As predicted, the media was all over the shots, shot attempts, shots, shots shots. The Eastern guys, the local guys, everyone. It is a pretty obvious narrative when one team attempts four times the shots of the other one. Words like “stole a game” ( that sentiment always pisses me off. Yes, one guy was great, but the goalie is part of the team. Ergo, the team won the game! ) were bandied about, and predictions of the Flames coming out hard, etc etc... honestly, I stopped listening to them and watched the Seahawks ( as well as watch the Raptors somehow manage to lose, again, to the Bulls ) win instead.
Yet the Canucks played with a will and determination you have to love, and pushed the play hard. A letdown for a part of the first ( credit the Flames for taking advantage and cashing on those two self created chances that gave them two quick goals that became the difference tonight ) period, and Chad Johnson doing his best Ryan Miller impression became the difference tonight, but you have to love how hard your team competed tonight Canuck fans.
- Consider that they had to play another game with only five defensemen, as Ben Hutton took the warm up before they determined he could not play. He has an “upper body injury” after a shot block in last night’s game. Anton Rodin drew back in after being out because Burrows was back ( warrior, the injury was a “scraped eye” against Maroon of the Oilers. Missed one game. You and I would still be freaked out by the description of the injury ), although he did not play a shift. I will not couch coach, but it looked a little like the team was running out of steam in the third. Maybe he could have seen the ice then? Still, they played a big team that likes to hit the defensemen on the forecheck, on a back to back with a short handed blue line, and played well enough to win.
- It was not just that they were down to five, but after Nikita Tryamkin took a hit halfway through the first, they played almost half of that period down to four before he returned. It is probably only a coincidence that was when the Flames got their two goals in 1:03, but the line between winning and losing is pretty tight in the NHL. Defensemen are used to playing big minutes, but playing only four is a lot to ask. Bennet’s goal was a scrambled puck that Bennett got a quick shot off on, but the second one was a play where Edler was late on Hathaway on the pass, and Stecher was late on Stajan in front. Both were plays where fatigue could have been a contributing factor.
- As for the “shots” argument, the Flames and Canucks sawed off at 10 in the first, then the Canucks were 13-10 the better in a dominant second period, before running down a bit and only getting 6 to the Flames 11 while down a goal in the third. The stats are here, but the total shot attempts were 62-50 for the visitors ( 31-29 shots Calgary, a 15-11 missed shots edge by Canucks, and the Flames blocked 18 to the Canucks 8 ). That was indicative of the game. It was not the ridiculous performance from Miller, but Johnson was the main reason the Flames were able to win on home ice tonight. They ground that third period down very, very well too, but the goaltender was the difference the other way in this one.
- Bo Horvat continues to lead the team in scoring, and got another one tonight. It was a typical goal for him and this team, as that line of he and Burrows and Baertschi dominated play in the offensive end for en entire shift ( right after the Sedins did the same ) before he spun out of the corner and swung one on net. Botch’ will have another article about him not getting “first line minutes” enough, but really, Henrik was on the ice for 18:12, and Sutter for 17:09 compared to Bo’s 17:41 TOI. Are we really going to quibble about semantics over that little of a difference ? Oh shit, Hank had 26 shifts to Bo’s 23....fire Willie !
- The third period power play was the turning point. After two power plays in the game that were useless and actually gave momentum back, the one in the third was just very unlucky not to score. Baertschi had a great chance, denied. Stecher faked a pass that had everyone fooled, and passed to Henrik Sedin for the shot, but Johnson got across to deny that one too,. He robbed Sutter as well. The power play has to be better for the Canucks, but that one looked pretty good. As good as you can look without scoring, of course.
- Shortly after that, it was a break on a nice stretch pass by Tkachuck ( a good shift with pressure that resulted in tired guys on the ice at the end of their shifts ) to Frolik, who was cherry picking like both teams were tonight ( stretch passes resulted in more breaks for the Canucks than the Flames, but that one was a late killer ), and Markstrom was angry that he got beat low blocker, but without the big saves on penalty kill, the Flames likely do not get that chance.
- Bo Horvat, Sven Bartsch and Alexander Burrows were the best line tonight for the Vancouver team, and the Sedins were pretty good too ( 5 combined shots for Bo’s line, 7 for the Sedin line, led by Hank and Loui Eriksson each having three ), but some love for the Sutter line and the fourth line too please. Megna took his spot on that line and led the team with 4 shots, ( including one on a scamble play where he was robbed ) while Granlund had one and drew that late call on Versteeg, and Sutter had 2 shots while winning 8 of 14 draws. Did you know that his 55% is good for 11th in the NHL ? Bo Horvat went 10 for 16, and the team won 28 of 52 draws to edge the home team ( the visiting centre always has to put the stick down first, so it is impressive when you win more draws on the road ). Sutter’s line was good. So was the fourth at times. You simply could not find a lot of “passengers” tonight.
- The blue line got beat on the second goal especially, but were pretty solid too. It is tough when you just jump over the boards and do not play as much with your regular partner. Edler, for instance. Beaten on the second goal, he had 4 missed shots ( mostly left, but at least his stick did not break on those shot attempts ), but also blocked 4, had 3 hits, and played 27:09. Everyone else was over 20 minutes too ( Stecher 22:59, Tryamkin 21:59, Biega 21:13, 21:08 for Sbisa ). They got beat tonight, but the effort and hard work was not lacking in the least. All five guys battled through being shorthanded well.
So, the streak is over at six games. They do have a chance to get some wins going again in the schedule. The next two are on the road ( a weird one for the schedule maker, with a Predators visit on Tuesday followed by going all the way to the East coast to meet the Flyers two days later ), before three games at home versus the Devils, Preds, and Panthers are followed by the month ending with three on the road in Chicago, Denver, and Phoenix. Some of those could be tough, but there are points to be had too. As long as they play as hard as they did tonight, they will continue to stay “in the hunt”. It will be interesting to see who draws in next as the injuries mount. Let’s hope the latest on the blue line are not too long term.
Just past the halfway point, and the Canucks are “in the hunt”. There will be some that hate that, wanting them to fall down the table and get a high draft pick, but I like that our team battles hard and is in every game. That is how young guys learn to win in the NHL. They deserved to win a night after maybe not “deserving” it. But those are the breaks. Take solace that your team is continuing to play hard. Just think how they will be when the injury list gets down to a manageable level !