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Edmonton - Vancouver Post-Game: Everything's Going So Well!

Up 2-1 over a better team and deserving every inch of that lead! Jason Strudwick and Jean-Francois Jacques being completely useless but not costly yet! Sam Gagner being both effective and productive! Devan Dubnyk being an NHL goaltender! We had a power play goal, we were banging and crashing and it was a pretty good facsimile of a hockey team.

And the Canucks won, the dirtbags.

We have the consolation that we were the better team throughout the game. It's not a consolation we've been able to grab at often.

The Canucks scored three powerplay goals. Two of those penalties were of the "preposterous" variety. Zack Stortini, two minutes for having his stick blade within three feet of a Vancouver Canuck, and an Alexandre Burrows powerplay goal (how appropriate). And in overtime where Mason Raymond... I don't even want to talk about it. If there was such a thing as a five-minute major for diving, that was it, and yet the Canucks were rewarded for their cheek.

I've never understood why hockey fans scoff at soccer and call it a wussy sport and then watch the Vancouver Canucks play without a trace of irony. I was at Stade Saputo in Montreal when Amado Guevara drew a penalty by diving so hard and so high we thought he was going to fly into the stands, and what Raymond did was even worse than that. He had hangtime. If you took out the colour, slowed it down, and added some dramatic music, people would think it was an NBA advertisement. The Vancouver Canucks are an argument for the NHL to add a slam dunk contest to the All-Star weekend.

The Canucks have been figure-skating scumbuckets since the Marc Crawford years, not that I have a strong opinion about this or anything. But more Canucks are willing to flop like limp fish at the slightest provocation than not. For pete's sake, the contact-averse Sedin brothers are two of the biggest stand-up guys in that lineup. And since the Canucks rank behind only the Maple Leafs for sheer volume of media fellatio (mmmph! mmmmmmmph! Roberto Luongo! Henrik Sedin! Bobby Luo! Alex Burrows isn't a human turd, he's just misunderstood!), you never hear about it.

There's a moral to this story. If you cheer for the Vancouver Canucks, you are inherently a bad person. You might have spent all day in Haiti saving orphans from collapsed buildings, but if you sat down to watch the hockey game on a flickery black-and-white television while creating fresh drinking water out of dirt and bricks and cheered for the Canucks, you are a horrible human being.

I'm not mad or anything.

Was there a hockey game? I don't remember anymore. After a while I couldn't really see anything because of all the blood spurting out of my eyes.

Hrm. Jason Strudwick played 18:52? How the hell did that happen? Was Ladislav Smid out with a cancer thing? No, there he is. 15:04. Well, that makes sense in the bizzaro dimension where Ladislav Smid isn't our best defensive defenseman by a factor of two and Jason Strudwick can skate, but I'm afraid that in this universe it's a little weird. Particularly since Strudwick got worked like a desperate junkie in the Downtown Eastside on the penalty kill. I'm pretty sure that was Strudwick, although it may have been a 6'3" pile of cinder blocks.

Devan Dubnyk was neither conspicuously good nor particularly bad. As such, this was the best game of his NHL career. Good job, Devan!

The real story ought to have been the return of Marc Pouliot. Pouliot's been a boy of mine since his draft day in 2003, and injuries have only done so much to diminish my enthusiasm. He's a centre, he can win faceoffs, and he can come out ahead against other NHL players: to the Oilers, he's as rare as kryptonite. After a long recovery from literally every disease and injury in the world, Pouliot went down to the Springfield Falcons and shot the lights out in a brief conditioning stint (four games, six points), outscoring among others Bryan Lerg, Geoff Paukovich, Johan Motin and Kip Brennan for the season. He made his proper return on Monday of course but we're all agreeing that game didn't happen. In his real comeback, he looked terrific, made his first appearance to win a faceoff off a fat man, and wound up with an assist on Sheldon Souray's cannonating drive. The first-round pick in 2003, he centred a line with the second-round pick in 2003 (Jacques) and the third-round pick (Stortini), which can't happen every day.

What's there to say about Pouliot? Oh, there's this. He played five and a half god-damned minutes!!!!! I thought Pat Quinn rolled his lines! He got less ice time than the little kids in the intermission! He got less ice time than Jean-Francois Jacques! That's Steve Macintyre territory! One of the, like, two guys on this team who can win a draw and kill a penalty and you played him for, basically, a bathroom break worth of ice time! And that line was one of the only lines to do anything all night (I mean, Jacques was a stiff, but that's not news). That's incoherent. "Let's go a whole season with Nikolai Khabibulin and Jeff Deslauriers" incoherent. "We don't need any tough minutes forwards, we have Mike Comrie and Ethan Moreau"-level thinking.

This team just outshot a superior opponent at home and lost only because of inept refereeing, and I'm still furious. You see that, Oilers? You broke my mind. I hope you wake up at night screaming.

The Copper & Blue Reverse Three Stars:

18th Star: F Jean-Francois Jacques. I may have to start renaming the eighteenth star "the Jacques Hole". There've been a few times where I've wanted to put him here but I said "naaah, let's pick on some more prominent Oiler". But he's pretty much always at least eighteenth star in my heart. So, to an extent, this is kinda a make-up call. Like the ones made against the Canucks once every blue moon which leads to front-page headlines on TSN: "Alex Burrows called for diving: nation in crisis!" oh no I'm still not bitter.

But on a night where not a lot of Oilers were terrible, Jacques was kinda crummy. It was a typical useless night from him, although he debuted an interesting variant on the Sam Gagner Memorial Drop Pass to Nobody by attempting a drop pass to nobody at his own blue line. In chess notation, we call that a "?!", basically a "what the hell did you just do?" I don't think it'll make the next edition of Howie Meeker's Hockey Basics, I've gotta tell ya. Also, he has the puckhandling skills of a sedated giraffe.

Apart from that he wasn't bad, though.

19th Star: D Jason Strudwick. You know that scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey where the monkeys come across this immense, stationary black monolith and start jumping around and screaming? I think that must be a lot like being Jason Strudwick's defensive partner.

20th Star: Commissioner Gary Bettman. Fuck you. Our game is an undercompetitive diving circus played in front of six fans in the middle of the desert and it is completely your fault. I hope that when the Oilers build a new arena you're entombed under the south stands like Jimmy Hoffa.