Who needs Ryan Kesler who you have this guy? [Image via Jeff Vinnick]
All of the talk heading into Wednesday night’s game between the Vancouver Canucks and St.Louis Blues was about Ryan Kesler, and his reported trade demands. The discussion on that front did a good job of overshadowing the fact that his absence due to a hand injury was leaving the team with a Kellan Lain-sized hole down the middle against one of the Western Conference’s best, and deepest teams.
Yet some how, some way, they managed to pull out a 1-0 victory for what feels like the first time in exactly one month (January 26th v. Phoenix). It wasn’t a dominant performance by any stretch of the imagination, and there were most certainly long sequences in “action” (using that term loosely) which perfectly resembled what you’d expect a game between these two teams to look like, but there’s something to be said for the way that the Canucks managed to outplay OJ Tushy, Kelly’s Husband, and the rest of the Blues on this night.
And that very something will be discussed just past the jump. If you take anything away from this game it should be this: who needs Ryan Kesler when you have Top Sixtito, right? Just don’t call it a Ewing Theory.
As I mentioned above, it was a Blues/Canucks game, so there aren’t too many noteworthy highlights to pass along in this section. In fact, I’d argue there were only two moments really worth bringing up at this time. The first of which came in the first period, when Alex Edler tried to step up on Ryan Reaves as he entered the offensive zone. Edler has been known to throw some surprisingly wicked hits over the years, but Reaves is one big boy, and wound up getting the best of him here. TJ Oshie knows the feeling.
Combine this headstand with the time when the crowd chanted “Eddie! Eddie!” (which still works, but was presumably directed at goaltender Eddie Lack) despite the fact that he was actually the one to thwart a Blues scoring chance at one point, and he probably could’ve had a better night.
But enough of that, let’s get to the main event of the evening. The only goal of the game scored by either team came with just under 9 minutes left in the contest, and it was a thing of beauty. Take a gander for yourself and then let’s break down the unlikely nature of this particular sequence ever happening again:
First off: the Canucks were very fortunate that Tom Sestito’s awesome, prolific twin brother Top Sixtito decided to make an appearance on this night. I’d still wager that the outcome was something of a fluke – I’m sure he won’t admit it, but come on now – but who cares? Every once in a while, we see Top Sixtito show his pretty little toothless face; he makes an outrageously nice play, which can’t help but stagger you a little bit. “Where did that come from?”, you ask yourself..
.. It probably came from his “sick mitts”, bro. The sauce was oozing from that pass, as he not only did it on his backhand, but also perfectly led Jannik Hansen allowing him to hit the seam.
But obviously what put a bow on the reel was the finish by Hansen, which may’ve actually been even more surprising than the events leading up to it now that I’ve given it some thought. Hansen is a fine hockey player, but he has had all sorts of struggles with finishing from in close throughout his career, so the fact that he managed to get one by Halak here was like finding loose change.
Chart via Extra Skater
As the chart shows, at 5v5 the Canucks managed to attempt 38 (unblocked) shots to only 29 by the Blues. Even after Hansen scored to break the deadlock, the Canucks kept St.Louis to only 2 fenwicks in the final 8:47, which is quite the feat. Not only did they succeed in out-possessing their opposition, but they also managed to admirably fight off score effects.
When all was said and done only 20 pucks actually wound up making their way through the defense to Eddie Lack, and he stopped them all. His save percentage is up to an impressive .924 on the season, as he continues to turn in a fine rookie campaign which, despite not being an overly large sample size yet, should inspire confidence in fans of the team moving forward.
I’d say that the best line on the night for the team was the Booth-Richardson-Kassian trio, which is nice since I covered them in detail in today’s 60 game recap. Their underlying numbers continue to match up with the eye test. And it was much of the same for them as they once again in this one; they made stuff happen in the offensive zone, took 7 shots combined, and controlled possession for the most part.
The problem remains that they’re awfully snakebitten and can’t seem to buy a goal, but here’s the thing: they’re essentially the team’s 3rd line, and if they can be in the black in the possession game and chip in offensively here and there, I’m sure the Canucks would take it. It’s not “sexy” considering the expectations that accompany Booth and Kassian, but they’re providing legitimate defensive value this season. We also need to keep in mind that they’d likely be producing more goals if they had a better pivot between them.
5 more shots combined between Alex Burrows and Daniel Sedin, and zero goals to show for their efforts. I’d say that it’s getting comical, but we passed that point a looooong time ago already. The one big positive from that line: it sure looks like the time off did Henrik Sedin a world of good, as he looked significantly closer to his old self (compared to the one we saw grimacing on the bench and gingerly hobbling around the ice in Boston three weeks ago).
A telling sign for me: he took 19 faceoffs and won 13 of them. Last time we saw him he was in so much discomfort that he wasn’t even capable of taking the draws. Maybe he’ll be able to snap his two linemates out of their scoring funks, though at this point only black magic may be able to save them.
Anyways, we’ll be back on Friday with coverage of the game against the Wild, who currently have 4 points on the Canucks in the standings (with 2 games in hand).