1. Hey, did you know that Sam Bennett‘s 18 years old? I only heard it 44 times last night. I think I need to hear it a 45th time before it sticks. (Get on that, Craig Simpson.)
2. Joking aside, Bennett’s been Calgary’s best – or maybe they’re most valuable – player through three games. What’s the difference? Gaudreau, Monahan, and Brodie are probably the best players on the Flames, all things in. But the rise of Bennett as a second-line centre has given Calgary a whole new form of attack the Canucks have been unable to account for or match, now that Kevin Bieksa’s officially an old man out there.
3. For all the talk about Calgary’s young guns like Gaudreau and Bennett, it’s actually Vancouver’s Bo Horvat who leads all rookies in points in the series – he’s tied for first in the NHL among rookies with three points, with Mark Stone and Nikita Nesterov, and he’s doing it in only 12 minutes played per game.
4. Now that Alex Burrows has become the second player in the Calgary/Canucks series to avoid an ‘automatic’ suspension for a final minute game misconduct/instigator penalty, perhaps it’s time we just do away with these ‘automatic’ suspensions completely.
5. Make it so the NHL has to look at all misconducts in the final 10 minutes, but don’t have an automatic punishment for something when it’s going to be overturned just because it’s the playoffs.
6. When the NHL changed its playoff format (making it all about divisional rivalries instead of 1 vs 8-type scenarios) – and when it decided to empower its refs with the task of game management – it essentially made automatic suspensions unnecessary on its own.
7. On game management: Refs are now giving players game misconducts in the final 10 just because they want the game to end without more violence, not because the crime deserves the punishment. Nothing Burrows did last night – and nothing Deryk Engelland did in Game 2 – deserved a game misconduct or an instigator penalty, but it’s good the refs got them off the ice in games that were already decided.
8. Major props to former Canuck Dale Weise, who probably ended the Ottawa Senators’ season last night with an overtime winner for the Montreal Canadiens. I’m not giving props because of what he did to Ottawa, but more because Weise has been a force since he was traded out of Vancouver last year for Raphael Diaz, who then became a 5th-Round Pick when we traded him to the Rangers. He was a major figure in last Spring’s upset of the Boston Bruins, and he’s continuing his tour as Montreal’s magic man a year later. Much respect.
9. So, I’m finally getting around to actually recapping last night’s Game 3…
10. I have no idea how to diagnose the Vancouver Canucks, and I’m absolutely not alone in this. I haven’t been able to understand this team’s mentality once in my life, and certainly not in the past five years – they seem completely incapable of tying wins together, or of sustaining momentum. They think too much, I think, whereas Calgary’s an action team.
11. The Flames just go out there and pound and play, regardless of whether they’re up 4-0 or down 0-4. The Canucks, meanwhile, laid out the blueprint with a dominating 4-1 win in Game 2 – they barely lost the puck in 60 minutes, outshooting and outhitting Calgary from puck drop to final horn. They got goals from the Sedins and Burrows, from Higgins and the second line, and from Bo Horvat’s fourth line. And then, in Game 3, they just gave the series back to Calgary.
12. There’s no way any of Vancouver’s fourth line should be giving up ground to the Flames’ rookies and sophomores. This is the Canucks’ series, if they want it. But our team has a dangerous tendency to sit back and let things come to them, and that’s no recipe for success in April. (I hate to say it, but is this when we miss the worst parts of Ryan Kesler?)
13. If Vancouver’s not going to play with emotion, they have no chance against Calgary. Welcome to the Stanley Cup playoffs: you’ve got to play with emotion without getting emotional about it.