Hockey is back
After a week off for the All-Star break, the Vancouver Canucks returned to action Tuesday night and took on their heated rivals the Chicago Blackhawks.
While both teams were guilty of shaking off the rust, this game provided enough entertainment and animosity to remind you that for all the hype the Canucks/Bruins rivalry created in January the Chicago Blackhawks are still public enemy number one.
With the NHLPA rejecting the proposed re-alignment, the Canucks and Hawks will continue to bump heads four times a year and threaten in the playoffs while, short of a Stanley Cup Final rematch, the Canucks will see the Bruins but once a year.
Familiarity breeds contempt.
Here is my Love Em/Hate Em for the Blackhawks game tonight.
Cory Schneider was named the starter for a variety of reasons, including AV’s want to give the kid some big starts and the fact that his bachelor status afforded him opportunities to work out during the All-Star break while Roberto Luongo spent time in Florida with his family.
Like the Boston game (that we’re still talking about a month later), Schneider came up huge for the Canucks and secured the two points. Cory finished the night with 37 saves including one for the ages, though to be fair this one came about because he lost the puck behind his net to the newest Hawk Brendan Morrison. Diving to back into his crease, Schneider somehow got his glove on Morrison’s wrist-shot. It just might be the save of the year when we look back in April.
2. The Kid’s Alright
Freshly returned from Ottawa, Cody Hodgson proved himself immune to Zdeno Chara’s brainwashing when he buried a third period breakaway to tie the game at two.
He’s had a fantastic January and is a lock to be named February’s Rookie of the Month. His 14 goals trail only Matt Read for most by a rookie while his 30 points sees him fourth in rookie scoring.
The Great White Buffalo Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is still the favourite for the Calder but Cody Hodgson is making a strong push to gain a nomination. Right now he’s in the mix for the other two nods with Read, Adam Henrique, Craig Smith, Colin Green, and Gabriel Landeskog.
Hodgson’s one advantage from the pack is the fact that he’s producing at a comparable rate while averaging three to five minutes less ice time a game.
Of course, this argument was also once used to advance the cause of Steve Bernier.
3. Twin Powers Activate!
The Sedins returned from Ottawa fresh off a very quiet month. Since the Boston game (as everything else connects back to these days) the faucet has run dry. Daniel Sedin had points in just three of those seven games while Henrik Sedin had points in just two.
They were quiet for most of the night against the Hawks, Dave Bolland was doing a very effective job of being Dave Bolland, until overtime started and they took advantage of the extra space on the ice afforded from the four-on-four play.
They almost ended it on a pretty passing play that featured three give-and-goes between the brothers before Crawford stopped Daniel on the short side. It didn’t matter as the Sedins found the connection shortly after and Daniel Sedin scored his 10th career overtime winner for the Canucks, a new franchise record stolen from the newest Chicago Blackhawk Brendan Morrison.
1. Flipping Over Clipping
Keith Ballard picked up a questionable clipping call early in the game for a hit on Andrew Shaw that was definitely ugly but more so for imperfect execution rather than legality.
Clipping penalties must surely be the first thing Keith Ballard sees when he closes his eyes at night. He’s ran into enough inconsistent applications of the rule over the past few years to jeopardize the wisdom of deploying one of the main tools in his defensive toolbox.
What Ballard can use most in his game is some confidence, but how is he supposed to be confident when the rules bend routinely?
2. No Blood No Foul
The call on Ballard is even weirder when you realize that one of just two penalties called all game with the other coming against Alex Edler in the third for boarding.
For the second straight contest between the two rivals, the Canucks received no powerplays.
I’m not here to cry conspiracy but I am here to pout and gloss over the fact Viktor Stalberg probably should have had a penalty shot in overtime (not that it would have mattered because Cory Schneider toootally would have stopped him).
3. SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS
Cory Schneider is the story of this game because Cory Schneider had to be the story of this game if the Canucks were winning this one. The Hawks had 39 shots Tuesday night forcing the Boy Wonder to pull out his best Roberto Luongo impression.
It’s the sixth time in seven games the Canucks have given up more than 30 shots in a game and speaks volumes about how their defensive play has been in January.
They’re only seventh in the league defensively, but they were first last year with the same defence corps minus Christian “They Don’t Pay Me For My Checking” Ehrhoff.
It’s something to consider heading into the trade deadline.
Speaking of the blueline, I was sure Chris Tanev would get called up after the All-Star break to continue his audition.
Instead all is quiet and the kid got a single game to prove he was at least as good as last year’s version of himself that played confidently in the Stanley Cup Finals.