Mason Raymond beats Carey Price short-handed to key the Canucks rally.
It began with a familiar script for the Canucks this season: a series of missed calls, iffy goaltending and some lackluster even-strength play conspired to put the team down early. The Canucks were handily out-chancing the hometown Habs (9-5 in the first twenty minutes) but nonetheless found themselves down two to nothing through twenty minutes. Then Erik Cole turned a Sami Salo turnover at the offensive blueline the other way, and beat Luongo on a softy to put the game away, or so it seemed. That’s when the Canucks threw out the the "Fall 2011" script, and turned to the "Winter 2010 script." The show must go on, of course, and the Canucks put on a pretty good one, staging an impressive comeback as Mason Raymond, Cody Hodgson and Sami Salo tallied in the shootout victory.
A more extensive recap, chance data and tonight’s statistical three stars after the jump!
– Lots of people are going to be talking about Vigneault’s questionable decision to play Andrew Alberts as a forward. Alberts had the misfortune of being a -2 in five and a half minutes tonight, and was stapled to the bench for the entirety of the third period. While he didn’t play well, neither of the goals he was on the ice for were caused by or attributable to mistakes he made, it was just bad luck! Let me be the first to start the chant: "Duco! Duco! Duco!"
– The Canucks managed their impressive comeback on the strength of stellar special teams play (the penalty kill in particular). At even-strength, the team clearly missed David Booth and Chris HIggins as basically every Canucks forward line "lost" their matchup. Only Mason Raymond, Cody Hodgson and Jannik Hansen finished in the black among forwards in terms of 5-on-5 chance differential, and the Sedins and Burrows (-4, -2 and -1 in chance differential respectively) were especially unimpressive at evens.
– Considering the way the Canucks were out-chanced at even-strength, we shouldn’t be altogether that surprised that every goal the Canucks scored was situational. Raymond’s tally came short-handed, Hodgson hit twine at 4-on-4 and Sami Salo scored his game-tying goal with the man-advantage. While they came away with the win, as a team the Canucks finished -3 at even-strength.
– Until his epic brain-fart in the third, I was wildly impressed with the play of Lars Eller. Eller was matched up against the Sedin line all evening (played them head-to-head for over twelve minutes at even-strength) and started 9 shifts in his own end defensive. Despite the quality of his competition, and the circumstances in which he was deployed, to finish +2 (3 for, 1 against) in chance differential and with your head above water is pretty excellent.
– On the other hand, with the way the Canucks were playing at even-strength (i.e. not particularly well) to take a bad penalty behind the oppositions net, late in a game in which your team is leading by one is totally inexcusable. Eller narrowly whiffed on a back-hand on a gaping cage right before he hit Burrows in the numbers with a dangerous hit, so he was probably just frustrated, but he really shot himself (and his team) in the foot there.
– The first Canadiens goal really shouldn’t have counted. It was goaltender interference, and not just because Plekanec himself made contact with Luongo, though he did, but because he quite clearly pushed Bieksa into Luongo on the play. As Rule 69 states:
If a defending player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by an attacking player so as to cause the defending player to come into contact with his own goalkeeper, such contact shall be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, and if necessary a penalty assessed to the attacking player and if a goal is scored it would be disallowed.
Then again, that snippet is buried in the last paragraph of the rules description. If you’re going to violate a rule, always violate the part covered in the last paragraph, it’s the most likely to go unnoticed!
– While the Habs got away with one on the first goal of the game, their second and third goals were soft like the rock stylings of Smashmouth. Raphael Diaz (who I fondly remember importing into "be a GM mode", signing in free-agency and packaging for Rick Nash in multiple EA NHL titles over the years) scored the 2nd goal – a floating wrist shot that Luongo failed to see because he was being screened by… Gionta. Seriously, Brian Gionta, who is so small that he may as well be voiced by Michael J. Fox…. On the third goal Erik Cole caught him cheating and beat him five-hole. Through thirty minutes, it was another worrying Luongo stinker.
– That changed however, as Luongo made some stellar saves over the balance of the game. He slid cross crease and got just enough of a Brian Gionta shot after some dangerous passing on the rush, then he stoned Pacioretty in impressive fashion twice, including a really brilliant save in over-time to preserve the Canucks extra point. Finally, when it came time for the shootout, Luongo was uncharacteristically steady, and even stayed up to make a big save on Desharnais. It was quite shocking.
Luongo was still the worst Canuck tonight, but it was nice to see him get a spot of redemption in his hometown.
– How good was it to see Mason Raymond play that well tonight? His skating looks good, and the goal he scored was a stone-cold beauty (it came off of what was probably his best wrist shot in nearly sixteen months). Nonetheless, there is one part of his game that was off: his flip passes. On multiple occasions Mason Raymond tried to dump the puck into the Habs end with a basic "lob pass" only to see the puck end up in the stands. Now that he’s healthy, I think it’s time to get the guy a few sessions with Wes Unseld, just to help him improve on those moon-shot outlet passes. Also, while we’re here, let’s watch Raymond’s goal again:
– Finally I thought Keith Ballard had a pretty good game tonight, and was shocked to see that he only played 14 minutes. Keith Ballard is the opposite of what you want your defenseman to be. Rather than being "invisible" and making simple plays, he’s ALWAYS noticeable. It shows in the chance data, Keith Ballard is the "highest-event" player imaginable! He was on the ice for 9 total chances (both ways) in 13 and a half minutes at even-strength! For comparisons sake, Kevin Bieksa was on the ice for 7 total chances in nearly 24 minutes of even-strength ice-time. Ballard must give Vigneault nightmares!
Statistical Three Stars!
- Jannik Hansen (two even-strength chance helpers, positive adjusted chance differential).
- Mason Raymond (8-3 overall chance differential, 3 SOG, excellent on the penalty kill, +12.5 corsi).
- Kevin Bieksa (no chances against in three and a half minutes on the PK, solid low-event game).
Here’s the chance data and advanced stat tables (courtesy timeonice.com) if you’re so interested.
Scoring Chances for NHL Game Number 20411
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