After losing three games in a row and scoring two goals through the stretch, the Canucks needed more than a hug to make them feel good. They needed goals and a win and a reason to smile again. They needed to get back to playing how they were earlier this season, or maybe four years ago.
Kevin Bieksa, ripped by media and fans lately, went back to his younger, hard-nosed self. He took it upon himself to light the spark, fighting Wayne Simmons three minutes into the game.
We’ll talk about whether that made a difference later, but the Canucks won 4-0 over a tired Flyers team that played on Wednesday.
Really, everyone but Zack Kassian – who watched from the pressbox – was happy.
1. New forward lines
With the Canucks scoring 15 goals over their last 13 games, Willie Desjardins finally finally made some significant changes to his forward lines. (Seriously, it took him long enough).
#Canucks lines in warm-up: 22-33-17/20-15-14/ 27-13-7/51-53-36 23-8/18-3/5-6 & 30
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) January 15, 2015
Brad Richardson played with Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins, Nick Bonino played with Shawn Matthias and Linden Vey, and we were left to wonder how Desjardins ranked them. He’s shown so much love to Dorsett lately that some thought the Horvat line might play the most minutes. (OK, no one thought that)
The TOI numbers were quite surprising.
The Sedin line and Higgins-Richardson-Burrows were pretty much equal, hovering around 16 minutes each. This was probably because the Canucks were up 4-0 early in the second, and had no need to exhaust the top line.
Meaning Richardson is now the Canucks #2 centre. Kassian leaves, and the third line gets a playmaking centre? Welcome to the life of Zack Kassian.
Each of the now bottom-six guys were around 13 minutes each.
2. And the winning line is…
Overall, the best line at even strength (in Corsi stats) was Bonino’s. He took a time machine back to the first month of the season, scoring a pretty goal which you can see in #3.
The Sedin line had a rennaissance night on the power play, too, as they scored a pretty goal and had more chances on it later. Considering how much criticism they’ve been under lately, they should be given credit for how they played with the man advantage.
At the end of the game, the most noticable forward was not an entire line – it was Alex Burrows. He led corsi stats at even strength and including power play time. He also had an assist on Hank’s power-play goal. Burr was back in 2011 mode.
3. Bonino’s beauty
Bonino made a strong argument that he responds when a message is sent, scoring this after being sent to the third line.
Bonino goes straight Denis Savard. GTFO…. That’s straight Highlight of the night right there! #VCBcanucks
— Mike S.™ (@Mike_Stefanuk) January 16, 2015
Pretty much, Mike.
4. Bieksa sparks his team
Here’s the Bieksa-Simmonds fight.
The Canucks’ Twitter account asked the question.
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) January 16, 2015
PITB would argue fighting has no effect on a game.
— Pass it to Bulis (@passittobulis) January 16, 2015
While Taj thinks otherwise.
— Taj (@taj1944) January 16, 2015
Alex Burrows was asked about Bieksa’s fight by TSN 1040 during the first intermission.
“Kevin is one of our leaders… He steps up for all his teammates and makes sure he sets the tone for everybody that we’re going to be ready to play, and he did a great job against a really good fighter.”
Truth is, you can’t know if Bieksa set the tone and made a difference or not. But you can’t argue that players can inspire each other by playing hard. Bieksa, who has been deflating his team with bad giveaways and sloppy plays lately, decided to do something within his control. He showed he was going to play hard-nosed hockey.
You draw your own conclusions.
5. Big tweets
Truest tweet of the game:
#canucks have scored 4 goals in Lack’s last 4 starts, and 4 goals in this game. Amazed that I’ve seen people blame Lack and say he sucks
— Turtle (@_Twurtle) January 16, 2015
Strangest troll job:
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) January 16, 2015
Say it aint so:
This game can’t be real. Kassian will never play again. #Canucks
— Mike Winsemann (@MikeWinsemann) January 16, 2015
— ALWAYS90FOUR (@Always90four) January 16, 2015
And theory of the night:
#Canucks Why couldn’t they play like this in the last couple games? Did they all get colon cleanses or something?
— Shanninina1 (@Shanninina1) January 16, 2015
If that’s the way you get rid of the flu, it might actually be true. (and I hope I never get the flu again)
6. Jim Robson ruminates
An interview with broadcasting legend Jim Robson was played on TSN 1040 during the first intermission. Pratt and Jake, who conducted the interview, asked him what his clearest memory from the ’94 Finals run was. Good story:
“The Canucks went into a three-nothing lead and then the Rangers came back and tied it. Tom Larscheid and I had the worst broadcast conditions ever. I went to Mr. Bettman and complained, but it was on deaf ears – they couldn’t care less. We were up in the stands, people all around us. People in front of us would stand up – we couldn’t see the ice. If we stood up the people behind us told us to sit down, and the first game we didn’t even have a TV monitor.
Anyway, there was four big guys in front of us wearing Ranger sweaters and when the Rangers tied it at three, I think it was Messier that tied it, they all stood up and turned around with their fists right in our faces and said, ‘We’re gonna get you now!’ They’d been listening to us all series.
The next shift, you might remember, Pavel Bure made a rink-wide pass from the right boards to Dave Babych crossing the blue line on the left side. From about 40 feet out he drifted one past Richter. The Canucks regained the lead 4-3 and Larscheid took off his headset and got up and leaned into these big guys and said ‘Don’t count your chickens.’ So I put my hand on Tom’s shoulder and I pulled him back and said ‘Tom we’ve got no security. If these guys want to cause trouble, we’re in BIG trouble.'”
Pratt also asked him to walk us through his call at the end of Game 6, where he said Trevor Linden would play on crutches. This got all three laughing.
“…They helped Trevor to the bench as the play went on and the game ended. Well of course I came up with this drama – don’t worry about Linden he’s going to play if he has to play on crutches or whatever – which didn’t make any sense.”
Great stories by Jim Robson, great goaltending by Miller, and lots of goals by the Canucks. Time machine night was fun.