Now that was a hockey game. The result almost does not matter, though the more desperate team did get the two points they really really needed.
Sometimes its too easy to take a "message" from a hockey game or a result. For instance, if I told you that the Blues won the hit count, would you be at all surprised by that? How about if I told you it was 22 - 21?
David Backes had 6 of those hits for the home team. Reaves had 5, and everyone else but for five skaters had 1 hit. Contrast that to the Canucks, where the number of players with a naught in the hit column was eight. Of those guys, perhaps the most surprising was Dale Weise not getting credited with a hit. He seemed to be involved physically none the less. But some of the guys that you want to be involved physically were. Burrows had 4 hits, Edler, Hamhuis, and Kesler all checked in at 3, and Jannik Hansen and Tom Sestito contributed 2. Kassian and Lapierre were only given the nod for 1 hit each. So, in a chippy, intense game, the Canucks gave as good as they got. The Blues like to play #BigBoyHockey, but that was a game when the serve was definitely returned.
That was just the kind of game this was. Every scrum was a drama, and there were definitely players on both sides that got away with things and were out of control. When the night includes a linesman ( Darren Gibbs ) getting physical with a player ( Keith Ballard ), you know something is in the air!
As a fan of the Canucks and as a fan of hockey, it can sometimes be tough to stomach how a game gets called. It seems that there are nightly reports from across the league about absolutely abhorrent behavior being either dismissed or just bungled, way more than in years past. Head shaking decisions that have to frustrate everyone in the game. Such is the passion and fervor with which we love this particular sport. Having the social media access that we all do now definitely disperses and amplifies the particular incidents.
But, ( and I can't believe this is coming from me ) the refs have a tough time, with maybe the toughest ( and definitely the fastest continuous sport ) sport to have to officiate. When we see things like Backes doing his bull in a china shop routine in front and getting stood up to by Keith Ballard ( you never get on a guy for standing up for a teammate, but you know Bally wishes Burrows didn't get involved ), the natural inclination is to assume that, even in what was( I think? ) wrongly referred to as a "third man in" situation by the Blues broadcast ( no fight to jump into by the way it was called )...anyway, the inclination is to assume that Backes getting the original penalty in front was going to be called differently.
They have their reasons, and ours is not to question such august personages. I'll just shake my head and move on to the numbers.
3 - As in periods that the visitors were outshot tonight. 14-5 in the first, 11-6 in the second, and 10-7 in the third. In the 4 on 4 however, it was the Canucks with the edge at 4-1. Perhaps when there is open ice, Hitch Hockey loses some of its effectiveness? Maybe. There is little doubt about Cory Schneider though. The one goal that did beat him tonight is one that he surely wants another crack at ( though J'Bo did hide it well, and made a nice shot ), but apart from that, there is little to critique in his game. He stood up tall to a lot of crease crashing tonight as well.
0/4 - The biggest penalty killer is your goaltender, and Schneids stopped all 8 shots the Blues were credited with on the power play. I believe Shorty said that it was their 25th consecutive penalty kill after the fourth one tonight, and tonight's was especially impressive with top line penalty killers like Alexandre Burrows, Ryan Kesler, and Maxim Lapierre all spending time in the sin bin instead of on the ice. With a power play that is slowly coming around ( is that three straight with at least a power play goal? I don't want to look it up in case I jinx it ), and the importance of special teams in the playoffs, at least the special teams are rounding into form at the right time.
+12 - The Blues were much much better on the draw tonight. Well, David Backes was. Vancouver's failed offer sheet player was 15 of 21 tonight. Berglund won 8 of his 13 draws, and only Sobotka was under 50% at 4 for 12. That was mainly because he was playing against Ryan Kesler, who was 12 for 23 tonight. He was the only Canuck regular draw taker who went over 50%. Henrik Sedin was 7 for 18, but the guys who really got burned were Derek Roy ( 1 for 8 ) and Andrew Ebbett ( 2 for 9 ). Even Maxim Lapierre was under at 3 for 7. In the puck possession battle, its much easier to do that very thing when you start with the little black disk.
#2 - I was going to give the jersey number to #4 Keith Ballard tonight, just because I loved how he played the game. After receiving a borderline hit from Backes, he got right back up into the bigger man ( I guess that is where he got the high sticking minor, though that seems pretty lame on reflection, considering his stick looked more in the chest and the one he received was full on into the face. Oh well, I guess they saw it differently! ) and was quite willing to fight him. After that confrontation, he stood up to, and returned, a lot of physical play and post game chippiness. Well, maybe the deft spear he gave Backes at the bench in the third had a little to do with that as well. Bally packed a lot into his 17:15 TOI. 2 shots ( one on a nice rush up ice ), 2 blocks and 1 hit on the score sheet. I was going to. But Dan Hamhuis was very good tonight. He was a pillar under intense pressure, getting 1 takeaway and not being credited with a giveaway in a team high 28:33 TOI that included the highest ( by far ) shorthanded ice time at 4:42. He gave as good as he got all night, with 3 hits, 1 shot, and 2 blocks to fill out his night. Playing the Blues ( or any #BigBoyHockey team ) means standing up to pressure down low on the forecheck when they are on their game. Both guys did their job well tonight.
6 - Daniel Sedin led the entire game with 6 shots on net, ( Steen had 5 of his 8 attempts hit the net ) and one miss. He set up Alexander Edler for his simply awesome wrist shot for an assist as well tonight, and that entire line was the only one that seemed to give the Blues the willies. They had some good zone time, the #1 line tonight, and battled hard for it as well. It may have been hard to hold onto momentum for the other lines tonight, though, and credit the Blues with having something to do with that. But the first line, while having much more to give, was the best line to my eye tonight.
1 - Lastly, I wont come down to hard on Cam Barker for his mistake that resulted in the tying goal. I actually liked his game at times. He knows he had to, just like Cheech said, play that flipped in the air puck with his glove. He was interfered with by #42 ( the best Blues player by far tonight ) a bit, and it was on the change, but trying to play that puck with his foot was the wrong way to go. It was the 1 mistake that resulted in the tying goal. He knows it. But the team was, to that point, doing a solid job of playing their defensive system, being quick on pucks and getting them out of their own end in that third period. Get well soon Kevin Bieksa.
The next game on this road trip is the final one, and it is in Dallas Texas on Thursday. Until then muchacos...