Canucks Take off their Pants and Blue Jacket

This is the exact moment that Cory Schneider realizes his team has lost to the worst club in the NHL.
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Over the past week the Canucks have played four games, posting a 1-1-2 record in four games against the San Jose Sharks, the Los Angeles Kings, the Calgary Flames and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Their Sybil-like inconsistency over the past week has been something of a microcosm for their season: they were excellent against Los Angeles and San Jose and pretty damn dreadful while facing AHL-quality goaltending in Calgary this past Sunday. On Thursday night they reprised the subpar form they flashed in Calgary, against the Blue Jackets in Columbus.

There were some bright-spots: Zack Kassian had jump throughout the contest and looks to have left his February doldrums in the past month. Meanwhile Jannik Hansen was involved and impressive (again), and the pairing of Jason Garrison and Dan Hamhuis put on an exhibition in steadiness. But there were more negatives, and those negatives were of the big picture variety. While Cory Schneider continued his average play, Chris Tanev looked not-quite-ready to handle tougher matchups in the top-four. Meanwhile Alex Edler – well – he had a flaming tire fire of an outing. Add it all up and the Canucks weren’t good enough to beat the league’s worst team.

Read on past the jump for more analysis and scoring chance data.

Let’s begin with the most important stats: the scoring chances. The Canucks narrowly edged Columbus in scoring chances recording twelve to the BlueJackets’ nine in aggregate. At evens the chance battle was a dead-heat with each side recording nine, and with the score tied Columbus controlled the game with five scoring chances to Vancouver’s two. Even without Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa in the lineup that’s a bit embarrassing when you consider the quality of their opponent.

Cory Schneider posted a quality start this evening and one might argue that he "bounced back" following a pedestrian outing against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. But that .926 save percentage flatters Schneider in my view, as Columbus hit three posts in the game and beat Schneider on two of the six "difficult shots" they took. While Schneider didn’t have his best game against the Blue Jackets, he gave the Canucks a chance to win and the players in front of him only gave him a single goal of support – so this one obviously isn’t on him. 

Vancouver had a single power-play opportunity in the game and while they didn’t record a single shot on goal they did record two scoring chances. So that’s progress, I guess?

I’m really struggling to understand why Jordan Schroeder is still playing the point on the first power-play unit. For that matter I don’t quite understand why he’s playing on the fourth line rather than setting up David Booth and Zack Kassian on the third-line either. He appeared to be taking the odd prescribed shift with those two forwards as the game went along but pretty much Jordan Schroeder’s deployment over the past week makes no sense to me.

Alex Edler is going to get ripped on sports talk radio and in print between now and Sunday for his performance against the Blue Jackets. On Columbus’ first goal he failed to take the body on R.J. Umberger in front of the net. While Schneider should’ve had the initial shot (which hit the post), Edler’s inability to tie up his man led directly to Columbus’ opening goal. Then in overtime he fell down and allowed Matt Calvert to mozy on into the slot and beat Cory Schneider for the game-winner. Edler’s pairing with Chris Tanev was sieve-like all evening frankly, in fact they were on the ice for seven of Columbus’ nine scoring chances at even-strength. That’s way too permissive for a top-four pairing against an offensively challenged club like Columbus.

I have to give it to Cam Barker, he’s exceeded my expectations in his first three games this season. That said, I had no expectations for him whatsoever so I guess that’s a low bar to clear. To Barker’s credit he has looked pretty good in the offensive end and in transition, and he even posted a positive scoring chance differential paired up mostly with Andrew Alberts on Thursday. His defensive play remains interesting (to pick a euphemism) but if the Canucks are controlling the chance battle with him on the ice then he’s doing his job.

Speaking of Andrew Alberts, that hit he put on Derek Dorsett early in the first period was as clean as a whistle and grizzly as fuck. That combination is the best type of hockey hit. Hopefully Dorsett, who left the game immediately after the hit with an "upper body injury", isn’t hurt too badly – he remains one of my favorite grinders in the NHL. If he played fourth line minutes in a big market, I’m convinced he’d have a Shawn Thornton type cult-following. (Update: it appears that Derek Dorsett fractured his clavicle on the hit and is likely done for the season. Man that’s a tough break for an under-rated, likable player).

The Jason Garrison and Dan Hamhuis pairing were solid and dependable throughout in this one, playing stellar low-event hockey while leading all Canucks blue-liners in even-strength ice-time. That said, if Bieksa isn’t ready to return to action on Sunday I think I’d split them up. Though Edler is back playing his natural "left-side" and continues to generate shots and opportunities offensively, he still gives it all back in his own end of the rink. Because that’s true, you might as well play him on his off-side and pair him with your best two-way defenseman (Dan Hamhuis).

In theory, an Alex Edler – Chris Tanev pairing is a nice idea, but in practice it doesn’t quite work (or hasn’t, anyway). The reason is that Chris Tanev still isn’t quite able to crush the tough minutes in an expanded role the way he crushes the softer minutes on the third pairing. He’s simply not the steady, defensive antidote to Edler’s too often erratic play. One of Jason Garrison or Dan Hamhuis would probably be better suited to that task.

Jannik Hansen had a stellar game and recorded a scoring chance in all three game states: he had a short-handed breakaway in the third, just sent a gimme wide on the power-play and he had another even-strength chance mid-way through the second period too. He also sent a high-velocity slapper at the Columbus net in the third that Bobrovsky struggled to catch and bobbled wide (leading to a forechecking opportunity that resulted in a Vancouver regaining possession of the puck). That high-velocity slapper is one hell of a weapon on the rare occassion that Jannik Hansen uses it. That’s just another reason why I’d like to see him on the first unit power-play.

Henrik Sedin has quietly scored five goals in the past ten games, and has twelve points over that span. 

David Booth’s inability to find the back of the net is becoming comical. Despite generating chances like a madman – he’s taken 20 shots on goal in eight games while playing third-line minutes with limited power-play time – Booth hasn’t scored a goal yet. Not only has he failed to score, but the Canucks have failed to score with him on the ice at even-strength. I know it seems like he’s never going to score at this point, but he’s dominating the puck and even if he is an extreme shooting-percentage outlier (something that is looking more and more likely), this just can’t continue. 

Scoring Chance Data

A chance is counted any time a team directs a shot cleanly on-net from within home-plate. Shots on goal and misses are counted, but blocked shots are not (unless the player who blocks the shot is “acting like a goaltender”). Generally speaking, we are more generous with the boundaries of home-plate if there is dangerous puck movement immediately preceding the scoring chance, or if the scoring chance is screened. If you want to get a visual handle on home-plate, check this image.

Scoring Chance Totals:

Scoring Chance Totals 1st 2nd 3rd OT Total
Columbus (EV) 2 (2) 3 (3) 3 (3) 1 (1) 9 (9)
Vancouver (EV) 3 (3) 4 (4) 5 (2) 0 (0) 12 (9)

Individual Scoring Chances:

Individual Chance Data Chances Taken Chances Created Total Chances
Jannik Hansen 3 0 3
Alex Burrows 3 0 3
David Booth 2 0 2
Henrik Sedin 1 1 2
Zack Kassian 1 1 2
Mason Raymond 1 0 1
Tom Sestito 1 0 1
Daniel Sedin 0 1 0

Individual Scoring Chance Differential:

Skater EV F – A SH F – A PP F – A Total F – A
Dan Hamhuis 2 – 1 1 – 0 1 – 0 4 – 1
Jason Garrison 3 – 0 1 – 0 1 – 0 5 – 0
David Booth 2 – 2 0 – 0 0 – 0 2 – 2
Chris Tanev 3 – 8 0 – 0 0 – 0 3 – 8
Zack Kassian 3 – 2 0 – 0 0 – 0 3 – 2
Alex Burrows 3 – 3 0 – 0 1 – 0 4 – 3
Cam Barker 3 – 1 0 – 0 0 – 0 3 – 1
Chris Higgins 2 – 3 1 – 0 1 – 0 4 – 3
Mason Raymond 1 – 1 0 – 0 1 – 0 2 – 1
Daniel Sedin 4 – 4 0 – 0 1 – 0 5 – 4
Alex Edler 4 – 7 0 – 0 1 – 0 5 – 7
Tom Sestito 1 – 0 0 – 0 0 – 0 1 – 0
Dale Weise 1 – 0 0 – 0 0 – 0 1 – 0
Henrik Sedin 4 – 4 0 – 0 1 – 0 5 – 4
Jannik Hansen 2 – 2 1 – 0 1 – 0 4 – 2
Maxim Lapierre 2 – 4 0 – 0 0 – 0 2 – 4
Andrew Alberts 3 – 1 0 – 0 0 – 0 3 – 1
Jordan Schroeder 2 – 0 0 – 0 0 – 0 2 – 0
  • JCDavies


    Schroeder’s TOI has actually decreased since Kesler’s injury and it’s getting more difficult to imagine AV giving him any sort of responsibility in the playoffs. Do you think this is an AV’s doghouse situation or an AV doesn’t like to give young players much responsibility situation? Something else?

    In other news, Hank’s defense on that OT goal was impressive.

  • @Betty just a humble analyst.

    @JCDavie no idea, but I really don’t get it. That third line hasn’t been productive (though they’ve generated chances) – really can’t figure out why they wouldn’t give Schroeder a shot in between Kass/Booth…

  • Great read thanks.

    I think Tanev is ready and able for a top 4 role. He shouldn’t be eating the toughest mins, but either should Edler – Edlers not ready after 4+ years in the league. AV blamed Edler for both goals against, not Tanev. He double shifted Tanev for the 2nd straight night – I’m guessing he has no problem with Tanevs play.

    The problem I see is Edler. I’m not on the “what the heck happened to him” bandwagon. I see his value, I know talented defenseman give the puck away often and aren’t always the best in their own end. See Letang, Doughty. Tanevs value other than his puck moving and defensive play, is his ability to support his defensive partner. I witnessed it every game he played in Chicago and with Keith Ballard. He excels at this. But he when he’s eating tougher mins, he hasn’t been able to cover up for Edler as often. It resulted in 2 goals against tonight. Hamhuis, Bieksa and Garrison have all been tried on Edlers side this year. It resulted in a Hamhuis dropping heavily in the ‘minus’ dept. If he and Tanev can’t help Edler – no one can.

    I propose letting Edler eat easier mins. In 2010-11 him and Erhoff ate pretty easy mins and he was much more successful defensivly. They need to get him eating easier mins ASAP.

    • JCDavies

      Wow. If Edler’s not ready eat tough minutes at this point in his career the Canucks are in a whole world of pain with that six-year contract he just signed. I don’t think this is the case.

  • Brent

    Nice read, although depressing. I suspect the goals will come, but solving the defence is to me a much, much bigger issues, especially since the goaltending has been average of late.

    You mentioned Tanev and crush in the same sentence, which reminded me that it seems like other teams are going out of their way to really lay the body on him. Is this just something that I am selectively noticing, or is it real? Are the opposition trying to disrupt his outlet passes by trying to make him rush stuff? Or even worse, they perceive him as soft and are trying to injure him?.

  • @Brent I think of it as Tanev being a really good Quarterback. Teams now he’s going to make an accurate outlet pass and they do what they can to try and lay the body on him and disrupt it. Generally speaking it doesn’t work out that well and he just hops after getting tagged.

  • What about Garrison back with Edler. When Bieksa comes back, Garrison will hopefully have had enough ice-time on the right side to be comfortable enough to play with Edler. Garrison and Hamhuis have been very good, but are they worth the knock-on effect through the line up?

  • I dont see most of their games – not on in the east – only the highlights. I understand the critique of Edler on the goals, but missing is a criticism of Hendrik on the game-winner. The Sedins play tough on the offensive zone – and I don’t like the mocking of them – but the way Hendrik just backed up and let the Columbus player walk needs to be pointed out. As a hockey play, it is much worse than Edler’s mistake on the play. Can you imagine this happening to Toews, or Zetterberg, or Yzerman, Sakic, et al.