December 17 2013 09:39PM
This puppy was energetic and lively at the start of the game, but..
I'm very cognizant of the fact that we just witnessed the Vancouver Canucks rip off 7 wins in a row, including a complete and utter butt whooping over the big bad Boston Bruins. This has been a very sweet stretch around these parts. So it's kind of difficult to complain about the on-ice product at this point..
.. But man oh man, Tuesday night's game against the Minnesota Wild pretty much did everything it could to tear the soul right out of me. I feel like a sucker now, because I let the Wild rope me in with their young talent and intriguing player names on paper. I thought that maybe things had changed just a little bit, but nope. The Minnesota Wild are still the Minnesota Wild, and I guess the one silver lining from this game is that these teams aren't in the same division anymore.
Well, that, and the point the Canucks took home due to the shootout loss. Read on past the jump for a recap.
Obviously the big storyline heading into this game was Roberto Luongo's struggles at Xcel Energy. He had a 3.56 goals against average and .873 save % in his 13 appearances in Minnesota, which had prompted former coach Alain Vigneault to use Cory Schneider everytime the Canucks were in town. Luongo had stopped 153 of 159 shots he had faced in December heading into this game, and considering how random and inexplicable his struggles in Minnesota had been, I figured he'd buck the trend and keep playing well.
And that he did. He stopped 30/32 shots throughout, and was only really beaten by two defensive breakdowns (and more importantly, two filthy passes by Mikko Koivu). The first one was a power play goal by Zach Parise; the penalty killers in front of Luongo blocked a couple of shots in a row, but unfortunately as a result they were out of position and scrambling and a wicked cross-seam pass by Koivu resulted in a bunny of a goal. We'll get to the second one in just a little bit, don't you worry.
The Canucks opened the scoring, with Jannik Hansen putting one in from the Sedins. The video below doesn't actually show this, but it was a nice little defensive play by Chris Tanev along the boards that set up the rush. As you'll note Henrik did a good job of taking the defender with him as he crashed the net, and after Daniel found him, Hansen did well to take his time and pick his spot. Also of note is that Koivu, Parise, Suter, and Brodin were all on the ice for this goal against.. which is impressive:
In the 2nd period Zenon Konopka took Canucks Army favourite Ryan Stanton into the boards, with a play that I'd (generously) describe as unnecessarily reckless. How could this happen with noted enforcer and deterrent Tom Sestito back in the lineup? It looked like Stanton's ankle snapped in an awkward angle, and after trying to give it a go for one quick shift, he wasn't seen anymore after this play. As a result we saw all of the defensemen - well, except Yannick Weber - shoulder a larger workload; Hamhuis topped 30 minutes (which Ryan Suter scoffed at), Garrison approached 28, and Tanev and Bieksa both topped 26.
After the game, we got news of this:
Stanton just walked out with a boot on left foot and ankle— Brad Ziemer (@BradZiemer) December 18, 2013
If Stanton is out for any period of time, I expect we'll see the team call Frankie Corrado up. The Alberts-Weber pairing, which we saw way too much of in the preseason, certainly won't get it done. A story to follow no doubt. Get better Stanton, for your Norris campaign's sake..
On a more positive note, David Booth scored for the 2nd straight game with a nice effort to outwork Ryan Suter in front of the net. Brad Richardson was off of the ice with an equipment issue, forcing Mike Santorelli to take a shift with Booth and Kassian. He made a nice pass to Weber - who despite all of his issues, really has some intriguing offensive instincts - who put the puck on the net, allowing Booth to take care of the rest.
The 3rd period was an absolute snoozefest. While it would be easy to say that the Canucks were locking it down and trying to walk away with a 2-1 victory, I really don't think that's the case. It needs to be mentioned that they had a couple of glorious chances to put the game away before the Wild tied it up. Both Higgins and Daniel had great opportunities for an insurance tally, and it just didn't happen. The Wild came the other way and Charlie Coyle put one past Luongo that trickled through his legs.
Maybe the most upsetting part of it all was that John Tortorella picked Higgins and Kesler for the shootout, which, shockingly enough, didn't work out. I'm sure it wasn't the result you were all hoping for, but at least it's all over..
Image via Extra Skater
It wound up being a fairly close possession game - the Canucks won the shot attempts battle 35-34 at 5v5 score close - but as you can see they really controlled things in the 2nd period. And as you can see, they were doing just fine up until the Wild tied it roughly halfway through the final frame.. but after that, the wind was kind of knocked out of their sails, and the Wild took it to 'em. The game only made it to a shootout because of Luongo's strong effort.
There's also the fact that with Stanton out, and Weber not really trusted by the coaching staff, the top 4 defensemen all played minutes they aren't used to playing. As I mentioned above Hamhuis topped 30 minutes, and still managed to post a 22-13 shot attempt differential at 5v5 despite seeing a ton of the Koivu/Parise line. That's quite the performance from him.
Someone who didn't fare as well was Jason Garrison, who got rocked with a 10-28 differential. And most of it was against Kyle Brodziak's checking line, no less. Sweet jesus, that's bad. It's kind of amazing that he wasn't on the ice for a goal against throughout all of that.
Finally, for those of you scoring at home the power play goal the Wild scored was with Tanev not on the ice, so his remarkable goal different lives on!
The Canucks play the Wild again on February 28th, and March 26th. I guess only two more sittings are manageable, but feel free to make other plans for those two nights. You might want to be by your TV for the next two, though, with a back-to-back against the Stars and Blackhawks on the schedule. I need my palate cleansed.
Remember the win streak may be over, but the points streak is still alive!