Bieksa Score! Bieksa MAD!
The Canucks again failed to show up for a first period on the road, and even when they did turn it on they played poorly by their standard Thursday. So the result was predictable: another loss on the road to one of the NHL’s premiere cellar dwellers. With Daniel Sedin scratched late, the team called up Mark Mancari from the Wolves, and threw Raymond onto the top line, where he was excellent. The Canucks controlled possession, and were the better team at even-strength, however, they couldn’t buy a whistle, got mediocre goaltending from Cory Schneider and whiffed on some glorious chances late.
The team better shape up as they roll into their former GM’s barn in the center of the Universe on Saturday evening. For a game in mid-December, it’s a big one. After all, it’s the early game on Hockey Night in Canada, and your author will be in attendance. A more detailed recap, and scoring chance data after the jump.
– You’ve got to feel for Keith Ballard. His struggles in the postseason were well publicized, and he had a rough start defensively to this season too. Recently, however, his performance has improved enormously and he’s put together a string of quality games on this East Coast swing. Tonight was no exception, by the chance data and possession numbers he was solid. That said, he had an awful night: his whiff on an open net following a glorious Mason Raymond set-up was just humiliating, and he took the penalty that resulted in Spacek’s game-winning goal. The call on his fateful penalty was a bad one, but his take on the open net was worse…
– Dan Hamhuis and Sami Salo have been arguably the best Canucks most responsible defenders this season, but both had porous, high-event nights. Salo looked slow through the neutral-zone, and lost a number of battles in his own end. Hamhuis made some rare hospital passes, and lost the battle that led directly to Drayson Bowman’s early third period goal. Just an ugly night for the Canucks defense.
– Two of Carolina’s four goals were of the "weak" variety, as Cory Schneider’s regression continued. He’s looked human in a couple games in a row, which, isn’t a surprise when you consider that he’d managed to sustain a +.930 save percentage over nearly fifteen games well into December. Though he had some stellar moments and was magnificent in the first frame (holding the fort until his team showed up in the second) tonight his performance cost the team.
– On the bright side, the top-6 looked excellent despite missing a couple of key members (Daniel and Booth). Chris Higgins was especially good for his line, he had a chance assist that led to Bieksa’s game opening tally, and he drove possession all night long. Henrik Sedin had a few dominant shifts and directed traffic with his usual mastery despite the absence of his usual wing-man Daniel, his R2D2 so to speak. It was a vintage fall of 2009 performance from the captain tonight. Something I’ve always wondered: if Henrik and Daniel were the Camelot Kennedy’s, which one would be John and which one would be Robert?
– Even better, however, was Mason Raymond. Raymond scored a goal and then set up what really, really should’ve been the game’s tying goal late in the third period. He also made full use of Vigneault’s "Sedin treatment" usage, and finished with a sky high +14 fenwick number (+7.4 adjusted).
– Cody Hodgson had another fine game, won a boat load of battles in the corners and played his usual stellar defense. In the third period he was even granted the rare privilege of taking a shift with Kesler and Higgins, and ironically turned in probably his worst shift of the evening. I guess he’s not used to playing with quality line-mates!
– Finally, the penalty kill was as bad as it has been all season tonight. On a number of occasions their attempts to clear the puck were as fruitless as a wiser Adam and Eve. Despite this, Manny Malhotra was excellent on the PK, and so was Alberts. Malhotra played 5 minutes short-handed and allowed only one chance against in that time, which, is pretty remarkable. Andrew Alberts continues to be under-utilized a man-short, he allowed zero chances against in two minutes and continues to be far and away the Canucks best penalty-killer by the numbers.
– Actually Andrew Alberts had something of a beast game. He dominated despite playing tough minutes, starting mostly in his own end and going up against the Hurricane’s only good possession night. He played so well that Vigneault benched Aaron Rome for the third period, which, seems pretty unlikely, but it happened!
Statistical Three Stars
- Andrew Alberts (6 chances for, zero against. No PK chances against in 2 minutes of SH TOI. +15 adjusted fenwick.
- Mason Raymond (2 chance assists, +5 EV chance differential, 5 SOG).
- Keith Ballard (+5 EV chance differential, excelled in tough minutes).
Here are the external advanced stat resources and the scoring chance data, all courtesy Vic Ferrari of Timeonice.com.
Scoring Chances for NHL Game Number 20452
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