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I Watched This Game: Canucks 1, Jets 4

Both the Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets came into Wednesday night's contest in need of a win. The Canucks had dropped three straight; the Jets, five. The two clubs were slumping worse than Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor 2 .

Both the Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets came into Wednesday night's contest in need of a win. The Canucks had dropped three straight; the Jets, five. The two clubs were slumping worse than Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor 2.

Sorry, that's Klumping. Although Murphy was slumping when he was Klumping. He followed the Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps with Dr. Dolittle 2, Showtime, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, and I Spy. That's a body of work almost as terrible as the Canucks' Eastern road trip that, mercifully, ended tonight as they rolled over and gave the Jets their slump-busting Dreamgirls moment. Yes, I have watched a lot of Eddie Murphy movies. I also watched this game.

  • Luca Sbisa returned to the lineup for this one and, just as I predicted, he was a difference-maker. Unfortunately, it was the wrong kind of difference. An early bodycheck on Nikolaj Ehlers earned Sbisa two minutes for hitting the head, and while he was in the box, the Jets scored the game's first goal. But the Sbisa as savior narrative lives on. After exiting the box, Sbisa answered a vengeful challenge from Anthony Peluso, took several punches, and didn't return. And then the Jets scored three unanswered goals, which means Sbisa was missed.
  • Sbisa should never have had to fight. He served a penalty. The Jets scored on it. Is that not revenge enough for a bad hit? I know Sbisa accepted the fight. But he had to. He knows the code. "I fought more early in my career just to show I'd do it," he said to Iain MacIntyre before the game. "(But) I don’t like fighting. Why would you?" It was a very Swiss statement (neutral on fighting, who saw that coming?), but it was also very telling: many of today's players don't fight out of emotion -- they fight out of obligation. The NHL knows it, too, and considering they also know what blows to the head do to a man's brain, it's despicable that they've done nothing in recent years to challenge the code. 
  • Granted, it's hard to trust the officials to dole out all the justice properly after watching them call a game like they called this one. This game featured some truly poor reffing, and as is so often the case, it benefited the team playing a more physical game. Can you imagine if the rules in the real world were this intermittent? "Okay, here's the gameplan: I'm going shopping, but I'm gonna do a bunch of stabbing. Here's hoping the cops aren't calling stabs today."
  • The Canucks managed to get the game back on even footing midway through the second, on a powerplay of their own. It felt like a throwback goal, created by the Sedins and Alex Burrows working the puck down low. After Burrows created some chaos in front of the goal, Daniel Sedin jumped on a rebound and buried it like the Saddle Ridge Hoard
  • Vancouver pressed for more, outplaying Winnipeg in the middle frame and outshooting them 10 to 6. But the Jets scored a heartbreaker late in the second, and that pretty much sealed the Canucks' fate. If we're pointing fingers on that one, I'm looking at Matt Bartkowski, who had a chance to get the puck out of danger but overskated it in the slot, then failed to check Drew Stafford in front when the puck returned there five seconds later. Bartkowski finished an ugly minus-10 in even-strength corsi. He had a horrible game. As horrible games go, his was up there with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5.
  • He wasn't the only one. To my eyes, this was Jared McCann's worst performance of the season. He had his moments, because he remains a skilled player, but it was rare for him to survive a shift without overskating the puck, bobbling a pass, or making some other unforced error. McCann looked like an exhausted kid tonight, and I think that's fair. This is his first-ever NHL road trip. Heck, all the rookies looked terrible tonight, and I'd point to the same factor. While we should rightly rip the Canucks for their performance on this trip, it'll probably serve us all to remember that they have several players doing this for the first time.
  • All that said, Alex Grenier, who literally was doing this for the first time as he made his NHL debut, looked great out there. He had four shots on goal, second only to Daniel Sedin among Canucks. Again, fatigue was probably a factor. Since he missed the other six games on the trip, Grenier had the freshest legs of anyone. Well, almost anyone. There's no way his legs were fresher than Isabella Rossalini's in obscure 2003 Canadian art film The Saddest Music in the World. Her legs were full of beer, you guys! Beer!
  • It was amazing observing the contrast between the Jets' powerplay, where the puck moves pretty quickly, and the Canucks' powerplay, where the Sedins protect the puck in the corner, then nurture and raise it, then try to guide it towards the net while respecting that it might have a different future in mind. I guess what I'm saying is the Sedins run their powerplay like they're driving through a school zone. It wears no one out and generates very little. The Sedins remain incredible playmakers, but the coaching staff needs to figure out a way to get them making plays faster. It's easier said than done, of course. When it comes to making plays, the workshopping process alone can take a year or more.
  • My word, do the Canucks miss Brandon Sutter. The coach may trust Bo Horvat in all situations, but he's probably not too thrilled at having to use Horvat in all situations.