Photo via Jeff Vinnick/NHLInterative
When our pal Thomas sent out an email Friday afternoon putting himself out for the night with a lower-body injury, I sympathized. It did remain that we needed somebody to step in and count the scoring chances and write a post-game recap for this contest. Hockey is a physical game, and blogging can take a toll on a human being as well. You may laugh, but without being in the right creative mindset, or generally feeling uncomfortable, blogging feels like work, man.
I think I would have preferred to spend my Friday night messed up on painkillers nursing a back injury than re-living this dud of a game. A hockey game was scheduled to start just after 7:00 p.m. on a gorgeous February night in Vancouver. A little over two and a half hours later, the game was over, and the Canucks found themselves with a 2-1 shootout victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. There was supposed to be a furious pace, there was supposed to be furious retribution for Duncan Keith’s elbow to Daniel Sedin’s head when the teams last faced each other. Neither of those things happened.
Neither team deserved to win. Neither team dressed more than one line for the contest. But somebody did and, to the readers of this blog, the right team won. Analysis below.
-Scoring chances… TSN counts them now. They don’t offer a breakdown by game state or by strength, but the guys on that panel are generally aware of the potential for streamlined analysis of hockey games that goes beyond looking at which players scored which goals and when. Sometimes they flash up a graphic showing one team in the lead in scoring chances, and I do have to admit, it seems a lot more genuine when it’s right there on the broadcast rather than some Twitter account associated with a blog tweeting about them seven or eight times a contest.
-That said, I count scoring chances because I think they’re important, they’re an excellent proxy for determining which lines had and didn’t have the puck during a game and which match ups were working. Chicago had 15 scoring chances in this game and Vancouver had 5. Chicago had 8 scoring chances at 5-on-5 and Vancouver had 3. Chicago had 7 scoring chances in a “score close” game state and Vancouver had 3. However you slice it, Vancouver was on the wrong end of the play in this game.
-When the scoring chance project first took off during the 2010 season (I think it was thereabouts, it really got going in 2011) it was generally accepted that teams could expect about 15 scoring chances a game. When Thom and I tracked every game last year, we found that anything above 12 was the baseline for an offensive hockey team. 5 is something I’ve never seen. I think I tracked an 8-7 game last season, but I’ve never seen a team go as low as 5. When Alex Edler scored the Canucks’ lone regulation goal, there was 4:19 to go in the first period. That was the last time a Canuck recorded a scoring chance at 5-on-5.
-Basically, this game was boring, and this game was boring because rubes in certain American markets only pay attention to hockey when their team is successful, and the way to create illusory parity was to give out points for overtime losses, which was theoretically a way to spruce up boring overtime games in the late-90s. After the advent of the shootout however, the single point had a negative effect, since teams in tied third periods had a greater motivation to gain the one point and not lose anything.
-So basically, if you’re a Chicago fan reading this who started watching the game when the league was created in 2008, you are the precise reason this game was so horrible to watch and did not meet any expectations. Canucks-Blackhawks games for the last several years have been fast-paced and exciting, not just because the teams sort of hate each other, but because they’re two good hockey teams. Neither were tonight.
-Well, maybe Chicago was, but only because of Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad. Patrick Kane didn’t really show up until late in the third period. That Toews and Saad pairing was dangerous all night. I have Toews with four individual chances and Saad with three, and it’s criminal neither were rewarded with a goal tonight. The perpetrator? Roberto Luongo.
-Yeah, he was pretty good. Luongo stopped 21 of 22 shots at even strength and 11 of the 12 scoring chances (two missed nets and a post for the Blackhawks). Mostly, he was just really calm and didn’t at all look like the goaltender at the centre of a goaltending controversy. Perhaps that’s because he’s a really good goaltender with probably four or five good seasons left in him, perfect for a team that has a dwindling championship window.
-There was a scramble at the end of the game that was fairly odd. Brent Seabrook took a long wrist shot that was knocked down in front, Andrew Shaw had his stick tied up and kicked it and a scramble appeared. Luongo made the save with his ding-a-ling and Patrick Sharp failed to knock it in before the whistle blew. It was a weird play all around, and since Shaw kicked at it, I’m not sure the goal would have counted had Luongo not registered the save off his athletic support.
-That was with 1:46 to go, and sure as heck wouldn’t have been controversial.
-Another controversial play came in overtime, with Patrick Kane decided to rag the puck, and he was covered by Jason Garrison who took two whacks at him, the second one was called because his stick made some contact with Kane’s chin. It was actually Garrison’s second penalty on the night. There must have been a fan near the home penalty box with details on Mumford & Sons upcoming tour.
-The Canucks’ third line… second line… (the one Alex Burrows is on) got killed in this game in possession. They appeared to be matched up against the Toews line, and while Burrows, Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen are all pretty good defensive players, Toews was better at offence on this night. Another sneaky one was Marian Hossa, who led all forwards with 8 attempts at net, although four were blocked. The Canucks collapsed well and made sure a lot of chances taken from inside the scoring chance range didn’t reach the net.
-The Sedins played well, starting rushes and looking dangerous, and the only Canucks line that recorded multiple scoring chances in the game, including the goal. Zack Kassian didn’t quite take over this game, but he looked pretty good and seems to fit in more with the Sedins each game. He’s learned to stop even bothering with skating in the offensive zone. He had 5 attempts: two shots, two blocks, one missed, and his pass to Edler was excellent.
-Alex Edler, incidentally, led all skaters with nine shot attempts: three on goal, three blocked, three missed.
-If Kassian’s going to play up top, Burrows is going to have to be a lot better. He got his payday, and now makes $4.5-million to centre a depth line. This could be an interesting roster with some good options once Ryan Kesler and David Booth get back, and those two definitely need to come back because the Canucks keep getting smoked in puck possession.
-A note for Jordan Schroeder, who played a strong game in this one. He drew the late penalty by going to the net and scored the shootout winner with a great shot. He looked like a natural at centre ice, sort of thrown into the middle of the rivalry after a bunch of years in the minors. Too bad the NHL won’t officially count that as an NHL goal for him, but I’d hope they let him keep the puck in case he doesn’t score another before Kesler comes back and he’s again relegated to Chicago…
-I’d normally talk a little more about the match ups and what worked, and how Chicago adjusted to David Bolland’s injury (that looks pretty serious) but it’s sort of inconsequential. Both teams were terrible, and the Canucks are lucky to come away with a win despite being more terrible on this night. It was a bad hockey game that should be memorable for Jordan Schroeder and nobody else.
Scoring chance breakdown. Basically like plus/minus, but with scoring chances, and only counting 5-on-5 situations.
|Chances For||Chances Vs.||Differential|
|Chances For||Chances Vs.||Differential|
And by team:
|Chicago (EV)||5 (3)||3 (3)||3 (3)||4 (3)||15 (12)|
|Vancouver (EV)||3 (3)||0 (0)||2 (0)||0 (0)||5 (3)|
Canucks Army Three Stars
- Roberto Luongo
- Jonathan Toews
- Brandon Saad