A Budding Rivalry
The team had slippin since the Boston game, emotionally drained, physically beat up, and forced into a compressed run of game that left little time for the team to practice or even catch their breath.
Thankfully after Tuesday’s overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings, the Canucks were able to slow things down with just two games in a week before the All Star break.
It allowed them to push the reset button and deal with the lingering issues creeping into their games.
The biggest issue was on the blueline where Sami Salo was dearly missed. Chris Tanev earned an audition to determine if he was a viable in-house solution and played a game that was textbook Chris Tanev on Saturday. Barely noticable because he fit in so well.
Whatever the Canucks re-tooled in their time off it worked as the team displayed a jump unseen all month and for the first time since Boston looked like a team that deserved to win over trying to sneak a win out of the back door.
Here is my Love Em/Hate Em for the Sharks game on Saturday.
1. Gody Hodgson
Remember when Cody Hodgson was battling injuries at the start of his career and many doubted he would ever realize his potential and many more seem to be content in trading him?
Hodgson nine points in his last nine games and 14 in his last 16 erasing any doubt that this kid is going to have a long and fruitful NHL career.
Saturday saw him score twice including the game-winner on a fluky bounce off Michael Handzus. The kid now has 29 points on the year, good for fourth in rookie scoring despite averaging five minutes a game less than RNH, Adam Henrique, or Matt Read.
He probably won’t win the Calder but he’s found himself right in the mix, especially if he keeps heating up. Either way, this kid is already developing a knack for scoring big goals.
2. Ballard Bombs
Keith Ballard played his best hockey paired with Chris Tanev last year and while Ballard played with Aaron Rome in this one the mere presence of Tanev on the roster seems to have the same effect.
Ballard had a strong game highlighted by his tilt with Joe Pavelski where he not only took one of the Sharks’ best players out of the game, he did it by feeding him lefts much to the delight of Roberto Luongo in his front-row seat.
Ballard also nailed Pavelski in a contest almost exactly 12 months ago so it’s safe to say they’re not golfing buddies.
Keith Ballard apparently fancies himself a fighter now which I have no complaints about.
3. Kesler Don’t Pass
There’s a couple of interesting Ryan Kesler stats out there. The first is that of his 41 goals last year only eight came against playoff teams. The second is that since the last month of last season he wasn’t scoring five-on-five.
This week saw the media concoct a rift betweeen Kesler and AV over Vigneault’s comment on Kesler using his linemates more.
So when Kesler found himself on a two-on-one with Chris Higgins late in the third, all eyes were watching to see what Kesler would do.
Not surprisingly he didn’t pass and coasted in to score a beautiful even-strength goal against a playoff team.
Just don’t let it go to your head Ryan.
1. Juicy Couture
The thorn(ton) in the Canucks’ side for this one was Logan Couture who scored the Sharks’ first goal on a shorthanded breakaway that happened so fast it caught the Canucks by surprise but so slow that you knew how that rush would end. He also tallied one on the powerplay to start the second and put the Sharks up 2-1.
Last year’s Calder Nominee was easily the best Shark last night, and showed that San Jose just might have a Hodgson of their own.
2. Powerplay brown-outs
Couture’s shorthanded marker in the first highlighted the stunning drop in the Canucks’ powerplay of late.
They went 0-4 against the Sharks and didn’t look particularly threatening on any of their chances.
What used to be the team’s bread and butter is now slipping away, as we saw in June a powerplay firing on all cylinders is key for the success of this team.
Of course it doesn’t help when the cannon in Sami Salo is hurt and he’s replaced on the point by….Alex Burrows?
3. The Sedins
It also isn’t helping the powerplay that Henrik & Daniel have all but disappeared too as of late. While the goals are still showing up every so often we haven’t been treated to a tic-tac-toe goal that takes your breath away in some time which means something is off with the twins.
Considering they get over three quarters of their starts in the offensive zone and aren’t much defensively five-on-five, they need to be the guys driving the offence night in and night out or the results are going to resemble what we’ve been seeing the past few weeks.
Whether it’s fatigue or bruises they’ll benefit from the All-Star break and the rest it provides.
Still with the way Evgeni Malkin is heating up you may have to start preparing for a world where a Sedin doesn’t win the Art Ross.
I know, I’m scared too.