All higlights courtesy @CanucksHD
Despite his looking somewhat foolish on this goal, the Edmonton Oilers relied on Nikolai Khabibulin tonight, and the much mocked goaltender came through. He made 33 stops on the evening, and was only beaten on one shot for which, he was in the net. On this particular piece of Sedinery, however, Khabibulin is in Tim Thomas land by the time Alex Burrows taps it into a nearly wide-open cage. There aren’t many things in hockey that get me quite as pumped up as a masterfully completed Sedin rush.
It wasn’t just Khabibulin who defeated the Canucks, however, the Oilers also enjoyed some puck-luck, and some opportunistic finishing from their emerging young stars, to topple the revamped Canucks machine on Tuesday night. The season is now progressing rapidly, but we’ve still only seen the Canucks play one road game. Sure the locations change, but it’s the same script every time: Luongo plays poorly or gets chased, the defense is mediocre, the Sedins don’t show up until the third (if at all) and the team puts in a sloppy first forty minutes, then goes on a "too-little-too-late" push in the third. People like to mock Vancouver’s hockey team, and the team’s starting goaltender, for being "unable to perform in April or June," but the Canucks are really just lucky that the playoffs aren’t held in October.
With each "blown-up" start, the tiresome Luongo chatter renews itself, seemingly stronger than ever. In tonight’s game the Luongo-Schneider contrast was particularly stark: Luongo got ventilated for three goals on fourteen shots, while Schneider was flawless and sublimely burgled a goal from Jordan Eberle for one of his 8 saves on the night. I hope the all consuming "goaltending controversy fire" enjoys fuel!
While Luongo had another shaky outing, and has only given his team one quality start in five opportunities so far this month, I’m not sure you can pin tonight’s loss "all on him" as some will surely do in this market. The Sedins were downright lethargic through forty minutes, and only in the third period did they seem to remember they were playing against the Oilers. Once they got to it in the third, it became apparent that they still possess the ability to handily dismantle the Edmonton defense, I just don’t get why that seemingly wasn’t a priority at nil-nil in the first.
I’d point out also that the last shift Ballard and Bieksa took together was with roughly seventeen minutes left to play in the second period, or about a minute after Eberle’s opening tally. For the rest of the game Alain Vigneault rode a top four consisting of the more familiar, and dependable pairings of: Salo, Edler and Hamhuis, Bieksa. Clearly in the mind of the head-coach, the defense was as much to blame as the goaltender for the three goals-against that the Oilers tallied to open the second period.
Finally the Canucks power-play was atrocious. It’s not so much that it went zero for three on the evening, it’s that it didn’t even look particularly dangerous. I counted only a single scoring chance for the leagues top-ranked power-play last season, one chance in nearly six minutes of power-play time. Basically the Canucks chance differential with the man-advantage in the game was even. That degree of listlessness is a pretty serious issue.
Although the Canucks didn’t get the result they wanted, and lost to the lowly Oilers – they did handily out-shoot their upstart division rivals, and out-chanced them by a wide margin in the third period. The Oilers, however, got another quality game out of Khabibulin and also enjoyed the sort of puck-luck that is necessary to squeeze out a 3-2 win in a game in which you are outshot by 13.
I’ve come to dislike Taylor Hall enormously, and I mean that as a sincere compliment. Probably the single thing that annoys me the most about the kid: how every time the Canucks hit Hall cleanly, his team freaks out. Usually one of his linemate’s will skate straight to the bench so a "meatball" can jump off of it and get in someone’s face about a hard, legal check. It happened with Duco-Peckham in the preseason, and it happened tonight with Edler and Ben Eager. It’s really quite silly.
As the Oilers become a legitimate threat in the league (probably at some point next season or whenever they improve their defense), Taylor Hall is going to start to be targeted, as the Sedins regularly are. When that happens the hits won’t be clean, they’ll be filthy. The team is going to need to learn to pick their spots better, but partly they’re following Hall’s lead. The kid loses it when he gets hit, and for the good of his team he’s going to need to learn control his temper better.
He also just strikes me as whiny, and all around detestable. You know what this means? It means Taylor Hall is an awesome player. When you start to really, irrationally dislike a player on a rival team – it’s because he’s hurting yours, and Hall was the one Oiler who really took it to the Canucks tonight. He made Hodgson look silly on the boards on the first Oiler goal. The third Oilers goal (the one Hall scored) resulted directly from a really good individual effort by Hall in the slot.
What impressed me more than Taylor Hall’s role in the Oilers second period offensive explosion, however, was his play in the third period when the rest of his teammates were getting dominated all over the ice. With a chance to really put the game out of reach, Hall improved and took it to the Canucks while the rest of his team (except for Khabibulin) wilted.
One minute into the third, Taylor Hall took a low shot from a sharp angle. It was a smart shot and created a rebound in the crease that Daniel Sedin attempted to clear. Hall, however, followed his shot and picked-off Daniel Sedin’s clearing attempt. Hall didn’t waste a heartbeat and released the shot as quickly as he’d stolen it, his snap shot beat Cory Schneider but didn’t beat Daniel Sedin who realized his mistake, played goalie and made the stop. The puck then trickled just outside the crease before Daniel used his hand to swipe the puck into the corner. It was a really good chance, and it was all Hall.
Hall was also the primary creator on the Eberle chance, in which Schneider bent time and space to make the stop. First he created the disruption in Vancouver’s end with a pretty solid hit on Alex Edler behind the net, Hall chased the puck down and begun the cycle. The puck went high-low and Hall came back behind the net, and retrieved a loose puck the hard way. Sami Salo did a good job to seal Hall against the boards, but Hall got his stick around and feebly knocked the puck to his defenseman. It wasn’t a great touch, but in a puck battle against a veteran guy like Salo, sometimes that touch is all you need. His defender threw it back to Hall who was able to beat Edler and feed the puck out front to the Nuge who fed Eberle. By the way, the entire sequence was marvelous but Schneider doesn’t have a hope in hell of making that stop if Eberle buries it. That was some Alex Burrows so far this season quality finishing from "Kid Canada."
The Canucks will try again tomorrow against St. Louis. I’m guessing Luongo gets the nod at the home, but certainly I’ll be eagerly awaiting that particular announcement tomorrow. Here’s your chance chart and advanced stat tables all courtesy Timeonice.com and Vic Ferrari.
Scoring Chances for NHL Game Number 20119
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