Eddie Lack was impressive, and the difference for the Canucks [Image via Bruce Bennett]
Ho boy.. that was fun, wasn’t it? After two rather unrefined showings against the Wild and Stars, we were treated to an exhilarating affair on Friday night at the
Madhouse Sadhouse on Madison. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, because seemingly every time these two teams go up against each other, notable things happen. And this game was no different.
In the preamble of the preview I specifically pointed out that while things looked bleak for the Canucks, we shouldn’t necessarily count them out since they play these games for a reason. Just like that time in St.Louis at the end of a long roadtrip they showed some impressive resiliency and fight in battling against an opponent that theoretically should have had the upper hand. I guess you could say it was gutsy, but I certainly won’t.
The result was a 3-2 shootout win, which I’ll recap just past the jump..
Things started out in a very, very ugly fashion for the Canucks, who looked like they were skating in mud out there in the early going. Other than a Chris Higgins breakaway which was stopped, they pretty much weren’t able to generate anything resembling an offensive push in the opening 20.
Shots on goal were 10-3 in favour of the Blackhawks in the first, and quite frankly the Canucks were lucky to get out of the period trailing by just 1. Lack was very good in the adverse conditions, only being beaten by a tipped shot by Kris Versteeg which fooled him, sneaking through his pads. It was Andrew Alberts’ inability to tie him up which resulted in the goal, and poor Kevin Bieksa must spend the intermissions sobbing thinking about all of the sweet memories he has with Ryan Stanton.
I don’t know what happened during the intermission, but the Canucks came out of the gate following it looking like a completely different squad. They were handily in charge of the first 5 minutes or so – with two power plays back-to-back obviously not hurting their cause – but weren’t able to put a goal up on the scoreboard. Then,
a wizard Patrick Kane came right back down and put one in to make it 2-0. The play was filthy, and vintage Patty Kane, as he weaved through the defense before setting up Roszival for a scoring chance, before burying the rebound. I’m sure that fans watching the game were getting unfortunate flashbacks to what happened last night, when the team dominated, couldn’t score, and then gave up a back-breaker.
But.. that didn’t happen here. Just three minutes or so later Zack Kassian let a seemingly harmless wrister go, beating Antti Raanta. To be fair, the puck clearly re-directed off of Seabrook’s leg and totally changed direction. A lucky break, no doubt.. but one that the Canucks probably deserved following their efforts to start the period:
Consolidating the goal was Lack, who made a wicked pad save on Ben Smith – who in a completely surprising turn of events, made Dan Hamhuis look like a pylon – to keep the game within 1. Looks like Lack needed every single little bit of that 6’5” from for this one, and it’ll surely wind up on a few highlight reels this weekend:
GIF via The Score
Once again in the 3rd, the Canucks for the most part controlled play as they made a push for the tying goal. Prior to the game I tweeted out about how it would be awfully nice of the Sedins to show up with a vintage performance at 5v5 in this one, considering the fact that they’d been more than quiet over the past 10 games or so at even strength.
Well, apparently ask and you shall receive, because Daniel – who registered a game-high 7 shots on goal, by far the most for him since November 17th – buried one after another lucky bounce off of the defender. Sure, the puck getting to him was definitely fortunate, but the nifty play he made to get the puck to his stick was pretty classic. These sorts of opportunities present themselves when you spend the majority of the time with control of the puck in the opposing team’s zone. It’s why we pay so much attention to shot differentials, you guys..
The game wound up making its way to a shootout, where the Canucks finally won in the 8th round on a goal by Kesler. Why did 7 guys go before him, you ask? I don’t really know. Maybe Tortorella is embracing how ridiculous the whole concept of the shootout is, and having some fun with how bad the team is as a whole at it. Weber, Dalpe, and both Sedins went before Kesler, which is an interesting strategy, to say the least.
After Santorelli scored to open it, 6 straight Canucks went up and went down without really even testing the Blackhawks netminder. Henrik Sedin’s attempt, in particular, was feeble (even for his standards). The team is now 4-for-25 in shootout attempts on the year, but hey, it all worked out on this night.
Image via Extra Skater
As you can see from the chart above, the first period was some tough-sledding for the Canucks, who relied on their ‘tender to bail them out. And that he did. In 5v5 "score tied" situations the shot attempts were 19-8 for the Blackhawks, and they only managed one goal during that time. Lack also stopped 7 of the 8 shootout tries he faced, including a really nice glove save on Patrick Kane which the TSN commentating team badly undersold.
After that first, though, the Canucks really controlled play. Now, some of that can be attributed to score effects as they were playing from behind and giving it their all in an attempt to tie it up. But they also deserve a ton of credit for a legitimately impressive performance on the road, regardless.
Andrew Alberts actually finished with the best Corsi For % (53.8%), which is something you can tell your grandchildren about one day. In all seriousness though both Alberts (aside from that one play) and Weber did a better job than I personally expected. In fact, Weber probably saved the game in overtime as he thwarted Marian Hossa following a brutal turnover by Henrik. And on one occasion I distinctly noted that Alberts single-handedly snuffed out a rush by Patty Kane. Weird stuff.
One final thing that I’ll mention is that, sort of unsurprisingly I guess, Tortorella really rode his top two lines in this one. The Sedins, Kesler, Higgins, and Santorelli all hovered around at least 24 minutes for the night. Hamhuis, in another cool 29 minutes of action, broke even in the shot differential game despite seeing a ton of Toews’ line. How freakin’ good is this guy?
The Canucks go home to host the
Evander Kane’s posse Winnipeg Jets on Sunday evening, before getting a nice 6-day break for the Holidays. I’d like to remind you that The Shapys are on Sunday, and we’ll be covering them here on this platform. If you care about that sort of thing, great, come check it out. If not.. we’ll still have coverage of the game so don’t you worry!
Let’s end this post with a fun GIF of Roberto Luongo taking some time out from his night off to make a snazzy glove save on a puck that was headed out of play. Thanks to The Stanchion for this: