In a game that featured two teams struggling to score, it was Anaheim's trio of Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, and Corey Perry that emerged victorious with a combined 7 points in a 4-3 win over Vancouver. The Ducks entered their home opener 0-3, heavily outshot and outscored. After a lambasting by coach Randy Carlyle in this morning's practise, the Ducks responded appropriately, taking advantage of odd-man rushes and scoring chances while the Canucks failed to capitalize on theirs. While the highlight reel goals may suggest otherwise, this was actually a game in which both teams went through stretches of poor play and silly mistakes.
Just 36 seconds into the first period Peter Schaefer put the Canucks on their heels with a hooking call despite a flurry of shots by the Canucks to start the game. Alain Vigneault clearly wanted the Canucks to keep firing at the net but Schaefer's penalty gave the Ducks a good opportunity to get their offense going. Another bad penalty, this time by Ryan Kesler, put the Ducks on a 5-on-3 advantage and while the Canucks managed to kill off Schaefer's penalty they couldn't complete the job and the Ducks capitalized first with a powerplay goal by Getzlaf assisted by Ryan and rookie Cam Fowler, who looks like he'll be staying the entire season. The Ducks are talented but struggling and if you give them opportunities they will capitalize. Getzlaf and Ryan needed to get on the scoresheet and Randy Carlyle needed a good start.
<img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/getty/5c/fullj.d55ad3c38bce204c0c1f5881e883fa63/d55ad3c38bce204c0c1f5881e883fa63-getty-102832475rr028_vancouver_ca.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Daniel Sedin tied it moments later on a beautiful cross-ice feed from Henrik and just 17 seconds later Raffi Torres netted his first as a Canuck on a deflection. With 16 shots in the first period it seemed like the Ducks were well on their way to another shellacking and the Canucks' secondary scoring finally putting it together but it was just a tease. While many were commending Torres on his goal and his fight against Sheldon Brookbank in response to a open-ice hit from behind on Schaefer, I thought it was an absolutely terrible time to pick a fight. I appreciate the fact that Torres was protecting his teammate but it was a relatively harmless hit and it certainly didn't warrant an instigator that put the Canucks on the penalty kill again. Putting your team on the PK when you've just gotten the lead is a sure-fire way to kill any sort of momentum you've just built. Torres was barely visible for the rest of the game.
The Ducks pulled even on a Teemu Selanne powerplay snipe after Kevin Bieksa was called for slashing when he broke Perry's stick in half. Bieksa's decision-making has drawn the ire of many but I don't think he's really at fault for this one. He didn't touch a single hair on Perry's body and today's sticks snap like twigs anyway. I think it was a unlucky call and to pin this mistake on Bieksa is unfair. But it is what it is and Bieksa allowed the Ducks to tie it up at 2. That's fine because there's still plenty of hockey left to play but I imagine what irks people more is that Bieksa didn't do anything to redeem himself. I thought it was interesting that he was the assistant captain on the road and not at home where I imagine Vancouver's critical fans wouldn't hesitate to lambaste him.
Christian Ehrhoff's powerplay marker on a phantom hooking call on Ryan early in the third seemed to have iced the game but then the Canucks started to sit back a little. There was little urgency in their play and the second line duo of Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond has yet to generate any significant offensive opportunities. Each player finished with 3 shots but none of them were particularly dangerous. A strange ricochet off the glass and the top of Jonas Hiller's net left the Canucks stunned for a moment which led to an odd-man rush in which Perry scored his first of the season. Bieksa was left to defend three Ducks players but instead of remaining in position he decided to chase the puck instead which left Perry wide-open on the right side of the net for an easy tap-in.
<img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/getty/5b/fullj.9cc043dd69cf4516e2237a78e7b3e4d5/9cc043dd69cf4516e2237a78e7b3e4d5-getty-102832475rr030_vancouver_ca.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">The most controversial call, or non-call, in this case, came from Ryan's game-winner. Leading the breakout and carrying the puck through the neutral zone, Ryan poked the puck away from Henrik towards Getzlaf who skated down towards the net on a 3-on-1 and passed it back to Ryan for an easy goal. The problem with that play was that there was supposed to be a penalty on the Ducks. When Ryan jumped over the boards and touched the puck, Matt Beleskey, the player coming off for Ryan, still had his two skates on the ice. It was a too many men call that was completely missed by veteran referee Stephen Walkom and Justin St. Pierre. Still, the truth is the Canucks' offense just didn't look very dangerous and failed to capitalize on a few key chances. The offense the Canucks boasted last year still hasn't shown up.
This is the first game that I've kept a close eye on Keith Ballard (playing his 400th NHL game) and I really like what I saw. I have always been a fan since his Florida Panther days but I got a good look at him tonight and the guy plays with an edge. He's not afraid to hit and not afraid to jump up on the play which is why some people have prompted comparisons to Ed Jovanovski. Ballard doesn't quite have the same offensive talents but when and if Bieksa gets traded he may be the only defenseman on our roster that has a mean streak. Early on in the game Roberto Luongo was run over by Perry and then given a snow shower by Dan Sexton but nobody responded. It's the same story as last year. Opposing teams take liberties and take runs at Luongo while the Canucks' defensemen just sort of stand around and look at Walkom for a call. It can't work that way. The Canucks need to play with an edge and protect the goalie when necessary. Ballard certainly does that.
Each year, Mike Gillis brings in a new crop of bottom six forwards and every time the Canucks fail to go deep into the playoffs a new bottom six is brought in. This year's group includes free agent veterans Manny Malhotra and Schaefer and rookie Guillaume Desbiens. Given the performance of the bottom six tonight (and the team in general) the Canucks have no shot at going deep. Torres started off great but did his disappearing act. The usually physical Tanner Glass was invisible. Rick Rypien is not a NHL-level face-off guy. Schaefer can be easily replaced with a faster, grittier option. Desbiens, try as he might, and God knows he's worked hard to get here, unfortunately just doesn't bring enough to the table to last in this league.
While it is still early in the season, Kesler and Raymond have yet to register a single point. They had a good outing against Florida but were stymied by Tomas Vokoun. Kesler has a team-high 8 missed shots. I have a feeling he's trying to do too much on offense. I have yet to see him create turnovers with his speed and puck pursuit like he did so many times last year in his Selke-nominated season. He needs to do what he does best. Kesler has just two takeaways thus far this season while his biggest Selke rival, Pavel Datsyuk, already has six.
The Canucks face the Kings next in LA Friday night. Luongo wasn't particularly sharp tonight but he wasn't bad either and he will obviously start against the Kings in a key match-up. Alain Vigneault has said that he will go to Luongo as long as he has the hot hand, but with a quick one-game homestand (Carolina, 17th) and then two big back-to-back games on the 19th (Minnesota) and 20th (Chicago) on the road, I am curious as to what Vigneault will do. Of the next four games the Carolina game may be the easiest and more insignificant than the rest since the other three are against conference rivals so I imagine that's the game we will be seeing Cory Schneider for the first time this season.