Say what you will about the Vancouver and their performance during the 7-game roadtrip (and about people who begin sentences with "say what you will.."), but a 5-1-1 record all things considered is more than impressive. Especially considering the way they capped it off against the Blues with a 3-2 overtime victory. The operative term here is "gutsy", which I’m sure you’ll see bandied about on your Twitter timeline, deservedly so.
Read on past the jump for a recap of what went down.
"Obviously given everything I’ve just mentioned, it’s easy to see why the Blues are considered to be heavy favourites to take care of business in this game. However, let me just say that I wouldn’t exactly be stunned if the Canucks put up a better fight than you may think they’d be capable of.. it’s sports, and sometimes when something seems to be way too good to be true, it usually is. I’m just sayin’".
That was from the preview of the game which I posted this afternoon. As someone who has followed a variety of sports very closely for years now, I tend to get spooked when everyone and their grandmother talks about how lopsided a game is going to be. I wouldn’t have put money on the Canucks winning or anything, but I just put it out there that I could definitely envision a scenario where they surprised people with their showing. I’m glad they made me look like I kinda sorta know what I’m talking about.
At the bottom of that preview was also a recommendation for a bet that would give you 6-to-1 if Ryan Kesler scored a goal and the Canucks won. Well.. he scored two of them (including the power play tally in OT that won the game), giving him 7 on the year now. That means he’s now on pace for 44 goals, which would certainly make me (and many others) look silly were it to happen. I was fairly vocal in my opinion that he was more of a 25-goal guy this preseason, pleading with people to temper their expectations and settle down.
Obviously I didn’t anticipate that he would be routinely playing in the mid 20’s per game, with 54 shots on goal in 13 games to his name. I also didn’t expect him to play with the Sedins at 5v5 like he has over the past handful of games. He has been ridiculous, and it’s hard to even imagine what kind of shape the Canucks would be in right now wihtout him. I think it speaks to the mentality that has accompanied being a Canucks fan for life that I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop with him. But for now, there’s nothing we can do but enjoy the ride..
Before the game I joked that it would be awesome to see John Tortorella pull a Gregg Popovich and send his stars home, conceding the loss in this one. I thought the Sedins actually had their least effective showing of the season in this game heading into the overtime period. I can’t remember them generating fewer promising scoring opportunities than they did here, failing to ever really even sustain pressure with the puck possession we’ve come to expect from them. Hard to blame them though since they played 24 and 25 minutes respectively tonight after having topped 25 minutes last night as well. They must be exhausted. Plus, they played a part in setting up Kesler’s winner with just 15 seconds left to go.
What followed the goal was one of the more bizarre endings to a game I’ve seen in some time.. as soon as Kesler scored David Backes went after Daniel Sedin (while Barrett Jackman went after Kesler), and a scrum ensued. Backes, ever the classy gentleman, finally received some penalty minutes with his misconduct and roughing penalty after it seemed like he could do as he pleased without the worry of a whistle throughout the game.
He blatantly went after Tom Sestito following a whistle in the 3rd period, and went down like a sack of potatoes to draw a penalty on Bieksa (which led to the 1st goal for the Blues) late in the 2nd. I’d love to hear what was going through his head when he went after Daniel on that play, but I doubt we’ll here from him since he probably had to rush home to check on Kelly following the conclusion of the game. After all, Ryan Kesler is in town..
As for the newcomers, Pelletier and Archibald, I thought they were as effective as you could have hoped for in their season debut. That 4th line along with Yannick Weber actually had a couple of decent shifts, which pretty much instantly makes it the best showing from a Canucks 4th line that we’ve seen all year. Burrows is set to come back so we’ll probably see one of them get sent back down, and I hope it’s not Archibald, who I think has the potential to be a very serviceable depth forward at the NHL level.
Image via Extra Skater.
As you see by the shot attempt totals the Canucks were actually more than holding their through, oh I’d say, the first 30-35 minutes of the game. After that their heavy legs decided to really show, and by the end of the game you could tell they were just trying to hang on for dear life.
Which brings us to Eddie Lack, who was once again very solid. He stopped 22 of 24 shots he faced, and is surely showing both the Canucks brass and their fans that he can be relied upon to spell Roberto Luongo from time to time and avoid forcing the 34-year old to start more than somewhere between 60 and 65 games.
As for the power play opportunity situation, the Canucks only drew 2 of them again in this one (one of which was a 4-minute minor that drew blood on a high stick). I highly doubt that the league is "against them", but it’s hard not to take issue with the 2 infractions they were whistled for themselves late in the 2nd period when they’re not getting any of those calls themselves.
My one issue with Tortorella coming out of this game is why he didn’t utilize the Higgins-Santorelli-Kassian combination more throughout the game. He started the game with Richardson on that line, but by the 2nd period Kassian was back up there and they were back to getting up to stuff. I really like that combination and think they have a chance to be effective. Kassian needs to stay out of the penalty box, and getting into a fight doesn’t exactly help with that. Burrows’ return to could put a wrench in those plans, though. Oh well.