The Penguins are the current Cup champions. That brings a certain cachet with the officials to begin with. Add to that all the narratives about a certain #87, and it is no wonder that even officials can be swayed by what they read.
This is not going to be one long complaint about the refs. Heaven knows that gets us no where. But it is important to point out ( and this is prevalent in all sports ) that narratives told can have an affect on the game itself, and ( surprise surprise ) sometimes stars get the calls...
Could the Canucks overcome the refs, the narratives, and the fact the Penguins are a vastly more talented and deeper team than the current bunch in Blue and Green ?
- First and foremost, will whomever pissed off the Puck Gods kill whatever sacrificial goat is required to end this plague of woe ? After all the injuries, the close games throughout the season, and the mumps for Gods sake, the team has continued to play hard, with seemingly every game going into the third as a one goal game, and every day bringing another affliction. Tonight, after the “flu” got Nikolay Goldobin in the previous one, we got the news that Joseph Labate and Alexandre Grenier would replace Tanev and Granlund in the lineup, who were knocked out by food poisoning. #IMeanCaman
- That meant Alex Biega was once again a fourth line winger. I love him there. Last game, he was a seek and destroy hitter, and displayed speed and physical play. Tonight, he had 2 hits in 5:52, and did not get the chances he had in the previous game. But I do like him there. He is speedy, has some talent on the puck, and hits like a truck. Sounds like a fourth line winger to me !
- The first period was actually the Canucks ( in a 10-9 round. The Pens had some great chances too, and it was back and forth, but the home team had the edge in play ) period. They faced down the early pressure from the Pens, and then had chances and pressure from all lines. They forced turnovers, and were faster than the fast team from Pittsburgh.
- They scored first too. Yes, the NHL and Francois St Laurent said it was goalie interference, but you and I both know that is just narrative influenced bullshit. I have seen ( and you have too, even partisan Pens fan reading this ) that called a goal throughout the season. The rule is supposed to be if you impede the goaltender from making the save, not if there is any contact. Too often in the NHL, they use the contact as a be all and end all. Hainsey had Chaput in there as well, and pushed him into his goalie. All that, it still a goal. Unless it is the “Stanley Cup champions” and you are just a hard working team with guys like ( who? ) Chaput on it. That will be a goal several times in the playoffs to come. It should have been a goal tonight. Watch it in the highlight pack below, stop it if you like. Murray is not impeded, and the contact is caused by Hainsey as much as Chaput. Ridiculous.
- None of this is to say the Pens did not deserve the win tonight, nor that they needed the help. Narratives are like closed information loops ( think Trump to Fox News to his base and back around ), where they basically become self fullfilling. And refs are human too. They read the papers. Let’s just say, if that was the Hurricanes, for instance, instead tonight, it would have been 1-0 for the home team.
- The Pens had several golden chances to get the opening goal in the first anyhow, with Ryan Miller stoning them in a variety of ways. The shots and chances were pretty even, and Murray made some great saves too, but Ryan Miller proved once again he still has it at his age, with another superlative 40+ shot performance tonight, regardless of the final score.
- The shots ? Just a 12-11 edge for the visitors after 20 minutes, and the home team had a 10-7 edge in hits. The Pens were dominating the circle early ( 15-9 ) and forced 8 blocks to only 4 Canuck shots leaving welts. With the Pens missing 5 shots to the Canucks’ 3, the “Corse Events” were actually pretty close.
- It was the second period where things started to go awry. The Pens came out the more aggressive club, and were generating shots and chances galore. Like I said, they are a very good team, one of the NHL’s best. Miller was standing tall, and the Canucks were even generating their own chances at times in the second, off the rush anyhow.
- That is why it is maddening to watch refs in the NHL give Sidney Crosby calls no one else ( Maybe Patrick Kane or other top level stars, I suppose ) gets. The first one on Baertschi was right in front of the ref, and the stick was in there hooking, even though it was only one tug, and a light one that gets let go all the time. You can’t do that in your own end, right in front of a ref Sven . OK. The Pens had their # 3 power play humming, and creating chances, but they were not able to cash in.
- It was the next call, a few minutes after the first one was killed, that was maddening. Luca Sbisa had his stick perpendicular behind the net, chasing Crosby, when he stopped and turned back behind the net. He literally skated into the stick. There was no hook, no slash, nothing. Just a phantom call that a superstar gets, I suppose. Even when it is NOT a penalty. What is maddening about it is that the Pens got away with more obvious calls in their own end in the first, when they were running around and trailing. Bo Horvat was hooked twice on “scoring chances”. If you are going to give shitty calls NHL, at least be fair and give it to our young star too.
- The Canucks stood up well to that power play as well, although the Pens generated more scoring chances. It was shortly after that penalty was killed, that the first goal was finally counted. It was a fine, well executed play by a couple of lesser lights, as the Pens won a draw, had Sundqvist go to the net, and his screen prevented Miller from even seeing the well placed wrister from the point from Kuhnhackl. I thought it was his goal, but I guess it touched Cole along the way, and they gave it to him.
- Even with a goal wrongly waved off, and this one, it could have easily been two-three zip after two periods, easy. Miller robbed Kessel, stopped Sheary late, and made plenty of eye popping saves in a period where the Pens pressed very hard.
- How hard ? The shots were 23-8 in the second period. Throw in the 6 misses, and 4 more blocks the Canucks had in the second, and it is obvious they were spending a lot of time in the offensive end. The Canucks actually won the second period draws 8-6, to make that stat 21-17 Pens after two frames.
- The third period, you got the feeling the Pens were just trying to get it home. Sure, they had their forays, but the Canucks were getting more shots than they have in “third period, down one” situations than they have in the past, and while the Pens were turning it over less in the final frame, they were still defending well. They prevented many “grade A “ chances for the team pressing for the equalizer.
- Henrik Sedin had a great chance early on in the third, in close, that Murray gloved, and Bo’s Line, and the Sedins ( with Chaput. They started with Grenier, but Chaput won the spot with his hustle and puck hounding, and was very good there ) had a couple shifts where they threatened a bit. But credit the Penguins with grinding down the third period.
- Their second goal, that came late, and put it out of reach, ( before the empty netter finished the scoring ) was another fine play, well executed. Phillip Larsen looked to have good position on Sheary, and was putting him into the boards, when he made a magnificent pass back against the grain. Miller may have cheated just an inch off the post, but that was enough for Guentzel to find the hole and pop it home.
- That goal had a second assist for Crosby, and he got another on the empty netter, so the narrative guys will go “see, best player in the world had two assists”. He was dangerous all night ( 9 shots, 13 of 20 draws won ), and a definite contender for best player on the ice. But that would not matter to the bobblehead panels anyway. The bitching about narratives is certainly not to disparage his obvious talent. It is just maddening when refs give him shitty calls for that he and his team never seem to get against them. The two stick fouls called against the Canucks were the kind let go all the time. That they were against the guy who carries the “best player in the NHL” mantle ( and he is, not McDavid, sorry Oiler fans ), and seemingly called in his favour more than they should have been...I guess it is predictable. But it doesn’t mean we have to like it.
- The final numbers ? ( see here ) The Pens outshot the Canucks 13-8 in the final frame, and 48-27 overall. They had 15 blocks to 14 for the home team, and missed 12 compared to 7 misses for the Canucks, for a total of 74 Corsi Events to 49 for the home team. That seems bad, and they definitely had the edge in play. But the goalie is a part of the team too, right? ( Seriously, Miller must go “WTF” when he looks at the shot clock lately. It seems to be over 40 all the time ) While the Canucks had 18 hits to 17, and stays close the rest of the way ons draws, losing that one 32-27, they still competed hard, and were in another one goal game late. Yes, the #TankNation folks are happy with this result, but I am more happy with the lack of quit in this team. Outshot ? Sure ? Out played ? Not often.
- Luca Sbisa had 5 blocks. Daniel Sedin had 5 shots, while brother had 3, as well as Chaput. Cramarossa had 3 shots and 5 hits, and Megna had 3 and 3 respectively as well. Everyone came to play. They had a shot at beating the “Cup Champs”, and played them hard. It just wasn’t enough.
Next up is the Bruins on Monday, and you know there is enough residual juice to make that an interesting matchup. The Canucks are spoilers now, and will continue to play hard, and to win.
Let’s close on that. Your team is playing hard for Willie Desjardins. That may be enough, or, probably not next season. We all know how it goes in the NHL coaching ranks. But enough of this whining in the media. TSN Radio got the rights bought away from them, in part because ( in my mind anyhow, maybe it was just money ) they are just such assholes to the team, unfair in narratives and outlooks. The Province and Sun are both rife with couch coaches disguised as reporters, who often have the coach fired before the team does.
Why do we have to be so negative Canuck fans ? I hear you in the work vehicle ? Your “Memo To’s” and “tell me I’m wrongs”, your “first time caller” or “Troy from White Rock” for the thousandth time. Maybe that will be the same on the new station next year. Can we at least try to be positive ? Boeser will be here soon, as will Gaudette, and Joulevi, and Dahlen, and on and on. Your team is getting deeper, and continues to play hard and fast. Any one of the Penguin players tonight will tell you they were in a hard fought game.
The results will come soon, and the close losses, and all the negative feelings that come with them, will pass. The team has already passed the lousy predicted levels of play, or soon will.
Can we just enjoy the ride ? See you next weekend...