March 17 2014 09:22PM
Really this, a 4-3 loss to the Lightning, was the best possible outcome for the Canucks.
Vancouver didn't pick up any points on Monday night, falling to the Lightning in the second of back-to-back games in the bath salts state. Vancouver had "won" the first leg of the back-to-back set, defeating Roberto Luongo's Florida Panthers in a shootout on Sunday night. So this was a massive improvement. Losses may not be satisfying in the short-term, but we might as well face it, at this point in the year every point not banked is a subtle victory.
It helps that the game was legitimately entertaining. Alex Burrows continued to get back on track, and Nicklas Jensen generated a high volume of scoring chances all night long. Such developments are positive signs for the team going forward, as is the club falling further out of the playoffs (and deeper into the lottery). More on the game after the jump!
The Lightning are really good, and Steve Yzerman has done an excellent job restocking the cupboards. It was also cool to see Steven Stamkos have a productive game, really his first such outing since returning from his gruesome broken tibia injury. Frankly, I'm still a bit gutted as a hockey fan that circumstance - cruel fate, really - prevented us from watching Stamkos play the "volume shooter" role on a line with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz at the Olympics...
Anyway, the Lightning were the better side on Monday night and deserved the two points. Though Tampa relied heavily on Ryan Stanton's "own goal Thomas Holmstrom act" for two of their goals, they controlled proceedings and outshot the Canucks 16 to seven with the score close. Vancouver was just outclassed.
Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, it was the bottom end of the Lightning roster that did most of the damage. The Lightning line of Teddy Purcell, Mike Kostka and J.T. Brown completely shredded the Jordan Schroeder, David Booth, Zack Kassian line. But in the top-six Vancouver did pretty well. Stamkos' group (with Ryan Callahan and Tyler Johnson) only narrowly won the territorial battle while primarily facing Shawn Matthias' line and Vancouver's top-line featuring Henrik Sedin, Burrows and Jensen generated opportunities at will at even-strength, and pasted Valtteri Filppula's unit (and the Victor Hedman pairing) in the defensive end for long stretches at five-on-five.
Jensen in particular dominated. Vancouver outshot the Lightning eight to three with Jensen on the ice at even-strength, out-attempted their opponent by an even wider margin, and Jensen managed four shots in the contest and 11 total shot attempts (12 if you count his assist on Burrows' second goal, which I would). I've watched Jensen play a small handful of games at a variety of levels - in major junior, in the SHL, in the AHL - and I've never seen him as involved or as dangerous as he was in Tampa tonight. In other words, while I'd caution you not to expect that consistently from him, that was a pretty impressive outing from a young player.
I couldn't help but think while watching Jensen play a strong game in a top-line role, that the all encompassing, suffocatingly negative atmosphere surrounding this team might have been mitigated if the club had made good on their summer promise that youth would be served.
You'll recall that it initially appeared as if Hunter Shinkaruk and Bo Horvat had made the team out of training camp, at least until the Canucks dealt for Jeremy Welsh and Zac Dalpe on the last day of the preseason. It's amazing the extent to which a strong offensive performance from a young player can make a losing team a lot more palatable to watch, a maxim all but proven beyond a shadow of the doubt by the perpetual sellouts in Edmonton...
By the way Jensen has been very fortunate by the percentages since his call up, but he's also been corsi'ing at a 60+% rate. He hasn't played a large enough sample of games for that to mean too much yet and he has been started almost exclusively in the offensive end of the rink, but the underlying numbers match the eye test so far. Basically Jensen has been absolutely crushing it as a 21-year-old forward in the NHL for the past 10 days or so.
In other silver linings, how good is it that Alex Burrows can see pucks in his feet again? Much more than luck, or confidence - and don't get me wrong, I'm sure all of that played a role too - I really think the headgear he was forced to sport in the wake of his broken jaw injury contributed massively to his relatively inept offensive season. Burrows has nine points in his past five games, and has been a different player since the Olympic break.
Hopefully his recent productivity bodes well going forward for an expensive winger who had been a model of offensive consistency for years until this injury-plagued season.
Not much else to say, really. Vancouver's playoff chances should drop below 1% with the loss (and a Phoenix win in Los Angeles, which is on pace to occur). Time to call up prospects, and try to play better defense in front of a talented young goalie who sure looks like he's feeling the weight of goalieville on his shoulders at the moment...