The Canucks are not playing pretty hockey, but somehow they keep getting points.
— Mike Stefanuk (@Mike_Stefanuk) January 2, 2016
It’s been talked about all season how weird the Pacific division is. You almost feel like it will get to the point where somehow a team will be both in the playoffs and also last place in the NHL at the same time. People will gather together to try and figure out how this happened. Scientists from around the world will be brought in to offer up theories. In the end, people will just shrug and go “Pacific Division!” and go about their day.
Tonight, the Anaheim Ducks were the victims of the Canucks slow crawl to the finish line, as they fell 2-1 in a shootout. If we’re being honest with each other (and we are, right?), the game was pretty awful to watch for most of it. It wasn’t until Operation: Waffles (a Tanev wrist shot from the point) tied the game up in the 3rd period that the game got a bit of a pulse.
So what went down? Read on to find out!
1. Return of the Crown Prince
Much like any time you saw Joffrey appear on screen in Game of Thrones, you couldn’t help but watch and see what Kesler would get up to in his old stomping grounds.
Yes, Kesler has played here as a member of the opposition before, but tonight he went Full Kesler, as he really brought his entire arsenal to Rogers Arena. If it wasn’t for Kesler, there would honestly be nothing to talk about for the first two periods of the game, so the writers of Vancouver thank you Ryan.
So first up, we have a Ryan Kesler two on one special:
Yes, Kesler was known for not utilizing his linemates at times in Vancouver. It got to the point where even the head coach at the time Alain Vigneault suggested he might need to use his linemates better, which prompted Kesler to tell the media “utilize my players?…Obviously, I don’t know what he means by that and if he wants to say that he can come to me and talk to me about it.”
Now, Kesler didn’t do the leg kick, wrist shot high and around the boards and out move, but that was a pretty solid classic Kesler two on one nonetheless.
Next up, we have a Ryan Kesler goal, something that has been quite rare this season (he has five goals to date).
Yes, that is Ryan Kesler over celebrating, as he has been known to do. Who can forget his celebration taunting the Nashville fans in 2011? Of course back then he was our a-hole, so it was much funnier.
Kesler gonna Kesler, though.
Not willing to rest on his troll laurels, Kesler decided to take another chair shot at Vancouver during the intermission when he told Fox that was his favorite goal he’s ever scored in Rogers Arena.
— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) January 2, 2016
Yes, Kesler claims that goal is a nicer memory for him than scoring a late 3rd period goal on one leg to tie the game up against San Jose in game five in 2011? A game that eventually sent his team to the Stanley Cup Finals?
Right, ok, sure thing.
Moving on, Kesler made sure to get in a borderline cheap play under his belt, by taking out Prust “accidentally”, much in the same way Homer Simpson accidentally ate the pie.
Prust left the game briefly, but he did return.
And what game would be complete without the irony of Kesler calling out another player for a dive?
Yes, that is Ryan Kesler claiming Jannik Hansen dove. The irony is even better when you remember that Hansen just got fined recently for diving.
Kesler was just mad Hansen stole his dive technique.
— Kyla Rose (@kylaer_) January 2, 2016
It’s like Making a Murderer, but in hockey. We could put both men on trial for a year and I would have no idea who dove and who didn’t dive. Who is setting up who??
Yes, you pretty much had the entire Ryan Kesler package tonight. So for those of you who wondered why people around the league always hated him so much, you can get an idea of it from watching from the other side.
That doesn’t take away the fact Kesler was at many times one of the best Canucks on the ice during his time here, or the fact his series against Nashville was one of the best series we have ever seen a player perform in. It just highlights how Kesler’s personality isn’t very endearing.
2.Return of the fun Uncle
Hey, Bieksa is back!
Bieksa's first shift… almost an egregious giveaway behind the net.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) January 2, 2016
Jokes aside, and forgetting how Bieksa’s play deteriorated in Vancouver near the end of his time here, Kevin was a pillar of the 2011 core. It was nice to see him get the ovation he deserved from the fans.
From handing out weird animal nicknames, to dropping milk hot dog references in an interview, to pretending to be Ryan Kesler in an interview, Bieksa was one of the top characters in Canucks history. It was a nice counter balance to the Sedins more measured approach to interviews.
Yes, he had his detractors. “Casual Kevin” became a battle cry for those who felt Kevin wasn’t as good as others thought. But on a personal level, Bieksa was loved by many, not only by his team mates, but by the fans of the city.
There are a lot of small stories of Bieksa that you can find written on hockey forums here and there. Stories of things Bieksa did, not for press, but just because he was a genuinely nice guy. One story I read talked about how Kevin saw some kids playing ball hockey and he just pulled over and started playing with them. When they lost their only ball, Bieksa told everyone to hold on a minute, and he went and bought a bunch of hockey gear (balls, sticks, etc) and just brought it back and gave it to the kids.
Bieksa was also the guy who spearheaded the games against the UBC Thunderbirds, where Bieksa’s Buddies played some games during the lockout to help raise money for Canuck Place, Canucks Autism Network and the Canucks Family Education centre.
There are countless other stories of Good Guy Kevin, I am sure.
But that’s the sort of guy he was. He was great in the community, and he was someone who willingly wanted to go “down with the ship” in Vancouver. As cliche as it sounds, he truly bled blue and green…and orange and black and red and yellow and salmon and purple and silvery glitter and….ok you get the point.
3. Politicking for Pedan
Where was Andrey Pedan?
Did the Canucks not see how Pedan played last game against the Kings? A game in which the only good thing to come out of it was the final buzzer and Pedan’s play?
It didn’t make a lot of sense to keep Pedan out of the lineup. The Canucks were playing a big team, and neither Weber nor Bartkwoski have done anything recently to show why they deserve a roster spot.
Weber got out muscled badly by LA. You can easily slot Pedan in for him, especially after the game Pedan just had.
But fine, let’s say the Canucks are in love with the whole “OH YOU PLAY RD YOU MUST HAVE RIGHT HAND SHOT” thing.
Why, for the love of god, wouldn’t you slot in Pedan for Bang Bang Bart?
Bartkowski has been a gong show this year. His skill set is “skates really fast in a straight lane, and can make a decent outlet pass”. He can be pretty one dimensional most games, especially when he tries to skate himself out of trouble right in front of his own net.
We have not seen him do much to showcase why he shouldn’t be considered for healthy scratches.
On the Kesler goal, Bartkowski leaves his guy momentarily, thereby losing position, and when he gets back into the play, he doesn’t corral Kesler’s stick.
This happened again later in the game when Getzlaf almost had a tap in in front of the net.
In overtime, Getzlaf almost broke Bartkowski’s ankle with a move.
There were so many small things to not like about Bartkowski’s game tonight that it wasn’t worth the time trying to make gifs of them all.
It may feel like a burial of Bartkowski, but it’s just meant to highlight just how confusing it is that he gets to play so many games. He has played in all but one Canuck game this year. Injuries have played a role in that, but still, on a night like tonight it felt like the team would try rolling the hot hand in Pedan.
The Canucks won the game, so you can try and write this off as arguing about a moot point. But if the Canucks want a meritocracy, it’s hard to understand how Pedan didn’t draw into the lineup.
not Bartkowski's finest shift. Had no reaction when Rakell had 3 whacks at Markstrom. Then didn't do much to tie up Kesler on 1-0 goal
— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) January 2, 2016
4. Going to bat for Sami Salo
During the intermission, Macintyre and Valk talked about their top Canucks defenceman of all time. This came up, of course, due to Kevin Bieksa being back in town.
Now I know lists like this are subjective. We all have our reasons and our own itinerary as to what constitutes a top defencemen.
I just want to say, though, WHERE IS SAMI SALO?
Now I know Salo may not be the sexiest pick. He didn’t join the team as a top draft pick that the Leafs tried to steal like Ohlund. He wasn’t traded for in a big deal like Jovo. He didn’t skate with his legs spread wide apart and do laps of the rink like Lumme. But still, Sami Salo is on my Mt. Rushmore of Vancouver Canucks.
He took a slapshot to the testicles and played through it. Superficial reason to love the guy? Sure. But that’s, and excuse me for the pun, ballsy as hell. The crowd chanted “Balls of steel” for the man.
But putting that aside, Sami Salo was also excellent on the ice. Although he was known for his bomb of a shot, he was also great in his own zone. Again, he wasn’t a sexy defensive player who would run players through the boards, but he was an expert at angling players off, and using his stick to break up plays. Almost anyone who got paired with Sami Salo ended up playing better. There were plenty of times you would watch the team and think to yourself “my god, Salo is our best defenseman tonight isn’t he?”
Salo also put in a lot of time in Vancouver. He took less money to play in Vancouver near the end. He came back from injury after injury after injury to keep playing for the Canucks. Weird injuries, too. Snake bites, floorball, busted nuts, busted face, you name it, Salo broke it. Yet he kept coming back for more. Not once did he complain. He just dropped a few hundred “you know”‘s in an interview, then put his head down and got back to work.
He did everything in his power to help his team win. If you ever want to tell a player how to model the way they carry themselves on and off the ice, Sami Salo would be at the top of that list.
@TheStanchion he would be in there for me. Forever underrated.
— Dan Murphy (@sportsnetmurph) January 2, 2016
5. Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch
Jacob Markstrom had himself another solid game, ending the night with a .964 save percentage.
For a guy who has been questioned his entire NHL career about if he can even cut it at the NHL level, this has been a nice stretch of hockey for him to show that he belongs in the NHL.
It remains to be seen if that is as a back up, or a starter, but you have to feel good for a guy who has been battling the stigma of “AHL superstar” for the last several years.
Remember last year, when Markstrom had his first game with the Canucks and he got absolutely shelled? The team seemed to lose all faith in him over that one game, and we wondered if he’d ever be seen again.
Even this year, if it wasn’t for that Ryan Miller injury, you have to wonder how many games Markstrom would have been given.
As all goalies will tell you, getting to play a stretch of games always makes them more comfortable and can usually bring out the best in them. So far, Markstrom is making the most out of his time as the starter.
6. Italian Guy
That guy who is always behind the visitor’s bench (he usually has the kids with the earmuffs on), was rocking some serious ring bling tonight. We have to give a shout out to that.
@TheStanchion Inthink he's just got a stray pocket loonie stuck to his sticky finger.
— Ⓜ️iles (@RigidDigital) January 2, 2016