Canucks Relinquish Northwest Division Lead After Ugly Loss in Minny

I can’t possibly imagine a photo that better sums up Sunday’s game.
(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

On Sunday the Canucks rolled into Minnesota on the heels of three straight losses, to play for first place in the Northwest Division. They had every incentive to show up, tighten up their game defensively and maintain their Northwest Division supremacy. Also they were facing a team that isn’t really all that good and was coming off of an emotional game in Nashville the night before. Against a tired, inferior opponent, the no-show the Canucks put in on Sunday is pretty much inexcusable.

It started off badly for the Canucks, as Zach Parise beat Cory Schneider with a relative softy just twenty-four seconds in. It only got worse from there as the Minnesota Wild crushed the Canucks in possession, chances and on the scoreboard too. It’s true that the Canucks have a "stinker at Xcel" quota that needed filling this season, but that’s an easy excuse that obscures a pretty pathetic effort…

Read on past the jump.

Let’s get this train rolling with the very ugly scoring chance data. On Sunday the Wild controlled the scoring chance battle to the tune of nineteen to eight, and fifteen to six at even strength. With the score close the Wild handled the proceedings with ten scoring chances to Vancouver’s four. Like a glass of orange juice directly following a flouride rinse, that’s some nasty stuff.

For the second straight game Cory Schneider allowed a goal against on the very first opposition scoring chance. He got off to a really shaky start on Sunday night, allowing three goals against on Minnesota’s first nine shots on goal and giving up some rebounds so juicy they’d be fit to be served up medium rare at Gotham’s.

Schneider found his form in the second and the third. He made some big stops and arguably gave the Canucks a chance to come back over the balance of the game. But he didn’t really give the team a particularly good chance to win in this one. So far this season Schneider continues to put in mostly average goaltending, which is fine, but probably falls short of what his current backup could give the Canucks…

The power-play continues to struggle and failed to produce a goal in this one. But at least they recorded nearly a shot per minute of power-play ice-time. That’s a pretty hollow silver lining but it’s an improvement of what the power-play had produced of late and if it keeps up the goals will come. Speaking of which, Jason Garrison led all Canucks with a +2 power-play goal differential in four and change minutes of power-play ice-time. 

This was probably Dan Hamhuis’ single worst game as a Canucks defenseman. Matched-up primarily against the Parise line, Dan Hamhuis was gutted on Sunday with a -6 scoring chance differential at even-strength and a -4 scoring chance differential on the penalty-kill. He was also primarily responsible for the coverage breakdown that led to Minnesota’s second goal late in the first period. WIther Kevin Bieksa?

Other defenseman who had bad games: Keith Ballard and Chris Tanev. They also didn’t play together at all and I wonder if perhaps they should. They’ve had a synergistic relationship as a pairing in the past, and with Vancouver’s blue-line group short-handed at the moment it might be worth a shot.

Jason Garrison was probably Vancouver’s best defenseman tonight – sure, that’s a pretty low bar to hop over – but he played relatively effective physical hockey and buoyed Dan Hamhuis when they were paired together. He hit a cross bar late in the third, and a weird bounce off of Suter’s back led directly to Henrik Sedin’s early third period goal that momentarily made this contest interesting. He also had a +3 scoring chance differential on special teams, even as the Wild were superior on both the power-play and penalty-kill. 

Mason Raymond, Maxim Lapierre and Jannik Hansen had -5, -5 and -4 even-strength scoring chance differentials respectively. Jordan Schroeder and Zack Kassian added in a -3 for good measure (and Schroeder lost an awful lot of puck battles, most memorably to Charlie Coyle on the play that led to Parise’s second tally). The depth forwards had a brutal outing tonight, and while Vancouver remains a decent possession team on the season, it’s hard to shake the feeling that this group Mike Gillis has assembled just doesn’t have enough skill. Like the Mario family, there’s just too many plumbers.

That’s really all I’ve got. The Canucks organization from the players to the coaches to management needs to give themselves a long hard look in the mirror following this one. Based on the possession data and the true talent of the power-play and goaltenders (two areas the Canucks have inexplicably been below average this season) I still think this team is good enough to tread water sufficiently well and win the Northwest Division as currently composed.

But to do that they’ll really have to tune up and give a more consistent effort. They were out-hustled and embarrassed all over the ice on Sunday, and I’d imagine that Mike Gillis’ trigger finger is getting itchy (like a cartoon mouse from the Simpsons)…

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

Chance Totals 1st 2nd 3rd Totals
Minnesota (EV) 7 (7) 6 (3) 6 (5) 19 (15)
Vancouver (EV) 4 (3) 2 (2) 2 (1) 8 (6)

Individual Scoring Chances

Individual Chance Totals Chances Taken Chances Created Total
Alex Burrows 1 1 2
David Booth 1 1 2
Zack Kassian 1 1 2
Henrik Sedin 1 0 1
Alex Edler 1 0 1
Jannik Hansen 1 0 1
Daniel Sedin 0 1 1
Mason Raymond 0 1 1

Individual Scoring Chance Differential

Skater EV F – A SH F – A PP F – A Total F – A
Dan Hamhuis 1 – 7 0 – 4 1 – 0 2 – 11
Keith Ballard 1 – 5 0 – 0 0 – 0 1 – 5
Jason Garrison 3 – 4 1 – 2 2 – 0 6 – 6
David Booth 3 – 2 0 – 0 0 – 0 3 – 2
Chris Tanev 1 – 3 0 – 2 0 – 0 1 – 5
Zack Kassian 2 – 5 0 – 0 0 – 0 2 – 5
Alex Burrows 4 – 4 0 – 3 1 – 0 5 – 7
Chris Higgins 1 – 2 1 – 0 1 – 0 3 – 2
Mason Raymond 0 – 5 0 – 1 1 – 0 1 – 6
Daniel Sedin 4 – 4 0 – 0 1 – 0 5 – 4
Alex Edler 2 – 4 1 – 0 1 – 0 4 – 4
Tom Sestito 0 – 1 0 – 0 0 – 0 0 – 1
Dale Weise 0 – 1 0 – 1 0 – 0 0 – 2
Henrik Sedin 2 – 4 0 – 0 1 – 0 3 – 4
Jannik Hansen 0 – 5 1 – 0 1 – 0 2 – 5
Maxim Lapierre 0 – 4 0 – 3 0 – 0 0 – 7
Andrew Alberts 2 – 4 0 – 0 0 – 0 2 – 4
Jordan Schroeder 1 – 4 0 – 0 0 – 0 1 – 4
  • Disagree with plumber theory. It wasn’t stated last year. And, this yr, 5 on 5 the Nux have ave. ~1.88 g/gm. Last yr. ~1.96 that’s ~ 1 goal every 13 games!

    Let’s see Zac & Booth & Higgins & Hansen with 2 decent centermen first?! (a healthy Kes & someone else who can pass & create chances)

    & not many last year said the Canucks lack of scoring was significant?!

    That said, The Special Teams ARE a disaster.
    Nux are ~1/3 a goal /gm. worse than last year.
    Yes they miss Kes. BUT Booth hasn’t had a sniff & he’s scored 23 PP goals. Yet a raw rookie JS is on it & on the point.(Instead of Garrison. WOW!!

    This IS coaching – Unable to adjust when things go wrong has been their achilles heel ..injuries/different game plans…etc..

    time for coaching to be changed.. reason why alot of Nux fans are panicking is they know this staff hasn’t proven they can turn things around when car is going off the cliff..!

  • The first goal seems to be all we need to know about these Canucks, where just about every Canuck makes a minor mistake – Rayond not staying in the centre, Edler going for the hit with Rayond close by, Tanev hoping Hansen will have Parise, Hansen being a step behind, Schneider not getting over fast enough. The cumulative effect is a disasterous start to the game. Maybe 3 days between games was too much? They seem to be playing the way they did last year, post Bruins game, where they won a ton of low scoring games. Not this year. Will they make the playoffs?

  • I thought this site was less prone to fan over reaction to a single result?

    But here is the lazy “fire the coach” stuff.

    Without Kesler, Vigneault/Bowness have still coached the team to the 5th best possession numbers in the league.

    Vigneault does not have control over the mediocre goaltending that is at the root of this current cold streak. He also hands the special teams stuff to Brown.

    • I am not at the “fire the coach” stage yet. That decision should probably wait until after the season. But there are fair questions about the coaching, such as: defense pairings; treatment of Ballard vs. Edler who doesn’t appear to be held accountable for mistakes; the lack of production on the power-play. The goaltender situation is on the GM as of now, and if not resolved by the trade deadline (and Canucks dont make the playoffs), then the decision of whether to fire the GM should take priority. The Booth trade has not worked out, nor has the Ballard trade; it is too soon to judge the Kassian trade. These three players are not contributing – particularly Booth (although he and Kassian had a good shift on Higgin’s goal). Now all said, they are still in the playoff hunt, and if they can put together a decent run of wins, including a re-match against the Wild a week tonight, then we go back to thinking about what they need to make a deep playoff run.

  • @unknowncomic: While probably not quite the advanced stat geek that many on this site are, I am a regular reader and I get it.

    But I also get this: no advanced statistic is as important as wins and losses. There is no division crown or playoff spot awarded for possession numbers.

    I am not in a panic, but I am also open to the possibility of change. Hockey players are human beings ruled by human emotions and motivations. If this team continues to be flat and unresponsive to AV – and if he continues to so obviously mis-use certain players, replace him.

    • I get it too.

      However, I recall the 9 game losing streak of Jan 2009. The narrative back then was the same… the players were tuning out Vigneault and he wasn’t using the players properly.

      The problem about “change” is you don’t know what you’re getting. For every positive story around a coaching change, there are just as many stories of a change having no impact or making things worse.

      So, I’m of the opinion you go with something that has been successful over a large sample over an unknown.

      I am also unsure why it is assumed a coach is responsible for motivation? Perhaps too many sports movies have skewed our perception of what coaches do?

      Finally, yes wins and loses are important. But the amount of points gained over the last 10 games are less predictive of how the rest of the season will go than possession results.

      • JCDavies

        “However, I recall the 9 game losing streak of Jan 2009. The narrative back then was the same… the players were tuning out Vigneault and he wasn’t using the players properly.”

        The shortened season seems to have everybody riled up. Whatever the Canucks do, hopefully they take a measured look at it.

  • 2 big problems with this team right now:

    1. Sub-par goaltending. We are possibly seeing the results of neither goalie being able to play enough to get into a groove. Both are on such short leashes right now, which does not help confidence.

    2. Sub-par PP. Sorry, terrible PP. The coaching staff has enough weapons for this to be inexcusable. 2 of the best passers in the game (Sedins), a good in front of the net guy (Burrows), and a cannon of a shot from the point (Garrison). Why is it most “average Joe” fans can understand that they need to use this more often rather than putting their 4th line C (Shroeder) on the point, who is not a threat to score out there. Edler looks brutal this season yet seems to be AV’s pet and keeps getting 1st unit ice time.

    On another note, why is a grinder (Lapierre) playing with Booth and Kassian, while an offensive type center (Shroeder) is playing with grinder type wingers?

    There are a lot of questionable coaching decisions going on right now.

  • @Unknown Comic this was a no-show in a game for the division title. Tough not to over-reacting. Anyway I didn’t advocate for firing the coach or anything, with the Gillis itchy trigger finger line I was legitimately talking about making a trade!