January 08 2014 12:30AM
That was an eventful game, for lack of a better term. "Schizophrenic" is a good adjective to describe it. Things went from bad to good to bad then really bad in a hurry, as the Canucks somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory from the jaws of defeat. Read past the jump for a recap of just how the hell they managed to do it this time in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Although it wasn't really anything to write home about, the opening frame against the Pens was definitely a massive improvement from the 3rd against Anaheim. Granted, every single skater would have to have been infected by a virus that caused massive brain hemmhoraging to play a worse period, but still. Baby steps. Glass half full. Look at the positives...
BRIAN FREAKING GIBBONS scored on the Canucks. When it rains it pours.
Gibbons' goal came off a breakaway which was the result of a Dan Hamhuis turn over at the offensive blueline - not exactly a banner play from a newly-minted olympian. Other than that, the period was rather uneventful. Jason Garrison looked bad, the Sedins looked good, the run of play was fairly even at 5-on-5, and Taylor Pyatt threw the first hit of his life; pretty much par for the course.
The second period was much more wide open, and Pittsburgh scored off a wild sequence where Evgeni Malkin turned the puck over to Jannik Hansen who couldn't convert on a breakaway. The Penguins took the puck back up the ice and Malkin more than atoned for his mistake with a goal of his own, knifing a soft wrister past Eddie Lack to make the score 2-0. Yannick Weber would have a chance moments later, cranking a laser of a wrist shot off the bar, after Zac Dalpe made a beautiful play in the neutral zone to generate the opportunity.
Kris Letang also came alive in the frame, as the electric Pittsburgh defender (and underrated Olympic snub. How fun would he be with Subban on big ice?) hit a post and had two more grade-A chances that were turned aside by Eddie Lack. The Canucks netminder also turned aside Joe Vitale with a kick save and Sidney Crosby, as it looked like the Canucks were dangerously close to getting blown out once again.
But to the home team's credit, they managed to get things back under control, mostly thanks to this absolute gift from Sidney Crosby:
It's not too often you catch a break like that, and Jason Garrison, who had been having an absolutely miserable night Corsi-ing at a rate of 33% after one period and 38% after two, made no mistake. Vancouver came on strong with a flurry of attempts at the end of the second, but couldn't put another one past Marc-Andre Fleury.
Trailing 2-1, it was up to Vancouver to win da turd, and they looked determined to do just that. Tom Sestito nearly got the party started when he danced (it was an awkward, lumbering dance) around Simon Despres and just missed faking out Fleury and tucking a puck in the far side. It would have been the goal of the year, firmly cemented Sestito's status as a Vancouver cult hero, and force us to break up with our collective blog heartthrob Jamie Benn. Alas, it was not to be so Jamie Benn is still #1 in our hearts.
But it wasn't long after that #2 in our hearts Chris Tanev tied the game at 2-2. I thought the rush leading up to the goal was beautifully executed by Ryan Kesler and Zack Kassian, as Kesler drove the net while Kassian picked up the one guy that no one saw coming for a brilliant chance:
You'll notice that Kassian is good at this passing thing - something Dimitri and I have been talking up for the better part of the season now.
Oh and the Canucks weren't done there. Soon after killing off a Tom Sestito charging penalty, this happened:
When I saw Chris Higgins on the breakaway, I thought his #20 was really Tom Sestito's #29 at first and I shouted "NO!!!" at my TV, half in disbelief that it was Sestito getting the chance, half out of the realization that of all the guys to get the chance it was going to be the one with hams for fists and Smart cars for feet. Fortunately, Chris Higgins is good at hockey, and he tucked the puck five-hole to give Vancouver a 3-2 lead, a mere 17 seconds before a sublimely slick play from Kassian gave the Canucks a 4-2 lead.
And that was all she wrote! Vancouver closed out the game, holding Sidney Crosby off the scoreboard for just th-- haha no that totally didn't happen. Remember those brain hemmhorages earlier? Those happened instead. Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby scored two goals in 16 seconds to tie the game at 4-4, and send the game to a goalless overtime then a shootout where the Canucks failed to score and Pittsburgh won because of course they did.
But hey, dat turd? Won it 3-2.
Something something ExtraSkater dot com .
All things considered, it wasn't a brutal game. Pittsburgh held a 55-51 edge in Corsis at even strength, but a 19-10 edge with the score tied. The Sedins and the Canucks depth had a nice bounceback game, as Frank Corrado led all skaters with a 66.7% Corsi For. Once again, Tom Sestito was the top forward on either team, though he was joined by Mike Santorelli at 63.6%. But that's all window dressing. Here's the point I want to make:
That shows Vancouver's rolling 10-game Fenwick For%. Since Alex Burrows and Alex Edler have left due to injuries, the Canucks have been in an absolute nosedive. With both Burrows and Edler, they were among the elite play-driving teams in the NHL, and a player or two away from a legitimate Stanley Cup threat in my estimation. Now? Below average and probably not a playoff team. What makes things worse is that we know Henrik Sedin is playing through some kind of hand or wrist or arm or shoulder injury (he took zero faceoffs tonight), and he's posted a 5v5 Corsi% of just 46.9% over the last 5 games.
What's even worse is that Ryan Kesler is at 39.2% over that same span.
I've long suspected Daniel to be nursing some sort of core injury since he's been falling almost as frequently as Mason Raymond was post-back surgery. Going down in a heap after taking a Bieksa clapper in the, uh, midsection certainly doesn't help that, and if Kesler's numbers are that poor you can't help but think he's banged up too. If Vancouver's best 4 forwards, best offensive defenseman, and best goaltender really are injured...
..NO. STOP. BAD.
Both Burrows and Edler skated today, so hopefully reinforcements are on the way soon and we won't have to see many more 14-minute nights from Tom Sestito. Not that he's been blatantly poor or anything, but I just want to see good hockey players, not adequate ones.
This one goes out to you, Alex and Alex:
Next game is Friday at 7:00 PM against St. Louis. Please, join us for more thinly veiled sarcasm, hand wringing and Tom Sestito jokes!
I hope he didn't hear that last bit.