January 27 2014 11:57PM
"Since neither of us are good at hockey, let's give rugby a shot, shall we?" [Image via Adam Gretz]
Let's not sugarcoat things, because losing to the Edmonton Oilers (a team that could actually conceivably be the worst team in the league; yes, even worse than the Buffalo Sabres) surely represents a new low point for a team that has endured some pretty embarrassing results in recent memory. Especially when it happens at home.
But it's also one that's not necessarily all that surprising, and certainly one that needs to be put into perspective. Everything is a jumbled mess right now, with players being asked to fill roles their natural talent level doesn't allow them to fill. Their recent 4-game stretch of "getting by" was more of a testament to their opponents' misery than it was to the Canucks suddenly turning a corner.
.. and Monday night, the ineptitude that has been a byproduct of missing two of their top 3 centers finally caught up with them, coming back to bite them in the rear. Read on past the jump for a recap of the humbling loss.
This isn't necessarily all that telling given how few positives there actually were to take away from the overall performance, but Jordan Schroeder was clearly the one shining light amidst it all. In the lead-up to the game I wrote about how this was a perfect opportunity for him to prove that he's an asset work keeping around (given the dearth of talent currently available down the middle).
I should clarify that his performance wasn't *all* great, so don't get ahead of yourself just yet. He wound up being one of the 7 Canucks to finish with a negative shot differential next to their names, was on the ice for 3 of the 4 goals against, and was quite frankly pretty lucky to have scored both of his goals. If anything, the best thing he did in his return was put Corey Potter under that lethal Imperius Curse.
Still, let's give him some credit for the goals, if only to try and stifle Alex Burrows' tears. Given the goal scoring struggles of this team these days we can't exactly get overly picky with regards to the fashion in which they're generated. Plus he drew a penalty on Ryan Smyth (who held on to him for dear life just like he's holding on to the last remnants of his career).
I'm glad to see that David Booth was credited with an assist on the first goal, seeing as it was his hard work on the forecheck along the boards that freed the puck up for Schroeder. Booth has been snakebitten during the large majority of his tenure as a Canuck, in that most of the sneaky good things he does haven't translated into counting stat success. It's absolutely inexcusable for him to be scratched in place of either Dale Weise or Kellan Lain at this point.
Here's Schroeder's first goal:
.. and his second goal:
Apart from those two goals, there aren't too many moments to single out and discuss. The game sort of came and went. There was Dan Hamhuis going after Nail Yakupov (who wanted to no part of him, with David Perron finally stepping in). Pretty out of character for Hamhuis to initiate post-whistle physical contact the way he has for two nights in a row now, but he's probably just fed up all of the poor play. And he's a smart dude who likely realizes that it's the only way he's going to garner himself any sort of meaningful rest time during the game.
There was also this ridiculous save by Luongo, which really is worth a second viewing. Luongo wasn't exactly tested very often in this one, but I'd say that he also wasn't all that good in the times that he was. Near the beginning of the game John Garrett went on a little spiel about how Dallas Eakins is a "stickler for stats" and that it was the reason why he was going with the fresh Ilya Bryzgalov instead of going back to Scrivens. "I would think that if you win, you get to play again" he said. On a very related note, I thought Bryzgalov was fantastic for the most part. But this horse is dead by this point..
Oh, I also unfollowed Ben Kuzma. Let's get to a chart (finally!). They usually cheer me up.
Image via Extra Skater
Other than some pregame jawing at center ice, and a little harmless dust-up early on, the whole "Kassian finally being forced to answer the bell for his actions" was a total non-story on this night. Maybe the Canucks would've been better off had he spent some time in the penalty box, because he was downright awful in this one.
He was tied for a team worst shot differential (42.6%), and was directly responsible for 2 of the goals against (including the empty netter that sealed it). He had been the best Canuck over the past handful of games I thought, but v. the Oilers he was trying to do waaaaay too much waaaaay too often. Consistency is something that is obviously still a work in progress with Kassian, but I'm hoping that this setback doesn't send him plummeting back down the depth chart. The Canucks can't afford to be teaching lessons at this point.
The Edler/Garrison pairing saw a ton of Perron-Gagner-Yakupov, and they were victimized for three goals against. They looked awkward, and weird, and the group of defensemen on this team continue to be the worst in the league when it comes to defending 2-on-1s.
As you can tell from the chart above, other than the rugby scrum that took place in front of Bryzgalov, they mounted a pretty feeble comeback attempt. When a team is trailing in the 3rd period you should in theory see a pretty noticeable spike in shot attempts for said team. But the Canucks only managed to register 11 shot attempts to the 10 by the Oilers. Just not good enough.
I'm not going to spend any time talking about the power play at this point, since I don't have a solution for it at this time. At least they didn't give up a shorthanded goal against, and actually managed to outshoot their opponent when they had the extra man. So.. that's progress? As Rhys noted last time out, without Henrik around they're definitely struggling to enter the offensive zone with controlled possession. There's a lot of dump-ins, and as a result we're seeing them have to retreat a lot to their own end of the ice to retrieve the puck after it has been cleared.
While it was very positive to see Edler and Garrison on the top PP unit, Tanev and Stanton were on the point for the 2nd unit, which I'm pretty sure is the word-for-word definition of the phrase "one step forward, two steps back".
I hope you don't think I'm coming across as overly negative because I hate the Canucks or because I'm a big meanie who wants to hurt your feelings. Because I assure you that's not my intention. I'm just trying to objectively call it like I see it, and what I saw was a performance that wasn't good enough against anyone, let alone a bottom feeder like the Oilers.
There's reason for optimism when looking ahead. No, not for the Canucks.. who are about to run right into the Chicago Blackhawks buzzsaw on Wednesday night. Instead I'm referring to optimism for you and I, because that's the same night we'll all be meeting up at The Pint to support a good cause. Come and hang out with us, and I can all but guarantee that you'll be at least a tad bit happier than you would be sitting along at home, watching it. There will be liquor there.