There will be no mentions of a certain player from a certain Eastern team, nor any of the hyperbole and invective.
Just some observations after the break. My "A" game? I always try, but I am a little drained from the weekend festivities and the clamour afterwards.
- You will not hear me lay this one at Roberto Luongo's feet, even though he should have had that 1st goal. The thing is, he did his job at the start of that play. He deflected the puck to the spot they alway do. It usually leads to a break out, as those type of saves are almost a pass. Maxim Lapierre did not get there quick enough ( a common refrain tonight ). Luongo should have had the fluttering shot from Kulikov. But he did not get it. By that explanation, it was a weak goal. But it certainly should not have put his team into a tailspin that it did. 14-2 on shots in the second period? Unacceptable. But they might have been drained emotionally more than physically tonight. Sometimes, those things have the same effect.
- The 4th line for the Canucks was pretty good. They got the only goal, on a play that Mike Duco helped out on by checking Jovanovski and forcing a bobbled pass that Manny Malhotra chipped by the last man back. He made a very pretty pass to Dale Weise, and all he had to do was chip it in. Count Duco had 3 hits, and a +1 in his 7:26 TOI. Manny was OK, but maybe had his worst night in the circle all season, going 3 for 11. The line blender was out in the third, and it did work, with the visitors coming on strong. But through the first two periods, Dale Weise and those two were solid, even when they got caught out in their own end against the Cat's more offensive players.
- For all that, one thing I did observe is the stats guy in Florida probably spends his time scanning the crowd for babes, and just hits the button on things like the draws. The final number was 29-25 for the Panthers, but I stopped taking him seriously after the first period. He had them at 11-5 for the Cats at that point. I thought I saw more than 5 draws won in the first period for the Canucks, but I was not keeping count THAT closely. He's the NHL stats guy, and I am not. He also had the Panthers at 26-20 in hits.
- For all that, the downfall was the second period, where the visitors seemed to be on a beach somewhere instead of in a hockey game. Give it to the home team. They came on after a first period where they were good early, and held on ( thanks to Clemmenson ) through most of that period. The second was given to them, and the third looked like a classic trap team style ( where they got the turnover chances, but clogged up the neutral zone ) For as bad as the Canucks were in their 14-2 shots against period, the Panthers were the same in their 14-2 third period. Their goalie was the difference in the final stanza, for sure.
- The winning goal in tonight's game was the only one on special teams tonight. It is not one you can really hang on the goalie either. He made the first save. The players all collapsed to the net correctly. After that, they just forgot that the Panther guys were there too. It was not sharp, and Marcel Goc was the only player who seemed to remember that the guy that found the puck first was going to have an advantage there. Lui just had to try and cover as much of the net as he could, and the puck found a hole. I am sure some wag on TEAM ( probably Sekeres ) will say he was "swimming", but thats a little unfair. You make the save, and then you try and find the puck. There were plenty of guys to help him out and they did not. Sorry if that sounds like excusing the #1 goalie to you. It is not. He did not have the first one. That is on him. But lets not get too heavy into the "Blame Luongo" camp for this one. The entire team had plays they would want back. The team usually bounces back after a stinker. They get to try and do that against the Bolts tomorrow.
- Cody Hodgson had maybe the best game of the night for the losing team. He was hunting the puck very well. He was making passes that other guys were flubbing more than he was on the pass. He was a beast along the boards, an aspect of his game that seems to improve every game. He got a -1 for being out on that first goal, but that belies the game he had. 3 shots on goal, and 5 of 7 faceoff wins, in a game where the coach saw him ( rightly ) as one of his best players and put him out with Raymond and Kesler as his second line. 14:35 TOI, including 1:50 on the PP. He was the trigger on the first PP of the third ( the only one ), and they looked effective.
- The flip side. The Sedins sucked tonight. I almost want to give them a break after the intensity drop off from the previous game, but that is too kind. They had 2 shots on net, both by Daniel ( the best chance for Daniel may have been a rebound one where he shot wide of an open net. ), but he also missed the net 4 times ( Hank 1 ) Hank was 5 for 15 on draws. The little plays they make were failing all over the ice. Give the Panthers defensemen credit, but that was not the best out of our quiet superstars. You know they will come on back a lot harder, and I am not really that upset, knowing that. It has to be said though. It was not their best game by a very long shot.
- Ryan Kesler was going, relatively speaking. He still needs to find his shot a bit more, but he was skating hard, had 4 shots ( but missed 3 ), won 11 of 18 draws, and led his team with 21:32 TOI. If the visitors were goiung to come back in this game, you got the feeling it was going to be on his line or the third, or even the fourth, before the "first" line. I don't blame AV for sending them back out, they are your best players, and we have seen games before where the Sedins have a bad game and end up with multi point games anyhow. It did seem that Kesler's line was out almost as much, especially in the third.
- The defense. You cannot say that they had a great game, but I grow more and more confident with Andrew Alberts pinching. And really, did you honestly think you could ever say that? He did not fill up the stat sheet ( 1 block, 3 hits ) as much as Bieksa, for instance ( 4 shots, 3 missed, 3 blocks, 2 hits ) in far less ice time, but I liked Big Al's game more than I liked Dan Hamhuis's game, for instance. He seemed to be fighting the puck all night.
- With that said, Hamhuis should have drawn another power play in the third. Bradley hit him with the puck not even a thought. ( and not all that close either ) I guess the fact it got the loudest cheer of the night form a rink that sounded like a chapel at times convinced the refs it was a good hit. They were not horrible, but that was more the typical "Meh" reffing we are used to. Maybe the Canucks do not even put on pressure in the last 30 seconds, but that penalty that sealed the deal on Burrows was just wrong. He did not even look at the guy. It was obviously just two guys skates clicking, and totally accidental. To give the Panthers that call then seemed more than a little "Meh".
- That is it. I could find more, but honestly, like the players themselves possibly..."Meh"