"Lemme see! Lemme see! I want to know what happened! [Image via Chistian Petersen]
The Pacific Division is stupid good right now, in case you hadn’t realized. The Canucks and Coyotes came into their contest on Tuesday night sitting at 3rd and 4th in the division respectively, despite the fact that they each had 10 wins and a positive goal differential. If only everyone could play in the Metropolitan Division..
I noted in the game preview that this would mark the first of 5 games against divisional opponents that would surely give us a better idea of where the Canucks stand amongst the league’s elite right now. We’ll wait to make any serious judgements until we see how that stretch plays out, but so far so good; the Canucks managed to hang around all game long against a tough opponent in a difficult building to play in, and were just a few inches away on a handful of occasions from stealing the 2 points.
One will have to do, thanks to their 3-2 shootout loss. Next up is a date in their own personal house of horrors (the Shark Tank in San Jose) on Thursday night, but before that let’s get to what unfolded in Glendale just past the jump.
It turns out that not every Canucks game will start the way the one against the Maple Leafs did, where they blitzed them right from the opening draw. The Coyotes got on the board first just 1:15 into the game after a clearing attempt rattled off of the board and right to an awaiting Marty Hanzal, who fired a puck on net that was tipped in by Radim Vrbata.
On a slight tangent.. man, does it ever feel like Radim Vrbata has been around forever. Maybe he has been. He was the 8th leading scorer on an ’01-’02 Colorado Avalanche squad that had Sakic, Blake, Tanguay, Drury, Hejduk and Foote on it. That was a long time ago..
The rest of the opening frame was pretty.. nondescript. Probably would’ve served as a good time for you to go on a beer run on the off chance that you didn’t have time to do so before the game because of the early start.
Just 25 seconds into the 2nd period, though, Dan Hamhuis knotted things up with a weird seeing-eye floater that managed to get through a crowd and get by a visibly disturbed Mike Smith:
.. not that it’s all that difficult to draw something out of Mike Smith, who plays like he’s either a) trying to burn some serious fat by staying active the entire time, or b) under the impression that he’s getting paid for every time he inexplicably falls down and flails around. The title was obviously a reference to Smith’s tendency to act like a baby out there. Here he is in his natural habitat.
Zack Kassian took another dumb penalty where he clearly saw Vrbata’s numbers as he had his back to him, and still went ahead and pasted him into the boards. I know that there’s a fine line between playing with aggression and doing stupid stuff like that, so I can’t get on his case too much about this particular one.. but it sure seems like he finds himself in these situations more than others. After a very strong game against the Leafs, he had a forgettable one here. Status quo.
Highlight of the Night
That was a beautiful goal – Kesler’s 9th of the year – to give the Canucks a lead. Look at the design of the play. Kesler moves up from his usual spot around the net to the point (allowing Burrows to take his place), and absolutely hammers home a pinpoint setup by Henrik. I still don’t quite understand why Dan Hamhuis is out with that unit over both Jason Garrison and Alex Edler, but considering the fact that they came into this game having converted only 5 of 52 PP opportunities, I can see the logic behind trying new things.
Then the 4th line happened. The combination of Sestito, Welsh, and Dalpe (welcome back to your regular 3:46 of ice-time, guy) were responsible for what proved to be the final goal we’d see in this game. John Tortorella shared his thoughts on what happened there right after the game:
Torts blames himself for Coyotes 2nd goal. Said he tried to stretch his bench by putting the 4th line out there and shouldn’t have. #canucks
— Dan Murphy (@sportsnetmurph) November 6, 2013
One final note before we get to the numbers: the shootout is stupid, as is the fact that the Sedins are as bad as they are. What on earth happened on Henrik’s attempt to seal things for Phoenix, when he simply mishandled the puck and lost it before even getting a shot attempt off? Why doesn’t Chris Higgins buy himself a horseshoe or a four leaf clover or something, to avoid being the victim of multiple posts? Why did Antoine Vermette’s shot – that Roberto Luongo initially saved, then had bounce in off his pad – ultimately prove to be the winner? Maybe they should flip a coin to determine the winner next time.
Image via Extra Skater
You’ll never believe this, but the team’s two lines put in some serious work, coming out in the black in terms of shot differential (19-14 for Henrik Sedin’s line, and 20-16 for Santorelli’s). The 3rd line got hammered though, and things would’ve been real ugly for the aforementioned 4th line if they had been given enough time to let that happen.
On the blueline, the defense pairing of Stanton and Bieksa continued their strong play with a positive shot differential at 5v5, and yet another game without a goal against. They’re something. It was nice to see Edler and Garrison get back on track here, with a strong possession game of their own (21-14 for Garrison, 25-18 for Edler).
Save percentages for Roberto Luongo over the past 5 games: .933, .895, .926, 1.000, .938. That one sub-900 performance was the Capitals game, where he only gave up 2 goals and the team won. I think he’s rounding into form, eh?