We had a photographer at the game and everything
Cosmetically, it will look worse. The Vancouver Canucks will wake up tomorrow now in a playoff position, because they failed to dispatch the Phoenix Coyotes in regulation time, and they gave up a point to the team they were theoretically chasing, and the Coyotes hold onto the second Wild Card start by virtue of having played fewer games.
Realistically, the Coyotes are winning games they shouldn’t, and getting points out of games they shouldn’t, and their shooting and save percentages have helped along some mediocre play. The Coyotes will not finish one point ahead of the Canucks for the standings, in all likelihood. The Canucks have been better at controlling play with the score close, and with the score tied. It’s just those little blown leads, those goals that go in not well-timed situations, that has cost the team points in regulation.
Ultimately though, this game will be looked back upon as a success. Vancouver won a game against a division rival 3-2, and they did it without using the shootout, which counts more in the standings. Chris Higgins scored the overtime winner, and he’s okay by us.
In the first period of the game, we watched grass grow. If we were smart enough, we would have barbecued* our steaks in the first period and not missed a second of action. The first period was awful.
The second saw things open up a little more. Jason Garrison scored a powerplay goal on a shot that eluded Mike Smith somehow. The Canucks powerplay has now scored a powerplay goal in seven straight games. We promised you it would blow open, and it has.
Here was the goal. I missed it because I was barbecuing a steak, and I don’t care for the PVR button on my remote control, so to watch the goal I had to sit through that silly Dennis Leary Ford ad. It begins with a controlled zone entry by Ryan Kesler, and a drop pass to open up an inkling of space that allows the Canucks to set up:
If you watch Jason Garrison play hockey, he doesn’t have a lot of physical tools. He has a heck of a slap shot, but isn’t particularly fast… or strong… or nimble. He has a shot and he can read the play well. Sometimes that’s all you need. He’s just always in the right place. The right place here was on the receiving end of a Dan Hamhuis pass.
The Canucks got their chances in the second period and out-shot Phoenix 11-9 (with two shots being the difference!). We saw a broken play by Dale Weise in Pittsburgh turn into an unlikely assist and at the end of the second, it was Ryan Stanton’s misplay that led to a Keith Yandle misplay that led to Ryan Stanton setting up the Sedins:
Nobody really knew who Ryan Stanton was when he was picked up off waivers. With his 11th point on the season, he’s now in a tie for 9th place in the NHL in rookie scoring, leaping ahead of: Sasha Barkov and Seth Jones, and tying himself with Valeri Nichushkin and Nick Bjugstad. When the Canucks placed the waiver claim, this is not what they were expecting. If they could have reasonably expected Stanton to put up the points he has, he would not have been put on waivers.
But a two-goal lead into the third period did help the Canucks coast. While #SafeIsDeath in the National Hockey League, no team is immune to score effects. The Coyotes are coached by Dave Tippett, who is much smarter than Randy Carlyle, and the Yotes pressed. The Canucks failed to convert on a two-on-oh that gave them three separate cracks at the net, but Mike Smith was forced to make just one save and Antoine Vermette scored on an absolute cannon that Roberto Luongo was clearly not expecting. He was a little deep in his net.
Officially, the Coyotes scored their second goal just 1:31 later, but with a TV timeout in between, it was a little bit longer. I don’t even know what happened and I don’t care to check a replay, but David Moss tossed a puck on net from the circle and Moss jammed home a rebound.
The game went to overtime. Phoenix out-shot Vancouver 18-8 in the third, to be expected when a team is behind, and both teams were very conservative until overtime. Things opened up in the OT but Mike Smith had to make the tougher saves. Then he wound up not making a save, with Chris Higgins putting a wrist shot on net on a partial two-on-one and the Canucks escaped with two points.
* – Spell check didn’t like my original spelling of ‘barbequed’. It gave me the option of writing ‘barebacked’ instead, which, considering the context, could be applicable, but not necessarily appropriate.
The Fenwicks (unblocked shot attempts) were mostly even, until Vancouver pulled ahead towards the end of the second and scored their goal. The balance of strategies favoured the Phoenicians from there, and they took control of the game, but it was an otherwise even game. I felt the Canucks got the better chances, but scoring chances are a dangerous way to measure a hockey game because the repeatability quotient is suspect, and also I opened a large bottle of beer at the start of the third period and may have been seeing things poorly.
Dan Hamhuis probably played the best. In the score close times during the game, he kept the shot attempts even, 16-16 when he was on the ice, despite starting twice as much in the defensive zone (8 times) as the offensive zone (4 times) and matching up against Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata and Mike Ribeiro for over 14 minutes apiece. Those guys are quite talented offensively but were mostly invisible. He also played nearly 30 minutes of ice-time overall.
A good performance from the depth players as well. The Canucks Corsi leaders with the score close were Zack Kassian, Stanton, Ryan Kesler, Zac Dalpe, Tom Sestito, Andrew Alberts, Higgins, and Dale Weise. I thought David Booth had his speed back. He out-paced some Coyote defenceman for an icing call despite trailing a stride at the blueline, and that’s encouraging. He played as good a game as he has had all year, and the Canucks need to get him going offensively somehow. He was up with the Sedin twins for much of the game but didn’t record a shot on net, which is somewhat unfortunate.
Early in the second Dale Weise may have had the best shift on his season, nailing David Rundblad hard behind the Phoenix net, then turning around later in the shift and almost scoring a goal on an odd-man rush. That was odd to see. Sometimes Weise looks like a real hockey player, and that’s always encouraging.
“We just knew we had to go out there and give it 110%. They’re a tough team, they’re a division rival, and they make it tough to get offence against them. We just had to focus on getting pucks on the net and creating some traffic and I think we did that. Higgy got that big OT winner and that pumped us up.”
What did you think of the goaltending?
“You know the goalie is only as good as the team. We have to help him out sometimes, make sure he sees pucks, and at the end of the day all you really want is the win and you don’t care how you get it. We’ll take the two points and look forward to next game.”