What an utterly satisfying win. This is everything the Calgary game should have been and more. The only way this could have been better is if it was on another Saturday on national TV again. I missed that game, so I'm really glad I got to see this one.
First off, I'm going to begin tonight's Report with a couple of my classic rants. If you read regularly, you've probably heard variants of them before:
1. Canucks fans in Edmonton are nearly the biggest jerks we encounter during the year. Even though I hate the Flames, their fans usually aren't too bad and I have respect for some who clearly have knowledge of the game and respect that we've won 5. Yes, they're out there. My interactions with Canucks fans have never been pleasant in Rexall. Never. They have been to a man uber-negative sarcastic and arrogant. Tonight for example, after the second goal and a bit of yelling (the topic of which will be for my second rant), a Nuck fan in the row below us started jawing unnecessarily with the person two seats down from me. He was of course inebriated, upset at the losing, and full of arrogant quips + tough talk. Idiotic behavior in an opponents building. You have a right to cheer, watch the game, and be a part of the atmosphere with no reprisal. Once you venture into moron-mode, you're going to hear it, and especially in a season ticket holder section that is used to a pleasant game experience. He was eventually mocked into submission, but not before threatening to throw several of us down the stairs. Classy individual. He really doesn't know how badly he would have been trounced just then...
2. The outburst that apparently gave this uber-genius cause was that person he tried to pick a fight with had just finished agreement with me about my shoot ranting. I had yelled "THAT'S WHY YOU DON'T SHOOT!" after our long powerplay led to a goal (through strong puck control and patience. The only times we lost the puck were on errant shots) in response the myriad of hockey geniuses yelling SHOOT during the powerplay at every turn. Do these people ever not understand hockey...we played several minutes of fun, puck control hockey where all we had to do was hold the puck and not make a mistake in order to win, but these people didn't get that. Thankfully players like Linus Omark do, and the game went to 2-0 rather than a frantic race to a 1-goal finish.
I'm also glad to beat the Canucks because it means the dirtiest team in the league continues to be frustrated. They even out waited the referees tonight by continuing to be so chippy that even the blind mice couldn't ignore it any longer. 2 periods worth of picks, holds and hacks (the most blatantly obvious being Kesler on Jacques, which was followed by an incredibly weak tripping penalty) couldn't get them a lead, so they started head-hunting, cross-checking and diving. No group of loser players deserves the sad ending that awaits them in the playoffs more than this bunch of clowns. In a well-officiated league, there wouldn't be room for the Kesler and Burrows type players because they'd spend every second of icetime marching to the box; not to mention the Tanner Glass types. It is unbelievable that this squad gets away with what it does in the regular season. Thankfully in the playoffs the 20-man march to the penalty box will lead them to be punished on the score sheet. I really wish we'd let Steve MacIntyre loose on anyone and everyone after those 2 crosschecking penalties in the third. The only thing more satisfying than the win would have been if some joker like Kesler was listed as Out Indefinitely - Concussed for Acting Stupid on the IR after the game.
As for our squad, it was evident from the very start that our gameplan has been altered. I have not seen the Oilers play that simple of a game in a long time and I'm guessing the same was the case in Vancouver. You could see some glimpses of it vs. Calgary for a minute or two at a time, but save for about 5 mins of play tonight, our squad stuck with it. This plan consisted of getting the puck deep and providing some chase, a lot of very simple passing, and solid defence. This formula would really work most nights if we had a talented team. The only thing about seeing it that makes me sad is that I profoundly believe that Renney intentionally and possibly under direction from management, avoided playing this style for most of the year when we did indeed have talent in the lineup. We sure wouldn't be in last if we'd taken the approach we did tonight.
Our D was really solid as a unit out there. I'm honestly not sure how they did it considering that they were understaffed and just barely getting by, but everyone pulled their weight and then some out there tonight. It was very impressive to see a couple players step up and take real leadership roles this game. More on that as we go along...
The forwards were not amazing, but they made very few mistakes. Save for a few bad breaks (bouncing pucks on scoring chances and a post or two) they should have scored more than 2. They started off the game with a sustained series of solid offensive shifts and that set an early tone that Vancouver never did counter.
Tonight we proved you can shut down the Sedins. I don't care if they've got the President's Trophy...we played them close and physical behind the net, holding them to essentially one dangerous shift and long periods of invisibility. That was beautiful to see from a unit missing both Whitney and Gilbert. Borderline amazing actually.
- He was flawless and needed only one real break (the wobbly puck Kesler couldn't put in) to get this shutout. The highlight reel save he made in the second period with his toe was certainly a turning point in the game, as Vancouver grew increasingly frustrated and whiney after that point. Other than that he was simply in control, well-positioned, and did his best to see the puck all night. Some days, that's all it really takes to hang a 0 on the board.
- One of his best games easily. I can't remember him making not one, but two gorgeous offensive plays, even in some imaginary scenario on NHL 11. He made an amazing pick-off-to-backhand-pass play that resulted in a clean break and nearly a goal in the second period, then he made a nifty little kick play with the puck in the third. Combine that with only one real breakdown that I can recall and otherwise some truly solid defensive effort, and boy did he make a difference tonight. He also took a great shot and almost scored in the third, which is something you can almost never say.
- He battled through the rough patches and managed to have a decent enough game. There were times when he wobbled around his own zone and a nearly-fatal pinch play in the offensive zone, but somehow he survived this one unscathed. At the very least you couldn't question his effort and focus tonight. I'm a little surprised he didn't get more ornery though...tonight's the type of game I would've loved to have a functioning Souray. He woulda beaten on someone (or somethree).
- What a game from Theo. Somehow they only list him with two hits tonight but there was no way. He was really physical in the corners and beat on the Canucks to the point where it wore them down. When he wasn't hitting them, he was in their face, challenging them, and making solid plays with the puck or in good defensive position. He really stepped up in a big way on a night when they needed him to. It was very impressive.
- He calmed his game down significantly compared to what I've noticed lately. Where he was making mistakes with the puck before, he still is taking longer than before with the puck, but at least it went to our players and in the right direction tonight. He also made some hits and separation plays that he's been lacking lately. Didn't elevate like the others, but nearly back to where he was earlier.
- Another guy who stepped up big time. I loved the way he got into the scrum and got some shots in on Burrows in the second period. He didn't nail anyone with a huge, but he was a pain in the butt to play against. He was also calm and steady while puckhandling, but at the same time cut some of his usual skating adventures short to make the short and responsible passes that were part of the gameplan. Very good to see what he could make happen even when modifying his game.
- Didn't blow me away. He was the one guy who got caught out of position just as much as usual. He also missed the net at a couple of very key junctures when it just wasn't okay to fire wide. I don't understand how a guy who is supposed to be a shooter can miss so readily in a situation he has to understand. Also, he has a lethal slap pass, that can be a huge asset during a 5-on-3...
WAIT...WAIT A MINUTE...WE SCORED FIVE-ON-THREE!!!!!!!!! PLAN THE PARADE! WOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!
That was fun.
- Even though he missed a clear break so badly it might as well have been a dump-in...and even though he made most of the same mistakes as usual...at least he got a couple solid hits in and even advanced the puck a couple times. Fair enough I guess.
- Umm...he warmed that bench something fierce. I guess he was water boy tonight? Otherwise I don't understand why he wasn't on the ice after the liberties the Canucks took. Seriously...get out there and smash a star's face in.
- Linus was excellent tonight in a number of ways, but I'd really like those of you watching the highlights to focus in on the 2-0 goal. What he did there was truly outstanding; not only did he make that pass that he'd been working for for a while during that PP, but he made the pass in just such a way that he also leapt through and screened Paajarvi's shot...how do you even conceive of that in your head???? Can this guy ever play.
- Worked really really hard tonight; and skated miles up and down the ice. While I'd like him to take better shots some of the time, he did get away a couple great wristers and very much deserved the goal he finally got. He and Linus know what they're doing out there and work away until it happens. His work on the point wasn't that great, but it wasn't bad either. He had a rather unfortunate sequence in the warmup, where he tried to one-time shots from the faceoff circle...all were weak and only one hit the net. Clearly he needs to keep working on that area of his game.
- I think I've figured out why he's effective defensively (which came to the forefront on a couple great backchecks he made tonight) and that's because he has excellent gap control when the opposition takes the puck. Watch him closely next game when the puck comes to an opposition player in his area - he always gets in very close and at the very least is a hindrance with a stick or some minor physical contact. Most of the time he disrupts the play. In many ways he was the leader of a team-wide effort to put sticks, legs and anything else available in the shooting lanes all night. A couple deadly chances were averted this way. Individually, Hartikainen also laid a really nice hit, bulled over a guy who had him lined up, and created some solid offensive chances. This guy doesn't have to produce points to change a game. We need more like that. The thing is, surrounded by talent, he'll produce a ton of points. I'm almost hoping we draft Landeskog, because trotting him, Hartikainen and some other mean euro out there would be one of the most interesting lines in the entire league. Honorable, talented players who won't be trifled with. Beauty.
- Okay, we need to turn this guy into a hockey player. He played and faced off WAY above his weight class tonight and did an admirable job. With the puck and in the offensive zone, he made some mistakes, but we appear to have a larger and intelligent hockey player to work with here. That his teammates were also trying hard to set him up for a goal also speaks to what they think of him. I don't know if he makes the team next year right from the word go, but I think he's building some confidence. He played in some tough situations tonight and did some really nice things.
- He couldn't get it done around the net despite some truly great chances. This was really disappoint for fans of his like myself and I'm sure for Liam. He was always a talented offensive guy but has had to reshape his game in order to fit in the NHL; he doesn't seem to quite have the ability to calm the puck down and put it somewhere right now. It is almost as if his energetic play, which is usually his best asset, has made him jittery. There are times that he needs to remember his talent level and just finish. We'll see if he can. He's got some kids creeping up behind that are bigger than him and appear very interested in taking his job.
- Probably the most surprising guy coming up behind Reddox is this guy. I wasn't blown away by the visuals of his play tonight, which was surely solid and energetic, but the faceoffs combined with the hits combined with defending his teammate and just being all over the place apparently, really makes it clear that he's improving in a big way. He seems to get the NHL game and what's key to survival. I've always liked what I've seen from #42 at this level and that continues. I could see him as the #4 C to start next year; or as a supporting player at 13 or 14. It would make sense.
- What a play to make that first goal happen. We have so few players who would not only be able to calm themselves enough to gather the puck and take the time to turn around that late in a period, but to then make a little move and take a perfect shot between player and stick that deflects off your screening teammate? Amazing. What else is new. This kid's amazing. He kept leading in his on-ice play all night even though no more points came. He nearly scored another great break in goal much like the play against Calgary that was denied. That he got up after being run by Torres was a big relief. For those possibly not able to see on TV, he was up quick and appeared to have no wooziness at all. Very lucky, but also indicates that like Hall, he's built strongly.
- The thing I noticed about his game tonight was that he got himself open and got to a ton of loose pucks and breakout passes. This was aided by the simple approach to gameplan tonight that resulted in a bunch of plays that got behind the Canucks D, but wouldn't have been the same without Jones. He fit perfectly for the plan tonight. Gritty, tough, in your face and well positioned game that would have been better except for a couple bouncing pucks in the slot. His positioning has become stronger and stronger as the year has gone on. One thing Jones has always been able to do it seems, is learn more about the game. That's a big positive.
- It's kind of funny...I thought that all he really did tonight was lose the puck and mess up scoring chances. Clearly the coaches saw something else as he played an absolute ton of minutes tonight. I didn't see it...did anyone???
One last piece of game-experience commentary: Don't yell DOOOOOOOB. It sounds silly, and you're copying people like 'Nuck fan. Do you really want that? Come up with a chant or something; or just applaud. No boo-variants for our team.