Vancouver - Dec. 22, 2011 - Two evenly matched teams with explosive firepower faced off tonight at Rogers Arena, and only one could emerge victorious at the end of 60 minutes, and it didn’t take long for the Canucks to serve notice that it was going to be them. This game could have gone either way, as it usually does when these two teams meet, but it was the “not so super stars” of the Canucks that started the momentum going for the home team and carried it through until the end for a 4-2 win over the Red Wings.
Almost three minutes into the game, Burrows coughed up the puck to Wings Johan Franzen who passed the puck to a waiting Bertuzzi in front of the net forcing Luongo to make a point blank save on Todd’s shot, and from there on in it was Luongo who set the bar on what kind of game he was going to have. And that game in a nutshell would be a fantastic one, as he went on to face 40 shots from the Wings snipers and stopped all but two. Yes, Luongo made a statement against the Red Wings, and that statement was that he is back and will face all comers!
The Canucks figured out early how to beat the Wings defensive strategy and exploited it midway through the first period to take a 2-0 lead. The Canucks figured that if they couldn’t take the puck through the defense, they would pass it past them instead and it worked to perfection as Chris Higgins opened the scoring at 9:36 by banging in Mason Raymond’s rebound to beat Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard. The Play all started with a clearing pass from Kevin Bieksa to Raymond at the center line, who with his speed was able to close in on Howard fast. Howard was able to stop the initial shot, but the trailing Higgins has an easy goal as Howard was out of position.
With the score 1-0, you could hear the Canuck bus engine rumbling to life when 21 seconds later Cody Hodgson stepped on the gas pedal and absolutely blasted a bomb past Howard to make it 2-0. Again, it was the long pass that enabled Hodgson to get behind the Wings defense and get a clean shot off on their goalie. This time it was Jannik Hansen who delivered the perfect pass to Cody who beat Howard out from 30 feet.
Midway through the opening period, it was 2-0 Canucks over the always tough Detroit Red Wings. Surprising? Maybe not as surprising, or surprised as newbie Dale Weise was late in the period as he found himself in the Wings zone with the Sedin twins pouring the pressure on! Weise is no Burrows, but he held his own with the Sedins and looked pretty comfortable cycling the puck with masters!
As I said before, Luongo had an excellent game, and was for the most part unbeatable in the game. The two pucks that got past him definitely weren’t his fault, especially the first Wings goal scored by none other the Big Bert. Luongo could have stopped that shot easily if Sami Salo, his own defenseman hadn’t have knocked him down in the crease. By the time Luongo knew where the puck was, which after Salo got off him, it was on it’s way into the net. In Sami’s defense though, it was Bertuzzi who manhandled Sami into Luongo. The moral of the story here is, and always has been that when dealing with a guy like Bertuzzi, you’d better be big and strong because Todd is essentially a brick shithouse, and to move him out of the way requires a bulldozer! Just ask Alexander Edler who tried to muscle Bertuzzi away from Luongo in a later play, and ended up with his pride, and butt on the ice! With the score 2-1 for the Canucks, the Arena came alive again with the call of “Sedin, Sedin, to Burrows, SCORE!” as Alexandre redirected Daniel’s shot past Howard at the side of the net to put the Canucks up 3-1 at 15:40 of the first period.
The game had more than a few “WTF” moments, like the fact that neither team had a power play opportunity in the first period. But the most memorable one will be Daniel Sedin’s “Header” of the puck into the Wings zone from just outside the blueline. I guess all that soccer playing the players do before the game really does pay off! That play will be on the highlight reels for some time to come!
The only other puck to get by Luongo was a deflection by Drew Miller that beat him under the glove. Nobody could have stopped that one as Miller was 4 feet from Luongo has he deflected it. No matter though, as the Canucks still held a 3-2 lead with no sign of bending under the Wings attacks. With 1:24 left in the second period, Kevin Bieksa takes the first penalty of the game as he hooked Henrik Zetterberg. With only 1:24 left, Andrew Alberts became a human wrecking ball during his shift to close out the period as he was hitting everything in white. It was a good, physical penalty kill for the boys in blue to end the period. The unsung heroes of the period were Weise, Lappierre, and Andrew Ebbett playing in his first game since breaking his foot early in the season. These three played a no nonsense, in your face lunch bucket type of game for the Canucks tonight. Ebbett even had 3 shots on Howard to boot.
The third period started out chippy and it began on a brutal body check by Niklas Kronwall on Ryan Kesler as he was leaving the Canucks zone. Ryan Kesler got the only penalty on the scrum with a roughing call. Go figure? It doesn’t matter in the end because 15 seconds later Alexander Edler scored a shorty when he followed up on Jannik Hansen’s shot to beat Howard, who incidentally was in the net, with Jannik Hansen thanks to Zetterberg’s help in getting him there! With Jannik driving hard to the net, Zetterberg applied the ‘ol forearm shove directing Hansen into the goaltender, which left Edler a wide open net to shoot at. The goal stood, as it should have, but unlike Kesler who took a roughing penalty for retaliating against Kronwall for his hit, Howard got off scott free for his retaliating on Hansen. Oh well, the goal counted and that is punishment enough.
With the score 4-2, the frustration really started to take over the game as the rough stuff continued and uncalled. Bieksa labeled Valtteri Filppula in front of the bench, and Ryan Kesler played like he had a score to settle against ANY Red Wing. He was hitting and banging anything that had a wing on it and was breathing, including a cheap shot knee to Zetterberg’s thigh midway through the period.
Luongo made some crucial late period saves including a lightning fast glove save on a Pavel Datsyuk shot with 4 minutes left in the game. The final 5 minutes of the game was essentially spent entirely in the Canucks zone with the Red Wings pressing hard to chip into the Canucks lead, Luongo held the fort and denied the Wings. With less than a minute to go and Daniel Sedin sitting in the box for tripping and Howard on the bench, Luongo stared down the Wings 6 on 4 onslaught and put his stamp of ownership on the visitors by keeping the score 4-2.
The way the Canucks play the Red Wings is just plain simple good, entertaining hockey. Fast action from end to end and from puck drop to final buzzer. There simply is not a more entertaining rivalry! The way both of these play, any time a play skates into the opposing zone, it very well could be a scoring play. You just never know, because both of these teams have the firepower to turn an average clearing play into a great scoring play. It’s just plain old entertaining hockey, you know the way the Calgary Flames used to play the Canucks! Remember the good old days when the Flames used to be a contender? Speaking of which, they will be in town on Friday to get their pre-Christmas beating! Should be fun.
Word to Minnesota and Chicago. You see that bright light that’s coming up behind you fast in the standings? It’s the Canuck Bus, and they are rolling on through. Its best if you get out of the way!