Hitch had it right —-in his post game comments, Hitch noted that it was “games like this that make coaches go into scouting.” In an exhausting, gut-wrenching, insanely schizophrenic effort, the CBJ outlasted the Canucks, gaining a 6 – 5 shootout victory and 2 very big points in the last road trip before the All-Star break.
Make no mistake, this was an ad lib performance, one where the script got thrown out early on. Instead of Hitch-Hockey, it became a track meet, a dizzying up and back affair that seemed destined to be decided only because rules say these things eventually have to end. There were moments of pure elegance, when you could swear our team was composed of Hall of Famers — the tic, tac, toe passing leading to Malhotra’s first goal. The precision of the Rick Nash to Kris Russell to Jason Williams power play goal. Commodore’s beauty from the point. There were also tons of moments that made you wonder where these slow footed, jet lag laden guys came from. In between, there were ludicrous moments, such as the floater that Mason kicks appropriately toward the corner — except that Nash happens to be skating by at that moment, and it hits his thigh and goes in. Vancouver fans booing Roberto Luongo. Yep, lots of bizarre goings on at the 3,000th game in Canuck’s history.
Most of all, this win was one of character, of toughness, of refusal to lose. The Malhotra goal to tie it in the first. Two great goals at the end of the second to come back from a two goal deficit to tie it. Read that last sentence again — two goal deficit. On the road. Against Vancover. This ain’t your father’s Bluejacket team. Having gotten into Luongo’s head with those two goals to cap the second, they proceed to score 2 quickies from Torres and Commodore at the start of the 3rd, to go up 5 – 3. The celebration is on, right? Nope. The fluke goal off of Nash and a nasty power play shot from one of those pain-in-the-neck Sedin twins, and we are tied at 5. Two All Star goalies, and the game has more points than the Steelers-Ravens game . . . Again, past Bluejacket teams fold up their tent at this point, graciously thank their hosts, and move on to the next town. Not this bunch. They dusted themselves off, dominated the rest of the third and the OT, got beautiful SO goals from Williams (great choice to lead off, Hitch!) and Nash, Mason shuts down Wellwood and Sundin, and you walk away with 2 points. Whew!!!!
Here are the +/- for the game:
+ Nash — Give this guy a week off more often. A beautiful wraparound goal, two nice assists, and overall domination of the ice when he was there. That line with Huselius, Malhotra and Nash is scary every time they cross the blue line.
+ Attitude — This is probably the 3rd or 4th time I have awarded a + for attitude, which in itself says volumes about this hockey club. These guys had every reason to quit, and didn’t. They had dead legs (see below), were in a hitting contest, got some bad breaks, some non-calls, fell behind, came back, fell behind, came back, took the lead, lost it — and then dominated. That is the mark of a winning club, folks.
+ Power Play — Yes, you are reading this right. Due to a rash of coincidental minors, and a lot of non-calls, we only had two power plays all night, and one of those was a 4 vs 3 in OT. However, the one PP we did have in regulation was so pretty, I had to give it a plus. We created space, we moved the puck quickly — we used the width of the ice, not just the perimeter, and Jason Williams converted a one-timer from Russell into a wide open net. Well done! Honorable mention to the PK, which was great, except for an awful kill attempt that gave the Canucks their 4th goal.
+ Players — Besides Nash, you have to give the + sign to Jason Williams, who scored the PP goal, made a beautiful shot in the shootout, and generally showed speed, puck handling and an ability to take control. Imagine what he will look like when he gets to know his line mates. + signs also for Boll and Torres, who were tenacious on the puck all night, and created lots of opportunities. Tyutin continues to get shots through from the point, Russell is just fun to watch with the puck, and Commodore has turned into a scoring machine. Modin also played a heavy game. Not sure what to say about Huselius. On the one hand, he created lots of opportunities and had two assists. On the other hand, he failed to convert some beautiful opportunities. He is great, but frustrates the heck out of me at times.
–Defense– We looked slow, tentative and generally clueless in our own zone much of the night. Tollefson was befuddled by the Vancouver forwards. Methot had his second awful game in a row. He let his man go, leading to the first goal, and got himself trapped with the puck, made turnovers, just generally bad. The All-Star break is coming at the right time for him. Canuck forwards coming down the middle were either left alone or just harassed with some feeble attempts at poke checks.
–Legs — As I noted above, while at times we clicked, at other times we looked like we had just gotten off the flight — from China. Come on guys, it’s not that long of a flight, and you have had a day to get over it. They almost looked at times like some of our younger guys were awed by the 3000 game hoopla and the whole Sundin mystique. Get over it — soon!
This was a victory engineered by veterans — Nash, Modin, Commodore, Tyutin, Williams,Huselius. The kids provided energy at times, and their never-say-die attitude is becoming contagious. 2 huge points on the road, in the type of game we have historically never won. We came to Mason’s aid (and he was far from bad) and did what needed to be done for the victory. That is 4 out of the last 5, 8 out of the last 11, and 5 for 7 on the road. Great job. I’m exhausted . . .