It didn’t take very long in last night’s game between the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks to realize the ‘Nucks were in the Christmas spirit of giving. The Flames had what Coach Vigneault likes to call four Grade A scoring opportunities in the first six minutes of the game. If not for Roberto Luongo’s sparkling saves, this game could have easily been 2-0 for the hard working Flames who, by the way, had played the night before.
This is what Coach Vigneault had to say about the game. “Shocked!” “We all saw it – we were just terrible. I have no other way to put it.”
To say the Canucks came out flat would be like saying it rains in Vancouver during the winter. Before anyone starts ringing accolades for the Detroit game two nights ago, let’s remember that the Canucks have been playing this way since the Montreal game on their most recent road trip.
The Canucks’ poor play in the opening periods has only been masked by Luongo’s game saving stops, and the sometimes opening goal by his team-mates. This time though, you could see that the Flames were not only the better team, but wanted it more, and the Canucks were all about giving it to them.
The only event that the Canucks had a draw on was the fight between Flames Tom Kostopoulos and Canucks Kevin Bieksa – after only three seconds from the drop of the puck. If you think back to last year, you will remember that it was Kostopoulos who got the better of Bieksa in a fight which left Kevin with a black eye. You knew that at some point, whether it was last season or this, Bieksa would be looking for a rematch.
You would have thought that the fight would have ignited the Canucks, but instead it was the Flames that went on to out-shoot the ‘Nucks 13-6 in that period, and out-chance them also. There was no push back, puck support, down low coverage, or any other facet of the game that the Canucks were better at.
As the second period got underway the Canucks came out with a bit more urgency but it was Calgary once again that played harder and out-shot them 11-7. It was Luongo that kept the Flames from scoring and with three minutes left, it was pretty obvious who was winning the one-on-one battles, as the Canucks had only 12 shots-on-goal. The only reason the Canucks still had a chance of possibly winning was because of Luongo, and really no one else.
You sure couldn’t blame Luongo for the first Flames goal, as Bieksa didn’t pick up his man and decided he would help his partner Dan Hamhuis, who didn’t need it, and left a streaking Curtis Glencross all alone to beat Luongo. Calgary’s second goal was a bad one, going between the pads of Luongo from a shot he would have stopped nine out of ten times – but you can’t expect the outcome of a game to depend on one goaltender’s mistake.
After Hamhuis drew the Canucks to within a goal, they decided to turn up their intensity level but ran up against Flames goalie Leland Irving, who played outstanding in his first NHL win. For any of you that follow the Vancouver Giants of the WHL, you would remember Irving who played for the Everett Silvertips. We fans were always on him with the O-I-V-I-N-G, O-I-V-I-N-G chant.
On this night though, Irving was better than Luongo by a goal, or one more save. Good on him, because he deserved the win, but Luongo on this night deserved better than the performance of the Canucks team – that produced a lump of coal on the tenth day of Christmas.
Ice Chips: You don’t think those ten Detroit hits that Alex Edler received the other night took their toll? Edler, who played despite back spasms, appeared to have no energy and was not in the mood to be taking any more punishment from the Flames. He finished with a minus 2, as did his partner Sami Salo, who looks like he could use a few more games off just to recharge his battery.
I’ll bet my season tickets that Salo is playing with a groin that is one good tweak away from a major injury.
The targeting of any team’s best D-man by the opposition goes back as far as hockey has been around – but with today’s bigger, faster, players the punishment wears the defense down over an 82 game schedule. I’ve started to keep track the number of hits during a game on certain Canucks D-men, and the D-men as a unit. Last night the Canucks defense was hit 13 times out of the total 30 delivered.
Keith Ballard, who had been out due to back spasms (a lot of that going around) pronounced himself fit to play before the game, but Coach Vigneault decided to give Ballard a few more days of rest and Alex Sulzer played instead.
Photo Credits – AP, Getty Images, Google Images and Yahoo Sports!
Video Credits – YouTube
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Filed under: Vancouver Canucks