Photo from Rich Lam/NHLInteractive
Well, a lot of things happened in the Vancouver Canucks most recent win over the Colorado Avalanche. I missed part of the game because I took a time machine back to the year 2007, because it’s been a while since Roberto Luongo and the Sedin twins so obviously carried a game for this team.
That’s not too fair to the rest of the forward group. I haven’t watched every Canucks game this season, but my impression has been that the group has been the weaker team most nights. That, combined with a 2-2-2 start, and it was probably a good night for the team to face a weak divisional foe missing inarguably its best two players in Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O’Reilly. Also, the Canucks have seemed to have beaten Colorado every single game since the Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic era.
And the team responded well. They, well crushed Colorado in every aspect of the game, as they probably should have done. Our detailed recap is below.
-Scoring chance numbers is somewhat of a specialty of the Nations Network. I count chances over at The Leafs Nation (drop by sometime) regularly, and the Maple Leafs curl up into a defensive shell when they’re down by a goal, much less up by a goal, so it was nice to see my notebook get somewhat of a workout. Vancouver out-chanced Colorado 17-13 overall and 12-8 at even strength. More importantly, 9-5 with at even strength in score-close situations.
-Actually, even more importantly, Roberto Luongo got a shutout. No, he’s not the No. 1 goalie, he just happened to start in this game. I thought he played well, obviously, looking very Luongo-like, making himself big, getting some choice bounces off of his large equipment. His best save came on a powerplay, actually, at the start of the third period with Matt Duchene coming in on a breakaway, but Luongo held his ground. He had a chance for an exclamation mark save off of John Mitchell in the waning seconds to keep the shutout.
-That “knob” save everybody is talking about? The puck would have come to rest and wouldn’t have crossed the line. The “knob” save was a perfect pass onto the stick of Jamie McGinn, who then shot it right off Luongo’s nameplate. That was the scoring chance on the play.
-One thing Colorado was doing that I thought was particularly ill-advised was making cross-slot passes between the face-off dot and the top of the circle. Luongo is so good at tracking those pucks when moving laterally. Tyson Barrie got a couple of chances like that, but I don’t think he was close to hitting the net.
-Jason Garrison gets his first as a Canuck. He’s so cool, he doesn’t even need to take scoring chance shots to get one in. His hard shot from the point was dipping as it reached Semyon Varlamov and it somehow got through the former Washington first rounder (who was drafted in Vancouver in 2006).
-Ah, that 2006 draft… the year the best day of Erik Johnson’s life took place at Rogers Arena, née General Motors Place. Johnson was selected first overall by the St. Louis Blues. Maybe it wasn’t the best day of his life, but certainly better than his day at the arena tonight, where him and Barrie got absolutely manhandled by two Canucks’ lines. I have some scoring chance totals below. Johnson was on the ice for 2 Avalanche chances and 8 for the Canucks. Barrie, 1 for the Avalanche (at evens, obviously, he was dangerous on the powerplay) and 8 for the Canucks. That was where the game was won, with the Canucks’ first and third lines relentlessly attacking that pairing.
-Colorado’s lines were all kinds of screwy in this one. John Mitchell started up top with Paul Stastny and David Jones, but he didn’t really finish there, as he ended up with Cody McLeod and Patrick Bordeleau. It seems that Joe Sacco was working in “pairs” like Alain Vigneault did last year, moving players up and down the lineup to find a favourable matchup when both of his good forwards were missing. Milan Hejduk played a lot with former Sudbury Wolves player Michael Sgarbossa, who I did not know was playing in his first NHL game tonight. Good for him: he had a very good 19-year old campaign in Sudbury, with 47 goals in 66 games. Had a couple of decent chances tonight, and made up one half of the Avs’ best offensive unit.
-The Canucks lines were pretty standard all night. The Sedins played with Zack Kassian. Jordan Schroeder played with Dale Weise and Mason Raymond. Alex Burrows, Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen were an effective unit and Maxim Lapierre, Manny Malhotra and Aaron Volpatti saw some success in limited minutes. It looks like Dan Hamhuis-Kevin Bieksa may be split for good—Bieksa spent the night with Jason Garrison and Hamhuis was with Alex Edler. 2-23 faced tougher minutes, but overall played a decent game despite not really getting involved in the offence at evens.
-Lapierre scored the Canucks’ second goal on a good hustle play following a rare defensive zone face-off loss by Malhotra, blowing by Greg Zanon, who otherwise had a decent game I thought.
-Chris Tanev and Keith Ballard were drawing a tonne of praise from Twitter. Can’t fault the Internet. They saw a lot of minutes against Canuck-killer Milan Hejduk and won the chance battle decisively. Tanev unfortunately got a minus-one against him by virtue of stepping out of the penalty box (after a rare boarding penalty) just as Chuck Kobasew had a good whack at the puck in front of the Canucks’ net. The Canucks had three defencemen on the ice at that point, the others being Garrison and Bieksa.
-That sequence was at the end of a long 5-on-3 that the Canucks effectively contained. For 1:24 Colorado had a 5-on-3, and all they accomplished was a Grade-B chance from Tyson Barrie, sneaking in, collecting a pass and roofing it well over the crossbar. Excellent work from Malhotra, Burrows and Hamhuis there.
-The Canucks’ second line (third line?) of Schroeder-Weise-Raymond was marginally ineffective. They were frequently burned by Sgarbossa-Hejduk, and were the only Canucks’ line to come away with a scoring chance deficit. They turned it on in the third period, but the game hardly mattered at that point. Slackers.
-Zack Kassian got the Canucks’ third goal. Before we go chatting about how he’s the next Todd Bertuzzi, keep in mind a third of his shots are going in. That’s too tall an order to sustain, even in a 48-game season. He’s playing well and getting chances, but a disproportionate amount are going in for him right now. Great feed by Hamhuis on that play, although he had a lot of space to work with.
-Final point before the Canucks: Luongo’s best play of the night may have been this:
Luongo to cox: “are you here scouting for the leafs?”
— Jason Botchford (@botchford) January 31, 2013
Here are the Canucks’ and Avalanche players’ scoring chance charts. I tried to sort them by line and defensive pairing, but the Avs are all over the map. Again, they were missing their only two forwards who can skate.
|Chances For||Chances Vs.||Differential|
|Chances For||Chances Vs.||Differential|
They probably should of* signed Ryan O’Reilly.
And the team period-by-period breakdown:
|Colorado (EV)||3 (3)||7 (3)||3 (2)||13 (8)|
|Vancouver (EV)||7 (5)||5 (4)||5 (3)||17 (12)|
Canucks Army Three Stars:
- Roberto Luongo
- Henrik Sedin
- Keith Ballard