March 06 2014 11:02PM
"Must-win game!" "Biggest game of the year!" "Fighting for their playoff lives!"
Those are all things you probably heard leading up to tonight's showdown with the 2nd-place-in-the-wildcard Dallas Stars. Since Vancouver was sitting just two points back of the Stars but with two more games played, a loss would really go a long way to pushing Vancouver's season to the brink. You'd expect then that the Canucks would come out flying in a desperate attempt to gain some oh-so-valuable ground on one of the teams they're chasing, right?
Haha, wrong! Vancouver learned the hard way that you cannot stop Jamie Benn, you can only hope to contain him. He and Tyler Seguin combined for 4 goals and 4 assists in a 6-1 beatdown of the Canucks in the first game of the post-Luongo era. Read past the jump for a recap and possibly some group therapy. Possibly.
The post-Luongo era began in probably the most fitting way possible: with a complete defensive meltdown and Eddie Lack getting shelled and unable to bail out his team. Jamie Benn's line almost manufactured a goal on their first shift of the game, but then they came right back and got a goal on their second. Tyler Seguin was unable to beat Eddie Lack on a breakaway, but then the aforementioned Jamie Benn jammed in the rebound to make the score 1-0 Dallas.
Soon after, not-Bo Horvat drew a penalty (he's elite at drawing penalties, by the way) on Kevin Bieksa. The Canucks pressed for a shorthanded chance, but it backfired. Jamie Benn and Alex Chiasson sprung Tyler Seguin on a breakaway where he fired a snapper over Lack to put Dallas ahead 2-0. Seguin wasn't done their either, as a few shifts later, he fluttered a puck by Lack to give the Stars a surely insurmountable 3-0 lead.
The 1st wouldn't go quietly into the night however, as Zack Kassian hit another Canucks Army favourite Brenden Dillon from behind, earning a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct. The major penalty carried over into the early second period where Tyler Seguin once again made a beautiful play to get the puck to Ray Whitney, who set up Alex Goligoski cross-crease for the easy powerplay goal. The deluge wasn't yet done either, as Ryan Garbutt fired a shot past Eddie Lack on a 2-on-1 to make the score 5-0 for the Dallas Stars.
Everything that happened from this point on was pretty much irrelevant, as it is in blowout losses. Zac Dalpe would break up Kari Lehtonen's shutout bid on a powerplay...
...but Tyler Seguin would restore the 5 goal lead in the 3rd period with his 3rd goal and 5th point of the game. By the way, what was Zac Dalpe doing on the powerplay? Is that how far the Canucks have fallen? Actually the answer to that is probably "yes."
Unless you've opened your heart and mind to the prospect of Jamie Benn potentially slaying the Blackhawks in round 1 of the playoffs, the highlight of the game was definitely Roberto Luongo's Twitter account. The guy was on fire tonight:
I'd put Thing 4 in for the 3rd period— Strombone (@strombone1) March 7, 2014
If I was still the back up I coulda came in and mopped this game up nicely.....— Strombone (@strombone1) March 7, 2014
Mercifully, Thing 4 did make his Canucks Debut in the 3rd period, stopping 4 of 5 Stars shots in relief of Eddie Lack. 1 period of work in a blowout loss really means nothing, so we won't go into that further.
Vancouver's 6-1 loss drops them to 5th in the Wild Card race, 4 points back of Dallas and the Stars still have two games in hand. With the trade deadline approaching, now would be a good time to declare the season over, sell some veterans and acquire pieces for next ye-- oh. Right.
Charts courtesy ExtraSkater, but you already knew that.
Analyzing blowout wins and losses isn't really telling because usually they're anomalies with a ton of scoring in the first few minutes, then the game settles down and nothing really happens over the next two periods. That's kind of what happened here. Vancouver wasn't ready, Dallas jumped all over them, Eddie Lack had a stinker. Oh well. It happens.
More concerning is the Canucks complete inability to generate anything resembling offence. They are 28th in the NHL in goals for per game at 2.28, and even that is tenuous. Calgary is sitting in 29th at 2.27 goals for per game, and at the rate Vancouver is going, should catch the Canucks within a week. They have 8 goals in their past 7 games, and have managed to score 3 or more just 4 times in 2014, and two of those--which were both losses--were in early January. This chart shouldn't surprise you then:
Vancouver's ineptitude is certainly real, but there's more going on than "the team sucks." They've been crushed by injuries and awful luck, and now they look completely tuned out and disinterested. Shawn Matthias (who had a solid debut) aside, no Canuck forward attempted more than 4 shots on goal, and most of those attempts came in garbage time when the Stars had mailed it in too.
The goals will start coming in greater frequency soon. They have to. No team operates at a 0.950 PDO for an extended period of time, but when that time does come it's going to be too late. The chances of Vancouver sneaking into the playoffs now are extremely remote and tonight's loss to Dallas goes a long way to hammering a nail in the coffin of the 2013-14 Canucks.
It's probably time to start keeping an eye on this years' draft prospects, as this ridiculous season provides a great opportunity to add a top-10 or better prospect to the system without really being a bottom-10 NHL team. Until then, we're most likely in line for some more dull, losing hockey. What fun.
The next game is on Saturday night against the Calgary Flames, although I wouldn't blame you if you chose to go stick your hands in a wood chipper instead. That might be less painful. But we'll be here if you choose to indulge in some self-loathing instead. See you then.