik Sedin, you win the kewpie doll. If you took the under on 19 minutes ( 18:11 actually ), you probably bet too many props for your own good. But if you took him as the #1 in Canuck ice time, and then got cocky and bet the trifecta of Alexandre Burrows and Mason Raymond ( with 36 and 38 seconds less respectively )...then I want to hang in Las Vegas with you champ, because you are a wizard. Honestly though. The discipline of short shifts and the fact that AV did not ride the Sedins into the ice ( didn't everyone think they would crack 20:00 tonight? ) is definitely a reason for praise. They kept a very high pace from start to finish because everyone was fresh.
#25 - I could mention any one of several jersey numbers that were worthy of singling out for praise tonight. Jordan Schroeder was really solid at both ends of the ice, again, and his 2nd line was a big reason for the win. I thought Andrew Gordon did pretty good with his 8:37 TOI, by playing a simple and low risk game. But I really liked the game of Mr "I really don't want to go back to the AHL" Andrew Ebbett. The man had 3 shots in his 15:36 TOI ( buttressed by 1:57 of shorthanded ice time )...but my favorite stat was the 9 of 20 draws he won. A fair amount were in his own end, against a team that is 4th overall in faceoffs won and winning %. Vancouver is 20th and 27th respectively in those categories. Sure, about 1 in 3 of the draws are won by the wingers anyhow, but its nice to see the man battle, and I just wanted to give him some praise.
11 - That is the number of games in which Jannik Hansen has at least a point. #36 has gone from a part time player with humble roots in the 9th round of 2004 to a guy that has to be, at the least, Vancouver's most improved player this year. He is simply AV's Danish Army Knife. With that amazing speed at the heart of his game, Honey Badger has morphed from a guy that is hard to play against to a guy you have to assign your checkers to. Jordan Schroeder said of his line mate before the game "he just knows where to go to get open ". With an assist, 2 shots, a +2, and a block in his 17:29 ( 1:25 PP / 1:30 PK ) it has become obvious that he makes just about any line he gets on "go". That is a journey that is all about hard work and attention to detail. #36 could be singled out for praise every damn game. Its great to see another guy go the Alex Burrows "you too can be a star if you work very hard" route.
So, there you go. A big win in a hard fought game, and now an entirely different challenge awaits. Thanks to the fact that "Screw You" Doughty was feeling so puffed up about scoring his first goal of the season 27 or so games in in the Yotes' previous loss ( or maybe he was feeling good about hearing he gets to go see Obama next week ) that he decided to answer a question about the Yotes by chirping the Canucks instead ( news flash champ...the Canucks are #2 in the NHL in fighting majors. They don't "whine"...they just handle loudmouths on the ice this year )...and you KNOW that the next game is shaping up to be a physical battle. Maybe the stats guy in L.A isn't related to the Clutterbuck clan. We'll find out Saturday at 12:30 at Staple Center.
Lets hope everyone makes it out of it not injured!