February 21 2012 10:33PM
Luongo robs Shea Weber on a breakaway in a losing effort.
Photo Credit: John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images
Coming into tonight's game, the Canucks were on a 13 game point streak dating back to mid-January. Tonight, they controlled the game for forty minutes, but were unable to beat all-universe goaltender Pekka Rinne and saw their point streak snapped.
For much of their recent streak, the Canucks played uninspired hockey yet repeatedly managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. In tonight's contest, the Predators built their lead over a forty minute stretch in which the Canucks dominated possession and comfortably out-chanced their opponents. In the third, with the Canucks requiring a goal to even proceedings - the Predators completely took over and suffocated the Canucks. Nashville's club eventually sealed the win on a late David Legwand goal, which, put the Predators up by two with just under three minutes remaining in the game.
Click past the jump for a thorough recap, chance data and your statistical three stars and goats!
- Let's begin with the most important numbers: The Canucks out-chanced the Predators 21-17 overall (with one of those chances coming with Luongo on the bench). The Canucks had 15 scoring chances at even-strength, while the Preds had 13. Finally the Canucks out-chanced the Predators 10-7 with the score tied (and 10-5 at evens with the score tied).
- In the game's first forty minutes especially - Pekka Rinne was an absolute beast. While he seemed to be fighting the puck a little bit early, he calmed down and made 32 stops. After three rocky outings against the Canucks this season, Rinne's quality finally showed through tonight. Truly, he was really the only reason Nashville wasn't sunk in the first forty minutes.
- The best line for the Canucks tonight, unfortunately, was the fourth line. Not only did they do their usual low-event, tough-minutes thing - they also gave the team an offensive boost for the third straight game. Dale Weise's goal late in the second period was actually pretty nice, it came off of a lovely Malhotra set-up and Weise's top-corner backhand totally fooled Pekka Rinne. Dale Weise isn't the destructive physical force the team, and many Canucks fans would prefer from a fourth line winger - but he plays responsible hockey, and has some closet skill. Credit where it's due.
- There was a very weird sequence about 7 minutes into the first period where the Canucks iced the puck with Malhotra and Lapierre on the ice. Nashville won the ensuing face-off and Ryan Suter headed directly to a space behind the net where he sent a tough-angle shot on Roberto Luongo. It looked to me like a set play designed to create an opportunity for one of those ridiculous, Tim Duncan bank-shots the Predators seem to have patented.
- Now bear with me because this sequence got even weirder after Luongo froze the puck. Following the Suter shot, Vigneault was free to change his lines for the ensuing defensive zone-start. But he didn't - he left Malhotra and Lapierre on the ice. Remember, the fourth line had been on the ice when Vancouver iced the puck, they had already had a defensive zone-start, lost the face-off and surrendered a shot against (which Luongo had saved).
Despite all of this: Vigneault still stuck with his usual philosophy, and gave them another defensive zone start. The line lost the face-off again, the Predators cycled and Luongo eventually made a difficult stop on a Shea Weber point shot. In this case, perhaps, Vigneault's strict adherence to situational deployment was too rigid.
- I've often wondered why Ryan Kesler slaps his stick against the ice when he's forechecking. After tonight, I can file this mystery as "solved." On a sequence in the first period, Kesler began to slap his stick on the puck when he was well behind, and far away from, the Predators puck-handler. It was clear that he was trying to "fool" the Predator into believing that one of his teammate was calling for a pass. In the past when Kesler has done his "slap-stick" routine - he's been in a passing lane, but he was also more actively forechecking, so his intention wasn't quite so clear. After tonight, Scooby, we know for sure: Kesler is an old man with a mask, who owns a top of the line video projector perfect for making amusement parks appear haunted.
- Mason Raymond, had another middling game tonight. The "Raymond is useless" furor has reached a climax over the last three games, and in fairness, they have been his worst games of the season. That said, Canucks fans are still missing the forest for the trees when it comes to Raymond's play - and a sequence about 16 minutes into the first period demonstrated it perfectly. The play began when Raymond made an incredible quick stop in the neutral zone that froze Sergei Kostitsyn entirely, he then made another move to burn Jerrod Smithson through the neutral zone and entered Nashville's zone with space.
Raymond fed Kesler with a drop pass and Kesler sent a dangerous wrist shot, and scoring chance on net that Rinne did well to stop. The Canucks managed three more corsi events on the shift, and had a flurry of sustained pressure, until Mason Raymond lost control of the puck and put the play offside.
So to recap: the Canucks held possession for about sixty seconds after Raymond's lovely zone-entry put Nashville off balance. His play directly resulted in two Vancouver shots and a scoring chance, and the eventual offside resulted in Chris Higgins putting a long shot on net and winning the offensive zone start. This sequence was not evidence that Mason Raymond sucks, it's evidence that Canucks fans need to pay attention to what's actually happening on the ice.
- About ten minutes worth of gameplay after the sequence described above, Raymond whiffed on a juicy rebound that resulted from a David Booth scoring chance, and everyone in Vancouver officially quit on the speedy winger. Again, I was confused - that looked like a tough play to me. Had Raymond corralled that bouncing puck and capitalized - it would've been a hell of a goal.
- At some point during tonight's game, Ryan Kesler kicked Hal "Treebeard" Gill in the nuts:
Not cool Kesler. Not cool.
- Vancouver's dominance through forty minutes, though not reflected on the scoreboard, totally collapsed in the third period as the Predators slowed the game down and limited the Canucks to four scoring chances total in the final frame. Nashville's possession numbers on the season are really ugly, like, Minnesota Wild ugly - but uglier. One of the ways they're managing to win despite this is by slowing the pace of the game down to a crawl when they have a lead, and relying on their top-pairing and Pekka Rinne to be a functional brick wall. More often than not, the Preds big three is up to the task - as they were tonight.
- Burrows' agitation of Weber was amusing, but much ado about nothing. From my perspective: good on Burrows to get the Preds top player off of the ice for two minutes.
- Luongo had an okay game, but he made some spectacular stops in the third (and was also bailed out twice by his posts). The save on the Shea Weber breakaway was especially memorable - but the play that created that breakaway (Weber broke up a Sedin drop pass in the neutral zone, and went blueline to blueline in - I swear - two strides) was jaw-dropping.
Statistical Three Stars
- Pekka Rinne
- Manny Malhotra
- Maxim Lapierre
Statistical Three Goats
- Francois Bouilion
- Jarrod Smithson
- Roman Josi
Play-by-Play Sheet / Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth
Scoring Chance Data
A chance is counted any time a team directs a shot cleanly on-net from within home-plate. Shots on goal and misses are counted, but blocked shots are not (unless the player who blocks the shot is “acting like a goaltender”). Generally speaking, we are more generous with the boundaries of home-plate if there is dangerous puck movement immediately preceding the scoring chance, or if the scoring chance is screened. If you want to get a visual handle on home-plate, check this image. A big thank you to Vic Ferrari is in order, as his timeonice.com scripts enable the entire operation. Yes, there is an app for this.
Scoring Chances for NHL Game Number 20891
|VAN||2||3:08||Weise GOAL (Malhotra)||1||6||23||27||32||40||11||15||35||57||59||75||5v5|
Chance Totals (Canucks on the left, Preds on the right).
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|