You could tell that the Oilers were going to give a better effort in this one. Not that they were not good in the 5-4 game that preceded this one, but on home ice, with the rumblings of another lost season already starting for them ( 0-4-1 now ) , they had a tinge of early season desperation in their game.
Through it all was Ryan Miller on this night. He was good early, he was good late, and he was there at every opportunity. In a game that featured Ryan Stanton pulling up lame on a race for a puck, and not returning, and Dan Hamhuis getting Arcobello's stick in the face, the shorthanded Canuck defense needed a goaltender that would bail them out.
Cue Mr Miller. He is now 9-0 lifetime against the Oilers, and was full value for the shutout and win tonight.
The way the Canucks handled adversity tonight was impressive. Check these ice times for the blue line tonight. Kevin Bieksa 24:01 and Alexander Edler was on for 23:06. That is not much more than their usual TOI. But Chris Tanev played 21:56, and Lucas Sbisa was out there for 20:57, and a lot of that was when they were down to only four men for a good portion of the second period. No real matching up there. You two go when you two are tired ! All four were, well, warriors, especially in that critical time that they were shot handed. Last word on ice time for defenders, and how hockey players are tough.
Dan Hamhuis missed about 8 minutes of game time while getting 7 stitches. ( a word on that. Jannik Hansen was coming in hard on the play, and Arcobello was trying to avoid a hit. It was not intentional. But you have to be in control of your stick. Our Oiler friends have reminded us of that fact numerous times in the past. The fact that four referees got together and said they "didn't see it" was obviously a cop out. How can four guys not be watching the place where the puck is, and a big hit is about to occur. Pretty girls in the stands tonight boys ? : end #minirant ) Let me repeat that. He took a stick at high velocity to the nose, and came back and played a few minutes under his average, at 21:11. Apart from the cage he was wearing preventing him from holding a power play pass to the point in, he was pretty much as good or better after the injury as before.
The whole blue line was solid. The Oilers were barely outshot tonight, at 30 - 28, and more than few of those were solid chances by talented players. While every defender had a gaffe or two, it was recovery and pressure that exemplified their effort in this game. That goes for the forwards as well, of course. They were backchecking and supporting their guys all night. It was a great team effort defensively, and everyone was hustling all over the ice. The Oilers had 14 giveaways to the Canuck 7.
In the end, the Oilers got zero goals on the night. And, as always, the shutout is a team stat. There were a lot of blocks tonight, for instance. Of the 18 skaters who tallied 19 blocks, only 7 had none, and Bieksa and Edler each had 3. Burrows probably saved a goal with one of his 2 as well. Who says only Torts team block shots ) The Oilers blocked 17 themselves tonight.
Big Willie Style
The Canucks new style seems to be all about positioning and being able to react. Because it is aggressive ( and fun for the players ), especially in the offensive half, there are going to be turnovers and rushes the other way. People seem to be in the right positions when those breakdowns occur. And, let us not forget the fun part. There also is going to be shifts where the entire time is spent in the offensive zone, by each and every line, like tonight's game. Rolling four lines for fun and profit.
From the Wizardous Sedinery that Radim Vrbata has reignited, to the full on ravening hounds of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th lines, who all seem to have learnt and adapted to Willie Desjardins new teachings, tonight was certainly ( again, it is just the Oilers, the Lightning game will be more telling ) fun to watch. Am I the only one not worried as much as as year in the third periods now ? The Canucks have yet to be scored on in the final frame. Watching this team has been a delight.
So many, where to begin :
- Alexander Burrows blocking an open net chance, His stick broken, another strong effort from the 4th line centre Shawn Matthias ( 9:56 TOI, 1 Shots, 2 Hits, 1 takeaway ) to clear the puck broke some intense pressure.
- Speaking of that 4th line, Jannik Hansen ( 9:06 TOI, 1 BS, 2 H ) and Derek Dorsett ( 9:09 TOI, 2 MS, 2 PIM ) helped to turn the tide in the third, with about half the game left, with a shift that created chances at the net, and was about a minute in length. Edler bombed from the point, Daniel Sedin almost beat the defender to the puck on the rebound, and while the Oilers had a few chances afterwards, that shift was a big one.
- This happened...
Where to start with this play. It was preceded by shift time where they lost they caused a couple turnovers to gain that zone time. The three Oilers watching Daniel Sedin wheel, one of them reacting to Sbisa dummying to the slot, and the absolute perfect timing of Shooter Vrbata to wheel off of Daniel, knowing the Wizardous Sedinery pass is coming.
- The first line now has 17 points over three games, with Radim Vrbats leading the goal tally with a goal a game and 2 assists. Henrik Sedin has 2 goals and 4 assists now, and Daniel has a tally ( tonight's empty netter ) and a team leading 5 assists. They got another 6 points tonight.
- Ryan Miller. Whether it was on that end of penalty 3 on 2, where everyone back prevented a bouncing puck form finding it's way in, or the robbery on Purcell early on a tip that usually finds the way in from so close, Miller was on his game all night. My fave was the rebound "leg larceny" on Hendricks right after a play where Tanev deftly stopped an Eberle rush. A true # 1 performance tonight.
- Burr's perfectly timed poke check on Pouliot after a Bieksa turnover at the opposing blue line. With the entire arena begging for a call, there was nothing that the refs could do but watch, even with it being the hated Burrows. Nice.
Fun With Numbers
- The Oiler top line of Eberle, Hall, and RNH produced 10 shot attempts, 9 on net, and were out ( Hall just got off to avoid the dash, as RNH failed to do in getting his 2nd on the empty netter. Stoopid plus minus ) to get scored on. At least no one threw a jersey on the ice like in T.O again tonight. There is talk it was a Canadiens fan this time, just being a dick. Trying times for the Oil.
- The Oilers won the face off tally tonight, 37 to 31. But Brad Richardson was at his best ( 12 for 21 overall, 7 for 13 in the defensive zone ) at his end, and Hank was 7 for 14 ( 10 for 20 overall ) in the offensive zone, and only took 2 draws at the other end. For those that had noticed it swinging the other way.
- With the Wizardry coming 5 on 5, the power play was 0 for 4 tonight ( 4 shots ). The special team that was really special was the penalty kill, going a perfect 6 for 6. The Oi only got a shot a power play tonight.
- Number 2.Even with a visor ( see here for the damage ), he came right back out and was solid on his first shift, with a great check that was not a penalty. The Oiler management must have really complained about the call disparity in the last one eh ? Coach Willie said "if he does not come back, we probably don't win this one. Nuff said.
- After outshooting the Oilers 12-10 in the first, and 15-11 in the second, the Canucks only had 3 shots ( one that scored an empty netter, that has to be a shot tally, right ? ) in the third. But a desperate home team only had 7. The system is not just all about the pressure. The breakouts and handling of the forecheck was magnificent.
As Daniel Sedin mentions here, the fact that the Canucks can roll four lines ( at least against Alberta ! ) energizes the entire bench. There are things that can be cleaned up from this one, and a stiffer test awaits after travel tomorrow at home ( where the Canucks announced that the sellout streak will end at 474. Oh yeah, and some of the extra tickets will go to charity. )
But for now, when you see your team play that hard, and the results come in such a pretty and entertaining fashion, it is hard to not get too excited about watching the game for what is on the ice, and having the sideshows at a minimum.
For those that want it though, David Nonis was at the rink tonight, shown on television deep in conversation with both Trevor Linden and Jim Benning. So there's that.
See you tomorrow. Oh yeah, you didn't think you were getting away without a Warriors scene didja' ?