March 16 2014 04:58PM
This was supposed to be a huge showdown: Roberto Luongo against the evil empire that held him captive for the better part of two years. But a pair of floundering franchises whose playoff aspirations are largely extinguished at this point and a noon-on-a-Sunday start went a long way to killing any Luongo-related buzz that there would have been for an otherwise non-notable meeting between the Vancouver Canucks and the Florida Panthers in the middle of March.
Fortunately, Nicklas Jensen continued his strong play, notching his second goal in two games as well as a beautiful shootout winner to help give the Canucks a 4-3 shootout victory. Please take a moment to appreciate Jensen's strong play before I mercilessly assassinate his character, much like I did with Bo Horvat, and read past the jump.
The first period started well for the visiting Canucks. Despite not scoring, Vancouver pretty clearly carried the play including a sequence where they hemmed the Scott Gomez line in the Panthers zone for a good three shifts. The Panthers would be the team to open the scoring though, as Jimmy Hayes re-directed a Tom Gilbert point shot to beat Eddie Lack on the powerplay to put the
Luongos Panthers ahead 1-0.
But, Florida's lead was short lived. Off a Henrik Sedin faceoff win, Dan Hamhuis fired a point shot that deflected off not one, but two defenders and past Roberto Luongo to tie the game at 1-1:
The de-facto top line struck again less than a minute later, giving Vancouver a 2-1 lead:
I've been quite critical of Jensen's chances of becoming an impact NHL player, and while he's been very, very good in his first real look in the NHL, I'd caution everyone about getting your hopes up. The fact of the matter is that his track record beyond these past 5 games is still full of red flags. Jensen is in his second AHL season, and just among guys who have played for the Canucks this year, Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, Chris Higgins, Jannik Hansen, Zack Kassian, Jordan Schroeder, Brad Richardson, Mike Santorelli, Zac Dalpe, Shawn Matthias and Dale Weise all got points at a higher rate than Jensen has in their respective sophomore AHL seasons. It's possible that Jensen's numbers have been depressed by a poor on-ice shooting percentage and that this list looks different if adjusted for age, but it's still concerning and bears further examination nonetheless.
The second period was fairly uneventful, but Florida tied the game in the early 3rd as Vince Trocheck capitalized on an Alex Edler turnover to jam the puck past Eddie Lack and tie the game at 2-2. Once again, Vancouver responded in short order. After Scottie Upshall took a tripping penalty, Alex Burrows shoveled a rebound behind Roberto Luongo for his 3rd point of the night, and 6th in two games. Hooray for regression!
But, once more, the Panthers would battle back. After Alex Edler took a holding penalty with less than two minutes remaining in the game, Florida's anemic powerplay once again shredded Vancouver's penalty killers, leading to Jimmy Hayes' second goal of the afternoon, tying the score at 3-3 and forcing overtime. The extra frame would decide nothing, setting the stage for Nicklas Jensen to play hero in the shootout. Jensen want bar down over Luongo, Eddie Lack stopped all three Panthers shooters, giving Vancouver a 4-3 win.
Led by a strong night from Henrik Sedin, Vancouver was pretty clearly the better team, especially at even strength. The captain had two assists, and his line with Jensen and Burrows produced all three Vancouver goals. Alex Edler and Kevin Bieksa had an interesting night too. Despite some, uh, interesting shifts in their defensive zone, including this sequence in which Bieksa makes a great kick save, they led all defenders in this game, controlling over 60% of the shot attempts when they were on the ice.
Then again, there is this little stat:
Kevin Bieksa has spent more than 300 EV minutes with 6 D-partners since 08.— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) March 16, 2014
The Canucks have outscored their opponents at five-on-five with all of those pairings except for when Bieksa plays with Alex Edler.— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) March 16, 2014
Alex Edler has spent at least 300 EV minutes with 5 defense partners since 08.— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) March 16, 2014
Canucks have outscored their opponents w. every Edler pairing on the ice except for when he's paired with Kevin Bieksa... #thisisarecording— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) March 16, 2014
Maybe let's not play those guys together in the future...?
If you assume that a team in the West will need at least 95 points to make the playoffs, Vancouver will need to go 11-0-1 to make the final wild card spot. By contrast, here are the records that the teams ahead of them need to reach 95 points:
- Los Angeles: 6-7-1
- Minnesota: 7-7-1
- Dallas: 10-6-0
- Phoenix: 10-4-0