Saturday, November 25, 2006
After crapping the bed in Nashville on Thanksgiving night (USA), the Canucks traveled to Denver to try to improve on their pathetic 1-5-1 division record. A Colorado regulation win would vault the Avalanche over the Canucks in the Northwest Division standings. For Colorado, Milan Hejduk was out with the flu, but Wojtek Wolski was back in the lineup one game after Joel Quenneville had him sit in the press box. For the Canucks, Daniel Sedin was out with a slight abdominal strain. As a result, Taylor Pyatt was moved to take his place on the line with Henrik Sedin and Markus Naslund. Also in the news for Vancouver, young defenseman Patrick Coulombe was sent back to Manitoba and other young defenseman Alexander Edler was called back up from Manitoba for another stint with the big club. On a uniform note, Colorado was wearing their maroon third jerseys, featuring the word "COLORADO" diagonally across the front, a la the New York Rangers. Though not completely original, the Avalanche thirds are one of the more tasteful third jerseys in the NHL.
About nine minutes in, Brad Richardson came out from behind the net and put a backhander on the net from the left (short) side, but Roberto Luongo was able to stop and cover it. Not long after, a Kevin Bieksa shot from the right point was easily blocked and quickly turned the other way as Bieksa was caught up the ice. Wojtek Wolski and Mark Rycroft ran a two-on-one, and Wolski faked a shot coming down the left side before passing across the slot to Mark Rycroft, whose shot went off a skate and beat Luongo as the latter was committing to a Wolski shot.
»» 1, COLORADO, Mark Rycroft 2 (Wojtek Wolski, Paul Stastny) 11:25
Late in the period, Wolski had the puck behind the net and waited for something to materialize. He found Paul Stastny in the low slot and fed him for an easy goal.
»» 2, COLORADO, Stastny 5 (Wolski, Cody McCormick) 17:45
Shots were 13 apiece in the period. Vancouver didn't get a power play while Colorado was 0-for-2.
On a Vancouver power play about seven minutes in, Henrik Sedin from the right-wing boards nicely passed to Markus Naslund, who skated from the right faceoff dot toward the net and shot to the net, but he was stopped by Jose Theodore, as was Taylor Pyatt on the rebound. About a minute later, Ian Laperriere was chasing the puck down in the Vancouver zone and got to it along the right-wing boards. Laperriere stopped in his tracks to pass it off, and Mattias Ohlund upended him immediately after with a big hit. Shots were nine apiece in the period (22-22 overall). Vancouver was 0-for-2 on the power play while Colorado was 0-for-1 (0-for-3).
Almost right out of the dressing room, the Canucks tallied to get them back into the game. Markus Naslund along the end boards passed to Kevin Bieksa near the right point, who one-timed it through some traffic and past Theodore.
»» 3, VANCOUVER, Kevin Bieksa 4 (Markus Naslund, Henrik Sedin) 0:35
A minute and a half into the period, a turnover in the Vancouver zone resulted in a quick shot from the left hash by Wolski that was stopped by Luongo. Seconds later, Stastny on the right side found Wolski in front of the net and passed to him, but Wolski was stopped by Luongo. Just short of seven and a half minutes in, the Avalanche sealed it as a Patrice Brisebois slap shot from the blue line was deflected past Luongo by Wolski.
»» 4, COLORADO, powerplay, Wolski 6 (Patrice Brisebois, Stastny) 7:29
The Canucks committed four minor penalties in the period to hamper their comeback chances, including two late penalties to set up a two-man advantage for Colorado. Inside the final minute, the five-on-three had just changed to five-on-four when Wolski behind the net passed to Brett Clark at the right circle, who one-timed it past Luongo for the inconsequential final goal.
»» 5, COLORADO, powerplay, Brett Clark 1 (Wolski, John-Michael Liles) 19:25
Colorado outshot Vancouver 17-7 in the period (39-29 total). They were 2-for-4 (2-for-7) while Vancouver was too busy being penalized to get a power play and therefore finished 0-for-2. Luongo stopped 35 shots for the game.
Three stars -- (1) Colorado's Wojtek Wolski, (2) Colorado's Jose Theodore, (3) Colorado's Paul Stastny
H Sedin 0-1-1
In the faceoff circle, Vancouver won 24 of 52 draws (46%). Brendan Morrison won three of 11, Ryan Kesler won two of eight, Josh Green lost all three of his, Marc Chouinard won five of eight, and Henrik Sedin won 14 of 18. Kesler led the team with five shots, Alexandre Burrows had four, and Mattias Ohlund and Markus Naslund both had three. Ohlund dished out four hits. Green notched three takeaways while Burrows and Matt Cooke got a pair each. Lukas Krajicek, Morrison, and Naslund each coughed up the puck twice. Ohlund, Kevin Bieksa, Krajicek, Sami Salo, and Burrows blocked two shots each. Krajicek and Chouinard both missed the net twice with shots.
Not much plusness on the plus-minus ledger for this one. Morrison, Naslund, and Henrik Sedin were plus-1. At minus-1 were Krajicek and Willie Mitchell. At minus-2 were Burrows, Kesler, and Cooke. All other Canuck skaters were even.
In addition to making their division record a pathetic 1-6-1, the loss dropped the Canucks to a record of 11-12-1 (4-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), good for 23 points. In the Western Conference, Vancouver has a game in hand on Los Angeles and has played the same number of games as Anaheim and San Jose. All other teams in the West have games in hand on Vancouver. Edmonton leads the Northwest Division, four points ahead of Vancouver. Minnesota is four up as well but is in second by virtue of having played one more game than Edmonton. Colorado leapfrogged the Canucks with this game and lie in third place, one point ahead of Vancouver. Calgary is fifth, one point back with three games in hand. Anaheim leads the West with 38 points, Nashville is second with 32, and Edmonton is third. Having more points than Edmonton yet not leading their respective divisions are fourth-place San Jose with 34 points, fifth-place Dallas with 32, and sixth-place Detroit with 28. Minnesota is seventh, Colorado is eighth, Vancouver is ninth, and Calgary is tenth. The Canucks return home for eight of the next nine games before a stretch of six out of seven games on the road.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
One night earlier in Detroit, Brendan Morrison had his most meaningful game of the season, tying the game in the third period and winning it in overtime to cap Vancouver's comeback from a 3-1 deficit. Coach Alain Vigneault elected to start backup goalie Dany Sabourin in net against the Nashville Predators to give Roberto Luongo a night of rest. I'm hoping this was to keep Luongo fresh for Saturday night's game in Denver since Colorado is a divisional rival and everything, and Vancouver needs those games badly for the rest of the season after a 1-5-1 start in them. So far, however, the only thing other than a pretty good penalty kill that has been consistent this year for Vancouver has been the inconsistency of their play. The Canucks took their longest winning streak of the season into this game, though that streak was only three games long. As is well known, the main focus of sports television in the United States on Thanksgiving is football, not hockey. Canadian Thanksgiving is in October. I only bring this up because this game was the only game on the NHL schedule for Thursday, November 23rd. The Canucks are probably glad more people didn't have to see this one. By the way, Nashville had a history of great first periods and horrible third periods coming into this one.
On a play that quickly went end to end, Scott Nichol from the left circle passed to the rookie Alexander Radulov, who snapped it through on Dany Sabourin to finish off a quick two-on-one.
»» 1, NASHVILLE, Alexander Radulov 3 (Scott Nichol, Scott Hartnell) 2:43
Jerred Smithson passed from along the end boards to Jordin Tootoo, who tried unloading a shot from the high slot that was blocked by Josh Green. Tootoo got the puck back and skated a bit to his right and shot again, and Darcy Hordichuk deflected it past Sabourin.
»» 2, NASHVILLE, Darcy Hordichuk 1 (Jordin Tootoo, Jerred Smithson) 4:31
Nashville outshot Vancouver 9-8 in the period. Both teams were 0-for-2 on the power play.
On a Nashville power play about halfway through the period, Martin Erat up high passed to Paul Kariya along the goal line on the right side. Kariya found Scott Hartnell on the doorstep, and all he had to do was snap it through.
»» 3, NASHVILLE, powerplay, Hartnell 6 (Paul Kariya, Martin Erat) 10:09
Not long after, Marek Zidlicky stickhandled past Willie Mitchell along the right-wing boards and skated to the net, then backhanded the puck past Sabourin's glove as the latter came up empty.
»» 4, NASHVILLE, Marek Zidlicky 2 (David Legwand, Kariya) 12:20
Before anyone could recover from the Zidlicky goal, the puck got into Nashville's end quickly. Radulov passed to Shea Weber near the right point, who flung it toward the net. Hartnell deflected it top shelf. Though it was supposed to be his night off, Roberto Luongo was pulled off the bench to finish off the second period.
»» 5, NASHVILLE, Hartnell 7 (Shea Weber, Radulov) 12:37
On a late power play, Weber blasted the puck from the blue line and beat Luongo through traffic.
»» 6, NASHVILLE, powerplay, Weber 4 (Erat, Kariya) 16:20
Vancouver outshot Nashville 12-9 in the period (21-19 overall). Vancouver was 0-for-1 (0-for-3) on the power play while Nashville was 2-for-3 (2-for-5).
Sabourin returned to finish off the game in the Vancouver net. Vancouver outshot Nashville 13-9 in the period (34-28 total). Vancouver was 0-for-1 (0-for-3) on the power play while Nashville was 0-for-3 (2-for-8). In other words, the Canucks didn't exactly help themselves trying to come back from a six-goal deficit and getting whistled for three minor penalties. Sabourin stopped 19 shots for the game while Luongo stopped three.
Three stars -- (1) Nashville's Scott Hartnell, (2) Nashville's Paul Kariya, (3) Nashville's Martin Erat
none for Vancouver
In the faceoff circle, the Canucks won 32 of 63 draws (51%). Brendan Morrison won six of 11, Trevor Linden split a pair, Ryan Kesler won nine of 17, Marc Chouinard won seven of 15, Henrik Sedin won eight of 12, and Jan Bulis won one of five. Kevin Bieksa led the team with seven shots. Taylor Pyatt, Linden, Kesler, and Bulis had three shots apiece. Mattias Ohlund dealt out three hits while Bieksa and Matt Cooke had two each. Lukas Krajicek and Kesler coughed up the puck twice. Josh Green blocked three shots and Sami Salo blocked a pair. Bieksa and Salo both missed the net twice with shots.
It was nothing but negatives on the plus-minus front tonight as the Canucks didn't score at all, let alone on even strength. At even were Ohlund, Bieksa, and Daniel Sedin. Alexandre Burrows was the lone minus-2. At minus-3 were Salo and Patrick Coulombe. All other Canuck skaters were minus-1 (twelve in all).
The loss left the Canucks at 11-11-1 (4-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), good for 23 points. This game was on Thanksgiving night, so after I got back and learned about the result, I didn't exactly feel like going back and listening to it, and it turns out I was even less motivated to get a hold of the standings at the end of the night. So, I'll fill this with other content. The motive of starting Dany Sabourin in net was to give Roberto Luongo a night off. With the game completely salted away at 5-0 late in the third period, regardless of how bad Sabourin looks, why do you even bring Luongo back off the bench? What's the point of having him finish off the second period at that point? Granted, I'm glad he didn't skate out there for the third period, but if you're giving him the night off, give him the night off, for goodness' sake. The other issue of course is how horribly flat the Canucks came out the night after a thrilling win at Detroit. There's no excuse for it. They didn't have to fly across the country or anything, just from Detroit to Nashville.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
The Canucks had won two straight games for only the second time this season. They had a six-game homestand in which they had hoped to pad their record a bit and better their standing in the Northwest Division, but the goals became a bit less lofty when they opened the homestand by losing three of four. Wins over the Blues and Blackhawks got the team some minor confidence, however, just in time for a three-game road trip. However, they faced back-to-back games with Detroit and Nashville followed by a Saturday night in Denver. Detroit and Nashville are very good teams, and Colorado is a division rival. Vancouver is 1-5-1 against teams in their own division, something that has to be rectified for them to get anywhere. As bad as they are against the Northwest Division, the Canucks came in 7-2 against Central Division teams. In addition, these two teams were the top two in the NHL in allowing the lowest amount of shots per game. As another tidbit, the Red Wings were 9-0-1 when scoring the first goal of the game. Ryan Kesler of the Canucks is a native of nearby Livonia and rounded up 29 tickets for family and friends to watch him play.
A trend in the beginning of the season saw opposing teams score quite a few times on their first shot of the game. The Canucks got a bit of revenge here as they scored on their first shot, which was on their first shift. The puck was dumped along the end boards in the Detroit zone. Sami Salo passed behind the net to Matt Cooke, who skated along the end boards toward the right-wing corner and quickly passed to Ryan Kesler at the back of the right circle, who one-timed it past Dominik Hasek.
»» 1, VANCOUVER, Ryan Kesler 3 (Matt Cooke, Alexandre Burrows) 0:18
Three minutes in, Tomas Kopecky was trying to move the puck out of the Detroit zone and absorbed a thunderous hit at the hands of Mattias Ohlund. Just past the nine-minute mark, Robert Lang got a hold of a loose puck in the left-wing corner of the Vancouver zone and tried to center it. The puck went through some skates on the way to the slot, and Roberto Luongo tried to move to cover it up, but Mathieu Schneider beat him to the puck and put it into the net.
»» 2, DETROIT, Mathieu Schneider 5 (Robert Lang) 9:24
Later on a Detroit power play, Nicklas Lidstrom shot from the left point and had the puck deflect past Luongo.
»» 3, DETROIT, powerplay, Nicklas Lidstrom 4 (Schneider, Lang) 12:05
With just over five minutes to go, Alexandre Burrows passed from the right-wing boards to Trevor Linden up high on a nice setup, but his shot was turned aside by the blocker of Hasek. About 40 seconds later, Willie Mitchell fluttered a centering pass to the slot, and Kesler spun a shot toward the net that was stopped by Hasek, and Burrows was stopped a couple times on the rebound before play ended due to a penalty call on Detroit. Shots were six apiece in the period. Vancouver was 0-for-2 on the power play while Detroit was 1-for-3.
With time ticking down on a Vancouver power play just over eight minutes into the period, Sami Salo sprung Josh Green loose on a breakaway, but just as he got to full speed, Hasek came halfway up the slot to challenge him and took his legs out from under him. Marc Chouinard had a chance at the resulting loose puck, but couldn't put it through. With just over a minute remaining, Vancouver turned over the puck just outside the Detroit blue line, and the Red Wings took it the other way. Kris Draper rushed up the right side and slid a centering pass through two diving Vancouver defenders. Luongo tried to stop it with the right pad and direct it away, but Dan Cleary picked off the rebound With his momentum taking him past the goal line, Cleary stickhandled the puck and Luongo had gone down, but that left the upper half of the net open, and Cleary put the puck in over Luongo. At the time, this seemed like a killer goal for Vancouver.
»» 4, DETROIT, Daniel Cleary 6 (Kris Draper, Andreas Lilja) 19:00
Detroit badly outshot the Canucks 13-5 in the period (19-11 overall). They were 0-for-2 (1-for-5) on the power play while Vancouver was 0-for-1 (0-for-3).
Detroit was trying to clear the puck from their own zone when Daniel Sedin took the puck away. He quickly centered to Henrik Sedin in the high slot, who immediately shot, but Hasek made the save. The rebound was parallel to the goal line on the left side, and Markus Naslund got to it and put it over Hasek and into the net.
»» 5, VANCOUVER, Markus Naslund 11 (Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin) 4:50
The Red Wings dug themselves a hole and took penalties two seconds apart, leaving the Canucks nearly two minutes of a five-on-three advantage to play with. It took nearly the entire power play for the Canucks to make good. Mattias Ohlund at the left point made a nearly rink-wide pass to Brendan Morrison at the front of the right circle, who put it into a wide-open net. Hasek had lost an edge on fallen down on the play before Morrison took his shot. All told, the Canucks had come back to tie the game.
»» 6, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Brendan Morrison 5 (Mattias Ohlund, Kevin Bieksa) 7:22
Vancouver badly outshot Detroit 17-9 in the period (28-28 overall). They were 1-for-3 (1-for-6) on the power play while Detroit was 0-for-1 (1-for-6).
Mikael Samuelsson was skating the puck across the Vancouver blue line when Naslund tied up his stick and the puck came loose. It leaked to the left point, where Sami Salo got a hold of it, skated it across the blue line, and found Morrison past the defense. Morrison skated in alone on Hasek and put it through the five-hole for his franchise-leading ninth overtime winner.
»» 7, VANCOUVER, Morrison 6 (Sami Salo) 3:01
Shots were two apiece in the overtime (30-30 total). Neither team had a power play in the period, so both teams finished 1-for-6 on the power play. Luongo stopped 27 shots for the game.
Three stars -- (1) Kesler, (2) Detroit's Robert Lang, (3) H Sedin
(Not sure how Morrison isn't one of the stars here)
D Sedin 0-1-1
H Sedin 0-1-1
In the faceoff circle, Vancouver won 26 of 57 draws (46%). Brendan Morrison won both of his, Ryan Kesler won 11 of 17, Marc Chouinard won three of five, Henrik Sedin won three of 17 (ouch!), and Jan Bulis won seven of 14. Kevin Bieksa led the team with six shots and Kesler had four. Matt Cooke dished out three hits. Henrik Sedin notched two takeaways. Bieksa coughed up the puck twice. Lukas Krajicek blocked three shots and Mattias Ohlund and Willie Mitchell blocked a pair each. Bieksa also missed the net twice with shots.
There weren't too many dents on the plus-minus ledger for the Canucks. At plus-1 were Sami Salo, Daniel Sedin, and Henrik Sedin. At plus-2 were Ohlund and Markus Naslund. At minus-1 was Taylor Pyatt. At minus-2 was Mitchell. All other Canuck skaters were even.
Vancouver's season-long three-game winning streak propels them to a record of 11-10-1 (4-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), good for 23 points. The days off in the Canucks' schedule have added up, so now they don't lead the conference in games played (three Pacific Division teams have played more). Vancouver is third in the Northwest Division, two back of both Edmonton and Minnesota (the Wild have really fallen from their hot start), who both have a game in hand. Calgary and Colorado are a point back, but Colorado has played the same amount of games as Vancouver and Calgary has two games in hand. Anaheim leads the Western Conference with 36 points, Nashville is second with 28, and Edmonton is third. Pacific Division non-leaders San Jose (32 points) and Dallas (30 points) are fourth and fifth, and Central Division non-leader Detroit is sixth with 27. Minnesota is seventh, Vancouver is eighth, and Calgary and Colorado are ninth and tenth. Vancouver continues their three-game mini-road trip tonight in Nashville and ends it Saturday in Colorado. That's three games in four nights.
I arrived quite early before Monday's game between Waikiki BeachBoys the Honolulu Sharks, and I had a lot of time before the ticket window opened. I took a walk around Les Murakami Stadium, one of two home stadiums for HWB, and also the home of University of Hawaii baseball. Somewhere behind the outer fence in rightcenter (between the inner and outer fence, equipment is stored), I found a stray baseball, possibly a homer ball.
Fast-forward a day later, and basically I have to thank a certain third overall pick in the 2005 draft for this...
Big thanks to Jeff Clement. Some might ask why I didn't buy a pearl of a ball and try to get it signed, but hey, this one's got a story.
More pictures coming soon.
Monday, November 20, 2006
No, they didn't deserve to win that game.
Where do I even begin?
-- Seneca Wallace threw three picks. The third one was just about a formality, as the Seahawks were hanging onto some pretty feeble threads trying to get down the field with zero timeouts after the two-minute warning. The first one absolutely derailed the first Seahawk drive of the game, one that included a trio of half-decent runs by Shaun Alexander. They had marched from their own 7-yard line across midfield when a deep ball to Darrell Jackson was picked. The second pick came two possessions later. The Seahawk defense had just forced a punt from deep in San Francisco territory, and they were rewarded by the offense, as the pick occurred on the second play of Seattle's third offensive series, early in the second quarter. With how good Wallace has been the last couple of weeks, should we really be surprised that maybe the fact that he's a backup would eventually catch up to him?
-- I got the bad end on more than one facet. Not just because the Seahawks had Frank Gore ripping them a new one all day, but because Gore is on my fantasy team, the 49ers scored 20 points, and Gore never got to the end zone. Total crap.
-- In the first half, the defense sure did a 180 compared to the last two weeks. I should do some research on it, but the Seahawk defense seems to have a habit of allowing huge mondo plays on the first plays of drives. One example would be the Chester Taylor touchdown run a few weeks ago. Let's look at the first plays of the drives in the first half today: Gore runs for 2, Gore runs for 51, Gore runs for 9, a pass to Antonio Bryant for 16, Gore through the middle for 20, and Arnaz Battle for 12 yards on a double reverse. How much can you expect to accomplish when your defense is allowing an average of 18.3 yards on the first play of every opposing drive?
-- For as bad as the defense was in the first half, they did great in the second half. They were the only reason this team had a chance. What happened? The offense SUCKED, SUCKED, and SUCKED some more.
The Seahawk defense shut out the 49ers in the second half of this game. Let's see what the defense forced and how the offense nicely responded...
offense: touchdown to get onto the board
defense: let the 49ers get from their own 20 to the Seattle 13 in seven plays, but Joe Nedney missed from 31 yards
offense: they moved the chains once; six-and-out, punt
defense: after the 49ers got 17 yards on second down, the Seahawks weathered a near-crazy leaping catch by Battle (ruled a bobble and incompletion) on third down before forcing a punt (six-and-out)
offense: three-and-out with a Chris Spencer holding penalty to negate a 15-yard Alexander run, and there was a Tom Ashworth false start for good measure as well
defense: the 49ers got 16 on 3rd-and-4 but couldn't make good on 3rd-and-11 from near midfield and punted
offense: basically three long pass plays and an illegal contact penalty against San Francisco led to what would be Seattle's final score
offense: they moved the chains once, Wallace took a ten-yard loss on a sack, a pass to Deion Branch was two yards short of the chains, and Alexander needed one more yard on 4th-and-2
defense: Lofa Tatupu forces a fumble out of Frank Gore on the first play
offense: two plays later, Wallace gets in the shotgun and Walt Harris picks him for the second time
defense: the 49ers got from the Seattle 34 to the Seattle 9, the Seahawks burned all three of their timeouts, then Nedney inexplicably missed from 27 yards, giving the Seahawks another shred of hope
offense: two long incomplete passes, one short pass, and a too-short dumpoff pass to Mack Strong, some laterals, and an inconsequential fumble
Say you were sitting at your television after the Seahawks scored that touchdown to make it 20-7. If I tell you the 49ers won't be scoring at all in the second half, do you say the Seahawks can score 14 points and take the lead? I'd have to think most people would think the Seahawks would pull that game off. It's just sickening that time after time the Seahawk defense held the 49er offense back, and time after time the Seahawk offense responded with peanuts all but one time (the touchdown that accounted for the final score).
-- Alexander got 17 carries for 37 yards. Mo Morris got two carries for 12 yards. I know Alexander started, but it was his first game back, and I thought he was going to be eased into this a bit. Instead, he averages barely over two yards a carry, while Morris, who ran just fine the past couple of weeks, gets two measly carries. I would have been all right with a 50/50 split in carries between Alexander and Morris, but there's no way Alexander should have had the overwhelming bulk of the carries.
-- Jerramy Stevens' only catch ended with a fumble. Yup.
All in all, the Seahawks could have done themselves a massive favor in the NFC by winning to go to 7-3. Worse yet, they lose a divisional game and get pulled back into the fray with a just-above-mediocre 6-4 record. Even worse, I don't think this team is running the table with the remaining schedule, not with a game at Denver and a home game against San Diego. Who thinks an 11-5 record can get a first-round bye? No matter how bad the NFC is, I don't think there's any way 10-6 will net a first-round bye. I think even 11-5 is stretching it.
Based on the first half, the Seahawks didn't deserve a win. Based on the second half, they could have and should have won this game, and San Francisco gave them chance after chance after chance to put points on the board. I'm starting to wonder whether anything big is even in the cards this season.
And yes, the post title is a reference.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
The Saint Louis game was a must-win for the Canucks, from most accounts. They had to prove to themselves they could score, and dag nabbit if they didn't score four goals in the process. They had gone eight straight games without scoring more than two goals in a game. Moreover, the win against Saint Louis gave them one last chance to salvage a .500 record from a six-game homestand that started out 1-3. While the Chicago Blackhawks were a bit banged up coming into the game, their all-world goalie Nikolai Khabibulin was not. The Canucks would have to solve him to get the win. They could take the momentum of a two-game win streak into a three-game road trip, and that wouldn't be an easy one either, one which would take them to Detroit, Nashville, and Denver for three games in four nights. First, however, would be the matchup with the once-proud Chicago Blackhawks, bogged down in recent years by inept ownership.
An early power play about three minutes in saw Patrick Coulombe's shot from the right hash hit the post, and the subsequent rebound went to Henrik Sedin at the goal line on the right side, who hit the post as well. Chicago nearly cleared the puck, but Sami Salo held it in at the right point. He centered to Daniel Sedin on the doorstep, whose shot was stopped by Nikolai Khabibulin, but Markus Naslund was right there to lift the rebound above Khabibulin and into the net.
»» 1, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Markus Naslund 10 (Daniel Sedin, Sami Salo) 2:46
Just under five minutes later, a puck that was cleared into the neutral zone was run down by Salo, who skated into the high slot but had his shot stopped by the stick of Khabibulin. Past the halfway point, a loose puck in the left-wing corner found its way to Radim Vrbata, who passed from the boards to Tuomo Ruutu, whose mondo wrist shot put the puck past Roberto Luongo.
»» 2, CHICAGO, Tuomo Ruutu 3 (Radim Vrbata) 10:41
With just under six minutes remaining, Jan Bulis along the left-wing boards in the Chicago zone put a shoulder into Ruutu, sending him to the ice. Vancouver outshot the Blackhawks 12-7 in the period. They were 1-for-1 on the power play while Chicago was 0-for-1.
With Chicago on a delayed penalty, a Salo straightaway slap shot from the blue line was blocked by James Wisniewski, and right beforehand, Jassen Cullimore lost his stick. Henrik Sedin got the rebound along the left-wing boards and he passed off to Trevor Linden, who found Patrick Coulombe near the right hash. Coulombe's wrister was stopped by Khabibulin, but the rebound was short and Josh Green got to it right away, putting it over Khabibulin and into the net.
»» 3, VANCOUVER, Josh Green 1 (Patrick Coulombe, Trevor Linden) 6:47
A minute and a half later, Chicago was going to get called for another delayed penalty, and the Canucks got another chance. Henrik Sedin from the end boards centered to Kevin Bieksa, who had his shot stopped before Chicago got control of the puck to stop play. With about five minutes to go, former Canuck Adrian Aucoin's shot from the left point was stopped by Luongo. The puck went to the left-wing corner, and Jeffrey Hamilton skated it back out to the left point. He passed to Patrick Sharp in the left-wing corner, who had no Canuck defenders within ten feet of him and took a clear path to the net, but Luongo stopped his shot and the rebound was cleared to the other corner. Vancouver outshot Chicago 15-10 in the period (27-17 overall). They were 0-for-2 (1-for-3) on the power play, and so was Chicago (0-for-3).
About four minutes in, Jan Bulis rushed up the right side and centered mid-slot as he was falling down, and Brendan Morrison shot and was stopped by Khabibulin, as was Matt Cooke, who was foiled on the rebound. Roughly two minutes later, Jim Vandermeer and Taylor Pyatt engaged in a fiery tilt that got both teams and the crowd going. Vandermeer got an extra two minutes for holding the stick before he dropped the gloves. On a power play halfway through the period, Patrick Coulombe got a centering pass in the slot and whipped a backhand toward the net that was stopped, and Daniel Sedin was robbed up high by Khabibulin on the rebound. With seven and a half to go, Ruutu snuck a wrister through to Luongo that was stopped by the left pad. With two minutes left, Bulis rushed across center on the left side and passed to Morrison in the high slot, who whiffed on a shot attempt before getting one off, but he too was stopped by Khabibulin. Chicago got the benefit of a tripping penalty to Salo with one minute left, and they pulled Khabibulin for a six-on-four attack. The Canuck penalty killers, however, were their usual selves. Vancouver outshot Chicago 12-6 in the period (39-23 total). They again were 0-for-2 on the power play (1-for-5) and so was Chicago (0-for-5). Luongo stopped 22 shots for the game.
Three stars -- (1) Chicago's Nikolai Khabibulin, (2) Naslund, (3) Salo
D Sedin 0-1-1
In the faceoff circle, the Canucks won 31 of 54 draws (57%). Brendan Morrison won two of three, Ryan Kesler won three of ten, Marc Chouinard won four of ten, Henrik Sedin won an incredible 18 of 23, and Jan Bulis won four of seven. Markus Naslund led the team with six shots, and Matt Cooke and Patrick Coulombe had four each. Josh Green dished out three hits. Naslund notched two takeaways. Mattias Ohlund and Kesler blocked a trio of shots each, and Willie Mitchell blocked a pair. Lukas Krajicek and Sami Salo coughed up the puck twice each. Ohlund and Coulombe missed the net with a pair of shots apiece.
On plus-minus, the plus-skating Canucks (all plus-1) were Salo, Trevor Linden, Green, Coulombe, Chouinard, and Henrik Sedin. Minus-skating Canucks (all minus-1) were Ohlund, Kevin Bieksa, Morrison, Cooke, and Bulis. All other Canuck skaters were even.
The win marked only the second time this season in which the Canucks won consecutive games. They are now 10-10-1 (3-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), good for 21 points. In the West, only San Jose and Anaheim have played the same amount of games as Vancouver. All other teams in the West have played less games. The Canucks trail Northwest Division-leading Minnesota by four points and second-place Edmonton by two points. Vancouver is third in the division, leading Calgary and Colorado each by one point. Vancouver is eighth in the West. Anaheim leads the conference with 33 points, Nashville is second with 26, Minnesota is third, San Jose is fourth with 30 (trailing Anaheim in their division), Dallas is fifth with 26 (trailing Anaheim and San Jose in their division), Detroit is sixth with 26 (Nashville has a game in hand in their division), and Edmonton is seventh. Calgary is ninth and Colorado is tenth.