What is the opposite of a barn burner?
The phrase “barn burner” has been used in reference to exciting sporting events for nearly a century, though it’s not entirely clear why. Perhaps it’s because a barn burning is a spectacle that draws attention, but for that we have “train wreck,” with its more negative connotations.
It could be that it comes from the original use of the word, which alluded to a story about a farmer that got rid of an infestation of rats by burning down all his barns. That’s a bit of a cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-his-face situation, to mildly misuse another idiom. But it fits the excitement of a game in which you go all out to score goals to the point of giving up a ton of goals against.
To find the antonym of “barn burner,” we could go back to 19th-century US politics, when the Barnburners were a group of Democrats whom, it was argued, were fighting abuses of the political system by destroying the system itself. Opposed to them were the more conservative Hunkers, which would almost work as an opposite of “barn burner” in sports: two teams playing conservatively, hunkering down to minimize scoring? That was a hunker of a game.
Alternatively, for the opposite of a barn burner, we could just point to this game.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that this game featured minimal scoring chances and shots on goal: both the Rangers and Canucks average fewer than 30 shots per game. As much as the Canucks have surprisingly been one of the highest-scoring teams in the NHL, that’s come in spite of their shot totals.
While there were spurts of excitement, this game was mostly halting and awkward, with plenty of penalties interrupting the flow of play, and limited scoring that might have forced either team to open things up a bit more.
- Maybe I’m being a little harsh. While it certainly wasn’t a barn burner, there were some great chances off odd-man rushes, a few goal posts, and the final 10 seconds of the game had a certain thrill to them when the Canucks nearly tied things up with their net empty. Then again, when I’m arguing for 10 seconds of a 60-minute game, maybe my initial assessment was correct.
- I thought the line of Tim Schaller, Markus Granlund, and Tyler Motte had a strong game in limited minutes. For instance, the Rangers had just one shot attempt when Schaller was on the ice at 5-on-5. One particularly strong shift in the first period saw them cycle the puck in the offensive zone for nearly a full minute, leading to an icing and a chance for Elias Pettersson to come out against tired opponents. Nothing came of it, but it was a commendable effort.
- Motte deserves a couple kudos. He hasn’t been great since a strong training camp and preseason earned him a spot on the roster, but against the Rangers he drew two penalties, assisted on the Canucks’ only goal, and saw the Canucks out-chance the Rangers 6-1 when he was on the ice at 5-on-5. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: that’s notte bad.
- Everyone panic! Elias Pettersson has no points in his last two games! It’s a veritable drought! Or, more accurately, things are starting to even out. Pettersson’s shooting percentage has ducked under 30%, he’s no longer on a goal-per-game pace, and he’s no longer ahead of Connor McDavid in points per game. He turned 20 during this game and two games is now the longest “drought” of his career. Remain calm.
- Pettersson had a solid game, all things considered, He had a game-high eight shot attempts, four of them on goal, including a great chance early in the second period off a setup from Nikolay Goldobin. Pettersson let the one-timer rip from the top of the left faceoff circle, but Henrik Lundqvist shrugged it away with his shoulder. It was the biggest shrug since the collective response to Shane Black’s The Predator.
- The Canucks opened the scoring after a successful penalty kill. Ben Hutton knocked the puck away from Ryan Spooner, then jumped up in transition. Motte missed Hutton with the pass, but Goldobin, fresh out of the penalty box, picked it up. Heading in 2-on-1 with Hutton on his left, Goldobin kept Henrik Lundqvist guessing with some deft puck handling, then launched a wrist shot top corner where librarians file “The Voyage of Mael Duin’s Curragh” by Patricia Aakhus.
- That was a ridiculous shot by Goldobin, to the point that Lundqvist barely even moved: the puck was bardown before he could even react. Goldobin wasn’t going to have a shooting percentage of 3.2% all season, but regression isn’t usually that dramatic.
- The Canucks nearly made it 2-0 a moment later, when Loui Eriksson set up Michael Del Zotto on a 2-on-1, but his shot rung both posts and seemed to nick the crossbar as well. The referees even blew play dead, thinking the puck had gone in, but upon further review it merely vellicated the posts instead of tickling the twine.
- Goldobin rung a crossbar of his own on the power play later in the period, marking the second time in the game he went bardown. Unfortunately, this time it went down and out, and, as Jimmy Cox famously said, nobody knows you when you’re down and out.
- The Rangers struck back midway through the second period a few seconds into a Loui Eriksson penalty. An over-aggressive Bo Horvat left Neal Pionk with a shooting lane from the point. His shot was tipped by Chris Kreider, giving Jacob Markstrom no chance to control the rebound. Filip Chytil was unchecked, just like the “C” in his name is unheard, and he fired it in.
- There were some frustrating penalty calls in this game, none moreso than the phantom high stick called on Granlund just as the Canucks started a power play. Granlund lifted Pionk’s stick in a puck battle and Pionk was hit in the head by his own stick, which made a distinct *pionk* sound. Granlund never touched him and you can tell, because Granlund’s stick would have made more of a *granlund* sound.
- In two of his last five starts, Markstrom gave up five or more goals, but got the win because the Canucks racked up goals. The scales were balanced in this one, as Markstrom was fantastic, with two goals against for which he wasn’t really at fault, but the Canucks couldn’t find twine. Markstrom turned aside a Kreider breakaway early in the third, then robbed Chytil on the doorstep after a pass deflected to him at the backdoor.
- Bo Horvat once again took the lion’s share of the defensive zone faceoffs. He had 15, while the rest of the Canucks had three. Even those were situational: Granlund’s two defensive zone faceoffs were after icings when the Canucks couldn’t change, while Pettersson had one at 4-on-4. Pettersson, for what it’s worth, won that faceoff.
- Granlund won neither of his defensive zone draws and the Rangers scored the game winner off one of his losses. He only had himself to blame, as he’s the one that iced the puck. Jimmy Vesey’s shot off the faceoff was blocked by Goldobin, but the puck dropped to Brett Howden’s stick. Markstrom, after reacting to the initial shot, couldn’t stop Howden on the short side.
- Goldobin may have had a goal, a crossbar, and a few nice passing plays for Pettersson, but his passing in the third period left something to be desired. A couple bad passes with five minutes left led to a Rangers chance that Goldobin had to take a hooking penalty to stop. He kept going behind his intended targets, which is no way to win hockey games or archery competitions.
- It’s time to try someone other than Derrick Pouliot on the first power play unit. The first unit is dying on the branch — even the two power play goals scored in the Canucks’ 8-5 win over the Bruins came from the second unit and the first unit with Ben Hutton in place of Pouliot. The Canucks have just one 5-on-4 goal with Pouliot on the ice this season and they also have one goal against. That’s right: Pouliot has an even goal differential on the power play. Like every single time I go to the Coinstar, Pouliot on the first unit is not working.
- What had Canucks fans up in arms with Pouliot was on a late power play drawn by Virtanen. With the net empty to go 6-on-4, Pouliot hammered a low-percentage shot from the point into traffic: it was blocked and sent back down the ice. Then Pouliot showed little urgency moving the puck back up ice and, when he did, sent a pass into Horvat’s skates. Like 4-8-15-16-23-42, it was an unfortunate sequence.
- The final ten seconds were thrilling, with one more chance for Pettersson to play hero. He took a pass from Pouliot and walked in on Brady Skjei, waiting for the defenceman to go to one knee before stepping inside and ripping a shot on Lundqvist. The goaltender made the save, then stopped Virtanen and Horvat on the rebound. Lundqvist’s .923 save percentage this season suggests the 36-year-old is still at the top of his game and wasn’t willing to give Pettersson a birthday present.