March 01 2012 11:27PM
After two disappointing losses in extra time in Dallas and Phoenix, respectively, the Vancouver Canucks returned home on Thursday to show off new acquisitions in front of their home fans for the first time. Zack Kassian, Marc-André Gragnani and Samuel Pahlsson all made their debuts in the blue sweater against the St. Louis Blues, having strong games for the most part.
But there wasn't a lot going on in this one. As expected, there was very little space on the ice, as what tends to happen when you have Ken Hitchcock coaching against a coach who has two of the top defensive centres in the game to his credit. Alex Burrows scored the game's first goal midway through the third period off a lucky bounce and Chris Higgins sealed it with a late empty-net effort, while Roberto Luongo held steady for the 29-save shutout.
For a detailed recap, scoring chance numbers for both teams, and the Statistical Three Stars and Goats, follow us after the jump…
-First, the important numbers: Vancouver won the scoring chance battle 9-8, 8-7 at even strength and 6-5 with the score tied at even strength. If that seems like a low number, you're right. NHL games usually feature between 12 and 17 chances per team, but this is absurdly low. St. Louis are the best defensive team in the league for a reason and you can see why—the sysem benefits Brian Elliot, hence his very low goals against total.
-Flip the coin, and the Blues are the 21st best offense in the league and due to drop after this one. They were shut out by a goaltender who never really looked comfortable in his crease, who fought the puck on most saves from in close and had to make a pair of awkward efforts off of chances by Vladimir Sobotka. He didn't really have to play too well in this one, as most shots were unscreened efforts from beyond the perimeter.
-Zack Kassian had a nice home debut. He took three shots on net in the first, two of which I recorded as scoring chances, and was credited with four hits to boot. What I do like about him is his versitility. He came out and played a couple of shifts with the Sedins post-penalty kill, but also spent a lot of time helping Manny Malhotra and Maxim Lapierre in the defensive zone.
-I haven't seen a lot of play by Malhotra in the defensive zone in the last couple of games, and they're finally getting help moving the puck forward. While Malhotra was usually given anywhere from half to two thirds of defensive zone faceoff duties, that's now being shared by Samuel Pahlsson now.
-Get this: in the last two games, the Canucks have had 32 defensive zone faceoffs. Manny Malhotra has been on the ice 15 of them and Samuel Pahlsson has been on the ice 15 of them. Unfortunately, Pahlsson is being used as insurance as Ryan Kesler is the one taking those draws, so the trade hasn't exactly freed up Kesler in any capacity. He's still missing a step, getting just two shot attempts in this game.
-David Backes is a pretty good hockey player, as it turns out. He had four shots on goal and played in some tough minutes against the Sedin twins, neutralizing them when they were on the ice together.
-Unfortunately for Backes, the Sedins pitched a perfect game defensively for the first time in a while, and caught Backes on the ice for the game's winning goal.
-For some reason that goal reminded me of Maxim Lapierre's Game 5 goal against Boston. Same type of game, except a little less exciting since the consequences weren't as dire.
-I guess the Canucks remain the top seeded team in the Western Conference. That's nice, but it wasn't necessarily done convincingly. Vancouver haven't had a clear victory in six games, now, although winning close games is better than the alternative. This is a good enough team that it should be getting a little bit more separation in the goal differential department, but it hasn't.
-Dan Hamhuis pitched a shutout at even strength, but was unfortunately on the ice for the Blues' lone shorthanded chance against. He did play 2:28 of time on the penalty kill, however, so he did come out ahead in that regard, and the defensive miscue (I didn't check to see whose it was) didn't cost him a spot in the statistical three stars.
-Mason Raymond wound up as the game's first Statistical Goat, which is understandable, since he wasn't even in Vancouver for this one...
-Finally, the Canucks reboot Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres. A couple of former Canucks return to town and I'm guessing it will be a loud building to welcome the return of Christian Ehrhoff to Rogers Arena.
-New Ehrhoff, Marc-André Gragnani, was pretty slow in this one, though he made a few heads up plays in the offensive zone, I'm still not sold on him being a guy that Vigneault can routinely bank on in tight situations. He only did play 15:38, and his pairing with Aaron Rome was one of the more "high-event" pairings on the team. I'd prefer to see him get some good minutes with the Sedins and really jump forward in those plays. He seems to know how to pass the puck, at least, and when to pinch.
Statistical Three Stars:
- Roberto Luongo
- Dan Hamhuis
- Brian Elliott
Statistical Three Goats:
- Mason Raymond
- Ryan Kesler
- Alex Pietrangelo
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 because his timeonice.com scripts enable the entire operation.Yes there is an app for this.
Scoring Chances for NHL Game Number 20957
|VAN||3||15:43||VAN G 1-0 Burrows||1||2||3||14||22||33||1||10||27||28||42||74||5v5|
TOTALS (Vancouver on left, St. Louis on right)
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|