Greasy Lightning goals allow Tampa to reign supreme

Thomas Drance
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...

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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#1 antro
March 17 2014, 09:39PM
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Why didn't Markstrom play on the second leg of a back to back?

Thanks for the encouraging words about Jensen. Rhys is intent on making us never believe in a Canucks' prospect again...(which is not to say that he's wrong, just that we need something to hope for).

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#2 Jeffery
March 17 2014, 09:44PM
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Players compete when they are on the ice. Trading Lou meant rebuild, having Lack be your #1 says we are tanking for a draft pick. The design is to lose, but the players compete. So they win some games.

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#3 JFR
March 17 2014, 11:09PM
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The score isn't right.... Stanton scored a couple for the lightening. 5 goals for the Canucks! They are on a roll.

Seriously Jensen is starting to look like a real player and that is good news.

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#4 PB
March 18 2014, 03:28AM
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@antro

Part of playing young players has to be giving Markstrom at least a few chances in net. I was astounded to hear Tortorella say earlier that he wasn't ready. What? So why have him up at all? Have Cannata or Ericsson be the bench warmer and let Markstrom do more than mop up. If he really isn't ready then why include him in the trade at all. It's bizarre.

It's a little scary to think about which players are actually the best suited for a off-season buyout given their performance vs. pay. At least Burrows looks like he's back on track but I'd say Garrison, Booth and (will never happen) Daniel all would be good candidates. Matthias has looked pretty good out there but the comments from his ex-coach (victim complex) were a little disconcerting.

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#5 Ralphy
March 18 2014, 08:36AM
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I also want to see what Markstrom can do. Hockey News and a bunch of other pubs listed him as an A+ level prospect. Wonder what Roalie is doing behind the scenese to get him ready? Just throw him in...are they going to lose more games with him playing? Is his save % going to be worse than Lack's?

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#6 Rusty
March 18 2014, 08:53AM
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Rollie has done a fabulous job over the last few years developing young goalies, in the process turning us from a goalie graveyard to somewhat of a goalie factory (Schneider, Lack, even a revamped Luongo etc).

Have patience people!

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#7 RobG
March 18 2014, 09:05AM
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@PB

I was thinking about the same thing about Markstrom yesterday too. Why bother having him as a bench warmer when he is not ready? Ericsson has been playing well in Utica, why not bring him up and reward him with a game or two in the NHL?

I know there was a lot of talk about Burrows and Daniel being bought out throughout the season but I think that was mostly a knee-jerk reaction to a run of bad luck. Those two have consistently produced for 5 seasons now, I think this year was just an anomaly.

I think the Canucks are more likely to buy out a defenceman. The Canucks have too much money wrapped up in the current blue line with too many guys that can play 22-26 minutes per night. The team doesn't need 5 guys that can play top-pairing minutes. With Chris Tanev emerging as a top-4 d-man and in need of a big raise, they need to buyout a d-man to make some room. I think at this point they need to keep Hamuis, Tanev, Bieksa, and Stanton, that leaves Garrison or Edler as buyout candidates and I say that because Both Garrison and Edler are as good as they are going to get, they don't fit the system, they don't play particularity well with any other d-men on the team, and they have almost equal cap hits. I think if both were to waive their NTC's Edler would have a bit more value on the trade market but he has already stated he isn't going to waive. Flip a coin, getting rid of one of them.

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#8 GeezMoney
March 18 2014, 09:52AM
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Jensen dominated. Yet this same site continues to stir conversation suggesting that this is all a mirage, that the real Jensen is more like a borderline-NHLer. I'm confused, experts

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#9 NM00
March 18 2014, 10:12AM
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@GeezMoney

Your meat and potatoes analysis speaks to me.

But if Jensen proves to be a borderline NHLer, will you come back and admit your armchair scouting was shockingly limited?

Remember when Corrado looked good?

Remmber when Lack looked good?

Remember when Jason King looked good?

Small sample size.

That said, from the bits I've watched aof Vancouver since the trade deadline, Jensen has been the one source of hope.

Which is pretty sad since 29 other teams have a player like Jensen (or better) on their roster...

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#10 NM00
March 18 2014, 10:15AM
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If Vancouver had one (or two) of the top ten goalies in the NHL, they might still be in this playoff race...

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#11 NM00
March 18 2014, 10:20AM
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@PB

As you've noted before when I brought up the buyout Daniel stuff, is there really a better way to spend $7 mil on the open market?

Espescially since, this recent streak not withstanding, Henrik should be more effective with his brother than without.

It's not really surprising, though, that giving raises to Burrows, Daniel & even Henrik doesn't reverse the aging process...

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#12 NM00
March 18 2014, 10:25AM
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Rusty wrote:

Rollie has done a fabulous job over the last few years developing young goalies, in the process turning us from a goalie graveyard to somewhat of a goalie factory (Schneider, Lack, even a revamped Luongo etc).

Have patience people!

Seriously?

You're actually drinking the Mellanson effect Kool Aid?

Luongo was a star before Rollie arrived on the scene.

For what it's worth, Schneider was considered a top goalie prospect before Mellanson intervened and his success could just as easily be explained without Mellanson.

Lack has come crashing back to earth so I'm not sure Mellanson wants that attributed to him.

Even Carey Price seems to have figured things out without Mellanson the magnificent.

He's a coach not a wizard. He's bound by the talent he inherits...

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#13 JDM
March 18 2014, 12:19PM
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I remain sqaurely on the "cautious" side of "cautious optimism", but how many games does Jensen have to continue to look like a useful top 6 NHL forward before that can begin to shift towards "optimism"?

The guy certainly has the basic tools - pretty good speed, good vision, a quick release, and a knack for finding openings where good players can find him to generate a shot. To the extent the latter is driving his success, I suppose it could be a result of a series of bad plays by the opposition defending against him that will normalize as better teams check him more effectively.

Still, the eye test is pretty compelling here. It's hard to conceive of good reasons to expect him to stop being able to do the things he's done to date in terms of his playing style, even if it's reasonable to expect that they won't continue to produce the results he's been having of late (same reason it's not reasonable to expect Burrows to continue scoring at a near-2 ppg pace as he has in the last 5 games).

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#14 CP
March 18 2014, 12:58PM
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GeezMoney wrote:

Jensen dominated. Yet this same site continues to stir conversation suggesting that this is all a mirage, that the real Jensen is more like a borderline-NHLer. I'm confused, experts

The main reason for that is because Jensen has played all of 6 games and other teams don't have enough of a scouting report to plan for his offensive skills. Tons of rookies have looked really good in the past during their first season because of matching up with lesser defensemen but start to struggle once teams start to game plan for those "super rookies". So they're trying to quell the expectations of Canucks fans from thinking he is the next great top liner for the Canucks

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#15 Nat
March 18 2014, 01:01PM
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Since we're not making the playoffs this year, I'm happy to watch entertaining/constructive losses. The "kids" get playing time and a chance to prove themselves for next year, we fans get someone new to watch and get excited about, and the losses help our draft pick position.

God, I sound like a Sabres fan. Might as well find some silver lining though...

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#16 PB
March 18 2014, 01:14PM
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@NM00

I know you were being facetious about the Daniel buyout stuff, but I just mean that people automatically assume that it's going to be Booth. There are others who've had bad seasons too; Burrows at least looks like he has some kind of understandable reason (injuries, playing with face mask) but both Daniel and Garrison haven't looked particularly good in months. Edler still has better overall skills and potential than Garrison.

It doesn't really matter though, we're not going to get out of this mess via either free agency or the draft. There does need to be a reset and it has to be an organizational change. The takeaway for me from this year -- which I base on the results I've seen -- are that the change has got to be the management to stop begin so rudderless, hapless, and incompetent. Even if the Canucks' plummet is temporary (and I hope it is) we need a better hand steering the ship.

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#17 NM00
March 18 2014, 01:24PM
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@PB

It's eerie how I agree with virtually every single thing you say these days...

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#18 VK63
March 18 2014, 01:26PM
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"falling further into the lottery".

a western canadian country song in the making.

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#19 Jamie E
March 18 2014, 01:42PM
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CP wrote:

The main reason for that is because Jensen has played all of 6 games and other teams don't have enough of a scouting report to plan for his offensive skills. Tons of rookies have looked really good in the past during their first season because of matching up with lesser defensemen but start to struggle once teams start to game plan for those "super rookies". So they're trying to quell the expectations of Canucks fans from thinking he is the next great top liner for the Canucks

The only flaw in your argument is that Jensen is playing on the Vancouver Canucks first line and IS seeing other teams first pairing D at the moment.

I agree however on the small sample size. Some skill guys are just better in the NHL, playing with other skill guys who think and react to the game as quickly as they do.

Maybe the Sedins get split up next year with Daniel on the second line if he doesn't show he can b a first line goal scorer at this point in his career. Henrik is, I think, still a first line centre.

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#20 North Island #1
March 18 2014, 08:23PM
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Okay so once again somebody,(someone must know why)on this website. please tell me why Alex Edler is beloved by the coaches? sheesh what a bum..the last few years. my post on The Provies. Edler`s a travesty.Seriously the guy must have some voodoo witchcraft going on.How else can you explain why everyone knows he`s so bad ,ie the press the fans ect..ect.But coaches love him !!, and I mean not just Torts but A.V did too.Sheesh, even team Sweden loves him!! ,imagine ignoring Victor Hedman of Tampa who`s having a great year and putting on O`L -30 on your team.Unreal, next thing we know is that he will make the NHL all star team,.Too funny !!

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#21 Rusty
March 19 2014, 12:13PM
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NM00 wrote:

Seriously?

You're actually drinking the Mellanson effect Kool Aid?

Luongo was a star before Rollie arrived on the scene.

For what it's worth, Schneider was considered a top goalie prospect before Mellanson intervened and his success could just as easily be explained without Mellanson.

Lack has come crashing back to earth so I'm not sure Mellanson wants that attributed to him.

Even Carey Price seems to have figured things out without Mellanson the magnificent.

He's a coach not a wizard. He's bound by the talent he inherits...

No cool aid. Although unlike you, as much as I'm disappointed in how the Canucks develop their prospects (as a whole), I can also give credit when credit is due. ;)

It is no coincidence that our goaltending situation has stabilized along with the arrival of Rollie. Does he have more talent to work with? No doubt. But anyone who has watched this team since it's inception has to concur that goaltending has been the least of our concerns for the last little while.

I agree that Luongo was a top flight goaltender when he was acquired from Florida. That said, you seem to have a selective memory when it comes to how broken down he was after our ouster from the cup finals. I'm sure that I'm not the only one to notice that he has somewhat rebuilt his game (less flopping around) over the last couple of years. All the credit to Rollie? Of course not! But if he is to be blamed when things go wrong, so to shall credit be given when things go right.

As to Lack, I am of the opinion that he could have used a couple more years of playing behind Luongo before he is ready for prime time. Unfortunately the plan was accelerated with the poor (or fortunate depending on if your in favour of the salary cap relieve we received) decision by Torts to sit the latter in favour of his understudy.

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#22 Rusty
March 19 2014, 12:24PM
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North Island #1 wrote:

Okay so once again somebody,(someone must know why)on this website. please tell me why Alex Edler is beloved by the coaches? sheesh what a bum..the last few years. my post on The Provies. Edler`s a travesty.Seriously the guy must have some voodoo witchcraft going on.How else can you explain why everyone knows he`s so bad ,ie the press the fans ect..ect.But coaches love him !!, and I mean not just Torts but A.V did too.Sheesh, even team Sweden loves him!! ,imagine ignoring Victor Hedman of Tampa who`s having a great year and putting on O`L -30 on your team.Unreal, next thing we know is that he will make the NHL all star team,.Too funny !!

Alex Edler? A riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a soft shelled taco. A stud of a defenceman with seemingly all of the tools (size, speed, offensive powers, huge bone crushing hits) except one. Desire.

I was on board the Edler train, until I found out that he was the one who purchased a car from me... during the Stanley Cup finals. For Pete's sake! That an athlete chasing after the ultimate prize would let himself be distracted by something so superficial was proof enough for me as to the strength of his character. His focus (or there lack of).

Which doesn't mean that he still isn't a serviceable No 2/3/4 defenseman on a decent contract. What it means is that he isn't the dominant No 1 (ie. Lindstrom) we had all open for.

Sad really....

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