Come on. Did you think I would go for anything other than The Sweet tonight. So what if Byron Bitz was eleven when this song came out. Its his now.
Tonight, we saw a game tailor made for Twitter ( and I look forward to the Game According to Twitter to come ). Beforehand, the debates over the line changes ( can you believe that they are punishing Hank by putting him with Bitz? ), the goaltending at both ends, the two goals for the Predators in 1:02 ( one that should not have counted, at least by, you know, the rules according to Mike Murphy, and Daniel's no goal in that LA playoff series that all Canuck fans immediately refer these kind of things to), and a third period where only a few chances late betrayed another third period that was dominant, on the road, in a place where the opposition were the best team in hockey recently. The home team has to be considered the "better team" tonight. But this is where the judgements always differ, how much better. Our goalie was definitely better. He had a couple posts help him out in regulation, but his counterpart had two straight in the shootout. So, you know there will be differing opinions.
I know we love to go over the here and there of the various games and the results, but this win is one that Alain Vigneault gets a stick tap for, along with Roberto Luongo, of course.
More after the break.
Right off the top, I have to say, I want to go to a Canucks game in Nashville one day. I want to go to several classic arenas, but the Nashville folks have very quickly made that a "fun building to play in" for the home team, and I am sure the opposition get up for it too. The "Luongo Sucks" chants, the way they get up and loud pretty easy. Even the way they tried to call a penalty ( a little greedy on a clean check after you had 4 in the first two periods guys, but we understand ) in the third. Their team is a good one, and they are going to be in a lot of games. Fortunately, not quite good enough tonight. That is now, including the playoffs, the 5th straight win in Bridgestone for the Canucks.
- Yes, I saw the two goals in 62 seconds in the second on Roberto Luongo. I also saw Kostitsyn sheepishly grinning after his ( he knew what he did, and the turn of the skate looked to even lift a little, usually a big no no with the War Room in Toronto ) somewhat lucky to not be called off goal. The other was a Weber shot that went off the pants of the guy going to the point, and then off Mike Fisher to keep himself hot. But really, come on now. Without Roberto Luongo and his huge ( 11 saves ) penalty j killing awesomeness, the Preds are up more than a goal into the third. Sometimes those goals happen. But Luongo did not let them bother him, and came back and stopped a LOT of shots. THE stat from SNET? Roberto is 13-0-6 when facing 40 shots. He likes it. That does not mean the Canucks should let that happen a lot, but when he is making saves to get the team to the chance to win, like that amazing Two Pad K-Tel Paddystacker that took away a goal...well, I guess its just time for people to give him even a modicum of respect. He even outdueled Pekka Rinne ( who had won 11 straight in the shootout, and was denied the record tonight ) by stopping 5 of 6 shootout guys ( OK, Erat missed, and the Wilson miss right through the five hole and out notwithstanding ) in a pretty impressive shootout, by not going for any moves and following the puck like a champ. Here's the highlights of the night with the other announcers. The "SAVE" is at 2:55. Kevin Bieksa made a great point about the shots being a bit deceiving tonight as well, saying that "they must have directed about 20 pucks on net coming over the line that Lui just turned into the corner". The point being that, like the Wings, Hawks, and other teams that direct shots on net as part of the game plan, just because the shot total is high does not mean that they were "shots". And Bieksa would know right? ( Shots shots shots shots....lol )
- The guy everyone will talk about is Byron Bitz though. The new guy had himself a pretty interesting game. Do you think this guy wants to play hard for a coach that rewards good work with ice time? To say nothing of waking up and looking at the board this morning and seeing that he had the assist leader of the last two years as his centre. You have to make the best of your chances, and he did that by following the play, seeing it develop, and bashing a puck harder than anyone really thought he could off the post and in off of a naturally perfect backhand pass right into the wheelhouse. I am sure that no one thought he had that in him to make a perfect backhand pass after looking like Burrows on the next shift with the Twins, after filling the cycle perfectly. A 1G, 1A, +2, 2 shots ( 1 missed ) and 1 hit in a very eventful 12:36 TOI.
- Alas, as I listen to the post game ( for the player comments, not the passive aggressive, not good enough spiel from Blake and Jeff, and certainly not the callers! ), it seems obvious that they will want to keep the "Canucks are not playing good enough to win but are winning" going for a while. Its not totally wrong tonight, but it is definitely a harsh judgement. They were playing one of the top teams in the NHL right now, a team that was flying going into this one, and they battled very hard. The pairings, from top to bottom, had some giveaways ( 2 Ballard, 2 Bieksa ), but were all very good under pressure in their own end. Kevin Bieksa made an egregious mistake on a reverse in the third, but was bailed out, and a few others had moments of not perfection. But this is a game of mistakes, and in the fastest continual sport in the world, expecting perfection is not really logical. Keith Ballard, for instance, was a -1, and had a great game. His rush late to set up a strong Kesler chance, his shot on a scramble that forced Rinne's best save, and the way he and Rome came back after a few rough patches was just fine with me. The last caller just bemoaned how they are not "winning in regulation". "Sigh" Like the late Al Davis said, "just win baby". Thats 4 in a row on the road right now. Stop seeing the thorns so much you ignore the sweet smell of victory!
- Once again though, the best defenseman was Alex Edler ( with an assist to his partner Sami Salo. You all saw how he tracked down Martin Erat on one of the few "chances" that the Preds had in the third ) tonight. In addition to a sly shootout winner, where he hid the puck well, saw the spot and hit it after fooling Rinne, Edler was a blue line best +1 ( with Salo a +1 ), had 3 shots that were solid chances, 2 hits,1 block and a takeaway.
- Speaking of takeaways and giveaways, the Canucks should be lauded for how they came into Bridgestone and forced them both all night. They forced 15 giveaways while only doing that 4 times themselves, and had 10 takeaways to 7 for the opposition ( after a first where they were down 4-3 in that stat ). You couple that with the fact that at least some of those would have occurred on a penalty kill that went 4 for 4, a power play that directed 4 shots on net on its only power play, and scored on the only one that was on net, and a goaltender that was loving it tonight with a .925% while letting in three goals., and I think we could say that this game was an example of "efficiency" tonight. Look, of course I saw the same periods of play where the other team came on hard. They are a good team. But I honestly thought tonight was a better example of how the entire team was better in their own end under pressure, and, with three of four lines changed, an example of how the coach deserves some praise.
- Crazy I know, but did you see all the machinations AV went through in his tete e tete with Trotz? His line up changes gave him three lines that all showed periods of offensive flair. and that subtle change of putting Daniel out with Henrik and Bitz resulted in the quick goal. The goal on the power play from Ryan Kesler was another example. He knows his teams strengths, and know that Alex Burrows is underrated with the puck. That set up to KesLord for his thunderbolt was Henrik Sedin like.
- Speaking of those identical superstars that we have the pleasure of watching ( and that Blake and Jeff are haranguing as I write this ) were quite good tonight. Daniel Sedin made the Kesler line dangerous enough to force the first line matchups. His goal was a sniper goal, and he had a solid 19:10 while finishing +1 and having 2 shots on ( and 2 shots miss ). Henrik Sedin was referred to as "Terminator" on Twitter after barely missing a shift after taking a puck off the ankle ( note to Hank, don't turn like that when you are trying to block shots. You scared us ) and had 2 assists on those two quick goals that helped turn this game. He was a +1, and had a shot, that block, and 2 takeaways while going 7 for 12 on draws.
- In addition, I thought that both Twins showed an ability to mesh pretty well with their new linemates. They were not always on the lines that started though. After successful penalty kills, the Twins and Burrows, and the Twins and Bitz ( and a short shift with Booth I think ) made appearances, as did the Poutine and Meatballs line on a couple occasions where AV looked for a lift. The lines all, even though they did not get it through, or have as many scoring chances as we like, had entire shifts in the offensive end, including the fourth line, and the Cody Hodgson line at times. I honestly think that the line juggling had an added benefit of not giving the opposition a chance to match as much as they do against the Twins.
- AV rightly mentioned the power plays, and lauded "getting to know " Bitz when asked about him. He was way way down the shootout list though. He said he "used quite a few tonight" when asked about his line combos, and that they would keep working on it, while singling out the Kes line as one he kept at ( being stubborn like I can be "), but admitted that going back to the Twins was pretty easy to do.
Meanwhile, the post game has degenerated into an amazingly passive aggressive way of judging this one. It was far from a game that they were lucky to win. The goaltender is part of the team, and as is their wont on our only game in town coverage, the truth about this game is probably a little between the way too negative that I am hearing, and the maybe a bit positive that I am writing. Get ready for more and more bemoaning ( Blake is continuing his non stop "let Cody shoot first" campaign for the shootout choices . A fair point, but when he discounts "why is Edler there" when he made a pretty goal that turned out to be the shootout winner, it does make me shake my head! ) I certainly am not hearing as much love for AV as I am giving him. Frigging Coach V lover that I am!
I'll take the win, and the points. The Canucks are now 1 point out of first overall, with a game in hand on the Wings. Onto the Wild, and a potential start for Cory Schneider in the Excel. Though, if Luongo is ever going to turn around his personal house of horrors that is the Minny arena, it might be a time to see if he can carry this superlative play into St Paul.