January 27 2013 10:32PM
Cory Schneider fails to smother the puck, as Patrick Marleau ices Sunday night's game.
Photo credit: Thearon W. Henderson
You wouldn't be able to tell by the mood of Canucks fans on Twitter or on Team1040 call in shows, but the Canucks put on a better performance on Sunday night against the Sharks than they managed in a blowout win over Anaheim two days prior. Yeah, yeah, the results weren't there and the Canucks laid a legitimate egg in the third period, but for much of the game Vancouver executed their game plan and controlled the proceedings.
Unfortunately for Vancouver's club, a couple of costly unforced errors, some sub-par goaltending, undisciplined play and Antii Niemi's absurd puck-luck cost the Canucks a winnable game.
Read on past the jump for more.
- We'll begin with the most important stats, as usual. The Sharks won the scoring chance battle, recording 13 grade-a chances to Vancouver's 11. At even-strength the Sharks out-chanced Vancouver 7-6, though that figure is inflated by San Jose's dominance of the four-on-four game state in the games opening couple of minutes. At five-on-five Vancouver was the better club, recording 6 scoring chances to San Jose's 3. With the score tied, San Jose recorded three scoring chances while Vancouver recorded none.
- In terms of the goaltending breakdown, it wasn't a good night for either goalie, though Niemi is lucky enough to come away with the gaudy save percentage (and the lovely highlight from late in the first period when he absolutely robbed Alex Burrows on Vancouver's best power-play chance of the evening). Vancouver took ten "difficult shots" (scoring chances directed on net) and actually beat Niemi on four of them, but couldn't beat the iron. The Sharks meanwhile, beat Cory Schneider on four of twelve difficult shots (three were goals, the other was a shot that hit the post). Both goaltenders meanwhile, allowed a goal on a non-scoring chance.
- When I wrote in the intro that Vancouver "executed their game plan" for the most part, I'm referring to the fact that Vancouver got under San Jose's skin and managed to draw a lot of penalties in the contest. Vancouver's five-on-five play so far this season has been - well - let's just say the team really misses Ryan Kesler and David Booth. But the power-play has looked polished, so it's in the Canucks' best interest to play an abrasive style designed to draw as many penalties as possible. Vancouver was successful on this front, but they couldn't cash in on any of the opportunities (though they did beat Niemi twice - just not the post - and managed to generate a respectable five power-play chances in seven opportunities).
Moreover, when you employ the "jerk puck" style you're walking a fine line. Sometimes you'll be able to draw the penalties you need without giving up too many opportunities the other way, and sometimes - like tonight - you'll cross the line too often and get burned. San Jose's power-play has been absurd (unsustainably absurd) in the early going this season and the Sharks shredded Vancouver's penalty-kill. Ultimately this game was decided by special teams and the Sharks, obviously, held a decided edge on this night.
- Zack Kassian had his quietest game in a week against the Sharks, only factoring in on one scoring chance for Vancouver (and it was a harmless looking one at that). He also lost a fight against Ryane Clowe though boy, oh boy you've got to respect the way Kassian can take a punch. Regardless, Zack Kassian's biggest foe for several years has been the inconcsistency that sometimes creeps into his game, and he looked every bit the twenty-two year old forward he is on Sunday night.
- After a stronger outing on Friday against Anaheim, the Sedins were quiet on Sunday, only factoring in on three scoring chances between them. Not only were they struggling to generate offense in San Jose's end of the rink, but their defensive game left a lot of be desired in Vancouver's. On the opening goal of the game, everyone will remember Jason Garrison's failed clearing attempt, while conveniently forgetting the three straight 50-50 battles lost by either Daniel on Henrik on that cycle play. But yeah, that happened.
- Alex Edler looked more comfortable on the right-side in this past week's games against Calgary and Anaheim (the second Ducks game, I mean), but he made a brutal giveaway that led directly to San Jose's second goal. Alain Vigneault split up the defensive pairings after that, putting Jason Garrison with Kevin Bieksa (who had a night to forget as well, and may hear from Brendan Shanahan about the blindside hit he threw at Scott Gomez in the third period) and Alex Edler with Dan Hamhuis.
- By far Vancouver's best pairing through five games has been the Chris Tanev, Keith Ballard pairing. On the one hand it's good that Ballard is having some success and that Tanev remains his usual, ho-hum, steady-as-fuck self. On the other hand, it's kind of like how Dale Weise, Zack Kassian and Mason Raymond are Vancouver's three best forwards so far this season: cool, but also a testament to the fact that the principals look out of sync.
- Jason Garrison is missing the net on too many of his shots, but I've liked his game overall. He's winning a lot of battles all over the ice and pinching effectively with the man-advantage. But yeah, t's pretty clear that the personnel on the Canucks' first unit power-play haven't really figured out how to best incorporate Garrison's heavy artillery yet.
For the most part, that's to be expected as Jason Garrison is new and didn't even have a full training camp or any preseason games to get acclimated to playing with the twins. It's also worth noting that the twins play hockey unlike anyone else in the world: they pass when they shouldn't, and they do things offensively - like throw around a no-look spin pass in the neutral zone, or send a back-hand saucer pass to a teammate even when they've got an open shooting lane - that 99.9% of hockey players just don't do. So it makes sense to me that a fresh face would have a steeper learning curve adjusting to the playing style of the twins, and I'm not too worried about Garrison's lack of power-play effectiveness. At least not yet.
- How are you going to single out and crticize Jason Garrison when Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis and Alex Edler are struggling to the extent they have in the early going this season? I find this baffling.
- Aaron Volpatti wasn't called for it, but he pretty clearly left his feet on a hit in the second period. I'll be curious to see if Brendan Shanahan applies the Brayden Schenn standard here and suspends Volpatti for wearing rocket skates. If I had to wager on it, I'd bet that Kevin Bieksa won't face supplementary discipline for his hit on Gomez, but that Volpatti will.
- No Canucks centerman finished above fifty percent on faceoffs in this game as Vancouver finished the contest with a 32.2% winning percentage on draws. I hope Manny Malhotra enjoyed his game in the press box, because something - and that something is common sense - tells me that, that arrangement isn't going to last very long.
- Finally, Jordan Schroeder was Vancouver's best forward on Sunday night, taking three scoring chances and only missing out on his first goal by a fraction of an inch. He was out-matched in the faceoff circle however, and as a result of the glut of Vancouver penalties saw his ice-time drop well below fourteen minutes for the first time in his three NHL games.
Scoring Chance Data
A reminder for those of you new to reading our site: a scoring chance is counted any time a team directs a shot cleanly on-net from within home-plate (here's an image of "home-plate" so you can get a visual definition). 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.
Here's the total scoring chance data:
|Canucks (EV)||4 (2)||6 (4)||1 (0)||11 (6)|
|Sharks (EV)||6 (6)||5 (0)||2 (1)||13 (7)|
And here's the individual chance data for Canucks skaters:
|Skaters||Chance Taken||Chance Assists||Total|