First off, let me say this: the Vancouver Canucks are one helluva team. If you were expecting an easy win to ease you into 2011, you haven't been paying attention.
Backed by a brilliant 44-save performance from Cory Schneider, the Canucks dismantled a helpless Dallas Stars penalty kill en route to a 4-1 win on the final night of 2010.
Dallas actually played fairly well for most of the first period, until they gave the Canucks an opportunity to go on the power play (which is their specialty, as only Chicago is better on the man advantage). Christian Ehrhoff set up at the point and quickly passed it off to Henrik Sedin at the lower left circle. With Kari Lehtonen pulling hard towards the puck, Henrik flopped the puck slowly to his brother in front of the net and Daniel Sedin easily netted it to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead.
Any hope for a Dallas response was immediately squashed less than a minute later when Kevin Bieksa took advantage of a horrible Stars line change to get Raffi Torres on a breakaway to put the Canucks up by two goals. So after the Stars got off to an okay start, they slinked into the locker room after the first period with absolutely no momentum.
The rest of the game can be summed up in two phrases. Stars get a chance. Schneider save. Dallas managed to put 18 shots on net in the second period (including an 11-2 run to start the frame) but came out of it with a goose egg on the scoreboard. Remember when the Stars were in the market for a goaltender last season? Cory Schneider was a name that came up a lot in connection with the Stars, and you can see why he's so well regarded. He's one hell of a backup goaltender for a team already deep at every other position on the roster.
Anyways, while the Stars were busy getting stymied at one end of the ice, they let their frustration get the better of them in their own end. Vancouver scored two power play goals to go up 4-0 in the second period. The Stars penalty kill has been the one constant in this month of inconsistency, but it was torn to pieces by this Canucks squad. I'll probably take a closer look at this in the coming days.
Dallas finally heard the beautiful sound of the goal horn when Brenden Morrow scored on the power play in the third period. But even 19 more shots on net in the third couldn't get more than that one goal, and the game would end 4-1.
Now, this is nothing to get frightened about, and I don't think this losing streak is anything more than the natural flow of the season. As Brad pointed out this morning, every team in the Western Conference this season has been affected by long periods of winning followed by stretches of losses. The Stars just happen to be in their bad stretch right now.
The only troublesome part of that is the timing. They have the Blues, Blackhawks and Rangers coming up on the schedule, so getting out this funk quickly will be difficult. But we've seen this team do it time and time again this season, so there's no reason to think they can't put this end to the year behind them.
(But they'll need some contributions from James Neal if they are going to do so...)
DBD Three Stars Of The Game
- Cory Schneider
- Henrik Sedin
- Daniel Sedin