December 22 2013 09:49PM
This game had all the indications of a "trap game." The home team coming off a long road trip, after a big win over bitter rivals, just before the Christmas break, against a team that they should beat, with the greatest awards event ever of all time happening during the game... The list could go on. But the Canucks stuck to their guns, overcame some adversity, and earned the two points they should have earned in a 2-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.
Read past the jump for a quick postgame recap so you can get back to basking in the 2013 Shapys afterglow, b.
It was a fast-paced start to the game, thanks in large part to lots of turnovers and some poor defensive play. Zack Kassian stole the puck at the Jets blueline and tried to tuck the puck past Ondrej Pavelec, but was foiled by a good defensive play by a backchecking Mark Stuart. Ex-Vancouver Giant James Wright had the Jets' best chance of the 1st as he stripped Andrew Alberts of the puck before walking in and being stopped by Roberto Luongo. Soon after, Evander Kane was whistled for a penalty, setting the stage for the unlikeliest of PPG scoreres:
Brad Richardson's deflection was his first powerplay goal in almost eight years, as his last one came in 2006 when he was a rookie with the Colorado Avalanche. Richardson very nearly didn't get the chance to score though, as Ryan Kesler jammed a puck on goal that resulted in a patented Ondrej Pavelec Accidental Great Save just seconds earlier.
The biggest moment of the 1st came a few minutes later, as a cruising Dustin Byfuglien clipped Luongo's right leg, causing Luongo to leave the game with a suspected groin injury. Fortunately it didn't look too serious, and more fortunately still, Eddie Lack is playing some excellent hockey right now. Lack would prove to be excellent, stopping 15 of 16 shots in relief in front of his father and grandmother who were in town from Sweden to watch him play.
The second period started well for the home side, as they out-played the Jets by quite a large margin. Vancouver out-attempted Winnipeg 12-4 and generated some good chances, including a second Ryan Kesler opportunity from the doorstep. The game swung in Winnipeg's favour when Daniel Sedin's holding penalty seemed to kill all the momentum Vancouver had generated, leading to an Evander Kane powerplay goal and a 1-1 tie. From this point, the Jets held an 11-5 advantage in shot attempts until about mid-way through the 3rd, and carried the play for the rest of the 2nd period.
Vancouver looked to start completely crashing and burning in the early 3rd as Kevin Bieksa made a pair of absolute bonehead giveaways, resulting in two glorious chances for Mark Scheifele, but both were turned away by Eddie Lack:
Then off a rush by the 3rd line, Zack Kassian spotted Chris Tanev cruising into the high slot and delivered a perfect pass that Tanev ripped by Pavelec to give Vancouver the 2-1 lead:
The wrister was Tanev's 3rd goal in the past 7 games, and it came on a night where he was also on the ice for a rare 4-on-5 goal against so he totally had to make up for that, lest his magic voodoo powers appear to wear thin. It was also a great pass by Zack Kassian, who Dimitri and I both think is a better playmaker than a finisher. If you haven't noticed, he and David Booth have been excellent lately in a 3rd line role for Vancouver, and they were probably the Canucks' best line on the night. Kassian now has 3 points in his last 6 games which doesn't sound like much, but 0.5 pts/game is beyond excellent production from a 3rd line and if he keeps that pace for the rest of the season, it will be a boon to the Canucks.
Vancouver was able to close out the 2-1 victory, bringing their record to 3-1-1 in their last 5 games in which they've scored two or fewer goals. I guess this is vindication for Charron, or something.
Chart, as always, thanks to ExtraSkater.com
At even strength, the Jets held the advantage in Corsis 46-44, despite trailing the Fenwicks 27-24, meaning that shot blocking created a Fenwick advantage for the Canucks. John Tortorella must be so proud. Winnipeg dominated when the score was tied though, especially in the late 2nd though as they controlled 60% of the Corsi events and outshot Vancouver 12-7. Fortunately the Jets went into a lull themselves right as Zack Kassian gave the Canucks the lead, failing to even get a shot through to Eddie Lack in the final minutes of the 3rd period.
Aside from having both Canucks goals, the Booth-Richardson-Kassian unit was also Vancouver's best possession line this game. Booth and Kassian posted 61.9% and 58.3% Corsis at even strength, and could have had a couple more goals, especially if not for Mark Stuart's quick stick denying Kassian in the 1st. The 4th line was a horror show though, as all three guys controlled 25% or less of all shot attempts when they were on the ice, and they were absolutely fed their lunch by Winnipeg's 4th unit of James Wright, Anthony Peluso and Eric O'Dell.
The improved play of David Booth and Zack Kassian also creates some intriguing possibilities for when Alex Burrows returns from injury. Burrows will presumably slot in on the 1st line once he's back up to speed, and could bump Jannick Hansen all the way down to the 4th line in place of Tom Sestito. A return of Jordan Schroeder could also mean a replacement for Zac Dalpe, and all of a sudden you have a really good looking 4th line with Weise-Schroeder-Hansen. Also, the Canucks are scheduled to have a bit over $4.2 million in cap space to work with at the trade deadline thanks to injuries to Burrows and Alex Edler, which is more than enough room to add a significant piece up front. Could be interesting going forward, as that's a pretty deep looking forward lineup.
Also of note, 78.6% of all zone starts happened in Vancouver's defensive zone. That's not good, but you have to remember that that number is skewed by not taking neutral zone faceoffs into account. Still, you'd like to see more faceoffs as far away from your goalie as possible.
It wasn't Vancouver's best effort of the season, but coming off a road trip for the 4th game in 6 nights at home just before the Christmas break, you can hardly blame the team for looking lax at times. Hey, it happens in an 82-game season. But to their credit, the egg-laying was minimal and they came away with two points against a team that they should have beat, so all is well. The next game is on Sunday, December 29th against the Calgary Flames. Happy Holidays, we'll see you then.