Photo Dave Reginek via NHLInteractive
A game recap isn’t really necessary. The small, underlying events that define a single game have little meaning in the long run. Every botched zone exit, every giveaway, every blown coverage, every solitary, unrecorded play that somehow led to a scoring chance for or against gains anonymity the next day. At some point, people will forget what plays, exactly, Jason Garrison or Keith Ballard made that cost the Vancouver Canucks in their game against the Detroit Red Wings, they will just remember the plays existed. The recording of microstats is simply objective note-taking, and we don’t even have those.
We don’t record the plays that led to certain events for or against. More developed hockey blogs are built prominently around recording zone exits and entries. Some teams track puck touches and passes to get a more accurate read on the things their team does. There is a problem when you watch a hockey game of confirmation bias, that you will perceive things only as you want them to be seen. If you showed a person a hockey game with all the scoring plays clipped out, it is unlikely they would have been able to tell which team won.
Had all the scoring plays been clipped out of the Canucks and Wings game, it would be 0-0 headed to overtime. Unfortunately, it was 8-3.
-Most of the long-winded intro above is about the perception of Jason Garrison in Vancouver. I’ve watched a handful of Canucks games this season and while I haven’t been exactly impressed by his play, it’s been suitable and consistent to my expectations. I’m not expecting him to impress me or anybody—he’s a defenceman. His job is to defend against the opposition’s top lines, play big minutes and hopefully keep the puck out of his end. Generally he’s been doing that.
-The miscellaneous minutiae in Jason’s Garrison game can look ugly sometimes. He didn’t go undrafted because NHL teams did not know who he was. He looks a little slow at times and is awkwardly positioned inside the defensive zone. In an absolute vacuum, however, Garrison is effective at the NHL level because he is smart. When Garrison is on the ice, both this year, last year and the season before, the puck has generally spent more time in the opposition’s end than his own.
-You wouldn’t judge a pitcher in baseball by the sheer number of strikes he throws. You wouldn’t judge a quarterback in football by the sheer number of completions he throws. In other sports, you give a number of “attempts” in some fashion to these players. Baseball pitchers are measured by strike rate. Quarterbacks are measured by completion rate. Judging a defenceman solely on his poor passes or his giveaways, or his blown coverages takes away from the context. When a defenceman plays a lot, he is going to make more mistakes. When he plays against top-level competition, he is going to get beaten a lot more. But look at the attempts; pass attempts, shifts, opportunities… look at all of his chances as a backdrop upon which to judge the number of poor plays he makes. It is why defencemen are so cruelly mistreated by almost all fan bases. I write about the Toronto Maple Leafs often, and the comments section usually has very nasty words for Dion Phaneuf. But why? He is the Leafs’ best defenceman. To no extent am I calling Garrison the Canucks’ best defenceman this season, but he has been a solid player that can be counted on in most situations.
-One of those situations doesn’t appear to be “the penalty kill in Detroit on the last Sunday of February”. Garrison is a big oh-fer on his career in that regard. The PK was the worst thing about the Canucks’ Sunday afternoon. In 6:37 of 5-on-4 time, the Canucks gave up six scoring chances. The expectation should be about two scoring chances per three minutes, so suffice to say the team was leaky. Garrison’s pairing was otherwise good in the first, on the ice for three scoring chances for and none against. By the time the Wings put the screws to the Canucks in the third period, the total was rung up against that pairing.
-At even strength, the Canucks’ big issue wasn’t on “D”. It was on “O”. Early in the second period, Zack Kassian drove to the net, got a good shot away before taking a real questionable goaltender interference penalty. This changed the game for a couple of reasons, the first being that the Red Wings scored on the ensuing powerplay to tie the game 3-3, and the second in that, well, the Canucks only generated a single scoring chance at even strength after that in the game: a Chris Tanev wrist shot with 11:08 to go in the third period.
-Most of my philosophy comes from the Peanuts cartoons by Charles Schulz. That strip has a recurring gag where Charlie Brown is the player-manager of a baseball team that plays a dog at shortstop and frequently loses 40 to nothing. He gets frustrated by his right fielder Lucy, “the worst player in the history of the game” although shares his wisdom with her after each of her miscues. At one time he tells her “a manager can always forgive a mechanical error, but a manager cannot forgive a mental error”. I think that’s appropriate across all sports. You can lose a game honestly, by making mistakes and not making plays. That happens.
-But Zack Kassian made two unfortunate decisions that cost the Canucks penalty time in this game. The first was going after Jordin Tootoo when Tootoo made an illegal hit on Chris Tanev. Kassian jumped in, picked up a deuce for roughing, and was lauded by the broadcasters for standing up for his teammate and, somehow by extension, costing his team a powerplay. Later in the game he took a misconduct which cost the team another two minutes for talking back to the referee. I understand a player like Kassian needs a bit of an edge to keep opponents on edge, but the Red Wings, for years, have had success as an unflappable, methodic unit. They don’t often cross that line, and have been a model organization for years. For the Canucks, there’s a line between “JerkPuck” and making plays that lead to penalties.
-The best enforcer, as we have said many many many many times on this blog, is a good powerplay. Score enough powerplay goals, and teams will be on their best behaviour.
-Roberto Luongo had his worst game in quite some time. He allowed 5 of 20 shots at even strength although did not get a lot of help. Two of those shots went off Keith Ballard. Another went off Dan Hamhuis. The second Damien Brunner goal was on him, but ultimately, four of Detroit’s eight goals were not registered as scoring chances. It sounds counter-intuitive, but for as many pucks that seem to go in off defencemen skates and sticks, a lot more pucks don’t go in in that same situation.
-Jimmy Howard looked bad in the first. He allowed 3 goals on 7 shots, and the broadcasters speculated that Thomas McCollum may have to come into the game in relief. Had the Canucks kept up the pressure, it may have looked a lot worse on the goaltender with two first names. Unfortunately, there was the Kassian chance, a chance for Jordan Schroeder on the powerplay, and the Tanev chance after the first was out. Nothing for Vancouver.
-So what was the problem with the offence? It may have just been a bad night, but the puck was bouncing all over the place and it was impacting the Canucks’ ability to get clean zone entries. As much as fans will complain about the officiating, Jason Garrison, the goaltending, Jason Garrison, the national anthem singer, and Jason Garrison, the ice at the Joe was some of the worst I’ve seen NHL ice. It’s an old barn so you can’t expect the highest standards, but the Red Wings seemed to adapt better to the quirky bounces.
-When you can’t get luck, create it. The play of the game was Henrik Sedin’s dump to Daniel Sedin off the end boards that went for the 2-2 goal. I marked Henrik down for a “set up scoring chance” but I think that’s the first time I’ve seen a player use the boards to bank a pass. What a player.
-Henrik Sedin after 18 games has 17 points. Daniel Sedin’s individual shooting percentage, and Henrik Sedin’s on-ice shooting percentage, are both normalized. I am quite sure Henrik is just old enough to no longer be the point-a-game player people expect him to be. He is still a very good hockey player and a joy to watch, but he can no longer do it all anymore. He looked a little lost in his defensive zone tonight, although that’s to be expected of most scoring forwards.
-Not a joy to watch: Andrew Alberts. Get well soon, Kevin.
-Here are the individual scoring chance numbers. I have heard of three of the Wings defencemen:
|Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
|Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
-And the team totals:
|Vancouver (EV)||5 (5)||1 (1)||2 (1)||8 (7)|
|Detroit (EV)||5 (3)||7 (3)||3 (3)||15 (9)|
CanucksArmy Three Stars:
- Damien Brunner
- Niklas Kronwall
- Pavel Datsyuk