You’ll tell your grandchildren about the time these two Canuck legends went at it.
The following blurb was from the preview I put together in advance of Friday night’s game:
"One final thing before we get to the underlying numbers: I’m calling a Canucks win tonight. I wouldn’t put any money on it, but them finally bucking the trend and winning this one lines up perfectly with their slogan this season.. when you think they’ll zig, they actually zag. It makes no sense for them to beat the Blues tonight, which is why I totally see them doing just that. Classic."
I know that at least a handful of the people on my timeline shared these particular sentiments with me prior to the game, so I’m hardly a prophet. Especially since, while I legitimately thought that the Canucks would beat the Blues – which they wound up doing by a 2-1 score – I’d be lying if I told you I expected Zac Dalpe to score a goal, and spend the majority of the night playing with the Sedins. Did that happen? Of course it did!
Read on past the jump for the recap.
I guess you could say that I recently raised something of a stink over the team’s cratering possession numbers over the past couple of weeks. Well, the Canucks really did nothing to dissuade my worries with their performance in the early going Friday night, with the Blues being responsible for 15 of the 21 total fenwicks in the opening frame.
It was quite a horrendous period overall for the home team, but one thing it did accomplish was forcing John Tortorella’s hand in shaking up the line combinations; he moved Zac Dalpe up to play with the Sedins, while relegating Mike Santorelli to mop-up duty with Weise and Archibald on the 4th line. He also moved Tom Sestito up to play with Kesler and Kassian for a while, but that was fleeting.
The moves paid dividends for the team, twice, as the rejiggered 1st and 4th lines were responsible for both of the goals the team managed to get by Brian Elliott:
The first bat attempt out of mid-air would’ve probably made for a sweeter highlight reel had he managed to connect, but I’m sure Dalpe will take the tip-in all the same. With the goal, Zac Dalpe is now the 44th player to score a goal assisted by both of the Sedins. If you’ve yet to play this fun game orchestrated by Pass it to Bulis, I highly recommend taking some time to do it. I did it a while back, and think I got something along the lines of 37 or 38 out of 43 (there’s a few very sneaky ones, as you’ll come to eventually realize..)
The Blues tied it up shortly thereafter, sending the game to the 3rd period tied at 1. Then, Mike Santorelli – a rather surprising choice, given that he had been demoted to the 4th line and had only 1 goal in his past 13 games—put his big boy pants on, as he drove to the net and took a few whacks at the puck, before tipping home Jason Garrison’s rebound attempt.
No, this doesn’t mean that the Canucks should quickly give Santorelli a contract, but it sure was nice to see him respond well to plummeting down the depth chart so suddenly (I personally would’ve probably been in a state of shock, as it doesn’t really get steeper than going from the Sedins -> Dale Weise).
I don’t think there were too many people – either in the building or watching at home – that were overly comfortable with the 1-goal lead as the clock was winding down on the 3rd period, though. After all, the Canucks had somehow managed to snatch defeat away from the jaw’s of victory against Philadelphia (tying goal with 47 seconds left), Anaheim (tying goal with 1:27 left), and Pittsburgh (two goals against in the final 1:11 to tie it).. so it was justified.
Jay Bouwmeester took a delay of game penalty with 3:30 left, and the Canucks took a rather conservative approach instead of trying to step on their throat’s.. which I wasn’t overly crazy about. I understood putting Dan Hamhuis out there (who actually wound up delivering a wicked hip check as a result, that probably drew the biggest pop all night from the Rogers Arena crowd) as a safety blanket of sorts, but the final minute or so of the PP was basically just the Sedins casually passing it back and forth between each other, obviously trying to kill time.
Fortunately, it didn’t wind up coming back to bite them in the rear end on this night, as Eddie Lack managed to hold the fort despite a wild scramble in front of the net in the dying seconds. It was a win that I’m sure the Canucks will take, especially considering their recent slide and what awaits them on the schedule..
The Canucks once again let an opponent outshoot them by a decent margin, but all things considered, it was actually a pretty solid performance from the 1st period on. The fenwick count from the end of the 1st until the go-ahead goal by Santorelli in the 3rd was 16-16, and it was really that early onslaught plus the late flurry by the Blues that skew the numbers.
With that being said, we can’t just discount that opening frame because it was u-g-l-y. I thought that Eddie Lack did a fantastic job in stopping all 12 of the shots he faced in the 1st – including a couple of really quality scoring chances for Jaden Schwartz, who really impressed me in person – and allowed his team to stay in it despite a completely listless 20 minutes of play.
One thing I noticed watching the game was that the Sedins were getting hammered at 5v5, and that numbers back it up. They posted a 40% corsi night, depsite seeing much more of the Berglund 2L than Backes’ line. Though I can directly pinpoint a couple of shifts late in the 3rd in which Schwartz-Backes-Oshie really ate them alive, hemming them in their DZ for an extended period of time.
Dale Weise had the best shot differential for the Canucks on this night (9 for, 7 against), and helped figure into the winning goal by Santorelli. It was a nice little bounceback performance from him after being healthy scratched, and all but assures that Booth will continue to sit in the press box for the time being.
I did want to highlight Dan Hamhuis’ night before finishing this thing off. He once again topped 29 minutes of ice-time, saw a ton of Backes’ line (nearly 9 minutes at 5v5), and still managed to nearly break even in shot differential. He also delivered this absolutely wicked hip check on Max Lapierre late in the game, which I previously mentioned above.
Things don’t get easier for the Canucks quite just yet; next up on the schedule is another unforgiving trip through California to take on the Ducks and Kings. The last time they were there, they were absolutely slaughtered by both teams (here and here). It was basically anything but bikinis and palm trees.
Also, as you’ll recall, it was Dustin Brown’s recklessness that put Roberto Luongo on the shelf, and I anticipate that if the Canucks have any sort of backbone – which the hiring of John Tortorella was allegedly supposed to give them – they’ll handle their business. If you’re someone who has been reading my work for a while now, you know that I’m not a big proponent of that sort of stuff.. but in this case, given the circumstances, I’m making an exception.
Anyways, here’s something to lighten the mood and get you in a California state of mind: