Quick Fixes for Game 3 in San Jose

Jeff Angus
May 04 2013 01:16PM

Although they are down two games to none in the series at this moment, the Canucks have played pretty solid hockey for the most part (outside of Wednesday’s first and third periods). However, I am not really sure if that is a positive, or not. The fact that they have generated three goals in 120 minutes while playing good hockey is reason for concern.

Antti Niemi has been good when needed, but San Jose’s defense group (on paper, at least) is nothing to write home about. The Larry Robinson factor is definitely playing a part in their success, but the Canucks simply haven’t been able to turn their physicality and hard work into meaningful scoring opportunities.

Read on for some subtle lineup changes that the team should make for Game 3 at the Shark Tank on Sunday evening.

1) Insert Jordan Schroeder into the lineup

Andrew Ebbett is a great 13th forward. He is versatile, dependable, and experienced. However, he is clearly overmatched against the Sharks – the pace of play is above what he is used to, and he has been completely ineffective (and in fact a detriment to the team at even strength).

Schroeder isn’t strong on the draw. That is a strike against him. But he proved himself to be a solid player away from the puck during his time in Vancouver this season, and he has immensely more offensive ability than Ebbett does. Bring him in, put him on the second power play unit, and give him limited even strength minutes. He can’t do any worse than Ebbett has done through two games. And Ebbett’s penalty killing is a nice bonus, but the Canucks have a ton of other forwards who can and do play on the PK.

2) Promote Dale Weise, Demote Mason Raymond

As good as he was through the first few weeks of 2013, Mason Raymond has hit a brick wall (and then some) over the past few months. He has been completely invisible through the first two games of this series. I had some hope that he could use his speed to generate offense against the likes of Brad Stuart and Scott Hannan, but Raymond hasn’t done anything. He won’t be back next season, that much we know, but it would be nice to see him close out his Vancouver career on a high note. He has been a solid player for the team, and developed quite nicely after the team took him in the second round back in 2005.

But he simply isn’t a factor right now. Dale Weise, for all of his shortcomings, has been the most consistent Canuck from a forechecking/physical perspective. He hits man more than he hits the boards, and he is an underrated skater and a reliable winger in the defensive zone. He’s earned the chance to play more minutes. Weise played 3:56 on Friday night, while Raymond played close to 17 minutes.

3) Split up Alex Edler and Kevin Bieksa

This pairing isn’t working. It never has worked. It never will work. Two defensemen prone to mental errors and who like to gamble with and without the puck generally won’t work well together (cough, OT winner last night).

Garrison and Hamhuis had their worst game as a pairing on Friday night in a long while, but they play extremely tough minutes and are expected to drive play forward to boot. And they have to contend with the sasquatch (also known as Brent Burns) down low most of the time. The Chris Tanev ankle sprain has really put the Canucks in a bind, as it is tough to come up with reasonable pairings using Edler, Garrison, Alberts, Ballard, and Corrado (oh, and Barker too, I guess).

Tanev is making the trip to San Jose. If he is ready to go, you put Edler with Tanev on the second pairing, and put Garrison with Frankie Corrado on pairing three. Alberts was atrocious in Game 2, and Ballard won’t see another game as a Canuck again unless the entire defensive corp breaks all of their respective limbs.

4) Feed the Beast

Ryan “the Beast” Kesler is the only chance the Canucks have at winning this series. The Sedins have been very good in the first two games, and although Kesler was killed in scoring chance differential from Game 2, he is a difference maker and proved it once again on Friday. He drew a penalty with a bit of an embellishment, he was extremely physical all game long, and the rest of the team feeds off of his energy.

I am a believer in the merits of statistical analysis, but with Kesler, you can “feel/see” the elements he brings to this team. With his gruff and fearless style of play, he is the yin to Henrik and Daniel’s yang. He is the engine that drives the bus. I realize that is a dated sports cliche, but it's true. The Canucks are simply an above average team with good goaltending when Kesler isn't at his best.

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Jeff shares his Canuck-related thoughts with the Army a few times per week. His work can also be found over at DobberHockey.com, as well as his personal blog, AngusCertified.com. Give him a follow on Twitter @anguscertified.
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#1 Ian L
May 04 2013, 01:35PM
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Great post Angus! Couldn't agree more with what you said.

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#2 Yuuuuuup
May 04 2013, 02:24PM
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Exactly. I've been saying 2/4 of these things for months now.

Edler-Bieksa have no business being paired together. We saw them cost Canucks game 1 in LA series last yr. We saw them cost Canucks gm2 of this series. It's unreal that they are still paired together.

Ebbett over Schroeder? Canucks nation has been wondering why for, well, 2 months now. It makes zero sense.

Frankly, I'm starting to sour on the coach. Most of his coaching decisions last yr in the playoffs and this yr in the playoffs are mindblowing. It might be time for a change.

We all know the Canucks aren't coming back in this series. SJS is way to good a team on home ice.

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#3 Unknown Comic
May 04 2013, 02:43PM
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Alberts was atrocious? He was 5-1 in ES chance differential and hit the crossbar in OT.

Kesler is the straw that has always stirred the drink. The flu rendered him ineffective in game one.

We saw what he can do in game 2, but the remnants of the flu/lack of conditioning obviously caught up with him towards the end of the 3rd and into OT. He was gassed.

The only good thing going forward is Kesler will be that much stronger into game 3 and 4 the farther get gets away from the flu. The coin flips that have become NHL refereeing also have to start evening out.

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#4 scribs
May 04 2013, 04:11PM
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About half of the team thus far isn't willing to play at the intensity that we are seeing out of SJ/STL/LA right now. Kesler's performance was great, but if a hard-working guy stands out that much on your team there is a problem. Edler is turning the puck over on routine passes because he's waiting a tenth of a second too long, instead of turning up the pace for playoff hockey. Regular season BS. Raymond is swooping by puck carriers, spacing out in our zone, and refusing to deal with the abuse he'll get from SJ power forwards on the boards. Regular season BS.

We're one of a few teams that haven't kicked things up for the playoffs yet, and we're playing one of the teams that has. SJ isn't a bad matchup for the Canucks, but by the time they find their stride in this one it's gonna be too late. SJ is a team that is going to forecheck hard and generate chances off offensive zone turn-overs. We're playing into that by not only failing to move the puck out faster, but also by adding our own unforced turnovers. Luongo is making this one look closer than it is.

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#5 Clutch Fan
May 04 2013, 04:50PM
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As good as he is, I have never felt totally comfortable with AV as a playoff coach, he is very strong in building a system and process, but seems to lack flexibility and the strong gut needed to coach during a playoff series. I am also not sure about his motivational abilities and line-up decisions.

On the other hand, I am totally excited about Kesler, he is bringing it all... his performance should only help the other Canucks who have underwhelmed to raise their game.

Barring a miracle, the series is pretty much over though. I just hope we get to see a better effort overall for the remaining games.

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#6 Senrik Hedin
May 04 2013, 06:13PM
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It's a tough situation with the d pairs. I don't like the idea of putting Garrison with Corrado lest any one of Edler, Garrison or Hamhuis (great left side Ds) get shorter end of stick in terms of ice time. Put Garrison with Edler and Hamhuis back with Bieksa. Those top 4 should play over 20 min a game each. Alberts is the type of guy canucks would've chased at the trade deadline if he wasn't already part of the team. I wouldn't say he was atrocious, and he can't be a part of the solution for what's ailing the canucks.

What is ailing the canucks? Sedins gotta get going. Kassian could've been a good spark last game. Burrows gotta get going. Put him with the beast, Kesler, and let them rekindle their chemistry. Roy needs to get going. Put him with Higgins, a player he's found immediate chemistry with. Hansen can play anywhere. Lappy is a solid 4th C. Put in schroeder ahead of Ebbett if Schroeder's shoulders are 100%. Stick Raymond on the 4th line. He can't be playing 17 min a game when the guy doesn't finish checks and constantly pulls a spin-o-rama before rushing to make a play in order to avoid a damn hit.

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#7 Jeff
May 04 2013, 07:04PM
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I realzie too.

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#8 RoShamBo
May 05 2013, 04:06AM
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I totally agree regarding Schroeder. I think our fourth line needs to be totally revamped, we basically didn't use one last game. I'd like to see a Ballard-Schroeder-Kassian fourth line for the next game. Play the two rookies with 3 d-men to help recover if they make any mistakes. It would be a line that has some offensive pop that could hopefully keep up with San Jose unlike the fourth lines we've been using. It would be great if Tanev is back in the lineup, I'm not gonna lie, I find a third pairing of Alberts and a rookie more than a little discomfiting.

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#9 canso
May 05 2013, 07:00AM
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@Clutch Fan

"As good as he is, I have never felt totally comfortable with AV as a playoff coach, he is very strong in building a system and process, but seems to lack flexibility and the strong gut needed to coach during a playoff series. I am also not sure about his motivational abilities and line-up decisions. On the other hand, I am totally excited about Kesler, he is bringing it all... his performance should only help the other Canucks who have underwhelmed to raise their game. Barring a miracle, the series is pretty much over though. I just hope we get to see a better effort overall for the remaining games."

very well put, i feel the same way. it has seemed to me for some time now that there are always reasonable-sounding explanations, largely based on advanced stats, for some otherwise-surprising coaching decisions. i can't help but wonder if there is some over-thinking going on behind the bench and a lack of intuition.

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