Pick a bigger worry: fitness or depth? Both are question marks coming out of Sunday night’s 3-2 OT loss to the resurgent Oil.
Coming off a horrendous 7-3 loss on Saturday night, everyone figured the Canucks would find tonight an emotional bounce-back game. They’re too experienced and still too good not to know how to re-find their form; we knew that, but the Ducks debacle elicited doubts in the faithful.
But a strong opening period for the Canucks saw them ahead 1-0 and everyone was probably feeling better. Even with the Oilers buzzing in the second, Zack Kassian’s 2-0 goal, a feat of magic, conjured in colaboration with Daniel Sedin, was another soothing pill. Maybe this painful, overlapping preseason/regular season wouldn’t be so bad after all.
But then two things happened. The Oilers remembered that Alex Edler really isn’t so great on the right side and that most of their young stars are in mid-season form; maybe they could skate the by-comparison-geriatric Canucks off the ice.
A late-second period goal by Jordan Eberle, and a latter-half-of-the-3rd-period goal from Ales Hemsky flipped our understanding of this game’s meaning on its head. The next stretch is not going to be about the Canucks perservering in the face of being less-than-game-ready; it’s going to be about dodging as many bullets as possible.
That’s a lot of hyphenated compound adjectives.
For some game notes and some data, click on past the jump.
– again, not a whole tonne of data to present, we are still waiting on an update for timeonice.com.
This was a far higher-event that Saturday night. Even strength chances were 7-4 Canucks in the first, 9-5 Edmonton in the second, 5-1 Edmonton in the third and 2-1 for Vancouver in OT. Those scoring at home add that up to 19-15 for the Oilers overall. The tilt towards Edmonton beginning in the second began shortly before 5 minutes into the second, when the Oilers went on a run of 7 consecutive chances (including two on the power play). Nearly ten minutes passed between Zack Kassian’s fantastic chance off the rush and Chris Tanev’s chance when he jumped into the rush.
The Canucks had a powerplay in the third period that generated 4 chances with about ten minutes left. A goal there would likely have sealed it.
– The lack of Ryan Kesler is blunting the consistency of attack. There are still plenty of weapons, but the balance is all off. Also, getting into game shape really is going to be a challenge. The Canucks should have come away from this weekend with three points, they only got one.
– The Canucks’ penalty kill was very aggressive in pressuring the puck carrier. The powerplay goal by Hemsky to tie it up was scored off the rush. It was a shot under Luongo’s right arm, maybe one he’d like back. There was a lot of chatter about it, but really, if you only concede two goals, your team really should win. Devan Dubnyk can make the same complaint.
– The speed of the Oilers’ young forwards was apparent early; they are in mid-season form and it will serve them well in their push for the playoffs. The Canucks, on the other hand are still at the beginning of pre-season in terms of game fitness. This is going to be a challenge first stretch of games for a team that’s already down a pair of key players. Nearly every Oilers chance was generated by one of the top two lines; the three chances that weren’t came from the trio of Smyth-Horcoff-Belanger
– He’s much maligned, but I thought Mason Raymond played a pretty useful game. He only fell down once (by my count anyway) and distributed the puck well to his linemates. He featured on the second power play unit, which accounted for three of the forur chances generated on the third period power play mentioned above.
– The Canucks were very effective at generating traffic in front and getting their sticks on shots from the points. I counted five chances from deliberate tips from forwards in the slot.
– Alex Edler on the right side is a mess. Jordan Eberle blew past him twice on the outside, including on his goal in the second with just three seconds left. The other time, Edler took a penalty trying to reel the winger back in.
– Andrew Ebbett through two games is pretty much what everyone expected. Merely adequate. He’s not embarassed himself defensively at all (how many times have you exclaimed ‘what the hell, Ebbett?!’) and he’s made a couple nice passes; his pass to Kassian in the second should have led to a goal, but the big guy just missed left with a wrister. Jordan Schroeder surely wouldn’t have done any worse. Again, when does Ryan Kesler get back?
– Keith Ballard didn’t turn himself into anything terrible, even after his atrocious first period turnover to Shawn Horcoff. He and Chris Tanev played just over 16 minutes, while the big four played more than 24 minutes apiece.
– Dale Weise had a breakaway.
In the Dutch league that’s a goal
— Harry Nijjar (@harry1619) January 21, 2013
– Moral of the story. Don’t freak out. Yet.
*The original version of this story credited the Canucks with five chances on their third period powerplay; on further review, I’ve bumped that down to four.