The Chicago Black Hawks always seem to bring the best out of the Vancouver Canucks. Sure, they aren't going to win every game against a team like that. But when they play on the top of their game, they are definitely a team that has the measure of the best team in the West. Sure, a Hawks fan here or there might tell you that the Hawks were not on top of their game tonight. But the Canucks had something to do with that.
They won because they played "their game". They won because they not only had the offensive edge against a talented team, but because the defensive game, with Andrew Alberts and Cam Barker as the third pairing, and a super cool rookie playing his first NHL game, Frankie Corrado, worked together as a five man unit in their own end.
Nice tidbits from this game? Frank Corrado played, I think it was, his 93rd hockey game tonight, and has to be making scouts from the other 29 teams wonder what in the hell they were thinking letting this guy drop to the 5th round. Another neat little tidbit? It took 905 games for Henrik Sedin to pass Markus Naslund as the Canuck all time scoring leader. Daniel Sedin passed Markus in, guess what? His 905th game.
Oh, and hey Duncan Keith, try not to be a dick too much the rest of the way, OK? After Daniel got by you and scored the prettiest goal of the night, that hack was pretty bush league.
Update ; Here is how Duncan Keith reacted to being questioned about it by Karen Thomson afterwards...ummmm...Wow. "See ya" indeed Dunc'. First link the story, second link with audio at the bottom.
On to the stats!
#26 - Sure, the Sedins were the stars, and Zack Kassian had a solid game in only 8:44 TOI, with a goal, 2 shots and 2 hits, amongst many others. But when you play your first NHL game and look that comfortable, you get a special mention. His first shift, when he got the first of his 3 hits by wallpapering not only Kruger but the referee to boot, was one where, to paraphrase the immortal words of Nuke Laloosh, he "announced his presence with authority". In 24 shifts and 17:20 TOI, he also had 1 block. But it was the calmness and hockey smarts that impressed me. It is no mistake that Alexander Edler had a solid game being paired with the rookie. Perhaps the Canucks do have another "Iceman" Chris Tanev on their hands.
9 - Maxim Lapierre is getting into "playoff mode". His game high 9 hits definitely set a mood. Hell, his 3 hits on one shift in the second definitely showed the Hawks who was going to be the hammer, and who was the nail tonight. The Canucks won the hit count 37-23, with something like a 16-3 edge after a stellar first period. Lappy was also a team best 9 of 13 on the draw tonight. He also had 1 of 2 shots hit the net, and 2 blocks. Considering how the play on the only Hawk goal was one where a Tom Sestito clear went off a misplaced referee and right to Carcillo for the tap in, I am going to forgive Max his -1.
1st - Really though, this game was all about the #1 line for the home team. Consider this ; of the 32 shots ( to 25 for the visitors ), 9 of them were from a first line ( and not a one of them missed a shot. Burrows had 4, Daniel 4, and Hank 1 ) that was not only buzzing all night, but was also the backbone of the power play. It went 1 for 5, but except for the late final PP, the man advantage looked dangerous, with scoring chances on every one. Honestly, if Corey Crawford was not pretty damn good tonight, the score would have been a bit more depressing for the visitors.
2nd - While we are mentioning lines, how about the 2nd unit tonight? Derek Roy at centre and Ryan Kesler at wing, with Chris Higgins doing what he does, fitting in seamlessly, gave the Canucks another dangerous line all night. Roy looked very comfortable at the helm, and if Kes' can adjust the sights on his stick a bit, ( 3 of his 6 shots missed the net, a team high ) he will score a ton with the chances his slick centre will create for him. Not only were they pretty solid all night, but playing mainly against the Toews line ( JT went 13 for 24 on draws ), Kesler went 7 for 14 and Roy went 4 for 8. With #17 taking a lot of the important draws, and Roy there as well, you just know that the options are making AV drool. Now he has that line if he needs it, and whether one of the two star centres moves into the "2A" line position, or AV goes with Lapierre and Hansen and ( for this game it was him ) Ebbett on a more hardnosed "3rd" line, the team has players that can play together well. That 3rd line tonight had almost half the 37 hits for the team, with Lappy's 9, Jannik Hansen's 5, and even 1 for Ebbett. Options. It's a good thing.
5 - He wears #5, and had a blue line high 5 shots ( 2 others wide ), but local boy Jason Garrison might need a cool nickname. Something like "The Pain", because he fells foes foolish enough to stand in front of his howitzer. Perhaps "Boomer", because that booming shot was hard enough tonight to get him an assist on the power play even after being deflected by Oduya and going off Hansen. One thing I do like, is how he and Dan Hamhuis have gotten better and better at playing in their own end. Its funny how that happens when you are paired with Hamhuis, isn't it? Simply put, he is the #1 defenseman on this team. Tonight Hammer had 1 assist, 3 shots, 1 block and 1 hit, while playing 24:40 ( 3 seconds less than team leader Alexander Edler ) TOI. I know we have a cool nickname for when he plays with Bieksa, but it might be time for a variation on "HamJuice", because I don't think Bones is breaking up this pair when Juice gets better.
6 - Of all the players on the Hawks, I think that Patrick Kane might be my personal fave. While the Canucks did a solid job of containing the offensive stars on that lineup, Patrick Kane had a team high 6 shots and was the most dangerous Hawk all night. He forced the Cory Schneider to make some big saves on him. Kaner shoots from anywhere ( the shot on their 3rd period PP where he went for the top corner from a sharp angle with multiple players in the neighborhood was pure Kane, and without a big save, it was labeled for that corner. I know we like to joke about his adventures with taxi drivers, but this is one guy that has buckled down adn played hockey this year, and it shows.
.960 - Its a shame that the Hawks got a lucky bounce to get one by Schneider tonight. Once again, the Ginger was excellent when called on. His stop on Saad while the team was on the power play might have been his best. Sometimes a short handed goal has a way of turning the momentum. We'll never know if it would have turned it around for the visitors tonight, because of the strong left leg of the #1 goalie in Vancouver.
So, there we go. An all around effort with everyone chipping in, and a well deserved win for the Canucks while playing with ( still ) less than a full lineup against one of the best teams in the league. Next up is the Ducks on Thursday, when the Canucks will want another win to not only send another message, but because it is awards night. I have Dan Hamhuis for the best defenseman award, and Chris Higgins as best unsung player, just to pick a couple. Canucks.com is where you go to vote.