Thursday, January 24, 2013

Canucks Game Review: Calgary Flames, January 23rd

Game 2: Flames 2 - Canucks 3 (SO)

Game Summary

It took three games, but the Vancouver Canucks got off the schneid by riding the Schneid en route to a 3-2 shootout victory over the (lowly) Calgary Flames.  The Canucks carried the play for most of the first half of the game.  New-look top three lines included the Sedin twins with Zack Kassian, Burrows centering Higgins and Hansen, and Jordan Schroeder's first NHL game between Raymond and Weise. 

Kassian and Raymond scored nice looking goals to get their team up 2-0, but poor defensive coverage by Bieksa and Hamhuis, and a slew of penalties against the Canucks allowed the Flames to tie the game.  The strange parade of penalties presented the Flames with over three minutes of 5-on-3 power play time, and included an odd call on Alexander Edler for concealing the puck.  In a play seen often in years' past, Edler was whistled for closing his hand on the puck, a new rule for this year according to a) the NHL rule book, and b) Kerry Fraser on TSN.

The Canucks were on their heels for the rest of the game, as a 25-9 shots on goal advantage was nullified to a 36-36 draw at the conclusion of overtime.  In the shootout, Alex Burrows scored with his patented move, and Zack Kassian scored a beauty, leaving Miikka Kiprusoff in the corner with a tremendous deke.  Cory Schneider stood tall and lived up to his end of the bargain and the Canucks left with the 'W'.

Three Up

Zack Kassian: What can you say about this kid?  He's been terrific so far this year.  As the game's #1 star for the second outing in a row, he was physical, scored a nice goal, and actually carried the Sedin line tonight.  He scored the shootout winner and is tantalizing Canucks' fans with his potential.  Tough to expect this night in and night out, but if he's consistently a positive force on the ice like this, Canucks fans may forget about Cody Hodgson sooner rather than later.

Mason Raymond: Raymond scored a beautiful goal and was all over the ice tonight.  Whether it's the difference that playing against the Flames makes (9 goals versus Calgary, most in his career against any team), or the fact that the goal propelled his confidence, Raymond was a difference maker out there.  He distributed the puck well and made smart decisions all over the ice.

Jordan Schroeder: Not bad for his first NHL game.  The diminutive center was between Raymond and Dale Weise at even strength, and enjoyed some time on the second power play unit.  Schroeder acclimated himself well, made good decisions and some good passes on the break out.  Would have been nice to see him in the shoot out, but perhaps another day.

Three Down

Alexander Edler: The boxscore shows Edler with only two giveaways, but rest assured, he handled the puck like a hand grenade all night long.  Every pass seemed to flutter off his stick and wind up with Calgary.  Not sure at this point if he's a bit rusty, or trying to do too much, but he's been struggling out there so far.

Kevin Bieksa: Bieksa was his usual feisty self - which included cross-checking Jarome Iginla into the post to knock the net off on one of Schneider's great saves - but 'Juice' has more to give too.  He was out of position at times throughout the game and had a few poor passes and even poorer rushes up the ice.  At one point he appeared to be hobbling but stayed out for his shift.  Canucks fans hope he rounds into form soon.

Sedin Twins: It's not often the Sedin twins are called out, but let's be honest, Zack Kassian was the top line tonight.  The twins displayed their usual magic along the boards and made some terrific zone entries, but really did not generate all that much offence.  The top power play unit looked disjointed as it never generated much offence - even the simplest task such as setting up a Garrison howitzer seemed beyond them.  Hopefully the odd practice can tighten up the power play.

Final Thought

Cory Schneider played a lot better and deserved the win.  A couple of terrific shots beat him, but nothing else.  He would up with 34 saves, plus four more in the shootout.  Up front, Kassian and Raymond proved that the Canucks have some secondary offence without Ryan Kesler and David Booth.  The defence continues to improve but is nowhere near where it needs to be.

It could be said that Keith Ballard and Chris Tanev were the Canucks' best D pairing last night.  We'll leave it up to you as to whether that's a good thing, or a bad thing.

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