Your humble scribe is usually on the away games beat, but for one special night, it just feels right to do this one.
I won't tell you that I was there in early November of 1991. Like most of us not lucky enough to have a ticket, I caught the highlights that night. ( Jim Hughson was so right, it does seem that the Pacific Coliseum must have held hundreds of thousands for one night only! ).
It was a new era for Canuck fans. Sure, we love all the players to come before and after ,but Pavel's whole story made him different from the start. How the Canucks knew that Pavel Bure was eligible when no one else did, how they drafted him, the whole cloak and dagger thing, just added to the mystique.
I did go see the man play in his time here. A couple times. Believe me, it is true what they said about him. To this day, there is no one that can do the things he did with the puck while at top speed. It truly wasn't a cliche that, "you might buy a ticket for the entire seat, but you'll only use the edge". Thank you for the time you spent here Mr Bure, and congrats on the well deserved honour.
After the very well done ceremony, the other reason everyone was at Rogers Arena got down to business. As usual with the game against the Leafs, it started at 4 PM ( personally, I have done a one eighty on that. CBC pays mucho dinero for the NHL rights they have. Starting early enough for prime time on the East seems a small price to pay for us ), but anyone that thought the Canucks were going to be at a deficit was in for a rude awakening. The home team came out strong, stayed strong, stood up to the occasional attempts at roughhousing, and simply were the better team on the night.
ExtraSkater.com ( all your Corsi and Fenwick goodness resides here )
- James Reimer. I hear there is a "1, 1A" thing in The Big Smoke. This is not a comment on that. I will say though, if the Leafs are going to trade a goalie, they might want to think about where they send him! Reimer was the only reason the game was not out of touch early. Sure, the Canucks got 4 past him tonight. With 18-11 in shots after one period including many eye popping saves, a 12-5 edge in the second, and a 17-5 barrage in the final frame, no Leaf fan can blame this one on the goalie. He had a .915 save % on a night where he faced 47 shots. 'Nuff said.
- The Canuck power play went 1 for 9 tonight. part of that was the goaltending by Reimer, and part of that was just a power play that seems snakebitten. The opening goal was a perfect example of what the power play can do. The tip pass by Ryan Kesler was Sedin like. Sure, it is still bottom five in the league. But it is the prettiest bottom five power play in the NHL!
- It was not just on the power play for #BeastModo ( or #RyeNGinger, I like both ! ) where the Canuck first liners exerted their will tonight. While Daniel led the way with 5 of 7 shots on net, and Kesler had 3 of his 4 miss the target, it was the incredible amount of zone time that was the thing tonight. It seemed that almost every shift was spent mainly in the Leaf's end tonight. The numbers will come when you play like they did tonight.
- Tom Sestito had 6 shifts and 2:26 TOI. His only other contribution on the night was 15 PIM. But I would posit that he did exactly his job tonight. In this game, against a team that likes the "facepunching" style, he and Kassian, amongst others ( Alexandre Burrows fought Phil Kessel!? ) provided the push back that was needed in this type of game against this type of team.
- Hey, James Van Riemsdyk. Nice acting job on that first period call against Chris Higgins. A one handed swing that soft couldn't hurt someone without pads on!
- Alexander Edler. He was the second highest on the blue line, with 24:11 TOI. But check this stat line. 1 assist, +1, 12 ( yes, that is not a typo! ) shots, 4 blocks, 2 PIM, 3 hits ( on a night the Leafs had 28 hits to 7 for the home team ), and a takeaway. Goodness me Eddy!
- There certainly was a ton of feeling in this one. Whether it was Sestito and Orr getting the gate for trying to start a staged fight, or Luongo looking like he wanted to smack someone after McLaren knocked someone into him and knocked off his new lid, this was definitely a game with an edge. Note this. The Leafs used the rough stuff to get themselves back into the game, and it did help them a bit. they went from about a 11-0 shot edge early for the home team to a 13-10 edge with 5 minutes left. But, after they knocked off Lui's lid, the Canucks got 5 more to just 1 for the visitors. You could see the Leafs trying to play bully boy tonight. It didn't work, because everyone from Bieksa to Stanton, Henrik Sedin and others all made sure they had a guy in the numerous scrums on the night. You can say it perhaps a part of the Torts influence. Whatever the reason, in a game where the visitors were by far the more "violent" team, the Canucks showed they would not be pushed around. BTW, Fraser McLaren is only on the ice for one thing. Whether it was Kassian getting a stick in the mouth, or the extra push that put Edler's face into the boards, ( amongst other thuggery ), he was only out there to thug it up. Don't be waving a towel either buddy. That's "our thing". ;-) .
- I agree that the "Burke Bear Hug" might be a good thing, as the HNIC guys brought up a couple times. But JVR saw Archibald's numbers from 15 feet away in the third, and still ran him into the boards. Oh yeah, on the same play, David Clarkson took the opportunity of Kassian being tied up and bent over to hit him multiple times with the ol' rabbit punches. The Burke Bear Hug wouldn't have helped that much!
- Zack Kassian, Brad Richardson and Darren Archibald. All three clocked in at about 10-13 ( for #15 ) minutes. Kassian had a goal and 3 shots, a 1 hit that was replayed over and over by the HNIC guys. I know Bolland got hurt by it, but do we really think that was on purpose? Richardson had 2 assists, 2 of 4 shots on net, a +2, and 9 of 19 draws one. And Darren Archibald is taking the what the coach gives him and running with it. He had 9:59 TOI, an assist, a +2, and 1 hit. All three were involved tonight. ( I have exactly zero problem with him going after McLaren when he got a stick in the mouth. He knew exactly what he was doing when he fed Zack some of his stick in the second period )
- It was great that Chris Higgins got a goal ( on a great shot that looked to be the one that Reimer wanted back, by his reaction ) , but he deserved about 2 or 3 tonight. He had 4 of 8 shots on net ( Burrows had 4 of 6 on net, and Mike Santorelli had 3 of 4 shot attempts on target ), and was a force on a second line that really looked to be finding it's way tonight. #BeastModo is definitely the first line, and was a force tonight. But that second line might be deserving of a nickname themselves! ( let's wait until the lineup shakes out after the injured guys come back, I suppose. But a great night for a line that is all speed, angst and hockey sense )
- Roberto Luongo got some help on one chance from his skinny red friend tonight, but, particularly in that push in the first, and against a Top 5 power play that went 0 for 4, there were saves to be made, and Luongo made them all. After that 1st period, he faced 5 shots a period. We all know that Bobby Lui enjoys being in the game and feeling the puck more than that. He sure had a few good saves on the best shooter ( Phil Kessel, who was mostly frustrated and STILL had 5 shots ) for the Leafs tonight. The one on JVR on that late second period PP was pretty good too.
- Jay McClement was the best face off man tonight, winning 16 of 28 draws. But when looking at face offs, you have to almost view #BeastModo's prowess as a combined thing. Although there were times ( penalty killing, mostly ) when Kesler and Henrik Sedin took draws while on the ice without each other, having two solid guys on the same line, who can take draws on their strong side, is an underrated bonus from that line. It was here that the Leafs felt the loss of Bolland the most ( again, I don't think it was at all intentional, but I hear Kassian's skate lacerated his leg. I hope he's OK. By the sound of it, he had surgery and will be out for a while. OUCH! Yes, even The Rat doesn't deserve that, and a cut is a scary thing in hockey. I thought PJ Stock did a wonderful job of explaining it between the second and third period ). Kesler was 9 of 16, and Hank was 10 of 16. Without Bolland, Coach Carlyle had to use Kadri more, and he only went 4 of 16!
It was definitely an entertaining game, and I do have to admit, I love when the rink gets rocking with the dueling chants, as it adds a lot to the ambience on the night. Whether it was the score, the way the game was going, or just because of the result, the Canuck fans obviously had more fun tonight. They were much better at the timing of the "Leafs Suck" chant tonight as well.
All kidding aside, it is always fun when the Original Six Canadian teams come out West. They have those historically significant pasts, ( well, at least the Habs...they've won more than just 2 Round Cups! ), and all the hordes of fans that have moved here, but kept love for their team. It adds something to the games, and, at least on this night, definitely gave the home team some spark.
It was a perfect capper to a night where Pavel Bure's #10 was retired. In honour of that, here is a bonus video. It's a little dated, but a TSN Top 10 list of Pavel's best seems like a perfect capper for this recap. Enjoy...