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Canucks defence falls flat in opening game of 2012
Once again the dreaded shootout would decide the game, and again the Vancouver Canucks had their chances, including a shot that rang off the post by Ryan Kesler. But in the end it was Michal Handzus who beat Luongo with a chip shot over Luongo’s right pad that decided the game, and gave the Sharks the 3-2 win.
Vancouver - January 3, 2012 - First off, I would like to wish everybody a happy New Year, and all the best for the upcoming 12 months. Personally, I just got back from Las Vegas where I celebrated bringing in 2012 in typical Vegas fashion. After spending over a week in Sin City I was looking forward to returning home to see the Canucks take on the San Jose Sharks for the first game of the new year and tie the Chicago Blackhawks for the top spot overall in the Western Conference. I was disappointed to realize that the Canucks D felt like I did during the game: slow, sluggish, and prone to mental mistakes.
It took a while, but it looked like the Canucks were going to come out of the game with a win as they slowly started to gain momentum and get on the same page with each other, well in the first period anyway. Joe Thornton started out having a terrible game, largely due to karma coming back to kick him in the ass I suspect, as he made two poor decisions in his own zone to clear the puck, resulting in opportunities for the Canucks to capitalize, but no go as the Canucks just couldn’t beat Antii Niemi. The score remained tied at 0 until the Canucks got a little luck in their corner and scored on what was looking to be a botched 3 on 1 rush. As the Canucks entered the zone, they passed the puck one too many times until it landed on Jannik Hansen’s stick in the far right corner, but chose to shoot at an impossible angle anyway. The gamble payed off as he was able to deflect the shot off Shark defender Jamie McGinn who was in the crease. The Canucks ended the first period with a little bit of momentum on their side.
The Canucks luck ran out early in the second period as the Sharks pressed hard to start the period. It was either the Sharks were pressing hard, or the Canucks D decided to take a mental health break, either way it was a dismal period for the Canucks as they essentially lost the game in the second period. Early in the period, Kevin Bieksa took a shot off the leg and went down right beside the net allowing a wide open Benn Ferriero all the time in the world to score. Let’s try and give Bieksa a little credit on the play though as he did try to clear the puck away by flailing his stick at it as it bounced toward Ferriero!
Keith Ballard had a bad game, almost as bad as Thornton was having, because Keith couldn’t stop a blueline rush tonight if his life depended on it. More than once he was caught either flat-footed or on his rear end at the blueline, allowing a Shark attacker to get behind him with ease. And when Ballard did have position on a player, he didn’t stop the play from happening, as was the case with Patrick Marleau’s goal midway through the second period to give the Sharks the lead. Ballard had Marleau covered and seemingly out of the play. He had the body, but not the stick as Marleau was able to gather a rebound off Luongo’s pad and beat the Roberto to give the Sharks the lead. Yeesh!
It was turning out to see who was going to give up the biggest defensive gaffe of the game as both Joe Thornton and Keith Ballard were putting on blueline plays to be forgotten. More than once Thornton would cough up the puck during a clearing attempt to give the Canucks an opportunity to score, but couldn’t beat Niemi. As well on the other end, Ballard would reciprocate for the Canucks, but the attacking Sharks player wouldn’t be able to beat Luongo, who made some spectacular saves to try and keep the Canucks within striking distance of the Sharks.
Cody Hodgson, who did have a great game with all things considered tied the game up at 2 on the power play midway through the third period be beating Niemi to the low post. Hodgson also assisted on Hansen’s first period goal as well. The bottom line is the Canucks had their scoring opportunities, but just couldn’t capitalize on them whether it was because the shot was off the mark, hit a post, or because Niemi just happened to be at the right place at the right time.
Once again the dreaded shootout would decide the game, and again the Canucks had their chances, including a shot that rang off the post by Ryan Kesler. But in the end it was Michal Handzus who beat Luongo with a chip shot over Luongo’s right pad that decided the game, and gave the Sharks the 3-2 win.
Best part of the game was watching Jumbo “Jerk” Thornton follow up his glove in the face antics with some really bad decision making by giving the puck up in his own zone 3 times. Classic karma! Worst part of the game was watching the Canucks squander an opportunity to tie the Blackhawks for the Conference lead, especially seeing as the lowly Oilers were able to comfortably trounce the Hawks on their home ice last night.
No sense in crying over spilled milk, as the Canucks get another opportunity to take the top spot on Wednesday as they face the quickly sinking Minnesota Wild. Let’s hope the hangover from the New Year’s party is long gone for the Canucks D by then!
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