What transpired tonight is difficult to describe to anyone who didn't see it. Generally, a person who has seen enough hockey can look at a box score and have a pretty good feel for what took place on the ice. Oh, they had this many shots on goal, that many penalties -- that's why the score was what it was! Well, not tonight. The final tally was 5-1 in favor of the Vancouver Canucks, but with a couple of breaks, it really could have been very different. The Avalanche probably deserved better tonight; yet, at the same time, they also didn't. Confused? Yeah, me too.
Adam Cracknell got the scoring going for Vancouver in the 1st Period after a nice pass from Emerson Etem. He scored right in the middle of three Avalanche players -- none of whom bothered to tie up his stick, or really even acknowledge his presence in a high-danger scoring area. It was a poor defensive play, but not really a reflection of how the team was playing. The Avs put shots off the post, missed attempts from great angles, and watched helplessly as Canucks' goalie Ryan Miller made spectacular saves of every variety. Vancouver would manage just seven shots on net in the period, and yet another one would find its way past Varlamov before the clock ran out -- this time from Jannik Hansen, his 18th on the year.
Still in the game at this point, the Avs came out firing in the 2nd, but Ryan Miller would still be just too good. Every a Colorado player would lure him to one side of the net and make a brilliant cross-ice pass for what you'd think would be an easy score, Miller would find some way to get a pad on the puck and keep the Avs off the board. By this juncture, Semyon Varlamov had settled down too, not that he was seeing a lot of traffic. Colorado was again outshooting their opponents by a noticeable margin. But a lapse of judgment late in the period would prove costly. After a puck had been dumped into the Avalanche zone, it sat precariously below the goal line and just inches outside of the trapezoid with Varlamov caught waiting for it behind his net. When a Vancouver player beat Colorado's defensemen down the ice, Varly panicked and played the puck, incurring a rare delay of game penalty. After killing three penalties with ease in the 1st, the Avs' appeared they would do the same; but with four seconds left, Radim Vrbata was able to get the puck past the scrambling Varlamov and put his team up 3-0.
Vancouver appeared to score their fourth of the night a few minutes into the 3rd, but the Avs caught a break when the referees ruled it was punched it with a glove. However, that wouldn't keep them for long. Hansen would score his second of the night, again on assists from the Sedin twins, with 10:51 remaining. With the game already out of hand, Patrick Roy pulled his goalie less than halfway through the period, and his team would create a number a great scoring chances; but once again, Ryan Miller and those dastardly goal posts were having a field day. The Canucks would score another, this time Christopher Tanev on an empty net, to make it 5-0.
Matt Duchene would ruin Miller's shutout with 42 seconds left on a strange play where a Vancouver defender trucked Jarome Iginla right into his own goalie, leaving Duchene a wide open net for his 26th on the year. It would be little consolation after a very frustrating evening.
Ultimately, the Avalanche were beaten at their own game. The Canucks were badly outshot and won with opportunistic goal scoring and fantastic goaltending. Karma's a bastard.
- Ryan Miller - There's not much you can do when a goaltender has a night like this. It took a play where his own defender caused a collision and took him out of the play to finally get scored on. This was the very definition of standing on your head.
- Sedin Line - On a night when their team was getting outshot, they found a way to put pucks in the net. Must be nice to be Jannik Hansen.
Chris Bigras - The Avs rookie defenseman had his best possession game so far with the big club. Plus-7 CF 5v5. He continues to make passes and other plays with the puck that indicate a strong future with the club.
- Semyon Varlamov - There aren't a lot of goals you can point to and say definitively that he should have made the stop. Still, four went in tonight -- well past his quota. The Avs aren't going to make the playoffs unless he's on his game. Gotta get back on track.
Tonight's bottom lines - We knew something was up as soon as the Shawn Matthias trade was reported this afternoon. Turns out Andreas Martinsen was moved from the starting lineup and is likely on his way to San Antonio. Nothing wrong with that except it moved John Mitchell from his 4C spot to 3rd-line LW and rendered that 4th line noticeably worse than the previous evening. Hopefully he's back there on Wednesday.