Wow what a game
Inspired perhaps by a slight change in atmosphere between the weekday games in Columbus and Carolina, the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs put on a show for the nationwide audience Saturday.
With both teams hungry for a win on Hockey Night in Canada, it was the perfect storm for the most entertaining game of the year.
Both teams reached deep into their bag of tricks for this one.
With Jim Hughson calling the game, Roberto Luongo made sure he had every opportunity to use his trademark GREAT SAVE LUONGO.
The Leafs are in incomplete team but what they don’t lack is offensive spark, especially in the duo of Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. As Pass it to Bulis pointed out, what are these Leafs if not a modern incarnation of the West Coast Express era Canucks?
Luongo’s finest save came off Colby Armstrong on a 2-on-1, stretching his much maligned glove hand to absolutely rob Colby of the cheddar.
He’s been quietly great since returning from injury and that’s probably how it should be.
Once again Raymond was absolutely flying all over the ice and the speed merchant popped another goal early in the second. In 7 games back, he has 3 goals and 6 points and it puts a smile on my face everytime he gets on the scoresheet.
Who do the Canucks nominate for the Masterton this year, Sami Salo or Mason Raymond?
3. Great Dane
When Phil Kessel scored with a couple minutes remaining, it looked like this game still had some legs.
Enter Jannik Hansen, but don’t blink or you’ll miss him.
Hansen hit a career high in goals with perhaps the prettiest of his career, blowing past a flat-footed Dion Phaneuf to go end-to-end, roof the puck, and clinch the game for Vancouver.
Even better, the goal gave Leafs fans (and Don Cherry) a collective aneurysm.
For anyone who caught the Hockey Night in Canada pre-game show they saw a very surreal quasi-apology from Ron McLean to Vancouver and Alex Burrows.
Responding to Don Cherry calling him out on his grudge against Alex Burrows last week, Ron delivered an apology that wasn’t so much ‘I’m sorry I said those things’ as ‘I’m sorry you were thin-skinned enough to be offended’.
Burrows had the last laugh with his goal and Alain Vigneault said after the game that no one on the team cares what Ron McLean says.
I hope Ron McLean enjoyed his infamous night out at the Social Club in Victoria because his next trip out West might not be so accommodating.
Keith Ballard has had a horrible week.
One game removed from being robbed by Cam Ward on the potential save of the year, Ballard had a first period goal called back because of some contact by Ryan Kesler.
Yet the replays showed it was merely incidental and due mainly to Cody Franson shoving Kesler into the crease.
Thankfully it evened out when the Leafs had a goal called back when Dan Hamhuis knocked the net off before the puck crossed the line. That one was questionable as well since the NHL rulebook clearly states that a defender knocking off the net in a play like that should result in the allowance of the goal.
The NHL rulebook also clearly states that there’s nothing in it that says a Giraffe can’t play hockey but I don’t want to give away my trade deadline ideas just yet.
Finally, the Leafs may be slowing down but Phil ‘The Thrill’ Kessel clearly isn’t.
Kessel was front and centre all game long, which must have sucked for a guy as socially awkward as he is.
He made an absolutely beautiful chip pass to Tyler Bozak to set up his even prettier no look top shelf backhand in the best impression of a Sedin I’ve seen all year.
And his third period goal threatened to make the final few minutes tense before Hansen sealed the deal.
Man do I love to hate this guy.