Western teams are used to the long road trips, and this one was thought to be “make or break”. Maybe. For a team that was picked to finish at the bottom of the NHL by the “experts”, and has beat that estimation handily by working hard and grinding the game, they don’t give up that easily. You have to respect that.
Coming out of losing at least a point in Boston, this one may have meant a little more to them. They were not playing a team of grinders like the Bruins, but a team of young players who like to score more than defend. How did it work out for them on the second night of a back to back on the road ?
- The Horvat line came out playing as hard as they finished the night on Saturday. A chance off the first change saw Bo get robbed by Lehner, in net on the second night of a back to back after playing in Toronto the night before. That line may be the “first line” now in the coach’s minds.
- It did not start out good for the road team. After Tryamkin made a good play with his long reach the shift before, he was part of a ( slight ) comedy of errors that led to the first goal. After Ennis got the puck from him behind the net where he got tangled up, and had a wraparound saved, it looked like Granlund was going to clear the danger. He was a bit too casual on the puck in front of his own net, and it was stolen from him from behind. That led to two guys on the goalie alone, and they made no mistake, as Ennis put it him for the first goal.
- Part of the growth in Bo Horvat’s game has to be attributed to Alex Burrows. The guy has been a revelation recently. He was circa 2011 Burrows at times tonight. First, on a long shift by that line, he drove Lehner nuts by just being Burr’, in front on a puck. ( Lehner is the #MeatheadGoalie of the NHL...seems more interested in fighting than playing sometimes ) They went back and forth, with the ref right there, before Justin Faulk came roaring in and jumped him to give the visitors their 1st PP. ( only got 2 minutes for that too ) He got another one later on Jake McCabe. He had a goal, and an assist, 3 shots and a hit in only 13:45 TOI. All while he ( and Hansen since he came back and replaced Sven on that line ) has been responsible and dangerous on the Canucks’ best line. I used to call him the the “team talisman” in years past. He has been that recently.
- The first power play saw the “second unit” cash in, as a Hutton shot was wristed in, and got to the net, where Bo Horvat expertly tipped it for his 17th goal of the year. They got a second one just after a power play expired ( Kane up way to high on Stecher, who made a nice breakout pass and while taking the high elbow ) when the pressure it generated led to a chance for Michael Chaput, off the bench and right on a nice little pass from Daniel Sedin to make it 2-1. They were full marks for that lead at that point.
- The Sabres got their second with only 16 seconds left in the period, as Kyle Okposo got a nice pass from Ristolainen and converted it. On this one, Tanev gave it up on the boards, and Sbisa left his guy ( Okposo ) and watched him score as a result. Late goals can be a bitch sometimes, but this one did not give the young Sabres the bounce they desired in the next period, at least not for long.
- The second period started out a bit more back and forth, and then Burrows got a nice one on a pretty rush and pass by Troy Stecher. The chirping back and forth he had with Lehner was entertaining as well. #MeatheadGoalie let that one in under his arm, but was more interested in getting it going with the guy that beat him than why he beat him.
- The Sabres where bitching about there offing all night, and got a couple late power plays to even it up a bit, but 6-3 was about where it should have been. They deserved the calls, for the most part, doing stupid things in the offensive zone on several of them. The Foligno call might have been indicative of the night. He was going to the bench, and HAD to hit Bo Horvat instead, making his team shorthanded yet again. I was surprised that is the #1 PP in the NHL though. The Canucks made them look not all that dangerous on the night. And while the Canuck power play still hovers around the bottom ten, they looked good ( mostly, sometimes they were “meh” too ) tonight.
- Michael Chaput had one goal for this team before today. His size on the fourth line, his grinding, defensively responsible style, and his face offs has been what has kept him in the lineup. Just as the fourth power play ended, he was once again in the right spot. Alexander Edler faked the bomb, and put it right on his stick for the empty net. Yes, the power play was only 1 for 6, officially. But this one, and his other one, might as well have been power play goals. More surprising is a team that simply does not get that much love from the refs got six man advantages tonight. It has now cashed in four a few games in a row, and is actually looking dangerous now.
- The third period, the Canucks should have had more, both on the power play, and at five on five. Lehner made a few saves, and the grind helped the Canucks put this one to bed. The grind, and the power plays at the end for the home team, may have been costly. As of this writing, no word has come across the air, but Sutter did jam his wrist checking a Sabre coming around his own net, though he did not miss a shift. More troubling was Bo Horvat going down the tunnel after blocking a shot with about 20 seconds left. Perhaps it was just that the game was almost over, and players get knocked up on the shot block all the time, but let’s hope that was just a “stinger”.
- How did the stat lines look tonight ? Well, after 20 minutes, the Canucks were ahead 11-10 on shots, 11-8 on faceoffs, and 9-7 on hits, while both teams had 2 blocks after the first period. The final tallies ? They had an 11-6 edge in shots in the second, and finished with a 31-28 edge. The faceoff totals were 29-25 at the final horn. The Sabres ( hits can be for different reasons. Sometimes a team has the puck more, and the other team is throwing the body more trying to get it back ) finished up at 19-12 on hits, and the Canucks won the block totals 14-11. The stats are here ( thanks ESPN )
- Look at some individuals. The Bo Horvat line finished with 6 shots ( Burrows with 3 ) , and the Sedin line had 3 shots, and Sutter's line had 4, with Loui Erikkson had 3 of those. The 4th line was great though. They were out versus top lines, and kept them at the offensive end most of the night. Chaput had 2 goals, but he also had 4 shots to lead his line, which had 8 in total. While Chaput and Boucher had a little over nine minutes, and Skille had just over seven. They were very good tonight.
- Special mention has to go to Alexander Edler, as well. He had 4 shots ( 2 misses ) an assist, a hit, and was great in his own end in his 23:25 TOI.
So, you get back to .500 on the most difficult road trip of the year. You do it by getting angry at losing late yesterday and just outworking the opponent. All in all, that was an impressive victory. Consider that if they lost this one, they are 1-3 on the road trip, five points behind instead of three, and not feeling good about yourselves. Now, sure, the Penguins and Blues remain, but they play both those teams hard, and actually have good luck in St Louis.
Keep the faith Canuck fans. I mean, I am still all in, but I have money on them doing it. It is not that hard to keep the faith, the way they play hard for their coach. It is still a bit of a long shot, but they will not go down without a fight, and that is heartening.
Unless you are part of #TankNation . Then games like this just piss you off... Tuesday in Pittsburgh. For us that want wins, it should be fun, at least !