April 12 2012 01:56PM
Jarred Stoll celebrates Willie Mitchell's go ahead goal in the second period. L.A. won the game 4-2.
(Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
The Canucks and King opened their Western Conference Quarterfinal series on Wednesday night, and while the Kings clearly handled the proceedings, out-shooting the Canucks 39 to 26 and winning the game, it wasn't all bad for Vancouver's side.
Unfortunately, however, there was undeniably more bad than good. Vancouver's power-play unit was an unqualified disaster, and a string of bad hits from Zack Kassian, Maxim Lapierre and especially Byron Bitz, ultimately cost Vancouver the game. The vaunted "PhD" line of Samme Pahlsson, Jannik Hansen and Chris Higgins had their teeth kicked in by the Kings top-line, and late in the third period, Alex Edler, who had an otherwise strong game, had a brain-fart giveaway that resulted in Dustin Penner's game winning goal...
All that said, the Canucks were the better team in the third period, and overall at even-strength in the game. Vancouver's penalty-kill looked excellent (despite surrendering two, flukey goals), and Roberto Luongo was solid for the most part. This series is a long way from being over, and while it didn't exactly get off to the start Canucks fans were hoping for, there is some cause for optimism despite Wednesday's rather ghastly result.
Click past the jump for a more detailed recap, analysis, scoring chance data and the statistical three stars!
- We'll begin as always with the essential data. Despite being massively out-shot, the Canucks controlled the quality chance battle in this game with 21 total scoring chances to 18 for the Kings. At even-strength, the Canucks out-chanced the Kings 17-12 and with the score tied, Vancouver's club narrowly edged L.A's team by a final tally of 13-12.
- The Kings shoot from everywhere. They try to create traffic and score greasy goals, and they came damn close on a number of occasions. While their style of play was somewhat responsible for the King's relatively deflated chance totals on Wednesday, I'd say it has more to do with luck. On several occasions the Kings had prime chances at chances, but simply failed to direct the puck on net. Also, the Canucks defenders were first to an inordinate number of loose pucks in the slot in game one, and it's doubtful that they'll be able to maintain that pace all series.
- The Canucks opened the scoring on an Alex Burrows goal that probably shouldn't have counted, seeing as how Ryan Kesler had interfered with Jonathan Quick immediately prior to the goal. Kesler bumped Quick and then threw his head back (and to the left) simultaneously, and I'm pretty sure that his clear embellishment and general roguishness caused the officials to miss the call. Basically, the referee saw Kesler's head go back, so his first impulse was to keep the whistle as far from being blown as possible - this reaction allowed Kesler to get away with a tidy spot of goaltender interference, and Burrows capitalized. So long as you're not one to rant about the immorality of diving, it was a very funny sequence.
- While the goal itself was odious, the Henrik Sedin play to set the goal up was a thing of beauty. Henrik was dynamite five-on-five on Wednesday, and you have to think that if the Canucks had managed to stay out of the box and given him more ice time with which, to go to work - the result would have been different.
On this particular play he entered the zone, dipsy doodled around seemingly every single Kings skater before flipping the puck to Burrows for the original shot (Burrows would eventually score on his own rebound). The goal was uncannily similar to the one Henrik set up against Anaheim, and I think this is a new Canucks set-play where Henrik's line-mates simply stand around in shooting locations, watch their captain handle the puck, and wait for him to possibly feed it to them for the chip shot.
- While the Kings scored two power-play goals, both came off of non-scoring chances and were pretty flukey. Mike Richards' goal on the five-on-three came from an odd angle, well below the circle, and was something of a mcsofty that Luongo really should've had. The other power-play goal that the Kings scored was off of a redirected Willie Mitchell point shot that beat Luongo high. Anytime Willie Mitchell scores a power-play goal against you, you know it's probably not your night. Overall the Kings had eleven and a half minutes of power-play ice-time including two extended five-on-threes and only managed six scoring chances in that time. That's pretty terrible.
- But it's not as terrible as the Canucks power-play, which, managed a grand total of three scoring chances in eight and a half minutes and yet wasn't lucky enough to manage a freebie off of an odd angle shot. The Canucks flukey freebie, rather, came at even-strength in the waning seconds of the second period when Ryan Kesler won a draw, and hauled Anze Kopitar to the ice as Alex Edler teed up a shot that was also deflected and found the back of the net. Don Cherry would've had an aneurism if he'd been up late watching this particular contest.
- Kesler dove on several occasions last night and it's becoming really difficult to support him as a fan. He dove while interfering with Quick on the first goal, he pulled a summersault dive on Mike Richards (which, incidentally, created an odd-man rush), and at one point late in the third he whacked Jarred Stoll in the family jewels with his stick after the whistle. I watched the nut-shot again and reading Stoll's reaction to Kesler's stick work, and I can say with confidence that he told Kesler "man, you're such an ass-hole." Sadly, Stoll's assessment was dead-on.
- Going into this series, I was confident that the "PhD" line would be the Canucks "ace-in-the-hole" as it were. Last night, however, they were completely and utterly ineffective as the Kopitar line just totally manhandled them. Samme Pahlsson was a -7 in even-strength scoring chance differential, Chris Higgins was a -5 and Jannik Hansen was a -4. Vigneault is going to have to go back to the drawing board, because if the club's "first checking line" can't handle one of the Kings top forward lines, then that "big depth advantage" the Canucks apparently have, and that we heard so much about going into this series, isn't going to be worth very much.
- Alex Edler was something of a goat because of a brain-dead giveaway that resulted in Dustin Penner's late game-winner. It was a bad play, by a defenseman who is clearly not the team's best defensive option. That said, Edler had a strong game overall scoring a goal and helping the club to out-chance the Kings when he was on the ice. As good as Edler was for most of the game, however, you can't be making mistakes like that late in playoff games on the team's number one pairing. I'm already curious to see how long this series goes before Hamhuis and Bieksa are reunited.
- Manny Malhotra, the 2.5 million dollar face-off specialist, was full value last night. He was dominant in the face-off circle, excellent on the penalty kill and finished with a +4 5-on-5 chance differential despite starting twelve shifts in the defensive end and, of course, none in the offensive end of the rink.
- Along with Henrik, Booth and Burrows had borderline dominant games by the chance data, which, is great to see. If the Canucks can solve their third line problems, their top-six group showed on Wednesday that they can simply overpower the Kings top-six in terms of generating chances. Also in terms of taunting. While we haven't been able to find a good video of it, Alex Burrows apparently picked some snow off the ice with the blade of his stick and offered it to Mike Richards, so that he might rail it, late in the third period. Now that is elevating your game for the postseason.
- One final note for our regular readers, the timeonice chance counting app is glitchy in the postseason, so we have to do a manual count. As such, expect our recaps to appear regularly the day after games as opposed to on the night of!
Statistical Three Stars
- Henrik Sedin
- Aaron Rome
- Alex Burrows
Statistical Three Goats
- Jarred Stoll
- Rob Scuderi
- Trevor Lewis
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 whose tracking app enables this entire operation. Yes, there is an app for this!
Scoring Chances for NHL Game Number 30151
|2||D. HAMHUIS||11:48||5||6||3:17||3||0||6: 05||1||5|
Chance Totals (Canucks on the left, Kings on the right).
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|