March 23 2012 12:16AM
Bieksa celebrates his game-winning goal with Henrik Sedin during Thursday night's game in Dallas.
(Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Canucks have been reeling of late, both generally and against the Dallas Stars, who have earned the win over Vancouver's club in the team's last two meetings. Considering the Canucks lost their leading goal scorer to a (likely) concussion, and were facing the Pacific Division Leader on the second night of road back-to-backs - they put in a solid effort, handily controlling the game while holding the lead throughout.
A more detailed recap, chance data and the statistical three stars and goats after the jump.
- Let's begin, as usual, with the essential numbers. The Canucks took it to the Stars in total chances, generating 19 to Dallas' 15. At even-strength, the teams were dead even and generated fourteen scoring chances a side, while with the score tied the Canucks out-chanced the Stars 2-1.
- Oftentimes I give Sportsnet colour commentator John Garrett a friendly ribbing for his lack of focus during broadcasts. Tonight, however, after Mike Ribeiro set up a Michael Ryder scoring chance in the slot, Garrett chimed in and said "Boy, Mike Ribeiro could have three assists already!" I looked down at my scoring chance sheet, and sure enough, at that point in the game: I'd credited Mike Ribeiro with three chances created. We count a "chance created" whenever a player directly sets up a hard-shot from the slot, so in this case John Garrett was absolutely on the money.
- With Daniel Sedin out of the lineup, Alex Burrows was dropped down to the second line while Mason Raymond and Zack Kassian were thrust into first line duty. Raymond had a very productive game with two shots on goal, one chance created (on the pass that led to Bieksa's goal), a goal scored and a +2 even-strength chance differential. Kassian, also had a productive game, finishing at +4 in even-strength chance differential, taking three shots and playing some quality physical hockey. In particular, one one play in the third period, Jamie Benn cross-checked Dan Hamhuis in the chin post whistle and Kassian skated right at Benn and gave him several similar checks in the chest.
- Edler and Bieksa have played some atrocious hockey together over the past couple of weeks, but tonight they seemed to figure it out and played a rock solid game. Bieksa had one defensive zone giveaway but was mostly solid, finishing a +3 in chance differential and adding the game-winner. Tanev had an interesting game in that, he played some really difficult minutes (primarily matched up against Eriksson and started five more shifts in the defensive end than in the offensive end) and broke even from a possession stand-point. I guess that's not that interesting, but it's the first time I've seen him deployed in a serious shutdown role, and I'd say he rose to the challenge. I might even describe his performance as auspicious.
- Dan Hamhuis was partnered with Tanev and was solid as well, also, he showed some offensive flare when he allowed Henrik's beautiful pass to go through his legs on Mason Raymond's opening goal. That really impressed me, actually:
- Edler, however, was absolutely brilliant tonight and deserves his own point-form observational paragraph. It was one of those games where Edler teases you by showing a form that makes you think: "christ on a cracker, if that guy could play sixty games a season like that he'd be a top-10 defender in this league." His zone-exits were sublime, he was breaking up would-be scoring chances (and making it look easy) and just looked so in control in his own end. Edler played 19 minutes at even-strength, and when he was on the ice Dallas attempted a total of eleven shots, and only managed two scoring chances. The Canucks aren't going to give up a lot of goals on a night when Edler is "on" defensively like that.
- In three minutes and forty two seconds of short-handed ice-time, the Canucks didn't surrender a single scoring chance against. Manny Malhotra is the team's best penalty killer and he was a big part of tonight's effort (second among forwards in short-handed minutes) and as usual played solid low-event hockey at evens. The team may rest Manny down the stretch, but don't be fooled by his being a healthy scratch here and there: Malhotra is going to dress in the postseason.
- Cory Schneider's puck-handling has been an issue for a while, but I actually thought he was pretty good tonight until he whiffed on that easy one behind the net and allowed Vernon Fiddler to score a classic snack goal. A couple of minutes before that goal, Schneider made a couple of nice plays with the puck and on one in particular, made an excellent pass that helped break Dallas' forecheck while under significant pressure from Steve Ott.
Schneider can't stop making simple passes when the opposition dumps it in, he needs to relieve some of the pressure off of his defenseman, and the Canucks breakout and zone-exits are predicated upon simple passes from their goaltenders. Schneider has the tools to be a capable puck-handler, he just needs to improve on his decision making.
- Case in point, about two minutes after Fiddler's goal, Cory Schneider skittish about handling the puck after allowing that ugly goal, decided to leave the puck to Kevin Bieksa behind the net rather than play it. Bieksa's next touch of the puck was an awkward one, and the puck slid dangerously through the right side of the crease while Schneider was still getting back into position. Yes, Schneider needs to work on his decision making with the puck, but he's still going to need to be able to make the simple play, without hesitation on a regular basis.
- It amused me how the other goaltenders in the game reacted to Schneider's puck-handling Snafu. His teammate, frenemie and mentor Roberto Luongo reacted by making this face:
- Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen on the other hand, tried to make Cory Schneider feel better by feeding the puck to Samme Pahlsson and leaving his net wide open. Pahlsson hit the post, but I bet Schneider appreciated Lehtonen's gesture.
- Speaking of Samme Pahlsson, having had about ten games to watch him play, I find his defensive stylings to be absolutely hilarious. Just watch him when he's on the ice, he's a human clutch and grab machine. He bumps into the puck handler, and just wipes them out, and never seems to take a penalty doing it. He didn't have the strongest game tonight, but made one play with two minutes left that was the highlight of the night for me. Sheldon Souray tried to skate into the Canucks zone through the middle, and Chris Higgins poke-checked the puck away. Jamie Benn retrieved the puck, and tried to make a clean zone-entry of his own, but he flubbed a pass as Pahlsson closed in on him. Pahlsson then tripped Benn with his skate, and as Benn tried to pick up his stick, Pahlsson pretend to drop his and sat neatly on Jamie Benn's stick as Chris Tanev and Dan Hamhuis foiled the Dallas break in and got the puck moving the other way. I'd imagine it's pretty tough to score with a big Swede on your stick!
Statistical Three Stars
- Ryan Kesler
- Kevin Bieksa
- Alex Edler
Statistical Three Goats
- Brendan Morrow
- Stephane Robidas - unusual to see his name here, weak special teams performance cost him.
- Eric Nystrom
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 thank you is in order to Vic Ferrari, whose timeontheice.com scripts enable the entire operation. Yes, there's an app for this.
Scoring Chances for NHL Game Number 21106
Totals (Canucks on the left, Stars on the right).
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