Sometimes, it is like the game of hockey is indeed showing the analytics crowd that the Maple Leaf management's disdain for the new statistics. A look at the Extraskater link below will certainly show that the Wild won the advanced stats on this night.
The second period was definitely one that defied the math. The Canucks ended the period with just 6 shots, and only had half that until about the 15 minute mark of the period, yet scored the only two goals of that stanza, helping turn a close 1-1 game into a 5-2 win.
It was a game of moments, and hard work, and, let's admit it, some fairly shoddy goaltending by Kuemper, who let in 3 goals on 12 shots through two periods, before Kesler and Daniel Sedin scored in the third to put this one away.
The scoring opened on a tremendous effort by David Booth. After Eddie Lack outright robbed Moulson in the slot, David Booth took a Richardson face off win and showed the skills that earned him that big contract. He has been playing better of late, and just playing to his strengths. He certainly did that, racing up the wing, making the defender turn and chase to stay in front of him, before using him as a screen to blow one through his legs and past the glove of the startled goalie.
I do have to admit though, when the reply came just a couple minutes later, I did mutter "here we go again". A simple dump in had Bieksa turning for the corner when a stanchion decided to get involved, turning the dump in into a pass, dropping perfectly onto Charlie Coyle's stick. He rifled it over the glove of Lack, and a goal that was a gift from the Puck Gods made the score 1-1.
The Canucks were playing hard, but the Wild had the edge in play through the first five minutes or so. Then Nino Neiderreiter decided to do something stupid. He will certainly be hearing from Brendan Shanahan after this one. Yes, Wild fans, the puck was there. That is almost irrelevant, however. Nino came from the blind side, and definitely lifted up to target Burrows' head. It was a bad play. It was a play after a bit of a dustup with Kesler the shift before ( and we know from Shanny videos that they look for context. Neiderreiter might have been a bit frustrated ), and it was obviously intended to injure Burrows. The only thing worse than the play was the call, as Leggo only gave Nino 2 minutes, instead of the 5 and a game it deserved. ( note : Jamie MacLellan said he thought it was a good hit afterwards. I respectfully disagree with the one time NHLer. Besides, "Noodles" was a goalie anyhow. What does he know about hitting ? )
The Canucks did nothing on the ensuing power play, and had to defend one of their own on Bieksa right afterwards, before David Booth impacted the game once again. This time the defenseman was at fault ( Spurgeon), fluffing the pass to his partner. Kuemper was not ready, and the score was 2-1 with about eight minutes to go in the second.
The penalty kill was put to work once again a couple minutes later, this time after Shawn Matthias was whistled for holding the stick. It was excellent on this one ( and excellent all night, going 4 for 4, and enticing some boos from the home crowd during the fourth kill ), and gave the team some momentum to push back.
Just when it seemed that the team would, probably, be going to the break with a one goal lead, ( thanks entirely to a great play by Alexander Edler, clearing the puck off the line after it dribbled through Lack on some pressure in front with five minutes left ) Zack Kassian added to his strong game with a goal in the last minute that was pure "power forward". Richardson won the draw, but the puck laid just behind him. With Coyle draped all over him, Kassian still had the strength to be able to turn and get the puck on net with something on it.
That it surprised young Darcy Kuemper, and was the 3rd goal in 12 shots to get by him, was undoubtably the reason why he was pulled in favour of Bryzgalov to start the final period. But it does not lessen the fact that Zack Kassian scored a goal that players without his physical attributes and hockey talents would not have.
The third period was the best for the Canucks in this game. That is not just because their positional play and defensive acumen were at their best in this period, but also because they were offensive at the right times. Consider Daniel Sedin's first goal in a quarter of a ( nightmare ) season. After a battled face off win, Hansen took the puck, set up a Hamhuis shot from the point, and Daniel tipped it past Bryz'. It was a simple goal, and one that makes you wonder how it was so hard to score for so long. The relief as he raised his arms, and kept them up there for a long time, was nice to see.
After Brodziak took a holding penalty, Ryan Kesler got his first since coming back from the injury. Again, it was your basic power play goal, with many bodies in front, and a scrambled puck coming to Chris Higgins, who bumped it over to Kesler for the empty netter.
I take the goal off the ensuing faceoff for the Wild as just the Puck Gods being sneaky funny, as it was Neiderreiter who got it off of traffic in front of Lack. Obviously, that was just to rub it in, as the Canucks simply ground the rest of the game down, denying the Wild much room and time to get anything else going.
We know around here that the odds are still long. The Canucks pretty well need to run the table, and have two versus the Ducks, and the Kings and Rangers, in addition to two versus the vastly improved Avalanche, before ending up with the Oilers and Flames. They are definitely living on a prayer. But it is fun to ponder, isn't it ?
Consider this. The Canucks will definitely deserve to get there if they pull off the miracle, and will be on a roll and playing well. They would become the "team no one wants to face in the first round".
Some guys that stood out :
- David Booth, obviously. His two goals reminded folks that he has a helluva shot, and the guy can still play a bit. A +3 on the night, with 3 of 4 shots on net, a block, and 2 hits. Not bad for 13:57 TOI, even with a minor thrown in there.
- Zack Kassian. I raved about his goal of strength, but he was also had 4 shots, a hit, and was noticeable as much for his defensive play ( which was excellent tonight ) as anything else.
- Jannik Hansen. He only had an assist, and only 1 missed shot. But his +2 ( yes, flawed stat, I know, I know ) was as indicative of how he did the little things as anything else. A beast on the penalty kill as well.
- Alexander Edler not only saved a goal that could have changed this game entirely, he had 3 shots, tied for team best with 3 blocks, and was amongst several with a team leading 2 hits. He and Juice had a couple adventures, but the man played well overall.
- It is no fluke that the team has steadied since Brad Richardson came back into the line up. He is another player that does the little things very well. His assist on Kassian's goal came off of a won face off, and he was a game best 13 of 19 on draws, the only Canuck centre above 50 %. He had 3 blocks as well, and if you were thinking that almost every time the Canucks had a draw in their own zone #15 was out there, you'd be right. A great game by him.
Next up are the Avs at home. Yes, the Canucks have owned this team in the recent past, both at home and on the road, but this is not the same team as that one. They'll have to do the same thing tomorrow as tonight. Work hard, make their own breaks, and put up two more points.
Sometimes praters are answered, right ?