After one of the most exciting and memorable hockey games of all time on Sunday, it’s not surprising that Roberto Luongo was given the night off against Columbus on Tuesday, allowing Andrew Raycroft to get a rare start. Luongo looked almost comfortable and at peace on the bench for a change, I guess a gold medal will have that effect on even the biggest work-aholics.
On the ice however, the pressure was on the players in the line-up to either prove to Mike Gillis that you are worth continuing as a Vancouver Canuck, or showcase yourself to the other GM’s around the league looking for some help during the stretch run. As a traditionally quiet deadline day team, the Canucks didn’t have any players squarely on the chopping block, however I suspect Kyle Wellwood may have had a little extra motivation to ice a solid game.
After allowing Columbus to own the first period and jump to a 2-0 lead, Kyle Wellwood flipped a nifty pass back between his legs from behind the Columbus net to Alex Burrows who was waiting stick on the ice in front of Steve Mason. It was a play from Wellwood that he has always lived and died with, the type of sneaky, flashy pass that while often resulting in a turnover, when executed properly is a candidate for highlight of the night and often an easy goal.
Later in the period, Pavol Demitra proved he also has something to prove after his impressive run as the Olympic Scoring leader for the tournament. Demitra ripped a shot over the shoulder of Mason, who was unable to find the rebound before Demitra fired it into the back of the net.
Later in the second, Columbus was again able to navigate the Vancouver defence, creating a 2 on 1 from a Christian Ehrhoff turnover which left Aarom Rome hopelessly reaching for Raffi Torres before he threaded a perfect pass across to Derek Dorsett who put it home into an empty net behind Raycroft.
In the third period, Kyle Wellwood again made a statement with some solid work down low that lead to Alex Burrows returning the previous favour and setting up Wellwood for a tap-in to tie the game at 3’s. It was a nice breath of fresh air from Wellwood, who has shown very small flashes of brilliance this season, but has been overwhelmingly inconsistent for the majority of the year.
In overtime, an attempted slap-pass by Alex Burrows to Ryan Kesler was originally forced wide, however the ever dangerous Christian Ehrhoff snuck in the back door to jam home the bounce off of the end boards.
It was a gutsy effort from the Canucks, who I was ready to write off early in the second period after Andrew Raycroft let in a soft second goal for the Jackets. Apparently the Olympic Hangover is only a period or two long, the Canucks progressively became stronger as the game went on, a nice trend in their play of late. Now if only the boys in blue and green would stop being so generous in giving up the first goal of the game…
Ask and You Shall Receive
If Alain Vigneault had something to say about the Canucks’ slow start in Columbus, Ryan Kesler was listening. One of Kesler’s most impressive solo efforts of the year opened the scoring (and Jimmy Howard’s legs) against the Red Wings on Wednesday. Kesler accepted a pass at the blue line and walked around two ‘Wings defenders before deking out Howard and slipping the puck five-hole.
Ten minutes later, a rocket of a shot by Jason Williams brought the ‘Wings even. As good as Kyle Wellwood was in both games since the Olympic break, his attempt to check Williams as the puck arrived was pitiful, and was a perfect example of the lack-lustre play Wellwood has been producing for most of the season. If you’re not going to deflect or intercept the pass, just make sure you don’t screen Luongo too, Kyle.
Three minutes later, the re-united top line of Sedin Sedin Burrows worked together for a pretty passing play entering the Columbus zone before the puck ended up just slightly in front of Jimmy Howard allowing Alex Burrows to swoop in and tip the puck up and over Howard’s glove. Nice to see production from the top line, I was a little worried the top line may not come back from the Olympics with the same chemistry and jam, but they have been up to the task post Vancouver 2010.
The beginning to the second period in Detroit is one I’ve seen far too many times before. A beautiful play by a Red Wing victimizes a Canucks defender for a goal, and yet the few remaining fans in Joe Louis Arena don’t know whether to clap or cry. This edition involved Henrik Zetterberg simply beating Nolan Baumgartner to the puck and to the net, as he glided around Baumer and an aggressive Luongo to tie up the game.
Minutes later, Kyle “magic mittens” Wellwood (Yes, he has earned the name again, for now) again showed glimmers of his once well known scoring touch. Aaron Rome fed Wellwood from his own blue line with a beautiful pass that sprung Kyle all alone on Jimmy Howard. Wellwood, who is usually one for fancy dekes and moves, elected to switch it up and shoot top corner, fooling Howard and giving the Canucks the lead again all in one flick of the wrist.
I have praised and criticized Nolan Baumgartner and Aaron Rome during their current tour of duty for the Canucks, and to me they both seem to have the same struggles. Baumgartner’s pass behind the net against Columbus was key in the Canucks first goal; however his attempt at defending Henrik Zetterberg was just that, an attempt. Rome, who looked helpless defending a 2 on 1 in Columbus, should be given full credit for his pass to spring Wellwood on Howard. Not many regular NHL defensemen can make a pass like Rome’s on Wednesday, if he and Baumgartner both learned to eliminate the simple mistakes and focus on making more smart plays, I feel both of them have the potential to find themselves becoming 3rd defensive pairing calibre NHL defensemen. Those simple turnover’s will be deadly come playoff time, just as making the simple play can make the difference of a game or series come April.
Sami Salo provided a perfect example of the simple play minutes after Wellwood’s breakaway by simply throwing the puck through traffic, and into the back of the net only six seconds into the Canucks power play. Sami is often a frustrating player to watch when playing the point, and many of his shots seem to find a way of getting blocked by penalty killers; however a simple quick wrist shot is an easy way to get the puck on net and create havoc down low. Another calm, poised, veteran play that Baumgartner and Rome would do well to learn from.
Mikael Samuelsson later roofed a shot past Osgood as he came out of the corner, no doubt fooling his old practice goalie. Must have felt good for Samuelsson to get one against his own club, between Detroit and Team Sweden, not a lot of teams have had faith in his play, good for Samuelsson to stick it to them this time with his stick, not his mouth. Although I still think more NHL players should be candid in their interviews, and all the power to Mikael telling the media how he feels.
In the 3rd, Ryan Kesler and Johan Franzen both exchanged pretty power play goals to end the game 6-3 for the Canucks. Nice to see the Canucks overcome the Olympic hangover as well as playing on back-to-back nights in order to grab an important four points. Statement games be damned, the Canucks need to focus on winning hockey games and collecting as many points as they can down the stretch. Every game should be seen as a statement on their way to the playoffs. Friday’s matchup against the Blackhawks is no exception, the Canucks need to come out with intensity against one of the strongest teams in the Western Conference. Another big two points is on the line, and with the playoff picture looking like this every point counts.
Injuries, News and Notes
- Andrew Alberts is expected to make his Canucks debut Friday against the Blackhawks; I’m really looking forward to seeing him hit someone, especially our rivals from the windy city.
- The New Canucks Wallpaper is up; Canadian Canuck’s fans will especially appreciate the March 2010 offering from the Canucks media section.
- The Canucks are still uncertain when Willie Mitchell could be back, so Andrew Alberts will have to step up for now. Kevin Bieksa may be ready to go in the coming weeks, a well timed boost to the blue-line for the stretch run and playoffs.
- The guys at Nucks Misconduct had a great interview with Green Men “Force” and “Sully” , who are now relevant again now that I’ve got all the cheering for Red and White out of my system.
Filed Under: NHL
About the Author: Kevin Vanstone is a long time sports fan and Canucks die hard from White Rock, British Columbia. He is currently attending the University of Victoria pursuing a Writing degree, and in his spare time writes about all things Canucks hockey as well as news and notes from around the NHL.