Saturday, October 14, 2006


AP/CP photo -- Chuck Stoody

This was the Canucks' home opener, the first chance for the home crowd to see the regular-season version of their new-look team, which included the number-one goalie they've craved for so long, Roberto Luongo. The unfortunate thing was that they were matched up against the San Jose Sharks, who blew up (in a good way) after the midseason acquisition of Joe Thornton last season, and perhaps are the best team in the Western Conference. The Canucks, meanwhile, still were trying to find out exactly who they were as a team. The good thing about this game was that the Canucks were perfect on the penalty kill, and Thornton didn't appear on the scoresheet. The bad news is that others did. In addition, the Canucks had failed to convert on their last nine power plays over the past two games. The Sharks had killed off 22 of 25 penalties this season as well. Also, Sami Salo was a scratch due to a nagging groin injury that took him out of the game in Minnesota. The Sharks were coming off a game the night before in which they blew a 4-1 lead in Edmonton by surrendering a goal with eight minutes left in the second period, then gave up four third-period goals (total futility: five goals in a span of 23:18).

1st period
In a recurrence of a preseason trend, the Canucks let the opposing team score on their first shot of the game. Alexandre Burrows missed a check on Milan Michalek near the bench, trying to bump him off the puck. Michalek was being covered by Ryan Kesler. Burrows ran into Kesler instead and Michalek was off to the races, skating down the left wing and centering to former Seattle Thunderbird Patrick Marleau, who put it through with a skate, though not with a kicking motion.
»» 1, SAN JOSE, Patrick Marleau 1 (Milan Michalek) 1:48
Henrik Sedin had the puck in the left corner and passed to Daniel Sedin behind the net. Daniel came out front to the right side and put a shot on the net that was stopped, but Markus Naslund went to the net and put home the rebound past Vesa Toskala for his 300th goal in a Vancouver Canuck uniform.
»» 2, VANCOUVER, Markus Naslund 3 (Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin) 4:14
A pass intended for Marc Chouinard was picked off and run the other way by Michalek, who carried it down the left side and flipped a shot that went off the side of the net to Luongo's stick side, and Christian Ehrhoff snuck it in behind Luongo to the same side.
»» 3, SAN JOSE, Christian Ehrhoff 3 (Michalek) 18:23
The Sharks outshot Vancouver 9-5 in the period. Both teams were 0-for-1 on the power play.

2nd period
With Vancouver on a power play, Brendan Morrison held the puck along the right-wing boards and passed to Jan Bulis before heading toward the net. Bulis bided his time behind the net waiting for something to materialize. Defenseman Lukas Krajicek jumped into the play to the right side and looked like a likely target for a pass, but Kevin Bieksa snuck into the play too, and he got a pass from Bulis near the right hash and snapped one off the post and past Toskala for his first NHL goal.
»» 4, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Kevin Bieksa 1 (Jan Bulis, Brendan Morrison) 7:52
Luc Bourdon carried the puck over the blue line on the left side and into the San Jose zone but had the puck stolen from him. The play went to the other end quickly as Kyle McLaren jarred the puck loose and Ryane Clowe skated it the other way. Clowe wristed a shot from the right hash that was stopped by Luongo, but Patrick Rissmiller had gotten to the slot, and he made good on the rebound.
»» 5, SAN JOSE, Patrick Rissmiller 1 (Ryane Clowe, Kyle McLaren) 12:14
Scott Hannan carried the puck behind the left circle and flung it toward the net, where it deflected off of Curtis Brown and possibly a few other things before Ville Nieminen found it on the doorstep and put it through.
»» 6, SAN JOSE, Ville Nieminen 1 (Curtis Brown, Scott Hannan) 14:14
Bieksa had the puck in his own end as the Canucks were about ready to change. He spotted Henrik Sedin just outside the San Jose blue line and hit him with a long pass. Henrik took it across the line and Daniel Sedin got ahead of him and took the pass before going upstairs to the stick side on Toskala.
»» 7, VANCOUVER, D Sedin 4 (H Sedin, Bieksa) 18:15
The Sharks outshot the Canucks 17-12 in the period (26-17 overall). They were 0-for-2 (0-for-3) on the power play while Vancouver was 1-for-4 (1-for-5).

3rd period
The Canucks were on the attack as the final seconds of a two-man advantage were ticking away to a one-man advantage. Mattias Ohlund passed to Henrik Sedin on the end boards to the left side. Henrik tried centering to his brother Daniel at mid-slot. In a horribly inopportune chain of events, the centering pass went off of Toskala's stick trying to deflect it away, and it went and all the way out to center, where Brown sprinted out of the penalty box and was loose on a breakaway. Brown blazed down the ice and backhanded it upstairs on Luongo's glove side.
»» 8, SAN JOSE, shorthanded, Brown 2 (Vesa Toskala) 1:23
Mattias Ohlund smacked a seemingly harmless shot from the right point that somehow found its way through traffic and into the net behind Toskala.
»» 9, VANCOUVER, Mattias Ohlund 1 (Bieksa, H Sedin) 9:49
Lukas Krajicek put up a shot from the left side that went off a skate, then Ohlund shot a puck that was blocked as well. Matt Carle got a hold of the puck and fed Mike Grier, who bolted the other way with the puck. Grier sped down the left side and not even the speedy Krajicek could catch up to him in time as Grier put a backhander past the stick side on Luongo.
»» 10, SAN JOSE, Mike Grier 1 (Matt Carle) 11:45
The Sharks outshot Vancouver 11-9 in the period (37-26 total). They were 0-for-3 (0-for-6) on the power play while Vancouver was 0-for-1 (1-for-6). Luongo stopped 31 shots for the game.

Three stars -- (1) San Jose's Milan Michalek, (2) Bieksa, (3) San Jose's Curtis Brown

skater, goals-assists-points
Bieksa 1-2-3
H Sedin 0-3-3
D Sedin 1-1-2
Naslund 1-0-1
Ohlund 1-0-1
Bulis 0-1-1
Morrison 0-1-1

In the faceoff circle, Vancouver won 30 of 60 draws (50%). Brendan Morrison five of 18, Ryan Kesler won seven of 12, Marc Chouinard won three of seven, and Henrik Sedin was 13 for 20. Kevin Bieksa and Markus Naslund led the team with four shots apiece and Jan Bulis had three. Mattias Ohlund and Matt Cooke led by delivering four hits each. Morrison notched three takeaways. Bieksa, Linden, and Henrik Sedin coughed up the puck twice each. Willie Mitchell blocked four shots and Ohlund blocked three. Bieksa and Naslund missed the net with three shots each.

In plus-minus, the Canucks were finally giving up even-strength goals again, so there are some crooked numbers again. Plus-skating Canucks were Bieksa, Mitchell, and Henrik Sedin were all plus-1 and Daniel Sedin was plus-2. Minus-skating Canucks were aplenty, with Ohlund, Morrison, Taylor Pyatt, Kesler, and Cooke at minus-1, Luc Bourdon, Lukas Krajicek, Linden, Chouinard, and Bulis were minus-2. Still worse were Rory Fitzpatrick and Josh Green at minus-3.

The loss left the Canucks with a record of 2-2-1 (1-0 overtime, 0-1 shootout), good for five points and second place in the Northwest Division, three points behind the division-leading Minnesota Wild (who have one game in hand) and one point ahead of Edmonton (two in hand), Calgary (one in hand), and Colorado (two in hand). They are currently seventh in the Western Conference, one point ahead of eighth-place Chicago (really, and they have two games in hand). They are three points behind Minnesota and San Jose at the top of the conference, no points behind third-place Columbus (they lead their division), two back of Anaheim, and one back of Dallas. They are tied in points with Detroit, but the Wings have a game in hand. Vancouver gets the weekend off before a home-and-home with Edmonton, and the front end is a home game on Monday before a five-game road trip starts Tuesday in Edmonton.

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