October 18 2013 12:07AM
All the Canucks needed on this night was Higgins' 1st period tally. (Image via Sean Rubnyk )
Good lord, the Buffalo Sabres are as bad as the numbers, and the people on my Twitter timeline say. I've got to say that I hadn't seen much of them through the first few weeks of this early season, but by essentially any metric they had been absolutely abysmal through the first 8 games of the season.
The Canucks pounced on them early, and took advantage of their general ineptitude en route to another victory against an inferior opponent. I'm not going to fault them for beating a poor team - you can only play the team that's in front of you, after all - but we need to keep things in perspective and not get too carried away since there's a strong chance that the 2013-14 Buffalo Sabres will go down as a historically bad team.
Still.. the Canucks are now 2-0 on their season long 7-game roadtrip, and have secured 4 meaningful points ahead of their upcoming matchup with Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
You really can't ask for a better start to a game than the Canucks had in this one (though I guess they didn't score any goals during their early flurry, so there's that). According to Extra Skater, the Canucks registered 10 unblocked shot attempts before the Sabres countered with their 1st. And that was all in the opening 1:49 of the game. You reply that sequence 10 times and I bet they come away with at least 1 goal about 8 or so times. After the first 3 and a half minutes, the shot attempts were 15-1 in favour of the visiting team. Madness.
What a bizarre game for the Canucks. They're completely demolishing the Sabres, but their two goals are from a brutal 4L turnover and a SHG.— Cam Davie (@offersheet) October 18, 2013
Right. That's the process we try to preach here at Canucks Army, though. If you direct enough puck towards the net, and spend enough time in the opposing team's zone, sooner or later you'll begin to generate your own form of luck. That's what happened in this one after a brutal turnover by Cody McCormick came right to Chris Higgins, who made no mistake. That's back-to-back games with goals for Higgins, who now has 29 shots on goal for the year (which is a 297 SOG pace).
That was the 2nd goal of the game, as Brad Richardson showed off some slick hand-eye coordination to put home yet another shorthanded goal for the Canucks (their 3rd of the season). Meanwhile that was Jason Garrison's 8th point, who continues his point-per-game pace.
And finally, the scoring was capped off by none other than Ryan Stanton, who tied Cody Hodgson's total number of goals on the season with this gem:
It's pretty cool that he'll get to tell his grandchildren one day that both of the Sedins assisted on his first career NHL goal. I mentioned yesterday that Stanton has been very serviceable this year, and he had himself another Ryan Stanton'ish game (no mistakes, flying under the radar, doing what you want from a 3rd pairing defenseman).
A lot was made heading into this game about how Tortorella had split the Sedins up in the most recent game, and what it meant going forward. I didn't indulge in the discussion too much since I thought that it wasn't something that would actually be a big part of the future. I was right, as Henrik and Daniel played roughly 75% of their 5v5 minutes together tonight. What I didn't see coming, though, was the staff putting all of their eggs in one basket with Ryan Kesler on their line.
That line was by no surprise awesome to watch.. but you have to wonder whether it's a feasible option going forward, given the way it exposes the rest of the lineup. I'd have a hard time believing we'll see too much of it against a team like Pittsburgh on Saturday morning.
Finally, obviously the main storyline heading into this one was Cody Hodgson vs. Zack Kassian. Kassian had easily his best performance of the season, as he used his size and (supremely underrated) passing ability to set a few chances up. Him and Jordan Schroeder looked good, which has to give fans of the team some optimism for the future.
As for Hodgson, he was very.. Cody Hodgson tonight. He was a defensive liability (getting pylon'd by Schroeder in one memorable instance in the 3rd), but he was also a creative playmaker as he set up what was initially a goal, but eventually waved off, with a wicked pass to a streaking Thomas Vanek. He also ran Roberto Luongo resulting in a goaltender interefence penalty, which I thought was pretty criminal of him. You can tell which organization he grew up in.
Oh yeah, Roberto Luongo had a shutout, too. Ho hum. He only had to make 25 saves (11 of which came in the 3rd), and was obviously good when he needed to be. His save percentage is up to .912 now.