Ben Eager is a classy guy.
(Photo by Jessica Haydahl/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Sharks – despite their defiant comments post-game – have to be embarrassed by last night’s performance and result. They lost their composure, they got crap goaltending, and they were thoroughly routed in the third period. Usually I don’t enjoy a blow-out quite as much as I enjoy the tension of a close playoff game. Last night, however, was the exception. Ben Eager’s douche-juice antics (apologies to Buzz Bissinger), enabled and, also, transformed the feeling behind the blowout. He personally made it so that every Canucks goal felt like justice being served.
Though it’s fun to speculate about what Eager said to Luongo, his he-man actions upon scoring a totally meaningless goal to make it a 4 goal game late in the third, were pretty pathetic. I love how he flexes and show-boats right after the goal – as if that score absolves him for taking his teammates out of the game, and providing Vancouver with the power-play opportunities to put the Sharks away. I’ll say this for Ben Eager though – he makes for a great villain – and I hope he finds a job this summer (preferably with the Oilers).
Coming into the series – many analysts, myself included – had assumed that the Sharks had a slight edge in terms of forward depth. So far this series, that hasn’t been the case. The Canucks third-line has clearly out-played the Sharks third line, Pavelski and co. are playing protected minutes and still losing the battle (and giving up goals) against Lapierre’s unit. The Sharks third-line is going to have to be way better.
As is their blue-line. My friend asked me yesterday, are the Sharks better this year than they were last year? I said I thought so, because I’d rather have Niemi than Nabokov, and I’d rather have Logan Couture than Rob Blake. But with Demers (who is awesome) hurt, San Jose’s blue-liners are simply struggling to keep up. Mclellan better have a smart adjustment ready for Friday, because it’s getting ugly for his team. That being said, I’m just not convinced that San Jose had the required defensive personnel to get the job done against Vancouver.
Finally, Antii Niemi wasn’t responsible for that loss, but he had a bad game. Both of Daniels goals, Higgin’s goal to put the game away, and Raymond’s goal to make it 7-2, were off weak shots from the slot. Those are quality opportunities – but Niemi needs to make at least a couple of those saves. And throw out the book about beating Niemi high – the Canucks were shooting five hole all night, and it worked out very well indeed.
All of this being said – the Sharks are, despite last night’s trouncing, a capable and dangerous team. The Canucks will get San Jose’s best shot on Friday, so you know it will be hard-fought game. Don’t go counting chickens now, Vancouver still needs two more wins to advance!
3 Big Stats:
1. VAN 6- SJ 1, Total goals for each team in the 3rd period, so far this series. This series is not long for this world, if the Sharks can’t figure out how to reverse this trend over the weekend.
2. 1 goal, 1 assists, +2, 3.6 balanced corsi, 5 hits, 1 blocked shot, 1 takeaway, 5 PIM (from a fight he won). That’s Kevin Bieksa’s stat line from last night, pretty incredible stuff. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Gillis is going to have a difficult decision to make after the post-season – Ehrhoff or Bieksa? With the way those two are playing, it’s unlikely that the Canucks can fit both under the cap – unless Gillis can move Ballard (for 30 cents on the dollar).
3. .869 – Niemi’s save percentage through 2 games in this series. Luongo’s by the way: .917. The Canucks were said to have the edge along the blue-line and in net going into this series – and so far that has, indeed, been the case.
Three Big Moments:
1. The Bieksa goal encapsulated every advantage the Canucks have in this series. First of all, Higgins’ work sitting on the bench and flagging Bieksa to “go” was brilliant. For all that Canucks haters like to go on about the teams “diving,” what really sets the Canucks apart is their team communication. It’s a major reason why the Canucks are able to move the puck like no other team in the league. Secondly, they “activated” one of their skilled Dmen (yes, Bieksa is a skilled Dman) who used his speed to beat every Shark down the ice and pot a sniper’s goal on Niemi. Awesome.
2. I’m going to go with the Higgins goal as the second big moment, because it put the game away, and because we got to see that douche-nozzle Ben Eager take the long skate back to the bench from the box. What. A. Goon.
3. Finally, I will leave you with the most dissected moment of last night’s game: the twins! (Image courtesy of Deadspin) Bonus: here’s an enhanced close-up of the boobs and here’s proof that Ben Eager touched himself as the boobs were thrown up against the glass. Perv.
Game 3 goes on Friday in San Jose.