The Canucks came into Tuesday night's contest with the Montreal Canadiens winless at home, having dropped five straight to open the season. The Canadiens arrived lossless anywhere, boasting a 9-0 record to open the season, just one win shy of the NHL record. So naturally, the Canucks won the game. Who saw this coming?
Oh right. I did. Me. Harrison. The legend. The genius. The legendary genius. Now, I don't want to dwell on my incredible prediction, so I'm only going to mention it several times tonight. Then we'll move on. That seems fair, right? And speaking of right, that's what I was proven when I watched this game.
- Watch hockey long enough and a game like this, with its completely unpredictable final score, is the most predictable thing around. Sure, all the signs pointed to a Habs victory, but that's when you pick the other guys, because hockey has never made sense. It's like Finnegans Wake on ice. Sidenote: I would totally pay to see Finnegans Wake on ice. I wouldn't understand a second of it, but I've never understood ice dancing either, and that's done little to quell my enjoyment.
- You knew the Canucks were getting all the breaks tonight after the opening goal, scored by Jared McCann, with an assist from every hockey god in the pantheon. First, Brandon Prust finds himself in a footrace with Andrei Markov, the only Canadien he could beat. Then, his slapper handcuffs the normally unhandcuffable Carey Price. Then, Derek Dorsett takes an inadvertent high-stick from P.K. Subban as he races to the goalmouth, which distracts Subban enough that the both of them glide past the crease while the puck falls behind Price. Finally, McCann arrives on the scene, finishing the play like a bunch of random marriages.
- The puck luck didn't end there, though. Seven minutes later, the Canucks struck again on a delayed penalty, with Luca Sbisa releasing a slapper from the top of the zone that took a funny hop off Nathan "Backup Boyfriend" Beaulieu, and jumped up over Carey Price and in. There's your problem, NHL: you've been trying to go through Carey Price. But you can go around or over him. Forgot about that, didn't you? Well. Here's Grover with a helpful guide to all the ways you can get past an object. If you're a shooting coach, I recommend showing this to all your players. They need to know.
- Five minutes later, it was McCann again, set up, just as he had been on the opening goal, by Brandon Prust. Prust did well to snag this puck off the won draw and take it safely to the wall, at which point he showed a deft passing touch in finding McCann open in the slot. McCann did well too, corraling the pass, which was in his skates, then releasing it without a second thought, like the people that made Mortdecai.
- McCann scored twice, so there's no arguing that he had a good night, but it was more than just the goals. He also put up a game-high five shots on goal in just twelve minutes of icetime, and even won 6 of 11 faceoffs. McCann was making things happen, like you and the Cap'n.
- He wasn't the only teenager who had a nice night, though. So too did Jake Virtanen, who picked up his first NHL point, an assist, on Derek Dorsett's 5-1 goal. (Which we'll get to.) Virtanen had a game-high seven hits tonight. He was throwing the body like Aragorn.
- You can forgive Cancks fans for being somewhat nervous at the beginning of the third period. The Canucks have been shaky to close out games at home, to put it kindly. And things got even more tense when the Habs scored early, then drew a penalty and got a chance to make it 3-2 before the midway mark of the final frame. But the Canucks survived the push when the Canadiens took a penalty of their own, and Radim Vrbata put the game out of reach with his second of the year on the ensuing powerplay. It ws a weird play, with Vrbata taking the puck to the net, only to have it knocked off his stick and into the air, where he swatted it past Price. It was the best swat since Mickey Mouse in the Brave Little Tailor. (If you get that reference without clicking the link, you win 10 nerd points.)
- Derek Dorsett closed out the rout with the Canucks' fifth goal of the night, and his first of the campaign. (That's right, the Canucks scored five, the same number of reasons I put forward for why they would win. Coincidence? Yes. But I digress.) It was a nice play from Dorsett, who kept the puck on a partial 3-on-1, outwaiting everyone before walking around his man and sliding the puck past Price on the backhand. I'd say you can't really blame the Montreal defenders, since nobody expected Dorsett to keep -- not with Jake Virtanen and Brandon Sutter at the backdoor -- but you can totally blame Alex Semin, who scrambled back just in time to do nothing other than provide his skate for the carom. That's like diving in front of the bullet while giving the shooter a better gun.
- Ryan Miller was excellent -- typically excellent, at this point -- and of course he was, since he wasn't just defending the Canucks' net, after all. He was defending his own record. Among the 25 of 26 saves he made, his biggest was probably the 2-on-0 stop after Luca Sbisa (of course) lost an edge and let two Montreal forwards break in alone. That was a game-changer (but then Miller stopped it and the game remained mercifully unchanged). The funniest thing about the Canadiens failing to match the record for the NHL's strongest start? It remains the shared property of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Buffalo Sabres, who went 10-and-0 with Miller in net. Because when you think "historically good teams", you think Toronto and Buffalo.
- Dan Hamhuis missed this game with a lower-body injury, creating a defence pairing of Ben Hutton and Yannick Weber. They were fantastic, finishing well above water in even-strength corsi -- Hutton finished a team-best plus-5 in the category -- and helping the Canucks to push the pace all night. I may be a little late to this observation, but I think the Canucks have something in Hutton. A defenceman, I'd wager. Pretty good one. And Weber's no slouch either, since, if he was a slouch, he'd look even shorter. He's smart to keep an eye on his posture.
- But it wasn't all sunshine and roses for the Canucks. They won the game, but they lost Prust, who was a major part of this victory, when the former Canadien lost an edge and went down with a twisted (or, God forbid, broken) ankle. Whatever the extent of Prust's injury, he won't be on the Canucks' flight to Dallas as he awaits an MRI, and he left the arena in a walking boot. Although I'm wearing a walking boot right now. Two of them. Technically, any boot you walk in is a walking boot. And here's the cool part: break into a sprint. Now it's a sprinting boot. Boots are so versatile, which is why they're the hottest fall accessory.
- Finally, hey, remember when I predicted this win? I do. I totally do.