Tonight was the 800th game for coach Alain Vigneault. Before the game, as usual in our hockey mad city, the debate was all about how he should be shunned for the sin of tweaking his lineup by putting Ryan Kesler between Derek Roy and Jannik Hansen. Number one or eight hundred, I would bet he loves every minute of it!
That debate quieted after a first and third period where both of them displayed definite signs of chemistry with one another. Mind you, the debate had probably shifted to what the hell went wrong in that second period. Part of that may be on the team that ended up winning, and part of that has to be attributed to the other team. Admit it, you thought the Predators were going to be in the playoffs this year, didn't you? Suffice to say, when they want to, they don't totally suck, even while being a, for them, pedestrian 10-9-4 at home.
So, I wont put that all on the Canucks having a bad period. They did in spots, indeed have a period where #suckage was an appropriate hashtag. They were also playing an opponent who were playing fast and loose, pressuring more than usual, and, simply, pissed off and looking to take it out on a rival in whatever way possible.
They tried. In ways both legal and dastardly. The refs seemed to try at times too, with more than a few head shakers for us #couchrefs to critique. But enough of the opinions. Let's see what the numbers have to say.
+14 - Don't get me wrong. Even though it was on the road, getting outshot by 14 ( 38 to 24 ), and having it be, by period, 9-9 after one ( 2-zip on the scoreboard ), 19-10 after two ( 3-2 on the big board ) and 10-5 in the third where they increased that score by two, is not optimal. There were times in that second period where they were on their heels, and only Roberto Luongo kept the score where it was. Once again though, that has something to do with execution. Except at points in the second, the Canucks did a fairly decent job in their own end at denying the open shot. Sticks were in lanes, bodies were taken, and pucks were gotten out. They were able to play that way because the power play took only 6 seconds to execute a scoring play for Jason Garrison on what turned out to be the winning goal, and because Ryan Kesler makes that power play better. Even if the Canucks did not have Rinne's number, no one was stopping that opening goal, and the one that hit the post may have been an even harder shot.
#17 - In fact, Ryan Kesler gets the jersey number mention tonight. That is what happens when you get 2 goals, a +1, 2 of 4 shots attempts on net ( and the aforementioned rocket off the crossbar ) 2 hits, and win 8 of 15 draws. It makes one forget the 2 giveaways. Whether on a line with the crafty and skilled Derek Roy, on the power play, or on the penalty kill, Ryan Kesler makes this team better. For the ice time watchers, he had 18:07 TOI tonight, which is a bit more than usual as he comes back from injury. But only 13:55 was 5 on 5, and most his special teams play was on the 2 for 4 power play ( 3:13 PP / 00:59 PK ) tonight.
+11 - That is how many times more the Canucks were credited with a hit. On the road. The 26-15 edge in hits was thanks to a 4th line that had a total of 6 hits, with Dale Weise having a team high 4 hits. But, more importantly, it was from a blue line that had fully half ( 13 ) of the team hit count, with the two defenders with a minus ( -1 ) leading the way with 3 each for Andrew Alberts and Kevin Bieksa. In today's game, where the forwards work very hard to get in and crunch people that play defense, the defenders overcame intense pressure to be more hammer than nail. That's a good thing with the playoffs on the horizon.
6 - David Legwand led his team with 6 shots tonight. He is their leading scorer, so that is not a huge surprise. But maybe the youth being served was a little bit of one. Bang ( pronounced Bong ) had 4 shots. So did fellow callup Filip Forsberg, Halischuk, and Mr Smith. All are rookies or nearly a rookie. But, even though he got to a puck that Bieksa should have had behind the net, and made a quick pass out front for an assist, there is no one more indicative of the Preds season than Sergei Kostitsyn. As Shorty noted, early in the game the home fans were making noise when he had the puck. They sure didn't make a ton of noise throughout the game for him though. I guess that is what happens when you almost lead your forward group in ice time ( 2nd at 16:59 TOI, 14 seconds behind Legwand ) and have 1 measly shot to show for it. Honestly, I can't remember his name being called after that point early in the second period.
#14 - To hell with it. A two jersey number night. Alexandre Burrows was at his prickly best tonight. Not only a nice goal on a skillful tip to make it 4-2 early in the third, and send a message that this period is not like the last one, but for the helmet losing play against Shea Weber that drove him nuts, hard play in front of the net that should have drawn at least one call, hard play in his own end that actually needed a referee to help him remove an opponent's stick from his skate, while shaking his head on any call at the same time, to getting under Hal Gill's skin for good measure, it was one of "those" games for AMFB. It seems that Burr' totally accepts the fact that he will never get the call, and just ignores saying anything about it every time the media types ask him about it slyly between periods. He relishes wearing the black hat while projecting he wears a halo. That is awesome. Almost as awesome as an undrafted ECHL player playing so hard and all the time that he is nicknamed "Mr Everything" by the fans. And since we are throwing around names, #9 Zack Kassian had a pretty eventful 12:18 TOI. He drove the net like a boss for one of Rinne's best saves, had another jam chance in the first, and responded to a petulant slash from Rinne late by standing tall and creating a veritable "brou-ha-ha". The goals will keep coming, and the skill was on display at times as well. But Kass' was a physical force tonight, and did not make too many glaring errors in his own end. Trending in the right direction big fella.
.947 - Roberto Luongo had 2 goals scored against and still had a .947 save % tonight. Once again, the Canucks had, to quote the coach " a goaltender that was better than the other guy". WAY BETTER.
OK...on to the St Louis Blues tomorrow at the same time as this one started. They are currently in 6th place, the likely opponent in the first round for the Canucks. After going 6-2-0, they have lost two straight, and will be a desperate team. You thought this one had some bite? look for the Blues to try and run the Canucks early and often. The physical play does not scare this team though, so bring that on. If I might hazard a guess, I would say Tom Sestito draws back in, just for shits and giggles. ( OK, because the Blues warrant a heavyweight to keep them "in line" )
Should be fun. That's it for now though. Its hard to find things to point to on a team that gets dissected to the Nth degree with now winning 13 of their last 18 games.
Well, hard for me anyhow!