The huge loss of #17 aside, it is hard to be disappointed with the effort the Vancouver hockey club put forward in this one. I was trying to find a way to describe it as I prepped to recap for this one, as in the O/T, and a few times before that, it seemed that the hard work was not going to get the job done.
But Alexandre Burrows decided to put the team on his back, and in a third period where some shoddy defensive coverage led to an early in the period lead for the home team, Burr' just put his head down and hunted pucks. They finally got a bit of puck luck ( brought about by hard work too ), and after a bit of nice hand eye coordination from Mr Everything led to a batted in tying goal, the Canucks withstood some pretty amazing O/T chances for the Jets to score, and got a perfect shootout performance from Eddie Lack to put it away.
I was impressed by the effort from Team Drama tonight. With all the media, blogger, fans on Twitter, and man on the street heat being generated, and everyone from the coach, to the GM, players, and anyone else connected to the team getting told they suck, it must have been hard to shut it all out and play hard. The Canucks should be lauded for that, at the least. They worked hard tonight.
In the first period, the scoring chances were 9-10 to 2 for the visitors. Part of that was the referees getting involved in a chippy and intense game, and part of it the Canucks using those power plays to build momentum ( there were some calls both ways to be questioned, but I really only had a problem with one of them. More on that in a minute ), but the visiting team was the better one in the opening stanza. The Canucks outshot the Jets 14-9, and only missed the net 2 times, while getting 3 shots blocked. By comparison ( and some of the misses / blocks were on good chances from good scoring spots ), the Jets missed 3 and had 4 blocked.
The penalty kill for the Canucks was pretty good too. While Evander Kane missed the net on his penalty shot in the second, and Burrows was denied the same chance, drawing the first power play for the Canucks ( which sucked, it should have been a penalty shot, at leas that is a scoring chance ) The penalty kill went a perfect 4 for 4 tonight, while the power ( less ) play had some good chances, but went 0 for 5. One of the reasons the PK was so good ? Blocking shots. The Canucks won that stat 18-14, powered by Dan Hamhuis's game high 6 shots. Sure, the Jets could have tried to find better lanes, but credit the visitors for the hard work and sacrifice.
The Jets had a better second period, to be sure. While the Canucks were not as bad in that decisive period as some in the recent past ( they outshot their hosts 10 - 7 in the middle period ), they did get the opener ( on a great shot from Ladd that Lack had zero chance on ), and had the edge in play before the Canucks tied it on Burrow's first of the season. The goal was a pretty basic play. Jordan Schroeder won the draw, Jason Garrison just got it on net, and Burrows was there to bang the rebound into the empty net. It was a play that makes one wonder why they can't do that more often !
The most controversial play of the game occurred not long afterwards, when Jim Slater hung a knee on Ryan Kesler, and injured him. Hopefully it is not serious. Here is how I saw that play : "Hanging a knee" is something that makes hockey players shudder. It always has been a dirty play. Ulf Samuelsson put out Neely with one of those, it was why Bobby Orr's career was cut short, and it simply can't be done.
Now, in this instance, Slater was going north, and Kesler had curled to get onside and was heading south, but it was Slater that had his head up, definitely should have, and could have, just lifted the leg out of the way. It was probably too quick to be "intentional" per se, but he knew what he was doing when he left the leg out there. He was also the one that was braced ( almost always with hanging a knee, the guy steeled for it is the aggressor, and does not get hurt. Kesler was the one that could barely put weight on the leg. 'Nuff said.
The defensive structure of the Canucks was, without a doubt, better than in recent outings, but it was a lax play that led to the 2-1 goal for the Jets. Frolik cashed it in, but while the Canucks may have been guilty of collapsing a little too far to the net ( on Ladd's opener, Bieksa got himself caught a bit too far back ), and that was what cost them here too.
With the Canucks desperate to get a goal to tie, the Jets had some great chances to take a 3-1 lead, and put this one away. While it was not the "oh no, ANOTHER 2 on 1 "? kind of game, the need to press was leaving chances there for the taking. That is as much a reason for the 16 - 5 edge in shots for the Jets as anything, and it was definitely Eddie Lack's time to shine.
His great work enabled the Canucks to get the tying goal, at the 11:17 mark of the third. It was a solid shift, and a lot of zone time on a shift, and a bit of a bounce, as a puck swung at by Hansen fluttered into the air, where Burrows baseball swung it into the net. If you thought the way the bench celebrated their teammate finally breaking the goose egg on the first one was fun. the relief after this one was palpable.
The game got itself to overtime, with both teams having a few chances here and there, but MAN, what an overtime ! What can you say ? The Jets should have iced it on the first shift, as Eddie made a save, was sprawled out of position, and Ladd put a puck through the crease instead of into the open net.
Burrows may have had the best chance the other way, on a prime slot chance that was "just" deflected away from less than 5 feet away, and while the Canucks outshot the Jets 4 - 2 in the extra five minutes, it was a heart stopping, no whistles, back and forth five minutes. If Ken Holland's proposal is to extend the O/T, and take away another guy for the next five minutes, I really don't know why that would be a bad thing. Both teams went for it. ( add the three point regulation win ), and you would find a lot less than 15+% of games going to the skills competition.
But this one did, and it was Eddie Lack that was perfect, stoning Setoguchi. Ladd, and Jokinen on solid saves, while Pavelec ( who had a good game. He made a ton of stops through screens tonight )was deked out of his jock on the only goal of the skills competition.
So, the Canucks are still four points away from Dallas. The Stars still have a game in hand. The number crunchers put them at about a 2% chance of making the dance. But it would have been zero after this one, if they didn't win. As they say "So, youre saying there's a chance..."?.
Yes there is. Good work guys. TEAM callers will still be calling for heads, TSN will still be running 4 stories on the teams' plight as they did today, and Sportsnet et al will still be telling us how bad the team is anyhow.
I get that the team is transitioning, and still believe in the "reload", not "rebuild" narrative, because I don't think every single talented player on the team dropped off a cliff forever, and that this season is more an anomaly ( at least until another season follows it up as bad as this one ) than some do. Sometimes that is just "negative sells" as much as controversy does, and there is no doubt that an elite team crashing and burning is a story worthy of ink.
But, really. Forget the playoff suckage. We know that is bad, but the regular seasons are more indicative of the relative talents of teams than the playoffs, at least as far as a way to judge them accurately ( teams can get hot like the Kings in '12 in the playoffs ). The facts are this. Before this season, the Canucks had the best five year total record in the NHL. Two President's Trophies back to back, and a 100+ ( when prorated ) point season in the lockout shortened year. You can point at the various injuries, the coach going on a rant in the hallway against the Flames on a Saturday night as something so singular and silly it broke the team as well. Mike Gillis was sure at a loss for words when the TSN ( primarily ) guys asked the same leading questions to try and get a story of "will the coach be fired"? ( and went ahead and flat out said that anyhow when Gillis would not take the bait in Florida, at the GM meetings ), and I am definitely not saying that changes are not needed.
I am saying that there will be a ton of noise. Only a 14-2 run that ends them up in 7th place will shut that up, if only for a second. That is life in the big city.
Last word though, Mr. Gillis. It was Botch', TSN, and the rights holders at TEAM that were pushing the "fire Torts meme" in the past week or so. A few bloggers may have ( definitely did, even here at NM ) piled on sir, but just because we are pantless and in the basement, does not mean we should take the blame for everything. Talk to the guys on your "official" radio station. They were saying it before everyone else anyhow.
Coming for you Washington !