The Canucks came into their penultimate game of their "odyssey" season long road trip with a 4-1-1 record so far. With the very well rested Blues waiting tomorrow ( just back from a team fishing trip no less! The Blues have had the last week off ), this game was the lynchpin to a decent road trip and a ".500" one.
The Canucks came in with a whole passel of questions about the lineup, what with david Booth drawing back in, still playing Andrew Alberts as the seventh defenseman, and calling up Yann Sauve ( which sounds like a Cap move for Mr Gilman to work his magic more than anything else ), the Canucks were keeping scribes and bloggers alike busy.
After listening to a bit of the hyperbole that Tony G brings, while out on a glorious bike ride in today's wonderful weather, I decided to just listen to tunes as I pounded the pedals, and wait for the latest "best radio play by play guy ( we really are spoiled in Vancouver ) until I could get hime and watch the game with Shorty. Life's too short, right? The great thing about Rick Ball ( enjoy him while you can Vancouver, the guy HAS to get an HNIC type gig soon with his talent ), like a lot of great hockey announcers, is you can tell how the game is going, and how good of a chance that was, by the voice inflections.
So, I had a good idea of what was going on in the first two periods before walking in the door at puck drop of the third. I knew that both the goals had been ones the goaltender didn't have much of a chance at. I got that, as it will be with the Devils, it was going to be a grind game anyhow. They play the game like going to the middle of the ice is a mortal sin anyhow. Five shots to three ( Canucks one PP in the first wasn't able to click, and Higgins had Schneider beat on his post ) in 20 minutes, and both teams only getting seven more each in the second made for a third period where this one could have slipped away.
But you, Canuck fans, have Roberto Luongo. That third period was a perfect example of what a good veteran goaltender can do. There were ample chances to get that one goal that probably would have won this one amongst the 17 shots the Devils had, compared to 7 on the board for the visitors. His performance in the shootout was sublime, and while it might not look as "quiet in the crease" as, say, Cory Schneider, the battle, never give up on the puck, and calmness exemplified the same way his team was playing. They ground through that third period. They dominated the overtime, and they got a pretty winner from Mike Santorelli that stood as the only "goal" of the skills competition because of Roberto Luongo. It wasn't the "80's game" that folks were pointing at after watching that entertaining win against the Islanders. It was closer to the "dead puck era" of the 90's, when the home team used the same grind it out to win Cups.
Like Coach Tortorella says, "good teams find a way to win these kind of games". The Canucks did that tonight, and rode the sublime play of #BeastModo to a hard earned two points that makes their road trip a success, keeps the good feeling rolling, and takes a team that looks like it is getting the system and enjoying it. They used the defensive aspects of it more tonight is all!
EDIT : Pascal Pelletier and Darren Archibald were both called up after this one, and will be with the team for the next game. Archibald had some preseason, once upon a time with the Wings, and Pelletier has had a total of 13 games with the Hawks and Bruins.
#BeastModo makes this a dangerous team for "the other team" to handle, if tonight was any indication. Having a dominant line will do that. They are certainly taking the extra ice time and running with it. Tonight, injuries to Dale Weise and David Booth ( not sure on both of them as of now ) forcing the Canucks to be a three line team, #BeastModo was still together most of the time, with a cobbled together 4th line featuring Tom Sestito ( who had 13 shifts and 8:30 TOI! ) getting Kesler or another centre at times. But it was this line that was the match for the Jagr, Elias and Henrique ( a bit of Loktionov too ) and more. They were responsible for all the scoring in regulation for the team, and carried the play a lot. Yes, another Torts combo seems to have clicked.
The Game Changers
17 - An opportunistic goal, an assist on the tying goal, +2 and 3 shots. Only 1:30 PK time in 24:57 TOI. His own personal #BeastMode 13 of 18 dominance on draws. He powered his team to a 33-25 edge over the night in the circle, and sure looks like he can handle the minutes, for those that are concerned about that sort of thing. ( he had some shifts with Santorelli and Higgins as well )
33 - It's a shame. If anyone else was second in the NHL like Henrik Sedin ( 3 goals, 12 assists , which is tops in NHL), and had only one game without points, it would be all over the puck media. The Twins always have had that "well, there's two of them, so..." narrative to deal with, although it never seems to bother either one a whit anyhow. But while they are part of a quickly becoming dominant NHL line ( another one...think Alexandre Burrows is wanting to get back out there and get some of those easy points like Kesler got on yet another "Sedin Copyrighted" move? The Slap Pass? How many teams do that all the time now? ) The Twins have changed the NHL in the way teams worked on the cycle after they showed others how to really do it, and the long bounce dump billiard shot is certainly going to show up on the highlights again, now that Hank showed everyone how to do it with the hybrid icing. Such smart players. 2 assists, a +2, 1 shot, 1 hit, and a takeaway in a team high for forwards 25:40 TOI.
22 - The 25:12 TOI that Daniel Sedin put in was pretty damn fine too. That shot off the brilliant billiards dump from his brother beat an ex teammate that has probably seen it many times before in practice, and it still beat him. +2, 3 shots, and a penalty that the Twins always seem to get called on them, but never FOR the team ( I mean, the guy stepped on his stick. ) Yes, it was more a penalty than the travesty late in the third on the Isle, but considering the stuff the referees let go ( Canucks were once again only given 1 power play, unless you count that 12.7 seconds at the end of the period that technically made them 0 for 2 tonight. Just call it the same way for both teams, please guys. Torts said the "Canucks don't dive". Aint that enough for you? ), it would be nice if the best Twins ever got a chance to dazzle the fans on the man advantage on a par with what other "star" players get called for them. Just a thought, not a "whine" here. Torts said we don't do that around here now either!
1 - Goodness. If you look at the stats, this is just another October start for Roberto Luongo. His save % of .905 going in was actually a high for that month for him. But this start to the year has been nothing like others. The man is "on" pucks. Last night, he had to deal with multiple tips with traffic, and made some great saves. Tonight, especially in the third period, he had to do his thing once again. ( Hell, before that. The save and scramble with about 4 minutes left in the second was assisted by a defenseman, but he was the reason there was no goal on a sure fire grade A chance ). His puck handling seems calmer, as does the way he directs his guys. Luongo had a .933 save % on this night on 30 shots, in a game where the opponent literally more than doubled the shot output in the first forty in the final twenty minutes. His save on the last shootout attempt to seal the win had Elias shaking his head on the way to the room. I do not doubt that he gets the start versus the Blues tomorrow.
23 - Alexander Edler was a -1, on the Devil's first goal. But he battled hard all night, and led the game with 27:51 TOI. 1 shot of 2 made it on net, and 3 blocks were surely appreciated, although the stats guy did see him give the puck away once.
3 - Kevin Bieksa was less the swashbuckler tonight, as this was not really that kind of game. He was a +1, had 2 of 3 shots find the target, had 2 hits, and 1 each of a giveaway and a takeaway. It might just be me, but the NHL leader in +/- ( +11 ) sure seems to be enjoying the #TortsBlitz style of play, don't you think?
5 - In regards to Jason Garrison, he is quickly becoming one of my faves on a blue line full of them. He was a -1, on that same 1st goal, and had only 1 of his 3 attempts hit the net ( where he is the trigger on the rarely seen power play ) , while racking up 3 hits and 2 takeaways in his 22:04 TOI. Without complaining about his third period penalty too much, let's just say I agreed with Cheech tonight. If you don't call the first one ( Henrique's cross check on him was harder, and worse, with no arm up ), don't call the second one! He had a great play on the only really dangerous O/T chance for the home team, preventing Jagr from maybe scoring, twice.
2 - I don't think Dan Hamhuis only getting 18:18 had anything to do with his play. He was a +1, and his 3:15 of PK time was only second to Tanev. 1 of 2 shots made it on net, and 1 each of the puck possession stats were on his stat line tonight. Maybe it was just his shifts that Andrew Alberts ate up!
18 - Ryan Stanton. Every time I write about this guy, I have to avoid gushing. There was that one situation late in the third, that is so typical of his calm, composed, and smart game. Under pretty good pressure, he not only made the play to break it, he then got the puck under pressure, and, again, under pressure from multiple guys, rushed it to centre and got the dump in. It's not all about the stats for Stats. Mind you, he was effective in that regard again, with a +1, 1 shot, 2 hits, and 17:26 TOI.
8 - The guy they refer to when talking about the guy above, Christopher Tanev, is progressing nicely for all the time and situations he gets put into. Yes, the puck did deflect off of him on the second New Jersey goal. But that happens. He spent a game high 3:57 of his 19:52 on the penalty kill, was a +1, with a shot ( on the rush, where he could have had another O/T winner if his stick hadn't broken ) and a hit, and made probably a gazillion more tough plays under pressure. He's like Gumby when forwards try to get a hit on him...
41 - Andrew Alberts tripled his ice time from last night and more, playing 3 shifts and 1:49 TOI.
There were a couple of forwards that had their games cut short tonight, making this another 3 line versus 4 line game. Mind you, the Canucks had 7 defensemen once again, for what that is worth. Still, Dale Weise only saw 4 shifts and 2:30 TOI , a -1 ( he was hit by Greene,and it looked like it was hip on hip...did not return ) and David Booth only returned to the line up for 7 shifts and 4:02 TOI, where he got a hit and a block to impress his coach. Not sure how impressed he was by him being nicked up on what looked like a normal enough hit. With the lineup young in Utica, and a couple million in Cap or so, the Canucks might just throw a couple extra defensemen up on the wing tomorrow in St Louis.
20 - Chris Higgins had Cory Schneider beat, but not the post tonight. The Swiss Army Knife of Tort's line up did see a bit of work with a variety of linemates, but played his usual honest game. 3 of 4 shots on net was tied for the team high, and 2 hits and 2 takeaways look good too in 21:21. We'll forgive the 0 for 2 on draws Higgy. This time.
9 - Well, how did Zack Kassian do? This was a tough game for him to get going, with an opponent that are masters at clogging it up. While only getting 1 shot, he got 3 hits, and played 17:37. His play was pretty good in his own end, and he was an even as a result tonight.
15 - The next two guys, I could talk about for days too. Brad Richardson was a -1, won 3 of 5 draws, had 1 of 2 shot attempts force a save, and also had 3 hits ( tied with Garrison and Kassian for the team lead ) in 19:32 TOI that included 3:25 of penalty killing time. The 2 giveaways is obviously a false flag stat or something. he wouldn't do that!
25 - Mike Santorelli. I love watching him play. All effort, and his speed definitely replaces that lost by Raymond. He is so much more than just the speed though ( his first step jump might be the best in the NHL. When he sees extra ice, gone baby gone! ) He had a wonderful shootout winner tonight, and while he was -1, had a giveaway, 2 of 3 shots on net, 2 blocks, 1 hit, and only going 3 of 9 on draws complete a less than stellar stat sheet, it is all the little things this guy does that makes his contributions so valuable. Mr Everything Jr.
29 - Tom Sestito had only 1 hit in his 8:30 TOI, but I do like how he is getting better and better at playing the system every game. He seems to be getting there faster too.
13 - One guy you don't have to worry about getting there is Jeremy Welsh, as he has a fair bit of speed for a big guy. His 11:51 TOI was productive, but for a penalty in the first for highsticking Gionta. He was an impressive 7 of 10 on draws, had 2 hits, and 2 takeaways.
There was more than a few of the players tonight that had a good night as far as the "Puck +/-" goes. The Canucks forced 12 giveaways tonight ( to only 6 for themselves ) and both teams were credited with 9 takeaways. Still, a +6 in the puck possession stats can't be a bad thing, right?
Onto the Blues. Who knows who will take the ice, what with the injuries. I hear Burrows has been skating. Hopefully, that foot gets another few days, and he is not rushed back just because they are shorthanded. Win or lose tomorrow, this is already a great road trip after tonight. Way to grind it out boys.