No, not Ann Romano and Julie and Barbara, and their lovable superintendent Schneider. But Cory Schneider and his lovable antics in the crease. In the "planned" start tonight, he would battle another "backup" in Brian Elliott. Would the rest of his team have his back? Would Booth score? Would Luongo jump over the boards and tell Cory "I got this buddy" after a lousy goal, ignoring AV's icy stare?
Perhaps the home team could score first and take the game to the other guys? All these questions and more can be found after the break.
(hint, at least one team plays a solid two way game tonight )
We learned at the beginning of this one that Manny Malhotra is not at 100% yet. Now, you might say, well, "duh". He has not looked that great to start this season. But he was bumped down to the 4th line ( while still being out for defensive zone faceoffs). Aaron Volpatti gladly took the ice time and ran with it.
Not only that line, but all of them displayed a sudden remembrance of Canuck hockey initially. Defensively this team was the best last year, and it was a big part of their game. That seems to be harder to get going this early season, but it was apparent to start. Even in a period where the Blues out shot them 14 to 7, and won the faceoff battle 11-7, they were mainly solid in their own end.
The times the Blues got the better of that, there was Cory Schneider. It was a good thing. The Blues have some shooters on that team. Hello Alex Steen!
They seemed to be a bit more engaged than the Canucks in the first in the offensive end, but really, its in their own end that the Blues have improved. Shattenkirk and Pietroangelo are big and make the safe play. It makes for some less than exciting hockey to watch, but its damnably effective.
Young Alexander Sulzer looked pretty good for his first game in Blue and Green early. Taking the extra second to make the right play, he may be a better partner for Ballard than another riverboat gambler like himself in Bieksa.
Totally arbitrary, but I don't mind the third line, except for Aaron Volpatti. His skills are more fourth line and make that line a bit more thuggish. With Malhotra there, its different. But I get that its a medical thing most likely ( Money needs a little time in back to backs early in the season perhaps? He did not get much time to train this season ). The fourth line was the go to for AV when he had a defensive zone faceoff.
For all that, a little puck luck and it is 2-0 after one. Both Hamhuis and Kesler hit a post after beating the goalie cleanly.
#'s after 1 ; Vancouver lead in one column, going 13-9 in hits. Booth, Hansen and Higgins all had 2 after one, and the 2nd line had 5 hits. Hank ( 4/8 ), and Silent G with 1/2 the only centres at 50%. Nicol was 3/3 and Backes 3/5.
The home team is supposed to get a break now and then, but you have to earn those against the Blues now, and it seems that OHalloran and Auger are in no mood to give the Canucks a break tonight. Little things that sometimes get called, ( or, we are just used to in today's NHL ) just were not being called. Not that the Blues did not do them, little interference pick plays and such, but good for Stephane Auger and his partner for not succumbing to that pressure and calling some cheapies for the home team. There was no need. They reffed a good game. So that story should be dead. Well, Auger did anyhow. ( I kid, I kid, no ref baiting here...)
The Blues are a hard working team though, and made the Canucks work. Mainly, they were just not making many mistakes with the puck. They played in their own end very well tonight.
I thought our guys did too. Until they did not. Its partly the new guy fitting in with the second line that can be pointed to for that line's struggles, but these defensemen have all played together enough in the past. They all know the system by now.
Its predicated on jumping in at the right time. Like last night when Kevin Bieksa jumped at the wrong time ( on a PK for God's sakes!), it cost a goal.
Tonight, it was something similar. Its not all on him. Part of it was the forward ( Higgins) not filling in for him as he should when Juice jumped into the play. Part of it was a turnover that gave the Blues the opportunity to go the other way in a hurry. ( great play by the defensemen on the rush ) But everyone had their own part to play. Cory Schneider made the first save, but noted Canuck killer Alex MFing Steen got on the rebound before anyone and put it in.
Numbers numbers numbers ; 15 shots after two. The Blues had blocked 13 by this time ( Huskins with 5 ). Blues 22-20 ahead in faceoffs after two, to go with 25-15 shot lead. Nucks still had a 20 18 edge in hits. Lapierre had 3 of those.
I would like to say that the Canucks came back with a miraculous third period comeback, but not against this team on this night. Credit the Blues, they played a wonderful road game, clearing pucks, covering each other in their own end. Elliott had to make some saves in the first two periods, and he made a bunch more in the third, but AV should use this tape to show his team how to play in your own end.
Add to that, the breaks just were not coming. It seemed that Dan Ohallaran was making sure that the Canuck fans forget Auger's name. After a well deserved penalty on Arnott for holding Hansen in a bear hug in front, the power play just could not get going, mainly because one was called on Edler. Maybe he did connect with TJ Oshie's chin while battling for the puck. It looked more like not when I froze my PVR, but I honestly might have missed it. Regardless, Dan O'Halloran and everyone else saw the head snap, and we were on 4 on 4 instead. The same with their second power play, where it looked like Daniel Sedin was just poking the puck and the guy fell more than was tripped. It is the same as any other sport though. Those guys get to see it once, and at high speed. But it was the "other" guy that had the "meh" calls tonight.
The maddening part was that right after the penalty ended ( a solid PK, they have now killed 18 in a row ) and it was back to 5 on 5 again, Edler, Hamhuis and Bieksa all ran around confused, and Edler was late getting to Steen. He must really hate us, that guy. His shot from the boards looked like it might have caught a stick on the way, but it beat Schneider on a goal that would have had the Luongo-baiters furious.
This was the best offensive period for the home team. They were definitely playing better in the third, as seems to be the way things are going this season so far. The Sedin line was doing a lot more, and if Burrows could finish a chance in front, well, who knows? His stick was tied up, he was physically bashed around, and it was really tough in front of Elliott tonight. Again, show them this tape AV!
So, even though the Canucks were outshooting the Blues in this period ( it would end 17-6 ), and even though Burrows had one on the goal line but no closer, and Weise hit a post late, it was not like it looked really dangerous. Brian Elliott had to make some big saves, and he did, but sustained pressure was hard to come by, even in the Canuck's best period of the game.
Sigh. Another goal off the rush, this one on a beautiful play by Shattenkirk to Berglund.
Positive numbers on a negative night ; Well, not really! Henrik Sedin was the only centre to get to 50% by the end of the night, at 12 of 24. Money was a decidedly unmoneylike 4 of 12! Well, Cody did go 2 for 4. Ballard finished an even tonight! _2 each for Bieksa, Booth, Edler, Hamhuis, Higgins and Kesler. Booth did finish with a team leading ( tied with dale Weise )4 hits, besting Kesler, Higgins, and Lapierre, who all had 3.
All in all, the better team won tonight. The new line configurations for the third may be a bit more permanent. Hansen was better with Team America than Higgins, and Cody Hodgson had a decent enough night. He was getting battled off the puck more than I noticed in other games this young season. There was good to see in this game, and with some luck, who knows. They had 3 posts, and several great chances. Booth had a great chance in the third and missed the net on the rebound with a rolling puck. Ditto for Edler later. At least Alexander Sulzer showed some German efficiency!
Let us not totally despair. One day at a time ( and no, I do not mean that in a "Hi, my name is Dan and I am a Canuck fan...) Capitals on Saturday night. Get your radio warmed up so you can sync up Shorty and avoid Mark Lee! All the cool kids are doing it.