Saturday, January 06, 2007
Through just about every Seahawk win this season, I've given up on the game at least three times before the final outcome.
The game today, though, was completely insane. I'm at a loss for words.
If the Seahawks take anything into next week, I don't think much of their confidence will have to do with the offense (it'll be the patchwork defense, if anything) or anything concerned with flow of the game or whatnot.
The bulk of what the Seahawks take into next week will be the emotional high of this incredibly nutty game.
Next week, the Seahawks will once again throw the spaghetti into the machine and see what in tarnation comes out.
Dallas COWBOYS at Seattle SEAHAWKS, 5p (NBC)
This could be it. Or this could be a small step in something bigger. Who knows?
At first glance, though, it looks like today is the day the Seahawks throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks. That's the case on defense, anyway. If ever there was a bad time to lose two starting cornerbacks, this was the time. As Seahawk fans, we've dealt with backfields that had a Terreal Bierria or an Etric Pruitt (the latter in the Super Bowl after Marquand Manuel got hurt), but how will it be with multiple guys they've signed off the street?
Either way, the Cowboys aren't going much better, and that's sort of the saving grace here with the Seahawks drawing them for this first-round game. The Seahawks lost three of the last four to end the season, sure, but so did the Cowboys. The Seahawks blew the game against the Chargers in the final minute of play, but the Cowboys lost to a team that finished 3-13 in the Detroit Lions. Other than the injuries, I'd think the Seahawks have more going for them, especially if they exhibit anywhere close to the kind of ball control they had in Tampa Bay. The time-of-possession numbers for the Seahawks were incredible for that second half.
I know what I want for the final result of this game, but I don't think I'm going to be too surprised either way. If the team that wins this game wins next week as well, then I'll be quite surprised.
To anyone going to the game, please dress in a bunch of layers and drive safely if you're taking an automobile. As for the ferry-takers, be civil, especially if you're on the boat from Bremerton and the ride's an hour long.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
The Vancouver Canucks had just come off a big win at Calgary and flew right back home to face Dallas the next night. The win in Calgary was the Canucks' second in eight days and their fourth straight overall, but these games were must-wins for the Canucks, who needed the games merely to just get back into the race in the Northwest Division and not get buried. After winning these four straight against divisional opponents, however, the Canucks got a bit of a break, not having to worry about a four-point sway if they lose. The bad thing is that it was the Dallas Stars they were facing, a formidable Western Conference opponent whose goalie is Marty Turco, who has an insane lifetime record against Canadian-based NHL teams. The Stars have also been a very good shootout team, boasting a 15-1 record since its inception. Jussi Jokinen has grabbed headlines with his shootout standby, a Peter Forsberg ripoff move that has been immortalized on a postage stamp in Sweden, though Jokinen is Finnish. The Canucks came into this game with the third-best penalty kill in the NHL. Which way would this one go?
The only smidgens of excitement in a mind-numblingly boring first period of play came on a late Vancouver power play. Lukas Krajicek had a shot from the left side stopped by Marty Turco, and the rebound went to Turco's left, where Markus Naslund had a wide open net but was robbed by Turco. Later on the same power play, however, Henrik Sedin on the right-wing boards found Daniel Sedin in front, who shot but was stopped by Turco. The rebound was tapped away by a Dallas player and trickled out to the left faceoff dot, where Mattias Ohlund unloaded a slapshot that beat Turco high on the stick side.
»» 1, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Mattias Ohlund 8 (unassisted) 18:58
Vancouver outshot the Stars 9-7 in the first period. They were 1-for-2 on the power play while Dallas was 0-for-1.
Five minutes into the period, Henrik Sedin on the right side found Daniel Sedin going toward the net and hit him with a pass. Daniel put a soft one-timer on the net that was gloved by Turco. Not long after, Dallas rushed into the Vancouver zone, and Patrick Stefan shot quickly from the back of the left circle and Roberto Luongo made a nice glove save with Mathias Tjarnqvist set to bowl him over trying to get a rebound. Just past the midway point of the period, a Vancouver power play was about to expire. Rory Fitzpatrick unloaded a slap shot from the blue line that was stopped by Turco. The rebound bounced through some players out to the high slot, and Brendan Morrison couldn't quite get a shot away as the puck was corraled by Stefan, who spotted Loui Eriksson breaking out of the penalty box. The stretch pass worked and Eriksson was past the entire Vancouver defense, going to the net and deking to the backhand to beat Luongo through the five hole.
»» 2, DALLAS, Loui Eriksson 4 (Patrik Stefan) 10:27
Dallas badly outshot the Canucks 17-6 in the period (24-15 overall). They were 0-for-3 (0-for-4) on the power play while Vancouver was 0-for-2 (1-for-4).
With a Dallas power play about to expire, Sergei Zubov had a one-timer from the blue line stopped by Luongo eight minutes into the period. Matt Cooke also took a penalty with 62 seconds left that could have been damaging and still had the chance to do so if the Canucks wouldn't be able to kill it off in overtime. Vancouver again was badly outshot, this time by a 12-5 margin for the period (36-20 overall). The Canucks were 0-for-2 (1-for-6) on the power play while Dallas was 0-for-2 (0-for-6).
With 1:53 left in the extra session, Daniel Sedin was called for hooking, which invariably gave Dallas a huge advantage for the rest of overtime. With 32 seconds left in overtime, Philippe Boucher had a shot from near the left point ring off a post to nearly end the game. The rebound went out to Zubov, who lined himself up for a slap shot from the high slot that was stopped and cleared away. It wasn't all done yet, though. Right before the buzzer, Zubov flung a puck from the blue line that Jere Lehtinen tried to deflect onto the net, but Luongo covered it as the buzzer sounded. Dallas outshot Vancouver 4-1 in the overtime (40-21 total). They were 0-for-1 (0-for-7) on the power play while Vancouver didn't get a power play in the extra frame and finished 0-for-6. Luongo stopped 39 shots for the game.
Naslund -- NO, Turco glove save after a deke, Naslund actually overskated the puck at center at first
Zubov -- NO, skated down the middle, deked, and hit the post after the puck got past Luongo's left skate
Morrison -- YES, cut right, backhand snap through, bypassing the usual five-hole move
Jussi Jokinen -- YES, scoring on a backhand after deking Luongo silly
D Sedin -- NO, tried to go backhand but was pokechecked by Turco
Mike Ribeiro -- NO, deked, but Luongo pokechecked him
Taylor Pyatt -- NO, moved in, deked to backhand, stopped by Turco, couldn't quite get a good shot away
Eriksson -- NO, stopped by Luongo, didn't get a decent shot off
Bieksa -- NO, Turco knocked down the shot
Antti Miettinen -- NO, skated up the middle, went forehand to backhand, Luongo stopped him but nearly threw his stick in the process
Ryan Kesler -- YES, shaded left, kicked the leg, deked to the backhand and scored stick side
Stu Barnes -- NO, forehand was stopped by the pads of Luongo
Three stars -- (1) Luongo, (2) Dallas' Marty Turco, (3) D Sedin
In the faceoff circle, the Canucks won 30 of 53 draws (57%). Brendan Morrison won eight of 17, Trevor Linden won two of three, Ryan Kesler won eight of 15, Marc Chouinard won all five of his, and Henrik Sedin won seven of 11. Daniel Sedin led the team with four shots while Mattias Ohlund and Henrik Sedin had three apiece. Kesler, Rory Fitzpatrick, and Matt Cooke dished out three hits apiece. Ohlund and Lukas Krajicek coughed up the puck twice each. Ohlund led with three blocked shots while Sami Salo and Cooke blocked a pair apiece. Kesler missed the net with four shots while Kevin Bieksa and Daniel Sedin missed with three each.
The Canucks' only goal was scored on the power play, so there's no plus on the plus-minus ledger. Thus, that leaves everyone who was on the ice when Loui Eriksson busted out of the penalty box and scored. Those Canucks were Krajicek, Morrison, Willie Mitchell, Markus Naslund, and Jan Bulis. All remaining Canuck skaters were even.
Vancouver's fifth straight win pushed their overall record to 22-18-1 (6-0 overtime, 2-1 shootout), good for 45 points and the Northwest Division lead. The two points vaulted them to a one-point lead over the second-place Minnesota Wild. Third-place Calgary is three points back, and Colorado and Edmonton are tied for fourth (Colorado has the head-to-head). Anaheim still leads the Western Conference with 62 points, Detroit is second with 55 and Vancouver is third. Nashville is fourth with 55 (second in the Central, Detroit has a game in hand), San Jose is fifth with 52 (second in the Pacific), Dallas is sixth with 51 (third in the Pacific), Minnesota is seventh, Calgary is eighth, Colorado is ninth, Edmonton is tenth, and Chicago is 11th with 39 points.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
The tough games kept coming for the Canucks. Christmas Day had come and gone, but Vancouver had since won all three games they had played, their three biggest wins of the season, and some would argue all three of the games were must-wins. Bigger yet was the fact that the wins were against key Northwest Division rivals, twice against Calgary and once against Edmonton. In yet another tough game, the Canucks traveled to Calgary for the second time in a week for another match with the Flames. Tough guy Jeff Cowan was injured and didn't make the trip to Calgary, so Marc Chouinard took his spot on the bench. In addition, the Flames had Roman Hamrlik in the lineup, which wasn't the case the last time these two teams met. In a stat that's never helpful for the Canucks, the Calgary Flames came into this game with a plus-22 mark when skating five-on-five, which means either Vancouver would have to really grind it out if they were to get the win or they'd have to be absolute money on the power play.
Just under four minutes into the game, Daniel Sedin at the right point set up Kevin Bieksa for a slapshot in the high slot that was stopped by the pad of Miikka Kiprusoff. Later, the Canucks were able to keep the puck along the Calgary end boards, and fresh off stealing the puck, Brendan Morrison from behind the net found Trevor Linden in the slot, and the longtime Canuck snapped it past Kiprusoff to stake the Canucks out to an early lead.
»» 1, VANCOUVER, Trevor Linden 5 (Brendan Morrison) 7:54
Later in the period on a Vancouver power play, Markus Naslund up high set up Sami Salo for a one-timer that was blocked. The puck went loose to the slot and Morrison was able to spin and fire it into the net to double up on the lead.
»» 2, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Morrison 10 (Sami Salo, Markus Naslund) 11:57
Vancouver outshot the Flames 10-7 in probably their best first period of the season. They were 1-for-2 on the power play while Calgary was 0-for-2.
Just past the first minute of the period, Daniel Sedin and Taylor Pyatt raced into the Calgary end on a two-on-one. Daniel passed to Pyatt barreling down the slot, but Pyatt was hooked by Jarome Iginla, who wasn't called for it as Pyatt couldn't get a shot away. On a later Vancouver power play, a long shoot-in was steered toward the left-wing boards by Kiprusoff, and Roman Hamrlik chipped it ahead. Kristian Huselius had it in the neutral zone and passed off to Matthew Lombardi. Lombardi turned on the jets and blew past Lukas Krajicek and got around Kevin Bieksa before deking to the forehand and beating Roberto Luongo for his fourth shorthanded goal of the season, getting the Flames to within one.
»» 3, CALGARY, shorthanded, Matthew Lombardi 12 (Kristian Huselius, Roman Hamrlik) 6:00
Late in the period, Mark Giordano at the blue line faked a shot to bring Alexandre Burrows to the ground, who was trying to block it. Giordano moved further left and had a shot blocked by Bieksa. Giordano grabbed the puck out of the air and put it down, but it was chipped ahead by the Canucks, and Burrows and Josh Green were sent away on a two-on-one. Burrows waited with the patience of a 40-goal scorer and tucked it in glove side past Kiprusoff from behind the goal line after the Calgary goalie overcommitted to the pokecheck. Burrows had tallied for the first time in 48 games.
»» 4, VANCOUVER, Alexandre Burrows 1 (Marc Chouinard, Kevin Bieksa) 15:29
As Vancouver's third goal was being announced in the arena, Daniel Sedin stole the puck and had a shot from the low slot stopped by Kiprusoff, then brother Henrik Sedin followed up on the rebound and was stopped as well. Vancouver's second two-goal lead of the game wouldn't last very long. With just under three minutes remaining, Trevor Linden had a pass picked off in the neutral zone and Lombardi took his wheels the other way. Lombardi skated down the left side and got around Bieksa again before lasering the puck off the inside off a post and into the net. Bieksa gave Lombardi a shot after the goal and had to subsequently answer to Andrew Ference as the two fought.
»» 5, CALGARY, Lombardi 13 (Mark Giordano, Huselius) 17:23
Vancouver outshot the Flames 15-9 in the period (25-16 overall). They were 0-for-5 (1-for-7) on the power play while Calgary was 0-for-2 (0-for-4).
With just over six minutes remaining, Calgary had a three-on-one as Huselius on the left side passed across the slot to perfectly set up Byron Ritchie, whose shot was miraculously stopped by Luongo on an absolute monster save to preserve the one-goal lead. Vancouver was badly outshot 13-4 in the period, evening out the shots for the game at 29 apiece. Both teams were 0-for-3 in the final period on the power play, leaving Vancouver at 1-for-10 and Calgary at 0-for-7. Luongo stopped 27 shots for the game.
Three stars -- (1) Calgary's Matthew Lombardi, (2) Morrison, (3) Luongo
In the faceoff circle, the Canucks won 23 of 58 draws (40%). Brendan Morrison won six of 17, Trevor Linden won three of eight, Ryan Kesler won six of 16, Josh Green lost both of his, Marc Chouinard lost all four of his, Henrik Sedin won six of eight, and Jan Bulis split a pair. Taylor Pyatt and Daniel Sedin led the team with four shots apiece while Kevin Bieksa and Sami Salo each had three. Kesler dished out three hits and Green had two. Henrik Sedin coughed up the puck three times and Mattias Ohlund gave it away twice. Willie Mitchell and Alexandre Burrows blocked a pair of shots apiece.
Just a bunch of ones on the plus-minus ledger for this game. At plus-1 were Salo, Mitchell, Burrows, Green, and Chouinard. At minus-1 were Bieksa, Lukas Krajicek, Morrison, Pyatt, and Markus Naslund. All remaining Canuck skaters were even.
The win pushed the Canucks to a record of 21-18-1 (6-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), good for 43 points and also raising their division record to 8-9-1, a far cry from the dismality it was earlier in the season. Vancouver is now second in the Northwest Division, one point behind the Minnesota Wild. They are one point ahead of third-place Calgary and three ahead of both Colorado and Edmonton, who are in fourth (Colorado has the head-to-head). In the Western Conference, only Nashville, Minnesota, and the non-Phoenix teams in the Pacific Division have played as many games as or more games than the Canucks. Despite a bushel of injuries, Anaheim still leads the West with 62 points, Nashville is second with 55, Minnesota is third, Detroit is fourth with 55 (second in the Central, Nashville has a game in hand), San Jose is fifth with 52, Dallas is sixth with 50, Vancouver is seventh, Calgary is eighth, Colorado is ninth, Edmonton is tenth, and Chicago is 11th with 39.