There were some serious storylines going into Tuesday’s game against Montreal.
The Canadiens were looking to start their season 10-0-0 and be only the third team in NHL history to do it, while the Canucks were staring at a 0-2-3 record at home – having not won a single game at Rogers Arena so far.
This was a common sentiment.
— Angi Cividino (@acividino12) October 28, 2015
There was doubt, though. The Habs were completely outplayed on Saturday by the Leafs, and many felt if they played like that against Vancouver, they’d be done for.
Meanwhile, after surrendering a 2-0 lead to Detroit Sunday, their third third-period meltdown, the Canucks were hungry.
Trevor Linden spoke about how pleased he’s been with the team’s defence and goaltending Tuesday morning, but he admitted there was one glaring problem: “Up front we’re still trying to find the right mix. We’re generating enough chances, we’re just not converting.”
Chris Higgins spoke about the third period problems earlier in the day as well.
“It seems like we’re just hoping to win in the third and just trying to get through the last 20 minutes,” he said. “If you’re not spending time in the offensive zone with the puck, it’s just a matter of time until they’ll find a way to score.”
Against Montreal, they kept pressing after taking a 3-0 lead into the third, scoring two more goals to put away the 5-1 win.
— Snoop (@snoopWORLDorder) October 28, 2015
No need to tell you that through eight games, all everyone was talking about was the lack of playing time for Jared McCann, Jake Virtanen and Sven Baertschi. On Sunday, Baertschi and Virtanen played under seven minutes each.
Trevor Linden, speaking on TSN Radio Tuesday, attempted to explain coach Desjardins’ decisions, while telling fans the team was listening.
“Willie’s intentions are to play these kids more. Every coach, when you get into that third period and it’s 2-2, it’s so tight you naturally go to what you think will give you your best chance to win.”
Jim Benning looked to agree with Linden and the general population on the ice time issue.
Benning on the big club – “I really like the kids, Willie is going to play the kids more tonight.” #Canucks
— Irfaan Gaffar (@sportsnetirf) October 28, 2015
The result? Virtanen and Baertschi played about 14 minutes each, and McCann played 11.
Easier to do that when you’re up a couple of goals, of course, but that cushion was largely due to playing McCann in the first place.
Prediction: Sven Baertschi is going to be this year’s Zack Kassian.
Meaning he’ll be the most-talked-about, enigmatic player on the team.
Linden on the team’s issues with him: “Sven had a great summer, he worked hard. He got stronger and fitter, but we need to see more out of Sven, no question. We need him to be harder on the puck and more aggressive on the offensive side of it.”
Baertschi’s got tons of promise. His hands are something else, and the way he dances with the puck – haven’t seen anything like it since Kyle Wellwood.
Desjardins spoke about what he and Bo Horvat have to do during his pre-game appearance on TSN Radio: “The key to their game is speed. I think when they’re both skating, good things happen.”
He was “skating” before Luca Sbisa’s goal – meaning he was all over Montreal’s offensive end, eventually dishing the puck to Sbisa.
Thing is, he also had some of those soft on the puck moments that are creating the Who is Sven Baertschi problem in the first place. Here he is being manhandled by P.K. Subban behind the Canadiens’ net.
While they might have never heard of Jake Virtanen before the game, Habs fans won’t soon forget his name.
He led both teams with seven hits.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) October 28, 2015
To put that in perspective: the next-highest hits total in the game was Sbisa’s four.
Sure, he was near the bottom of forwards in corsi, but he set a tone with the way he was laying the body. Pretty sure Benning and Desjardins will take hits over corsis anyday, when deciding who’s on this team.
Dan Hamhuis was out with an injury, meaning Matt Bartkowski was back in. The Canucks drew up new defensive pairings before the game – one with a Halloween theme.
If you didn’t get why 5-44 has a Halloween theme, it’s because it was put together to spook us.
Well, maybe that wasn’t Desjardins’ intention. But if it was, it worked.
This gif was made possible by a Bartkowski rush up the ice where he ended up behind Carey Price’s net… probably not the best idea leaving Sbisa behind like that.
Bartkowski and Sbisa were minus-4 and minus-5 respectively in corsi – near the bottom of the team.
Meanwhile, Yannick Weber led the team at plus-5, and his partner Ben Hutton wasn’t far behind at plus-3.
So that great pairing will probably be broken up soon.
Chris Higgins provided an update on his foot injury this morning:
“It feels like it’s good now,” he said. “I can’t play until the 30th, so shortly after that we’ll make the decision.”
Speaking only a few minutes later, Trevor Linden was asked about Higgins status: “He’s a bit away.”
Sounds to me like Linden’s trying to buy some time.
That “can’t play until the 30th” was also a little fishy, so I had our news team do a little research. Intrepid reporter Rob the Hockey Guy determined the October 30 game is the 11th game of the Canucks season, meaning Higgins was likely placed on LTIR without anyone knowing.
If he was, it means there was no need to ever place Frankie Corrado on waivers and lose him to the Leafs…
No wonder the team kept the LTIR assignment quiet.
Not done with Higgins yet, he had a couple zingers during his interview. He was asked why he shaved his beard – his response:
“I’m hoping I look younger. I feel like that’s what the organization’s looking for.”
Higgins also commented on how the team hasn’t created a water bottle with his picture on it:
“I didn’t get a water bottle – there’s Burrows, Edler, Henrik – I’ve been here for a couple years.”
He was laughing when he said it, FYI.
With former Canuck Dale Weise back in town, the Tron Army held a Dale Weise photoshap contest.
— Embrace the hate (@hockeyplicity) October 28, 2015
We haven’t forgotten how highly Weise thought of himself.
— ALWAYS90FOUR (@Always90four) October 28, 2015
— Dave (@YLWNucksFan) October 28, 2015
And now we might never.
— Embrace the hate (@hockeyplicity) October 28, 2015
This is a masterpiece, though.
— ZoSo (@ZoSoNuck) October 28, 2015
Note: Thanks very much to Ryan Biech for his help with the gifs tonight. If you’re interested in Canucks’ prospects, make sure you follow him: @ryanbiech