first_imgLeigh Ramsden lives in Vancouver and is an avid Canucks fan, having been a partial season ticket holder for over 10 years. He’s old enough to have witnessed all three Stanley Cup losses, as such, his prime goal is to remove those scars by seeing a Cup brought to Vancouver. Leigh is Fighting For Stanley’s (www.fightingforstanley.ca/vancouver) west coast correspondent, and will also blog after all Canuck games for The Nelson Daily. Also, I thought that before the season started, NHL head office decreed that players giving a goaltender a needless snow shower would be assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.  This clearly happened to Schneider tonight, but no call was made.Broadcast Observation of the Day:  Two items of note tonight:  First, I was wholly unimpressed at Shorthouse’s attempted revival/homage of Jim Robson’s famous call after game 6 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final, when while referring to Trevor Linden, he proclaimed “He’ll play, you know he’ll play… he’ll play on crutches if he has to.”  Shorthouse attempted this one before the game in reference to Henrik… and it just didn’t come off very well.  Something like that should be saved for a really important game, not an early-February divisional game.Also, again, Garrett delivered a great little story about how the old rink in Minnesota back in the WHA days had clear glass boards.  I had never heard of that, and found it quite amazing to think that would have been the case.  Garrett was pointing out that as a goalie, it was next to impossible to pick the puck up without the white background of the boards.  I found this web page with a writeup of the old St. Paul Civic Center, and it contains a picture which shows the clear boards – very unique!Looking ahead: Vancouver travels to Calgary to face the motivated Flames on Saturday night. With his team down 5-2, and with less than a minute to play, he decided to ice forward Brad Staubitz, who is the Wild’s tough guy.  Staubitz went after Edler with a clean check, however, then decided to give rookie Cody Hodgson a cheap shot on the way by. In the ensuing scrum, Lapierre was assessed a five minute major for spearing along with a game misconduct.  In a post-game interview, Lapierre stated he was merely trying to lift his stick, and that he didn’t think his stick even made contact with the Wild player.  Replays support his version of the story, although I can see how maybe a two minute minor could have been assessed.  Expect the league to reverse this game misconduct upon review tomorrow morning.At the next whistle, Wild pest Cal Clutterbuck decided to “square off” with Dan Hamhuis of all people.  This actually led to one of the funnier things I have seen in a long time – Kevin Bieksa, tied up by a linesman in front of the net, did the only thing he could, which was throw his glove at Clutterbuck!  Unfortunately, it hit Hamhuis in the back.  He was immediately assessed a ten minute misconduct for his trouble.  This was a very amusing moment.All in all, Yeo was silly tonight.  I know he must be frustrated with his team, but throwing out guys like Staubitz at the end of what was a one-sided game is a very schoolyard tactic. There’s a time and place to put your tough guys out but at the end of a game when you’re down by three on home ice is not that time nor place. As John Garrett pointed out on the telecast, Brad Staubitz played only 6:39 tonight, so Yeo put him out in the last minute?  An earlier shift saw Staubitz attempting to goad Bitz into a fight as well, who declined.Anyway – I don’t really know what Yeo was trying to prove, but whatever it was, it didn’t work.  His team is in a tailspin (now 5-14-5 in their last 24 games) and they aren’t coming out of it – and trying to “act tough” against the Canucks is not going to change anything in the standings. VIGNEAULT SPREADS ICE TIME OUT, TEAM PLAYS BETTERAlain Vigneault has changed his lines up the last couple of times out.  As I mentioned, tonight he stuck with the lines from the third period of the Nashville game. This meant the lines were Sedin-Sedin-Bitz, Kesler-Burrows-Booth, Malhotra-Hansen-Raymond, and Hodgson-Lapierre-Duco.  Also of note, Keith Ballard was a late scratch with some neck issues, so Andrew Alberts drew into the lineup on the third pairing with Aaron Rome.One thing that struck me tonight was that AV seemed to really balance the ice time, more so that he has done for most of the year.  The Sedin line only played 12 minutes at even strength, approximately the same amount as the Malhotra and Hodgson lines. All four lines were effective tonight, which has been a rare occurrence of late.  In addition, the third defensive pairing of Alberts and Rome also played an equal amount of minutes as the other pairings.  All in all, it was a very balanced game for the team, and they responded with a very good overall effort.  It was a nice change from the coach. As I’ve mentioned before, AV is going to need to be comfortable using all the lines in the playoffs if the team is going to be successful.GM Mike Gillis has done a considerable amount of work upgrading his bottom-six forwards.  To my chagrin, Vigneault seems hesitant to use these players – I think the team is better when everyone is involved and getting in on the action.  Tonight, however, was a different story, and I hope that AV learned something tonight. PARTING SHOTSQuick comments:  Minnesota’s top line of Koivu-Heatley-Setoguchi was dangerous all night.  Unfortunately for the Wild, they were the only line that displayed any level of skill whatsoever. The Vancouver Canucks continued their road trip on Thursday night, paying a visit to the Xcel Energy Center to face the Minnesota Wild in a Northwest Division tilt.  Vancouver was full value for a 5-2 win.The Canucks gave up a goal just 13 seconds into the game, failing to score first in for the first time in their last 13 road games.  Alex Edler, who had a pedestrian first period, stood still at his own blue line while Devin Setoguchi pushed the puck past him, where Dany Heatley skated in on Canuck goaltender Cory Schneider and scored to give the home side the early lead.After that, the game was all Canucks.  Vancouver scored twice before the first period was done, Daniel Sedin scoring on a 5 on 3 power play, and Max Lapierre shoveling home the puck after a scramble in front of Minnesota netminder Niklas Backstrom.  The Canucks were the better team in the first period.Henrik Sedin then scored 50 seconds into the second period, converting a beautiful backhand saucer pass from new linemate Byron Bitz.  The balance of the second period featured the Canucks consistently frustrating the Wild, limiting their offensive opportunities.  It was the first time in recent memory that the Canucks have “won” the second.The third period featured chippy play as the Canucks scored again to extend the lead to 4-1, after a nice deflection by Manny Malhotra.  The goal came against the run of play, as the Wild had ramped up their level as the Canucks went out to play a “good road period” with a two goal lead. Minnesota got to within two when Setoguchi scored on a late power play, before Ryan Kesler put the Wild out of their misery with an empty-netter.  The shots actually wound up in Minnesota’s favour, 24-20, but this does not tell the story of the game.Vancouver was never threatened in this contest.  Although they spotted the Wild a 1-0 advantage right off the hop, the Canucks just played their game and created enough offense to get back out in front. More importantly, the Canucks were very responsible in their own end.  Schneider played well, but did not have to deal with any odd-man rushes or other crazy gaffes by the team in front of him. Vigneault stuck with his line combinations from the third period of the Nashville game, with the exception that Mike Duco was recalled in Dale Weise’s absence and played alongside Lapierre and Hodgson. MINNESOTA RESORTS TO SCHOOLYARD TACTICSMinnesota coach Mike Yeo, who must have been frustrated given his post-game comments, embarrassed himself late in the third period.  NHL officiating continues to be a problem.  I try not to complain about it too much, but sometimes the decisions made are baffling.  Tonight, Bitz received a penalty for goaltender inference when he was clearly pushed into Backstrom by a Wild defenseman; his skates were turned sideways as he was trying to stop.  Also, the decisions at the end of the game were also suspect. If you’d like a humorous look at the Bieksa glove-toss, see this recap and video posted at the Legion of Blog.  Pay special attention to Bieksa’s post-game quote, it’s hilarious.center_img Bitz continued to impress.  His pass to Henrik was a thing of beauty, as he saucered it over the defenseman’s stick.  His skating looked better tonight as well.  If he continues to play well, he provides a nice option as a Sedin linemate. Henrik’s consecutive game streak was in doubt after suffering a deep bone bruise in his foot after blocking a shot in the last game.  He played the game and looked no worse for wear.  He and his brother appeared to continue their slow climb out of their slump, each registering a goal tonight. Lapierre and Clutterbuck fought early in the third period.  Lapierre is now tied for the team lead in fights with Dale Weise. Minnesota played very chippy and were constantly trying to push, prod, annoy, or fight the Canucks.  This isn’t a tactic that we have seen from recent Wild teams, and I’m not sure why they started now.  They do better as the Minnesota Mild than the Minnesota Wild.last_img

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