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I Watched This Game: Canucks 3, Kings 0

It's hard to know how excited one should be about Tuesday night's 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings.

It's hard to know how excited one should be about Tuesday night's 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings. I'd say it hinges on one central question: are the Canucks good, or are the Kings bad? And it might not be an either/or scenario -- it could be both. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

The Canucks have looked great to start the season. They're 3-0-1 in their first four despite playing three of those contests on the road, and two of them in California. Honestly, would anyone have blamed them if they'd been blown out tonight, in the Staples Center, on the back part of a back-to-back? I'd have give them a pass. But they never even looked in danger of losing this game. That's a good sign. Maybe they're good. Or maybe they only looked so impressive because the Kings are terrible now. Los Angeles is 0-3 to start the year and they look nothing like the team they once were. They only registered 15 shots tonight. It's as though perhaps whatever jump they had was lost when they cut ties with Jarret Stoll and Mike Richards. Those two always knew where to score some jump.

I watched this game.

  • The big story leading into this game was the NHL debut of Jake Virtanen, who stepped into the lineup in place of fellow teenager Jared McCann. (The Canucks have a one-child policy, like China.) But, like many big stories, it turned out to be a bit of a dud. Virtanen played a bit, he did a little hockey, Dan Murphy interviewed his parents, and then in the third period, Willie Desjardins benched him in favour of protecting the lead with his veterans. That's a defensible move, I think. I know we all wanted more Virtanen, but when you hit that second intermission leading by two and, suddenly, 3-0-1 coming out California is a possibility, I can see deciding the game is no longer an all ages affair. Virtanen will get plenty of chances to earn Desjardins trust and it's not unreasonable that he doesn't just get to start with it. And it's not like Virtanen sat out the whole third. Willie let him have the final shift of the night, once everything was settled. It's like when you let your kid sit in the driver's seat of the car. Once it's parked. In the garage. And the keys are out. And the kid is wearing a seatbelt, because you just know he'll still find some way to get hurt.
  • Virtanen almost got on the scoresheet, though. In the first, he broke in 2-on-1 with Derek Dorsett. But Dorsett kept and shot. No goal. In the second, he found himself in 2-on-0 with Brandon Sutter. But Sutter passed the puck to the wall. (In his defence, the wall was wide open.) I'm not sure I'm sold on Sutter's playmaking ability. Why can't he be more like Brandon Prussist, the dish king?
  • Prust picked up his third assist of the season on Adam Cracknell's second goal of the season, scored early in the middle frame. After a nice rush by Matt Bartkowski, which should help explain why the Canucks want him in the lineup, Prust found himself two-on-one with Cracknell down low. He made the cross-ice pass, and while Cracknell put the puck right into Jonathan Quick, he managed to sneak the puck just underneath him. It went off Quick's right leg, then trickled in. Like a good South Park episode, the puck crossed the line, but just barely.
  • I like a lot about the Staples Center, but the multi-purpose arena has never been known for the quality of its ice. It looked particularly bad in this one, with both teams struggling to make crisp passes on a sheet that refused to cooperate with them. I'd say I lost count of how many flubbed passes the ice caused, but I never started counting in the first place. I probably would have lost count, though. I don't see things through. Either way, the puck had a higher bounce rate than clickbait.
  • The Canucks doubled their lead eight minutes later, when Alex Edler stepped into a slapshot at the top of zone and blasted it past Quick. it was a Hell of a shot. I feel like "stepped into" is a bit too gentle a verb. This goal was nothing like Alex Edler gingerly putting on pants, one leg at a time. This goal was more like Alex Edler putting on a bondage suit. Attention-getting. Intriguing. Slightly arousing.
  • That was a good thing Edler did. Here's a bad thing: in the third period, he hit Christian Ehrhoff with a pretty nasty crosscheck. It looked like a partial accident, as Edler appeared to step on a discarded stick and sort of fell into Ehrhoff, but you'd be forgiven for thinking it was personal, especially after Edler shouted "I'M WITH CHRIS NOW" upon making the hit.
  • More Edler, who was a team-high plus-5 in even-strength corsi, and never seemed to be out of position: he looks great to start the year, and I just adore the way he plays with Chris Tanev. It's like the fox playing with the hound, except it's not kinda racist.
  • You'll never guess who was the team's worst defender by the corsi metric at minus-13. Here's a hint: his name rhymes with Luca Sbisa. (Aw, crap, I just handed that to you. Way to pull a Sbisa, Harrison.) But I'm not come to bury Sbisa, but to praise him. He remains the same defenceman as before, but I forgot how satisfying it is when he hits Kings. Hit more Kings, Sbisa, and I will one day love you. You should hit Ducks too. Put Ryan Kesler flat on his ass and I'll write a blog post saying your horrible contract is the best in the league.
  • A round of applause for Ryan Miller, who may not have had to work all that hard, facing just 15 shots, but he stopped all of them for his first shutout of the season. Miller looks fantastic right now. I'm not going to say he's playing up to his contract just yet, though. He'll have to put Ryan Kesler flat on his ass for that to happen.
  • The final goal of the night went to Derek Dorsett, who scored into the Kings' empty net to put the game out of reach. The first assist went to Jannik Hansen, who now leads the team with four points in his first four games. But let's not talk about it. I really want Hansen to be the first Canuck to win the unsung hero award three times. I even wrote a song about it. But I won't be singing it, for obvious reasons.