January 04 2014 11:53PM
Luongo is in disbelief at his team's performance, and I don't blame him. [via @SchneidersTeeth]
Let's not sugarcoat it: the Vancouver Canucks got thoroughly outclassed by their opponent on Saturday night. The list of positives for the Canucks is a pretty short one following this game, with pretty much just one name cracking it. For a while there it looked like Roberto Luongo - who really stood on his head all night, showing no ill effects as he made his return from a groin injury which had sidelined him for 4 games - might be able to steal the two points for his team, but he could only hold the fort for as long before the floodgates finally opened.
In the preview today we took a look at the 5-game losing streak the Los Angeles Kings were in the midst of, nothing that while they were losing, they were still playing at a high level and dominating their opposition. It was much of the same in this one for them, as they dominated the Canucks pretty handily from the 12:27 mark of the 1st period onwards, yet still trailed heading into the 3rd. This time around, though, they were finally able to break through following a few unfortunate defensive breakdowns by their opponent.
The final result - 3-1, with the final tally coming via an empty netter - doesn't necessarily look all that bad, especially considering the stature of the LA Kings. But I'd say that the way this game unfolded served as somewhat of a reminder that just because 1 point separates these two teams in the standings doesn't mean that they're on the same level.
Things actually started out pretty decently for the Canucks, as they tested Jonathan Quick - who was also making his return to action from a groin injury - with a couple of quality scoring chances. But Quick looked fairly sharp and spry, and with some help from the referees (who were awfully quick to blow a play dead when he looked to be in trouble on the goal line) was able to keep the puck out.
There was a lot of talk heading into this game about how the Canucks had spent a large chunk of their practice on Friday working on the power play, trying to do anything they could to get it out of its 1-for-19 doldrums over the past 7 games. And thanks to some exquisite passing by the Sedins, they were able to do just that to open up the scoring (and in turn provide a false ray of hope to their fans):
Here's the thing.. while it's nice that Hamhuis is off of the top unit, it's still pretty easy to tell from the eye test that the plan the Canucks are heading into these man advantages with is horribly flawed. What we saw as the game went on was a whole lot of perimeter passing between the Sedins and Garrison, as they were all up high and far away from any sort of dangerous scoring position.
I honestly don't know what needs to happen for a) Ryan Kesler to be moved up high (considering he's one of the two guys on the current incarnation of the team with a dangerous shot..), and b) people that run the Canucks to realize that Daniel Sedin isn't a good option on the point. It's rather infuriating at this point because judging by my timeline on Twitter it appears that most people have come to these realizations, yet the one's being paid to make the adjustments aren't..
Anyways, it was after this goal that the Kings really took control of the game and did pretty much whatever they wanted to. Roughly a minute into the 3rd period they finally got on the board themselves following some lackluster coverage in the DZ by the Canucks, as Dustin Brown was able to waltz towards the net and put the rebound past Luongo with ease. Only Mike Santorelli was in the area, and even he seemed to give it a half-hearted effort. Following the play Brown went into Luongo, and while you could make the argument that his momentum took him into the goaltender, it's no secret to anyone that has seen Brown play before that did everything he could to ensure that he followed through on the play. It's amazing how many of these unfortunate accidents one man can find himself being part of, eh?
I should point out that nary a single Canuck really did anything to get into Brown's face following the play, to even instill a shred of doubt in his mind as to whether he'd want to do something like that again were he to be presented with the opportunity. A few minutes later, after Tom Sestito made a B-line towards Jonathan Quick, nearly every Kings player on the roster went after him, starting a big kerfuffle. I don't necessarily put too much stock into this - and the differences between the two teams in how they handle their business - but I did think it was interesting, and that I'd be remiss were I to not make a reference to it.
The Kings took the lead 12:05 into the final frame when Dwight King flat-out outworked Jason Garrison in getting to the puck, and finding Jeff Carter who went on to do Jeff Carter things (no, not that thing, but the other thing.. scoring goals). Garrison certainly will never be mistaken for being the fleetest of foot, and he can sometimes look a tad bit glacial when he's asked to move in close quarters, but this particular play struck as more lazy than anything else. Or maybe he's just tired, as he has seen his minutes increase exponentially over the past few weeks. Regardless, he got burned, and his partner Kevin Bieksa did nothing to bail him out, instead taking a leisurely stroll on the play as he has been known to do on occasion.
The Canucks nearly tied the game up in the dying moments thanks to a brilliant play by Henrik Sedin to get it to Daniel, but he wasn't able to beat Quick, who for all the jokes I make about him looked good in this one when called upon. The only reason the Sedins were even able to muster up this opportunity to tie it was because of a fortunate offside (that negated an empty netter for the Kings). The bench called for Luongo to leave the net for the extra attacker once the Canucks got control of the puck in their own zone, but Henrik Sedin made a brutal stretch pass that got picked off and made its way in the back of the net. 'Twas a pretty embarrassing moment, which the Canucks were spared of relieving thanks to the stoppage in play.
The shot attempts were 14-13 for the Canucks following Ryan Kesler's power play tally. After that, the Kings went on to absolutely clobber them by a 48-25 margin (which includes the late barrage by the Canucks as they threw everything but the kitchen sink in an attempt to tie it up). The Kings out-attempted the Canucks 34-13 between the Kesler goal and Brown's goal to make it 1-1, which just goes to show you how spectacular Roberto Luongo was on this night.
No single member of the Kings was under the 50% Corsi For plateau in this game, with Alec Martinez bringing up the rear at exactly 50%. Anze Kopitar's line with Jeff Carter was on the ice for 20 attempts for, and only 11 against. Unfortunately I don't have the scoring chance totals in front of me, but I'd assume their differential in that regard would be stellar, too, since they came real close to scoring a handful of times. Surprise surprise, it was the King of Corsi, Justin Williams, who had a whopping 21-7 differential to his name, as he and Dustin Brown put in work.
On the other end of the spectrum, pretty much everything went wrong for the Canucks on this front. Basically everyone was a tire fire and then some. David Booth had the high water mark for the Canucks with a 11-11 differential. Zac Dalpe and Dale Weise were on the ice for 1 shot attempt for, and 13 against.. which seems unfathomably bad. Weise in particular looked horrid, as there was one particular instance where he looked unwilling to take a hit to make a play, which is a big no no (especially when that's your freakin' job!).
The Sedins were neutralized for the most part by the lethal combination of Doughty and Kopitar, but it Kesler's line which really let the Canucks down. They were fed a handful of minutes against the anchor known as Robyn Regehr, and were still unable to really get anything going all night (posting a sub-40% CF%).
Things, unfortunately, don't get much easier for the Canucks. They have a quick turnaround with a 5PM PST date with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks tomorrow evening. While it's no secret to anyone that keeps up with the analytical side of hockey coverage (a group which I'd assume you fall into, considering you're reading this post) that the Ducks aren't necessarily good as their superficial numbers and record would indicate, they're still no pushover. If the Canucks play like they did tonight they'll get steamrolled again.
The Ducks are 12-1 in their last 13 games, and they'll have been resting up at home, waiting for the Canucks to come into town tired after having played a grueling game against the Kings. Given Luongo's heavy workload I'd assume that Lack will be getting the call for this one.
After Sunday, the Canucks head home for 2 games, but they're against the Penguins and Blues, so it's not like it's a walk in the park. And then they head back to California for the Kings/Ducks combo yet again. The next 2 weeks sure will be fun, you guys! Try to stay positive and smile a little, like ol' Dan Hamhuis..
[Image via Schneider's Teeth again]