What was billed as the "biggest game of the Canucks’ regular season" lived up to the hype in a big way on Thursday night. Considering that the Canucks, the reigning Western Conference champions and winners of 9 of their last 13 games – rode into the Motor City to face a Red Wings team that hadn’t lost at home in an NHL record 23 straight games – that was a lot of hype to live up to.
The Canucks came out flying and utterly dominated the first period, with the exception of a Bieksa turnover that led to a Darren Helm goal that put the Red Wings up one against the flow of play. In the second period, the Red Wings were dominant (especially in a late period flurry that saw them record five scoring chances in 30 seconds), but the Canucks scored 4-on-4 to even the score.
Then the third period happened, and it was as bad-ass as February hockey gets. New Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey scored on a beauty six minutes into the frame to restore the Red Wings lead. When the Canucks answered with a lucky goal by Cody Hodgson that deflected in off of Johan Franzen’s skate – the Red Wings responded just twenty seconds later to restore their one goal lead yet again.
All of which set up a brilliant Sedin sequence with Luongo on the bench and time-ticking down on the clock. Detroit was eighteen seconds away from extending their 23 game home-winning streak when Henrik Sedin spun, and sent a crisp pass to his brother Daniel at the point. Daniel had space to burn with the Red Wings collapsing down-low and he stepped up and fired an absolute bullet past Jimmy Howard to force overtime.
The teams traded chances in the extra frame, with the Canucks generally dominating proceedings (as they usually to do in a 4-on-4 game state), but no one beat either goaltender. In an ironic twist, the Red Wings, whose 23 game home winning streak comes with an asterisk as far as I’m concerned because of the skills competition (yes, I know, I’m a massive kill-joy), saw their streak end on a patented Burrows fore-hand back-hand deke that was the only goal in the shootout.
A more detailed recap, chance data and the statistical three stars and goats after the jump!
– Lets begin the way we usually do: with the most important numbers. The Red Wing owned the scoring chance battle this evening with 28 total scoring chances, to the Canucks 27. Detroit also out-chanced Vancouver’s club 25 to 23 at even-strength, and 18-15 with the score tied.
– With Pavel Datsyuk out of the lineup, the task of "shutting down the Sedins" fell on their three countrymen Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom and Johan Franzen; as well as on Todd Betuzzi and Ian White. Detroit’s "shut-down unit" didn’t quite get pummeled, but it’s fair to say that the Sedins ran wild in the game. Daniel took 8 shots and finished with a +4 chance differential, while Henrik created three scoring chances and finished with a gaudy +7 chance differential.
– While he was much, much better in the third period – Kevin Bieksa had a dog of a game through 40 minutes. The turnover that led to Helm’s goal aside, the Canucks "tough-minutes" pairing skated to a -8 and a -7 chance differential in the first two periods. That the Canucks were able to keep the game close with their top-pair having significant issues controlling the puck – is a testament to Luongo mostly.
– While Bieksa and Hamhuis turned it around in the third, Ryan Kesler and Jannik Hansen did not. Hansen finished a -8 in even-strength chance differential, and was subpar on the penalty-kill to boot. Kesler on the other hand, ended the game with a -5 EV chance differential number, finished the night centering the third line, and along with Sami Salo was the weak-link on the power-play. The Canucks best penalty-killer tonight, was easily Mason Raymond who was +2 in chance differential in nearly three minutes of short-handed ice-time.
– Speaking of power-plays, with the team struggling mightily with the man-advantage (2 for their last 21), it may be time to change up the personne. I’ve been on the "give Cody Hodgson 1st PP unit ice-time" bandwagon for a while – but seeing Daniel Sedin score from the point in the game’s dying seconds gave me a thought: why not try him out on the right point? Daniel replaces Salo, and that opens up a space on the wing for Cody Hodgson. Hey, the team is barely generating a shot per power-play opportunity at the moment, so it’s worth a shot, right?
– Let’s watch Daniel’s game-tying goal again, just because it rules:
– Considering the amount of "all-world" offensive skill that was on display in tonight’s game – both teams were anemic with the man-advantage. The Red Wings managed 3 total power-play chances, but they also surrendered two chances against while on the man-advantage, and one of their PP scoring chances occurred on a 4-on-3. The Canucks on the other hand managed one scoring chance in over six minutes of power-play time, and only recorded three shots on goal. Very strange.
– It was less than a week ago when Hockey Night in Canada noted that the Canucks weren’t celebrating their goals during the game against the Maple Leafs. Clearly for this team, there’s a big difference between a mid-February goal against an Eastern Conference bubble-team and a potentially historic marker against the Red Wings. The Canucks weren’t just celebrating goals tonight -they were down right giddy. And when they won – they became the Trollcouver Canucks. Burrows "broke" his stick over his knee to symbolize the end of Detroit’s run, and Luongo trolled the Red Wings fans with some histrionics on his way down the ice to meet his teammates.
It’s easy to criticize their over-exuberance, and I’m sure many will tomorrow – but this game meant a lot to the Canucks. They’d have been looking forward to it anyway, I’m sure, but the streak made it special.
The thing about a 23 game win streak, is that, even with the shootout – it’s so unlikely that it probably won’t happen again for a generation. A decade from now, no one will remember who was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs in 2012 – but people will remember the Red Wings streak, and that the Canucks were the team to end it.
– While only one total scoring chance separated the teams, the Canucks managed 7 more shots in total and controlled 54.7% of all Fenwick events and 52.5% of all Corsi events at even-strength in the contest. Those margins are probably slimmer if Pavel Datsyuk is in the line-up, but then again, it’s rare that the Canucks power-play is as listless as it was this evening. That’s all hypothetical, but what’s certain is this: these are two evenly matched teams who play a complimentary style. It makes their games fun as heck to watch. Somehow these two squads have managed to avoid each other in the postseason since Lidstrom scored on Dan Cloutier from Stanley Park – I for one, hope that changes this postseason.
– Usually we don’t talk about the shootout in this space, it’s a coin-flip after all. Tonight we’ll make an exception, because Vigneault made an unusual choice. In fact, it wasn’t just a choice – it was a mistake.
While the Canucks managed the win, Vigneault put David Booth out as his first shooter- which, mathematically absolutely makes no sense. If you go with Burrows (47.4%) and Edler (33.3%) as your first two shooters, you can be pretty sure that they’ll combine for at least one goal. But by starting with Booth (27.2% going into tonight), Vigneault forced Luongo to make an extra save.
Obviously the Canucks are all about treating their players well – and that includes allowing them to be "showcased" when they play in their home arena. Tonight, that philosophy nearly cost Vancouver a point; but long-term, It seems like the type of thing that pending free-agents around the league notice.
Statistical Three Stars
- Henrik Sedin
- Daniel Sedin
- Jonathan Ericsson
Statistical Three Goats
- Jannik Hansen
- Ryan Kesler
- Ian White
Scoring Chances for NHL Game Number 20902