Around here, we have fun while we watch the games, afterwards when we dissect the games, and throughout the rest of the season and even in the off season. But sometimes there is no fun. Tonight's analogical entertainment is brought to you by Peter Jackson and company, and perhaps I mean something by it, and perhaps not.
What am I saying, of course I am making a sly point. But what? That Tony Gallagher has an eerie semblance with Gollum, and I wanted to show the visual evidence? Maybe. It is uncanny. But no, this is more about the trap ( like the trap Gollum tried to lay for Frodo ), and how these Wizards of the Defense will do anything to get the points, and damn the entertainment value and the big dollars the fans spend to come and see it.
Dave Tippett and his Desert Hounds, you have to give them credit. They work hard at their system, and damn is it effective. The New Jersey Devils won the Cup more than once by playing a similar way. The Minnesota "not so" Wild had a little success with this style of play, and the Dallas Stars also won a Cup with the devious sit back and soak up the pressure style.
There is a way to break it, right?
Ahhh, yes, the Neutral Zone Trap. As this breakdown shows, it is popular because it works. Like the article notes, the Ducks in 2007 won a Cup playing this system, and having some game breakers that the Coyotes do not. I do not seeing this team winning a Cup with it, but the league owned team is sure showing how to use the most entertainment killing system in hockey very well. I would say they make the Wild and Devils look like amateurs in their zeal to implement Dave Tippet's version of the trap. Like SNET tried to show, they almost dare you to try to go up the middle. The play up the boards is where you play the dump and chase, and that is what the Canucks tried when they were not trying the passes up the middle that had limited success. Lets face it though, success was judged tonight with how long they could keep the puck in the offensive zone.
- The funny thing is, after the goal on David Booth's play off of a lucky bounce, the Yotes tried to open it up. Hell, they even occasionally let two guys sorta kinda forecheck. The funny thing was, the Canucks had a 13-7 shot advantage in the second, the period they scored, yet that was when the Coyotes looked "maybe sorta kinda, I think we remember how to play offensive hockey", it was forced and tentative, almost like its against the grain. Laurie Korpikovski and Ryan Whitney aside, even natural talents like Gilbert Brule fall into lockstep. That is impressive that Tippett gets that level of buy in from his players.
- There were moments at both ends, of course. Hockey is a game of mistakes, and the Canucks, under that pressure had a 4-2 edge in giveaways after twenty, a 9-2 edge in that dubious stat after two, and finished at 9-3. But they also ened the night with a 7-2 edge in takeaways as well. A 32-23 win on faceoffs, a 28-20 win on hits, and a drought of shots in the third that made it a 24-22 edge for the Desert Dogs on the shot clock. Add that all up, and it paints a picture of a puck possession team like the Canucks that decided, in the third, to just play the defensive game that they can grind out just as well as the Tippett masters, and put this one to bed. A lucky ( or more unlucky for Luongo, who admitted that one was on him, saying he was "too far back in the net" when the puck was turned over ) goal on what was probably a dump in while under pressure from Bitz on the turnover, and Yandle gets his team a point that they probably deserved, even though the goal was ugly.
- But while the Yotes played their system to a tee, they should not be lauded for the fact that the most excitement in 65 minutes ( almost ) was the shootout. A night where the Canucks went 4 for 6 in that stat was needed, as Luongo was beaten three times on his attempts. But just look, all these moves on both sides that cashed were pretty nice.
Ryan Kesler's great wrister was the game winner, and he should definitely be in the mix. But damned if Cody Hodgson and Alex Edler are not good at this thing. Still, when the best offensive moves are on the skills competition, well...
- Can the callers, media, and everyone else that wants to dissect the ice time of Cody Hodgson please just take a seat in the back there? I know, I know, we'll bring out the folding chairs for the stragglers that always seem to jump on this topic late.You'll have to stand, some of you, OK? Its to be expected, I guess, but how about giving the coach some love? In a game where he was searching for some combo to break through the hard checking of the Orcs of Glendale, he did what a lot of coaches do. Find the guys that are going well. Its a hallmark of his entire tenure as a coach to reward "game" with ice time. He had 6 shifts ( same as the Twins ) and 3:45 that included 1:14 of PP time after one, and showed a magnificent rush that really should have resulted in a goal, just to finish off the effort in style. ( ended with that 1 attempt on net, and 3 more counted as misses ) After two he was up to 7:37 and 11 shifts ( because 2 minutes were spent on the PK that period), and showed he was still engaged and on it, while adding 2 takeaways to his stat line. But then, somehow, perhaps because he was playing so well, his shifts after the 3rd and O/T jumped to 22, and his ice time to 14:56. He was on the ice with Kesler and Booth on the most effective line for either team in that third. So, Cody Franchise had a great game and was rewarded with ice time and the first man up in the shootout slot. Imagine that. I know Gollum was griping about it in the pregame, and before the earbuds got pulled out while listening to the post game, the usual callers were whining about AV "ruining" him, but can we please at least acknowledge even the remote possibility that the team has had a plan that has obviously been effective for Silent G? He is being put in a position to succeed. The sad thing is, the media and some will point at this game as "proof" that AV "hates him or something..See, if you gave him more time?" While ignoring that the way it works, that when you play well, you play more, is pretty good too.
- The same differences of opinions will abound for the Sedin Twins tonight, but I did not think they were horrible. They had several attempts of plays that usually work that were defended well at the last pass, or broken up by good reads. Dave Tippett obviously would have assembled his minions and showed them video of the Twins. Shane Doan took away a goal from Henrik on a pretty play, and while the only shot credited was one to Alex Burrows, I thought that they played well at times. The times they were caught defending they did well, and in the end, sometimes you take what the other team gives you and they just don't give you much. Do I want more finish on those plays? Damned right. But I don't think I was the only one that was impressed by a very aggressive penalty kill from the Coyotes that saw them kill off two straight with a 14 second overlap, and a late third period call generated by a hard working play from Mike Duco. They did it very well too. The Canuck penalty kill should not be overlooked for their 2 for 2 night as well, but I was more impressed with the other team's PK as opposed to my own tonight. And my team was pretty damn good on the PK.
- The best Canuck tonight was the first star, David Booth. He was so strong on the puck, and man, is it nice to see Raymond's wheels on a guy that can finish. He may even have a quicker first step than Mase! He sure drives the net hard, as was evidenced on his goal, where his first step got him in front, and his strength held off the defender and gave him the chance to make such a sweet move around a goalie expecting the backhand. He led all forwards with 4 shots tonight, was a +1, and had 2 hits. His shootout goal was a nice display of his hands as well. A pretty effective and impressive 16:49 TOI.
- One guy that was also impressive was Dan Hamhuis. He seemed to be up in the play more, and you can see that he is starting to get the particulars of the first unit power play ( where he has replaced Sami in some situations, to give Salo the PK horse minutes ). I love the SaloBomb, and its still out there sometimes, but it is nice to see him get rewarded for his solid contributions at both ends of the ice. Hands up who thought Dan would have 3 goals and 26 points to this point. He was seconds below Edler's team high almost 27 minutes at 26:12, and had a defenseman high of 4 shots, while tallying a hit, a block, and 2 takeaways. I knew he was smart, and a good defenseman, but he continues to quietly impress me. Which I hear is what he is in real life, quietly impressive. Good Smithers boy!
- The blame for the shutout loss? Well, thats a tough one. The goalie? Sure, he admitted as much, but he was very solid tonight, making some tough saves on the 24 that got his way. Korpikovski was especially dangerous with 4 of his 6 shot attempts finding the goalie. So, do we blame Manny Malhotra for that quick little pass that handcuffed Bitz? Well, OK, I guess. But Manny was usual "situational excellence" self tonight. He won 8 of 13 draws, and led his team with 4 blocks. He had 2 hits and a takeaway in his 20 shifts ( only 13:13TOI. Win faceoff, go to bench, repeat!). How about the new guy, Byron Bitz? The media usually like to build a guy up to high heights before throwing him down the stairs, and we have sure seen them do that. But the man also was a bit unlucky. The pass was a little difficult, and it did not do him any favours with his check so close. You could see by his reaction that he thought he could have tipped it out. Yet, he led his team with 5 hits, and his 19 shifts were four more than Maxim Lapierre, who only had 15, while getting on the ice for 29 seconds more than Bitz's 11:35. As a matter of fact, the Canucks rolled their four lines and skated just fine tonight. Mike Duco, in addition to that excellent penalty draw late, showed that he might just have surprising wheels. He is quick! He also had 1 shot and 4 hits in his 10:29 and 12 shifts. Oh hell, lets just blame no one! Shit happens, right?
- In the end, that is what you can take from this one. The better team got the extra point, and against a team with an almost mindless adherence to their plan, they rolled four lines and got the win. Nitpickers will talk about how they matched the Devils for tops in the league with their 12th shootout entered into. The six wins will not help come tiebreaker time. But so what? They are now two points back of the Wings with that game in hand. They got the better of a team that makes it very hard to play their game, and they did it in a third period where they only had 2 shots and let up a shitty goal late. Its not textbook. Its certainly not the exciting hockey we are used to seeing against teams like the Hawks and Wings. But, its a win.
- Bonus point. Hockey players are like elephants, they never forget. Taylor Pyatt concussed Aaron Rome two years ago on a hit that was probably a bit of a blidsider. Aaron Rome saw the number and hit him hard behind the net, and did not finish the game. His hit was cleaner, but Blue Eyes did hit his head on the glass.
Bring on the Avs, and then don't forget to set your clocks to Toronto Time for their annual " we need to start early because of all the little kids that need to see our playoff bubble team" Leafs game on Saturday. Hopefully, the sync up will work better for me on this one!