Make it easy on them to do the two games in one day thing. They'll appreciate it ( maybe not Monday morning ! ). It is OK to be the warm up act to a Super Bowl matchup this good. Hell, this will be the last of four NHL games today. All will have started and finished before the Super Bowl pregame shows even do their last predictions. No sense forcing people to make a the choice.
This match up was a decent one, all things considered. The Wild are not as much that "all defense, all the time" team anymore, and have won four of their last six. They are a bit below the Canucks at the moment, and more in that wild card race than anything else, perhaps. And Ryan Suter was in the lineup. They went four for six while he missed the last four games.
Things can change quick in this second half of the season. That may be why last year was so shocking for our fanbase. After a decent start like always, it stood to follow that what had happened every year since 2008 would happen again. This is the best hockey of the season, and most of the guys on our team have the memory of last year to remind them to play hard fresh in their minds.
No danger of Whiteboard Willie going all testosterone and looking for Mike Yeo ( or anyone else... ) in the halls of Rogers Arena though. So that's a good thing.
The Canucks welcomed back Derek Dorsett, ( who bumped Kassian back to "DNP coach's decision" ) and started a new guy on the blue line. Jim Benning's Hawks lineup scoopage resulted in Clendening getting his first start ( selling high on Forsling to get a guy years farther ahead on the same "offensive defenseman" path was smart ) got right to business, bumping Weber to the pressbox. Kenins stayed in after his strong game in his last start.
The game did start out a little bit "low event", but soon opened up a bit, with chances favoring the Canucks. The latest iteration of "The Matthias Line", Bonino and Hansen running with the Canuck unherlalded power forward was once again the best line on the ice early on.
Derek Dorsett then ( off a change that saw a half chance and traffic at the net ) decided to show everyone that he was fit to play, as a fight broke out with Ryan Carter. He handled the bigger man very well, but had to go to the room instead of the penalty box for his major.
A Burrows / Zucker brouhaha resulted in some four on four, and the Sedins created chances with their puck wizardry as usual, before Pominville was denied by Miller at the other end. With Dubnyk's in the other net providing solid goaltending as well, the Canucks hoped to cash in on the first power play of the day, on a Vanek hooking offense.
The first unit had some zone time, and the second unit even had more, but a Vrbata shot was the only real chance. The Canucks looked to press a bit more, before a fumbled play in the neutral zone resulted in a 3 on 1. Frank Corrado made a wonderful play to even deny the shot, probably preventing a goal. Edler then hooked Granlund, and the Top 5 PK was forced to get to work. ( Did you know that they dropped from 1st to 3rd in the NHL because the Sabres managed two power play goals? )
The Wild got plenty of zone time, and a couple shots that weren't blocked ), but the percentage rose after another successful kill.
The period ended with a bit more of the back and forth, with it looking like the Canucks had the edge in play, as evidenced by their 11-5 edge in shots.
When your energy line consists of a highly touted rookie, an unheralded but intriguing Latvian, and one of those guys that gives it every shift like Dorsett does, they can create chances and draw penalties, and Dprsett did both on a great early second period shift. The first unit was unable to even get across the blue line though, and the second unit was not much better until the last 10 seconds, and that continued to their best chances after the penalized player returned.
After Minny had some zone time, the Puck Gods decided to get involved in this one. ( Probably sitting at their Super Bowl party,. Impress the ladies with a "watch this". Matthias fanned on a slot chance with traffic, and then the rush the other way had the attempted hopeful shot by Parise to the net go in off of Sbisa for the opening goal.
Edler got a high sticking call next, and while the PK looked pretty good, guess what ? A simple point shot. I get that Sbisa is just fronting like the plan is, but all he did was create a perfect screen on Miller, who never saw the Spurgeon shot. The eleventh shot, and two that were "no chancers" get in for a 2-0 goal. The shots were closer at this point as well, and Minny were definitely paying better in the second than the first, but you could say the lead was against the run of play. ( or just look at the pretty graph here at hockeystats.ca )
A "that stupid rule" penalty to Suter resulted in the third home team power play. Vey had the best chance on it, but was denied, and once again the power play was unable to have a positive impact.
I guess it is what all NHL teams do, but it was interesting to see the Wild do to the Canucks what they usually do to teams with the lead "Dump it out.off the glass boys" was their rallying cry, as the minutes melted away in the second. Bonino had a great chance denied as the net was knocked off, and, and the Sedin line had their moment or two. But mostly it was the Wild playing well in their own end. The second ended with the more desperate team in possession of deserved 2-0 lead, as the talking heads muttered darkly about the inability to score.
The shots were now 18-13, and while only Coyle, Scandella, Niederietter and Carter ( who plays little, so his +5 in 5 on 5 Corsi is skewed ) were above even, and most the rest were a healthy negative, the inability to score on home ice narrative would have it's day once again. The fans must have been checking their phones and making last minute plans for the Seahawks and Patriots. They were getting chances. Most were one and done, and the Wild were 9-3 in the block count as well.
It was mainly the stick squeezing ( no offense to Devan Dubnyk AT ALL. He plays great against the Canucks. The man was ahead 2-0 while "outplaying" Miller at the other end, and had 3 shutouts in 11 career games against the Canucks going into this one, as Shorty mentioned.
And Arizona and the Wild are both better than the team he got two of those with, the Oilers ! )....but if you don't score in this market, the fans on the call ins can get pretty ugly pretty quick. Even though it ended up with some scoring, that will be the hue and cry after this one.
What the Wild were said to be in the past was "defensive", and their core still has those roots. Sure, there is more offense there now, but two points is two points, and battening down the hatches can be a pretty effective way to grind out a victory.
That lead grinding meant a ton of time with the puck along the boards. but the Sedins like that. They set up Edler for a shot, he beat Dubnyk with a point shot, and Vrbata was only marginally touching Dubnyk way before the shot. The NHL strikes again against the team on the West Coast, as a clearly good goal was denied by either referee chicanery ( Wes MacAuley has been one to deny them under questionable circumstances in past games. I seem to remember that name negatively, at any rate ) or clear incompetence are the only reasonable explanations.
It was 2-1, not still 2-0, but the NHL seems to have a "thing" for our team out here in Lotusland. ( this narrative will kick the not scoring one in the TSN1040 poll after the game for sure... )
So, the Wild were back to the grind with a now totally undeserved 2-0 lead. In fact, if they were to win now, you could almost say it was tainted. A great save by Miller stopped it from being 3-0, but the refs got involved in another way, as this time the ilnesman prevented Edler from getting any chance at getting to Vanek, who beat Miller high post and in for the only deserved goal of the game to this point.
( Sorry, a little bitter. The Canucks played well enough to win this one, and while it could have been tighter without the NHL bull#### of denying a goal that would have been good on any other ice surface in their league but ours, this one is tougher to swallow than losing 1-0 to the Flames on home ice ! The call by Garrett got the explanation that Vrbata had plenty of time to get out of the crease, but that is even more infuriating. he was totally held in their by hock check. Hey NHL, better to just say nothing than say something that weak..) The Canucks were grinded pretty well in this one. Still...
The "SEA"... "HAWKS" chant started up a little while after the three nothing tally, as the fans started to find ways to entertain themselves in what looked like another home ice loss. Some of the fans had already left once the third goal went in.
A Vanek penalty gave the power play a chance to impact the game, and this time it was dangerous. Daniel Sedin was blocked with space open, and Burrows denied at the side of the net The second unit even looked OK afterwards, creating their own chance. But the Wild held them off, and got back to the grind.
Thank goodness for the fourth line though. A great pass out of his own zone by Edler, a better backhand one Horvat, and a Kenins shot that beat the Wild goalie.
The disallowed goal was looming even larger as Daniel Sedin jumped on a Vrbata pass 51 seconds later, making it 3-2 off of a winger win by Vrbata, who then set up the younger Sedin. Still, it was 3-2, and they only had six and a half minutes left to kill, no biggie, right ? Bend but don't break ?
As Miller was heading to the net with a little over two minutes, more pressure resulted in Dubnyk finding the puck a second before Burrows. The six on five had some great time and pressure, but a broken stick broke the pressure, as Bones had to go off. The Sedins set up a great chance that was denied, and then Zucker made a nice play on a Suter dump out, beating Edler to the puck and putting it in the empty net for the two points that they might not have deserved, but certainly earned.
The final shots were 37-20 Canucks, the Corsi 61 to 33 for the home team, and the disallowed goal was obviously a huge event in the game. One could almost ( and I am NOT saying that here and now...;-) say that the NHL gave the Wild two points in a tight playoff race today.
Or, it just looked that way.
Jets up Tuesday. I'll see you back here for the Pens on ( ugh ) Hockey Night In ( Eastern ) Canada