Canucks Army Postgame: Ugly goal, stagnant offence cost Canucks against Red Wings

Cam Charron
October 31 2013 12:32AM

The Canucks brief win streak came to a halt Wednesday night against Detroit, thanks in part to a weak-looking goal by Tomas Tatar that held up as the winner, but mostly because of a fairly tepid offensive performance from everybody. Generally, the Western Conference has dominated the Eastern Conference this season, but the Red Wings, who are really a Western team in disguise, had their way defensively with Vancouver, and it was like they never really left. 

Despite a late third period burst, the Canucks never really mounted anything offensively and their top line lost their matchup quite heavily to Pavel Datsyuk & Co. Still, the Canucks had a late chance with a powerplay, but ultimately wound up on the wrong side of a 2-1 game. The Canucks record is not properly reflected in their play, and they've so far won a disproportionate number of one-goal games. After Wednesday's loss, the team is now 7-1-1 in games decided by a single goal.

Live by the one-goal game, die by the one-goal game.

THE RUNDOWN

Daniel Sedin opened the scoring on a shot from a tight area. Look at the image and tell me what doesn't belong:

This thing!

The Sedins are rolling through a pretty crazy stretch right now. I don't remember them producing like this since the scoring title years. I'd guessed that they'd fall off a little due to age, but it seems like a high on-ice shooting percentage will cover it. Probably an unsustainable run, but it's hard to think of a pair of players that are more fun to watch when they're producing for the Sedins. 

However, at that point the Red Wings had most of the control of the game. The unblocked shots were 11-5 for the Wings, and Detroit never really gave the Canucks an inch. All they had to do was stick to the process. To that point, they hadn't given up a lot of shots or chances, and they didn't give up a lot more as the game progressed.

So, in the second, the Wings finally caught their breaks. First, Daniel Alfredsson took a shot that hit the post, but banked off the leg of Roberto Luongo. Tomas Tatar (you may remember him as being on the Slovakian team that knocked off the Americans in quarterfinal of the 2009 World Juniors) scored a goal that could be considered a McSofty. Chris Tanev, who was in position to block the shift, flamingo'd at the last moment and Luongo didn't get a very clear look at it. Still, as Paul Maurice pointed out in the intermission segment, that's a save the goalie had to make.

Couple of bad breaks for the Canucks, but it's not like they really earned them. The Canucks took a penalty late in the third, sending Daniel Sedin off for the final seconds, and after a call on Nik Kronwall evened it up, the Canucks did have a chance for a late tying goal. Off a faceoff win by Sedin, the puck went to Ryan Kesler who had a great lane for a slapshot but just missed picking the far corner. 

HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT

Roberto Luongo may have allowed a softie for the winner, but a goaltender's job, as I state it often, isn't to limit the number of easy goals. It's to make as many saves as possible, and Luongo did that Wednesday, stopping 25 of 27 and recording a quality start. He made a few big stops in the third that kept the Canucks in it off of Justin Abdelkader:

So, that was neat I guess, and certainly more indicative of his play than the image we cherrypicked to lead this post.

THE NUMBERS

The Fenwick Chart is absolutely brutal:

Vancouver never really had an advantage, and it doesn't even appear that score effects kicked in late. The Canucks really ought to have been pressing in the later stages of the game, but chances, like the Abdelkader one above, mostly went in Detroit's favour. Just an off-night for Vancouver's big guns, I guess.

The more concerning thing, however, was that Henrik and Daniel Sedin got absolutely mauled in possession against the Red Wings' Big Two of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Henrik and Daniel had Corsi For percentages of 33.3% and 37.5% at 5-on-5 tonight, respectively. They got the prime offensive zone starts (Henrik lined up for 12 faceoffs in the offensive zone and 4 in the defensive zone) but the twins matched up for more than 15 minutes each against Datsyuk and Zetterberg.

Sure, that didn't result in offence out of all the Wings' puck possession, but the important thing is that they kept the Canucks' top players off of the shot clock. 20 shots from the Canucks, and 0 came from Kesler, 0 came from Henrik and 3 came from Daniel.

Also, the Canucks managed just two shots on 4:54 of 5-on-4 time. They'd generally done very well this season generating shots on the powerplay, but the man-advantage team was legitimately bad against Detroit.

Concluding thought: Vancouver's issues tonight weren't a lack of hits or a lack of secondary scoring. A lack of primary scoring, or the ability to generate any second chances, long sequences in the offensive zone or *gasp* momentum really took a hit out of what the second and third lines could do. Alex Burrows took six shots and wound up with the Sedin twins for a couple of shifts in the third period. Just a mid-game blender for John Tortorella, or an indication that Kesler gets taken off this line?

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#1 argoleas
October 31 2013, 01:26AM
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There is no beating around the bush on this one: The team's travel exertions finally caught up with them. They were the more tired team, and to only go down 2-1 is not a bad result based on that. One bad goal by the Luongo-Tanev combo, but Lou more than made that up with some excellent saves. The team will have more rest days coming up. They should use them wisely.

And as usual, although it concerns me that the first line played close to 45% of the time, there has to be some more time to give to the other players. Kassian's 9 min is simply insufficient. Either give him the chance to succeed or end it.

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#2 Chocoball
October 31 2013, 04:52AM
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@argoleas

Just end him like ol' yeller....sob, sob...hockey's a cruel sport

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#3 JFR
October 31 2013, 07:33AM
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I agree that the team looked tired, but that is not just because of the schedule. The top line is playing 22+ minutes a night. The one positive that can be taken from last night is that last year the score would have been 4-1, Luo and the team managed to keep the score 2-1 and not completely collapse. That being said the PP is getting to be a serious problem, not an anomaly . This squad having the 29th ranked PP is beyond ridiculous. The second unit can't even hold the puck in the offensive zone, which brings us to second line scoring, Torts only choice is to drop Kess to the second line center spot. I would like to see kass up on the first for a while! but he hasn't earned it. Last night was a perfect example of having a big first line, every time the twins and Kess were on the ice, Zetterberg, Datsuk and Kromwell hit the ice, daring the rest to score and that's not happening. Santorelli is a third line center against good teams! Only other option is a trade which hasn't worked so well lately. Last is home ice! The crowd looked tired last night. The few Wings fans could be heard chanting Go Wings go until the final minutes. This team fed off the negative cheers in ST Louis, time to give Rogers a home ice feel Nucks fans! Go Canucks Go!

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#4 PB
October 31 2013, 08:15AM
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That was the least entertaining Canucks-Wings game I've seen in a while, including the blowout losses last year. The Wings looked pretty abysmal beyond their (old) stars and the Canucks looked pretty inconsistent at best. As many others have said I'm not sure that the loaded top line is the best way to go and it's not sustainable to have them play this much, not only because it's going to exhaust them but also because as mentioned you're not going to get any rhythm or flow out of the rest of the group if they get less than 10 minutes a game. Given how well Burrows plays with the Sedins it makes more sense to play Kesler on the second line, even if it is with him on the wing and Santorelli at center. And the Kassian experiment with the Sedins -- apparently so much a lock before the suspension -- seems to have been abandoned which is a shame. And while I understand that the lack of Booth, Weise, Hansen and Schroeder due to injury might make leaning on the top line a necessity right now, I think Welsh has shown enough that a third line of him, Kassian and Archibald deserve more minutes than they're getting right now. And I have to think that Pelletier, Dalpe or just about anyone else is better than Sestito.

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#5 Senrik Hedin
October 31 2013, 08:25AM
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Only 8 skaters showed up to the optional skate, and everybody seemed to be pretty tired. Their legs weren't moving and were always a step behind. One of the most frustratingly boring games I've seen in a while.

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#6 Ted
October 31 2013, 09:53AM
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Yeah it looked like they just didn't have anything left in the tank. I think you also have to give credit to an always well coached Red Wings team. It was anyone's game and we came up a bit short. Hopefully they get some time off and take out the Laffs!

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#7 EGS
October 31 2013, 09:58AM
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I don't want to be negative here, but all you guys using being tired as an excuse, c'mon. They're professional athletes getting paid huge quid and it's only October, if this is the excuse now, what will you use in January/February?

Yes they're logging huge minutes, and came off a tough road schedule but suck it up boys, that's what you get paid for!!!

Detroit was the better team and basically had control of the puck all night. Lots of sloppy play by the Canucks as well that totally didn't help.

It would have been 4-1 if it weren't for Lou.

Hopefully they can be better against the Leafs on Saturday.

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#8 BrudnySeaby
October 31 2013, 10:14AM
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To me this game signals what is to come when the Canucks play the better teams, either by their personnel or their coaching or a combination of the two. The Canucks' mini-"run" against the Eastern teams was fun (and they recorded a good win against a great team in St. Louis) but those Eastern teams are bottom half of the league. The real test comes on their upcoming road trip.

With how much time Torts has been playing the Sedins and Kesler, one has to fear for that trip and the long term prospect. The team is simply not deep enough to match up against the best, and deep teams, in the west. Although their tenacity and refound urgency makes them more fun to watch than last year.

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#9 NM00
October 31 2013, 11:05AM
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@argoleas

If the travel were "catching up" to the Canucks, wouldn't it have shown up in the Washington game?

I'd say the simplest explanation is that the Canucks outplayed an inferior team on Monday and were outplayed by a superior team last night.

Which has pretty much been the story all season aside from the Pittsburgh game.

As for Kassian, there's nothing surprising about his deployment.

Management's first priority is preserving their jobs for as long as they can.

The short term usurps the long term once again...

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#10 NM00
October 31 2013, 11:14AM
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JFR wrote:

I agree that the team looked tired, but that is not just because of the schedule. The top line is playing 22+ minutes a night. The one positive that can be taken from last night is that last year the score would have been 4-1, Luo and the team managed to keep the score 2-1 and not completely collapse. That being said the PP is getting to be a serious problem, not an anomaly . This squad having the 29th ranked PP is beyond ridiculous. The second unit can't even hold the puck in the offensive zone, which brings us to second line scoring, Torts only choice is to drop Kess to the second line center spot. I would like to see kass up on the first for a while! but he hasn't earned it. Last night was a perfect example of having a big first line, every time the twins and Kess were on the ice, Zetterberg, Datsuk and Kromwell hit the ice, daring the rest to score and that's not happening. Santorelli is a third line center against good teams! Only other option is a trade which hasn't worked so well lately. Last is home ice! The crowd looked tired last night. The few Wings fans could be heard chanting Go Wings go until the final minutes. This team fed off the negative cheers in ST Louis, time to give Rogers a home ice feel Nucks fans! Go Canucks Go!

There aren't enough delusional Canuck fans in the lower mainland to turn this into an elite team.

This isn't peewee hockey.

Audience participation isn't going to turn Mike Santorelli into Joe Pavelski...

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#11 NM00
October 31 2013, 11:17AM
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@EGS

"I don't want to be negative here, but all you guys using being tired as an excuse, c'mon. They're professional athletes getting paid huge quid and it's only October, if this is the excuse now, what will you use in January/February?"

Gary Bettman conspiracy...

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#12 Senrik Hedin
October 31 2013, 12:16PM
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I think people tend to conflate observation and excuses. Why would I need to provide excuses and for who? I'll leave that to the people whose jobs are actually on the line over a hockey game. Like I said, it was a frustratingly boring game.

Everyone here is chiming in to come up with ways to explain what happened, right? Some say it's the schedule or TOI of key players, some say it's the line combo, some blame the coaches or the goalie, or some just echo their opinion that the Canucks are just not a good enough team to regularly beat good teams. Sure. Whatever makes you happy.

At the end of the day, I think they just played a bad game and couldn't help but notice they looked listless and tired, which by the way is possible even if you are getting paid a lot of money.

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#13 Senrik Hedin
October 31 2013, 12:18PM
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@NM00

"Audience participation isn't going to turn Mike Santorelli into Joe Pavelski..."

HAHA truer words have never been said re Santorelli.

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#14 GeezMoney
October 31 2013, 12:25PM
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@EGS

I fell asleep three times last night and was only awakened by Gord Miller's shrill call.

The Canucks need an offensive upgrade and have needed it for some time now. Can Gillis actually acquire the player this team needs? I don't believe so.

And Kassian is now back to being a fourth liner. What is the point of him? Somebody tell me what his role is on the team? Is he supposed to provide offence? Is he supposed to be an enforcer? Is he fourth line checker? What role does he play???

When someone figures that out, let me know.

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#15 NM00
October 31 2013, 12:47PM
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@GeezMoney

The only reason people are still fascinated with Zack Kassian is because it took Cody Hodgson to acquire him.

If the Canucks had traded a 2nd and 3rd round pick for him as they did for Steve Bernier, nobody would think twice about him...

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#16 EGS
October 31 2013, 02:00PM
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@Senrik Hedin

Yes, it is possible for anyone to be tired, even top paid athletes... all I'm saying is that it's a lame excuse. I'm sure Zetterburg and Datsyuk were tired too, and they're older!

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#17 EGS
October 31 2013, 02:40PM
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NM00 wrote:

"I don't want to be negative here, but all you guys using being tired as an excuse, c'mon. They're professional athletes getting paid huge quid and it's only October, if this is the excuse now, what will you use in January/February?"

Gary Bettman conspiracy...

Silly me!

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#18 Senrik Hedin
October 31 2013, 04:06PM
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@EGS

I hear you. Sorry for belaboring the point, but all I was saying was that "excuse" is when you make statements like, "they lost that game because they were tired" as opposed to saying "they looked tired". And while on the topic of being nitpicky, I'm pretty sure Zetterberg is same age as the Sedins!

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#19 PB
October 31 2013, 07:27PM
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@NM00

That is a simple explanation but it doesn't bear much resemblance to most of the reality on the ice. I don't think the Wings played particularly well and didn't show much more than the Capitals did the game before. I have no idea why the Canucks seemed so much less on their game last night versus Monday but perhaps it's the first line playing their 8th straight 25 minute game or whatever it is. And it sounds more impressive to say that the Canucks have been playing better or worse against superior or inferior competition "all season" but it's more accurate to say that it's only been fifteen games.

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#20 argoleas
October 31 2013, 08:24PM
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NM00 wrote:

If the travel were "catching up" to the Canucks, wouldn't it have shown up in the Washington game?

I'd say the simplest explanation is that the Canucks outplayed an inferior team on Monday and were outplayed by a superior team last night.

Which has pretty much been the story all season aside from the Pittsburgh game.

As for Kassian, there's nothing surprising about his deployment.

Management's first priority is preserving their jobs for as long as they can.

The short term usurps the long term once again...

It is entirely possible that the tiredness did not show up until now. It did not have to materialize in the Washington game.

As for it being blamed on them losing to a better team, to me they looked more flimsy in this game, and it was not just due to Detroit being more dominant. In any case this is entirely possible, and will get tested more in the next few weeks as they play some of the better western teams.

As for Kassian, I dont know if it is about them preserving their jobs, or otherwise, they may have done more to try to use the recent draft picks. The choice to send them down was the best long term decision. I think some of the teams that chose to keep their picks in the NHL will regret their choices. The problem I have here is that the team is wasting his possible potential. Assuming he will be something resembling Bertuzzi, he needs to play more. Otherwise, send him down to the minors. I dont believe he needs to clear wavers. Perhaps his situation being the same now for three consecutive coaches (Ruff being the first) is a damning judgement, but if this is the case, get rid of him, now. Where he is now is the most pointless situation for all. His 9 minutes can be easily taken up by another callup. I think that what Kassian misses most of all is Schroeder. Too often he seems confused by the situation, and with a new coach, that is understandable (ask Hamhuis).

Overall, it would be nice to have more input from Torts on this. Saying he plays well sometimes and crappy other times is obvious and very uninformative.

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#21 EGS
October 31 2013, 08:44PM
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@Senrik Hedin

All good. It was kinda my fault anyway, I sort of just skimmed the comments and kept seeing the same "tired" theme and just rolled my eyes. Looking back it's plausible that these were just mere observations and not really excuses as to why they lost.

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