January 26 2013 12:40AM
Aaron Volpatti mugs for the camera after icing the game with a second period goal.
Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images
After being lit up in the first game of the season by the Anaheim Ducks, Cory Schneider - Vancouver's starting goaltender - was out for a little bit of redemption in Friday night's game. He got it, and then some, as he recorded a clean sheet to spoil Anaheim's home-opener.
Shoutouts are something of an over-rated statistic generally speaking. Sometimes goaltenders will make eleven of so saves, five of them difficult and will record one in a game their team completely dominated. That wasn't the case this evening and Cory Schneider's efforts kept Vancouver in the game early, and were critical in a blowout win in which Vancouver's defense didn't look particularly good, frankly.
While the Ducks were clearly the superior squad five-on-five, they were undisciplined, and Vancouver's power-play repeatedly made them pay for their mental errors and occasional thuggish shenanigans. The combination of dominant special teams and air-tight goaltending allowed Vancouver to blowout their opponents in a game that really had no business being so lopsided.
Read on past the jump for a recap and analysis.
- We'll start, as usual, with the most important statistics. The Canucks were out-chanced 22 to 11 overall, 21 to 6 at even-strength and 5-2 with the score tied.
- Usually when you post a scoring chance differential that hideous, the blowout doesn't go in your favour. So the most important metrics for this game are as follows: the Canucks out-chanced the Ducks 5-1 on special teams, and capitalized on sixty percent of their five power-play chances (for three power-play goals). Meanwhile Cory Schneider faced eighteen "difficult shots" to Jonas Hiller's ten. Where Cory Schneider stopped every scoring chance that Anaheim directed accurately on net, while Jonas Hiller only managed to stop five.
- Yes the final score looks lopsided, but don't kid yourself: the Canucks won this game on the strength of superior goaltending, effective jerk-puck tactics and solid special teams play. After completely dominating the Canucks in the game's first eight minutes or so, the Ducks completely lost their composure. Following a soft holding call that went against Daniel Winnik, the Ducks took a string of bad penalties on legitimately dangerous plays by Ryan Getzlaf, who smoked Mason Raymond with his stick in a post-whistle scrum, and Bryan Allen, who threw an impossibly late hit on Dale Weise for the interference call.
The Canucks cashed in with power-play goals by Daniel Sedin and Mason Raymond, and the Ducks had dug themselves a hole against a hot goaltender. It's ironic, really, because the Ducks truly had Vancouver's number five-on-five in this contest but failed to play the game on their terms. Vancouver suckered the Ducks into mucking it up, picked their spots better than their opponent, and took advantage of their opportunities on the power-play. I suppose we now know what Vancouver's gameplan looks like in Ryan Kesler and David Booth's absence.
- Jordan Schroeder recorded his first NHL point when Mason Raymond took a nice cross ice feed from the rookie and squeezed it through Jonas Hiller late in the third period. Production is cool and all, but far more valuable was Schroeder's ability to eat up ice-time without being a defensive liability and to win face-offs in the absence of faceoff aces Ryan Kesler and Manny Malhotra. Schroeder won 58% of his face-offs, skated legitimate third line minutes for the second straight game and contributed on two Canucks scoring chances, so all in all a fine second outing for the rookie.
- Aaron Volpatti had an Eric Bledsoe kind of game, in that he filled up the boxscore despite seeing limited burn. He skated for a shade over eight minutes but scored a goal, registered three shots on goal, recorded two hits and added five penalty minutes in a fight he won against Anaheim's Matt Belesky. I've been impressed with Volpatti's game for a couple of seasons now (albeit in limited action), and he really looks like the type of fourth liner you can count on to play a limited role when the games start to matter. Let's hope he can stay healthy this season.
- The Sedin twins were called out by Alain Vigneault after a lackadaisical performance in Wednesday night's game against the Flames, and they responded with a much better outing this time around. Where they combined on just three scoring chances in Wednesday night's game, they produced five between them against the Ducks (nearly half of Vancouver's total scoring chances in the game). Daniel Sedin scored the opening goal on the five-on-three off of a cross crease feed from Henrik, and the two combined to gift-wrap Zack Kassian's power-play goal early in the third. That goal really strangled any hope of an Anaheim comeback.
- Zack Kassian is now on a three game goal scoring streak, which is neat. For everyone who likes to critique Vancouver's player development and lack of drafting success, it's probably worth noting that in Kassian it looks like the Canucks now have a top-line forward on an entry-level contract.
Let's include Zack Kassian's goal in this post because it was probably the most aesthetically pleasing Canucks goal that the Canucks scored on Friday:
Kassian's minutes were down slightly from the nearly twenty he played against Calgary, but that's more reflective of the score than anything (he skated roughly the same number of minutes as Daniel Sedin did). I was, again, impressed by his improved speed and fitness level, and his ability to make the smart play when making zone-exit passes (something he struggled with a year ago).
Finally, Zack Kassian adds some much needed backbone to Vancouver's usual jerk puck gameplan. He's like the two of hearts in a game of big two. Two moments I particularly enjoyed were when Corey Perry grabbed his stick, and skated away quickly, basically picking the safest way possible to mess with the big man.
The other was on a play early in the second where Kassian was forechecking against Getzlaf. Getzlaf is a very slippery skater (despite his size) but Kassian did well to track him back into his zone and make sure he was able to finish the hit on him. Behind the play they beaked and I'm pretty sure Kassian was trying to goad Getzlaf into a fight (the score was still 2-0 at this point). Getzlaf is a much worthier opponent than Ben Eager, and it's good to see Kassian be more selective with his potential dance partners.
- Chris Tanev took a couple of shots where, I thought, he got an awful lot of velocity on his shot compared to what we've seen in recent years. Obviously he's not moving up the power-play depth chart or anything, and won't any time soon, but that's good to see. Tanev and Ballard are also playing an awful lot of minutes for an Alain Vigneault third-pairing and are generally acquitting themselves rather well in the expanded role.
- The top two pairings, on the other hand, are a cause for concern early in the season. Kevin Bieksa had a couple of really bad shifts to start the game though he calmed down and played a solid physical game the rest of the way. Meanwhile Alex Edler is still good for a poor read and a turnover that leads directly to a scoring chance per game as his struggles to adjust to the right-side continue. As a team, the Canucks are surrendering an average of 18 scoring chances against per game over their past three contests. Luongo and Schneider have played some phenomenal hockey in those games, thankfully, but it's tough to imagine this team getting very far if they continue to bleed chances against like that.
- Mason Raymond is so much stronger on his skates this season. I hadn't thought about it before the season, but it does make sense that he'd benefit more from eight months off of hockey (both to repair his body, and refocus his mind) than your average player. The second goal was a Jonas Hiller mistake, I think, but the first goal was a lovely play and his second power-play goal in as many games. Anyway, what I'm more impressed with is that Raymond is regularly winning puck battles at even-strength. Looks to me like he's poised for a rebound year, at least in terms of the underlying metrics.
- Corey Perry is a jerk, obviously, but he can play on my team any day of the week. I appreciate that he was frustrated when his team was laying an egg in their home-opener. I like to see that fire, frankly. He dealt with it like a chump (jumping Keith Ballard) but whatever, Corey Perry is still the man.
Here's the individual skater scoring chance data for the Canucks:
|Chances Taken||Chance Assists||Totals|
And finally here's the scoring chance totals from the game:
|Scoring Chances (EV)||1st Period||2nd Period||3rd Period||Total|
|Canucks||5 (1)||2 (2)||4 (3)||11 (6)|
|Ducks||8 (8)||6 (5)||8 (8)||22 (21)|