The first time in 22 games the Canucks have not scored at least twice occurred tonight. The first regulation loss since January 15th. You'll excuse me if I can't work up too much angst, though I will give it a shot!
Besides, Alain Vigneault had enough for all of us. I must have heard at least three "are you kidding me"'s with the arms in the air, while jumping up on the bench this game. From Tootoo to Gill, to just about anyone in front of Rinne's net, they got away with a fair amount, but in today's NHL, where we just don't know anymore what is and isn't a call, you'll excuse the Canucks coach his histrionics. He is usually not on the referees that much. But even the coach that asks the team not to "talk" is not a perfect man, and should be excused when he does "work the officials" like he was tonight.
Truth is, the Predators hit two posts when it was 2-1, Roberto Luongo robbed Kostitsyn and especially Shea Weber.
The Preds deserved to win. They were the better team.
Does not mean I have to like it.
- Mike Fisher had a great game for the Preds. He got a bit of a bounce on the opening goal on the power play, but was the one that shoved it in. Sami Salo was a bit slow to react to it, and the puck from the nice Suter pass clipped off of Luongo right to Mr. Underwood. Still, Salo did not react to it quick enough, and probably should have been covering the back door play a little tighter.
- It was the play on the second goal for the Preds, on the penalty kill, that was the killer tonight. Again, it was Salo, but this time it was more the good play from the other guy. The power play was doing quite well, but a puck just down the boards far enough to make Sami think was the killer. Mike Fisher made a very nice play on him to keep the puck instead of chipping it, and then he was off to the races. It was the pass though, that made the play. With Alex Edler playing the 2 on 1 quite well, Fisher had to make a very skillful saucer pass over him. He did, and it was perfect, right on the stick to let Kostitsyn blast away. Luongo had no chance on that one.
- Roberto Luongo was not the one to be blamed on this one. Without him, in a game where the Canucks did not battle through enough, especially in the third, this one would have been worse. Sure, he had a couple posts help him out. So did Rinne on a David Booth chance. But Shea Weber made a great move on him, and should have scored. He forgot his Olympic teammate does not give up on the puck, ever. The Kostitsyn chance a bit later, Dan Hamhuis recovered enough from his turnover to trouble the shot, but that was a fine example of a goalie being strong in the crease to deny the backhand. The Canucks outshot the Preds 33-28 in this one, and had some chances. But I would surmise that the greater chances were for the home team tonight.
- The home team won 15 of 21 draws in the first period. They also gave it away a lot ( 7-1 in the first ), and had to scramble and count on the goaltender early. He made a huge one on Burrows in the first, and was pretty big in the first power play for Vancouver, where they had pressure for the entire two minutes. The shots that were getting through were being covered well. Rinne commanded his crease well all game. You knew that the guy that is now the NHL leader in wins with 33 would not have a fourth "bad" game against the Canucks.
- The Canucks did not have their best tonight, but that is not to say that they did not have their chances. David Booth was unlucky to hit the post ( and , lets call it "unlucky" to not have a call on Weber soon after, when he blatantly shoved him into the net while the pressure was building. That was interference, or delay of game. The future Canuck got away with one there for sure ) But after the 2-0 goal, and that great power play, it was Dale Weise, of all people, that opened the scoring. He was the beneficiary of a defensive faceoff win by Manny Malhotra, and good work by Maxim Lapierre, and some luck as Smith's stick was in there. But going to the net is never a bad thing, and it was nice to see him get rewarded. The 4th line for the Canucks was very solid tonight.
- The third line, or the Triple H line, was also good, and one of the most dangerous. Cody Hodgson had a solid game, but his last pass was getting deflected away a little too much for me. Credit the Preds for having some good sticks in their own end.
- In his 500th game, Alex Burrows was involved, to say the least. He made a clean hit on Weber, and got an elbow in the mush as a reward. Instead of backing off the soon to be Canuck, he got right back in his face. Weber overpowered him to the ice, but there was no quit in him. He finished with 3 shots ( missed 1 ), far better than Daniel's 1, and Henrik's none, and was getting in there all night. It did not work out for you tonight Burr', but don't think it does not go unnoticed. Hard work is what got him here, and its what you see every time he is on the ice.
- Lets cut the Twins some slack on the call in shows there, TEAM 1040 dialers. I am not even listening, but I am willing to wager at least one of them will say that they were not strong enough, or did not do enough, etc. They were in the other end a lot, and they took a bunch of abuse and kept on coming. Yes, there was not a goal or two from some Sedinery tonight. But it was not from lack of trying. Sometimes you have to give the other team some credit.
- David Booth was unlucky not to get rewarded tonight though. Apart from the post, he had 6 shots, missed one, and had a block ( a big one on Suter ) His going to the net ended up causing a pure gimme for Mason Raymond to sweep into an empty net. But you know what happened. It has been like that for Mase lately. he was flying tonight, and hunted pucks very well. But his inability to click with those other two, and his dangles with the puck without getting it to the right guy, are hampering the second line's effectiveness. I hate to agree with the media types that will be throwing the man under the bus. But I am starting to see where some of them are coming from. I still believe in Raymond, but there is no doubt he is thinking too much, and struggling as a result.
- OK, the more I look at the penalty that resulted in the only power play goal tonight, the more I have to get something off my chest. On that play, and on the one on Aaron Rome, it was embellishment that helped the referees along. Yes, I get it Preds fans. You like calling the Canucks divers ( even though it was your team that led the playoffs last year with diving penalties ). But Henrik Sedin simply did not do anything wrong. He went to the guy and their skates touched. its not his fault that Craig Smith was turning at that time. Its certainly not his fault that the guy assumed the "soccer player" position and threw the arms out to get the attention of the officials. I can only assume that they teach the rookies the same thing, what with the flailing legs of Gabriel Bourque as he took the opportunity to skate through Rome's stick. The defenseman obviously made the mistake of having the stick in there, and that is a penalty, but come on Preds and your fans. At least look without bias at your own team ( you know, the one that was given multiple diving penalties in just two playoff rounds. Also with the only GM so upset by the prevalence of the practice that Bob Murray took the unusual step of "going public". GMs are usually too canny to do that in the playoffs. He knew the shitstorm, and possibly iffy calls against his team afterwards would result. Its pretty telling that he felt so strongly that he called out the Preds anyhow ) before shouting and getting all upset at dives that you "think" you see. It is why it makes the referees' job so tough. You cannot really blame them as a result. Do the Canucks embellish? Of course, all teams do try to get the refs to see the call. But please, come up with a new thing if you want to complain about the Canucks. Perhaps how mean Kevin Bieksa seems to play against your team. Maybe Alex Burrows. He did force JP Dumont out of the NHL two years after he hit him. Oh wait, he is still playing in Switzerland? Hmmm, maybe he was just not good enough? Now, before you get mad, let me be clear. Its not the embellishment, a sad fact of the game. Its the insistence that the Canucks are the only ones that do it. C'mon Man!
- One guy that is good enough is Hal Gill. He is slower than molasses, and that might be a problem at times for the Preds. You could see that the Canuck speed was giving him trouble when they got him to turn. But he has been traded at the deadline to playoff teams multiple times because of his size, and his smarts. Both were on display tonight. He ended up with a second assist on the short handed goal, and had 2 hits. It was the 3 takeaways ( led his team ) and the fact that his 16:05 on ice ( 1:39 PK ) enabled them to have both Weber and Suter play 23 minutes instead of 26-27 minutes. That will be a big help with those young defensemen they have. It certainly makes them a better team. His lack of foot speed may still cost them in the long run, but damn, I wish my team would have traded for him!
- Stats that help tell the tale ; After only winning 6 draws out of 21 in the first period, the visitors made it 20 apiece after two, and had a 31-27 edge at the end of the game, led by Kesler's 9 of 16, and Cody Hodgson's 5 of 8. All lines were a minus or an even but for the fourth line, all plus one due to the Weise goal. Of the 33 shots for the Canucks, 13 were from the point men. Most of them did not have enough traffic to trouble a top flight goaltender like Pekka Rinne. The Preds also paid the price in their own end a little more than the Canucks, blocking 16 shots compared to 9 for the visitors. The Canucks also missed the net 9 times to only 4 for the Preds, with Cody Hodgson having 2 misses and none on net. Alex Edler also missed 2 from the point. Those blocks and misses do not help your power play, no matter how nicely you throw it around.
So, there you go. The Preds were full value for their win, and while I think the Canucks were not at their best tonight, you have to think that the greater work effort of the Preds had something to do with that. Oh well, on to a battle for first place with the Wings on Thursday.