Not only did Ryan Kesler make his return on Monday night, but he also wound up scoring the game-winning goal.
Photo Credit: Rich Lam/Getty Images.
There have been many times this season where the Vancouver Canucks – whether their hand was forced by injuries or not – seemed more than content to score a goal or two, and then spend the rest of the game hanging on for dear life until the final horn. In fact, Monday night marked the 4th time this season that the team won by a score of 1-0.
Except this time around, the fans surely left satisfied, with very few reservations to be had. What distinguished this particular performance from those other ones was the fact that the team was on the attack throughout, peppering the opposition. Realistically they could have easily scored 4 or 5 goals if not for a spectacular performance by Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith, who did everything he could to keep his team in it.
Most nights, though, the opposing goalie won’t be able to do what Smith did, and if this effort was any indication, there won’t be many snoozers to close out the remainder of the season.
Scoring Chance Data and Analysis of the Game are Just Past the Jump.
Let’s start off the analysis by taking a look at the scoring chance data itself, which pretty much sums things up. The Canucks outchanced the ‘Yotes 22-11, and outshot them 41-19. Ironically enough, the only puck that got by Smith came after a botched 3-on-1 and a shot that Kevin Bieksa fanned on.
I actually rewatched that specific play more than a handful of times, rewinding it in an attempt to figure out whether Zack Kassian was to blame for butchering it, or was to be praised for displaying great patience. And I think that it’s a bit of both. The spacing definitely didn’t help, and things broke down in a hurry with Coyotes skaters packing the front of the net after he initially had difficulty controlling the puck. But instead of throwing it into a crowd, he channeled his inner Henrik Sedin, and waited it out before hitting the trailing Bieksa. Ultimately a fortunate sequence for the Canucks culminated with Mason Raymond’s rebound attempt bouncing off of the iron right to Kesler for one of the easiest goals of his life.
I thought Kesler was really good, actually, and not just because he was coming off of an injury. He was legitimately good. He registered 4 shots on goal, 5 scoring chances, won 9/14 faceoffs, played 15:54 (including getting his spot back on the top power play unit, contrary to what Alain Vigneault suggested pregame), and scored the game-winning goal. On his 1st shift of the game, he streaked right down the middle before firing a dangerous shot wide, and finished the sequence off by throwing a big hit along the boards. He did take some very short shifts, but didn’t seem to have all that much rust in his game. It’s nice to have (arguably) the team’s most valuable player back in the mix.
Coming as no surprise, the top power play unit looked dangerous with Kesler back in there. They didn’t actually register a goal, but did have two of them called off due to a bump by Burrows and a kicking motion by Henrik. On both, Mike Smith absolutely lost it and went after the players in his crease. He’s quite the loose cannon, eh? I couldn’t help but laugh when TSN showed a highlight reel of him seemingly repeatedly attempting to make his goalie stick feel his pain, by smashing it on the posts. Then again, if he plays as well as he did on this night I’m sure the Coyotes will be able to live with his shenanigans.
But back to the rough stuff involving Smith, as the second disallowed goal prompted a skirmish which earned Alex Burrows a roughing penalty. Instead of only sitting for 2 minutes though, he wound up spending an additional 7:30 in the box waiting for the next stoppage of play.
With Kesler’s return, I guess that means the Higgins-Roy-Hansen line has been relegated to "3rd line" status. Just don’t get used to seeing it referred to as that on this site, because it’s a technicality that really doesn’t mean all that much. Whatever they are, they are playing some inspired hockey right now. Higgins registered 7 shots on goal (and 3 scoring chances), while Roy continued to dazzle with his shiftiness and passing (with a rather memorable shift on the power play in the 3rd period). I honestly didn’t pay that much attention to the game on Saturday night against Calgary, but in the past 3 games that I have been responsible for covering, Higgins has factored into 14 scoring chances. Not too shabby.
The clinching goal came on a Phoenix power play, as they also had Smith pulled with the clock ticking down. An Antoine Vermette pass back to the point eluded Keith Yandle, and wound up trickling all the way down to the yawning cage. It was a good moment, yet somehow, it still doesn’t make me feel too much better about the time Shane O’Brien happened. And even with the goal he was awarded, Dan Hamhuis is reportedly still sad.
What you’ll notice when you scan the chance data is that the Ballard-Alberts pairing more than held their own, and that the 4th line doesn’t make an appearance. Ultimately that’s what you want to see from your depth guys; the ability to log some minutes against some softer competition without taking anything off the table or hurting you.
I can’t be the only one that is kind of bummed out by the fact that the most relevant moments involving Roberto Luongo – one of the best goaltender’s of the past decade – in this game included Ray Ferraro documenting pleasant pregame conversations he had with the opposition, and the fact that an apparent hand injury he suffered in warmup made people wonder whether his ability to tweet would be compromised. Remember when he was relied upon to stop the puck, and stuff?
Anyways, Cory Schneider made his 11th straight start. It’s a little silly that it took this long to mention a guy that just recorded his 4th shutout in the past 9 games, but I guess that’s what happens when you make it look as easy as he is right now. While he wasn’t called upon to do as much as he was last time out against Calgary, it doesn’t matter because he got the job done.
And finally, hopefully this was the first of many Tom Sestito healthy scratches to come. I’ve been wondering out loud what his purpose was towards the end of these game recaps in recent weeks, and I guess now we know. His purpose is to make you appreciate the presence of players who contribute meaningful things. Thanks, Tommy Boy!
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:
|1st Period||2nd Period||3rd Period||Totals|
|Coyotes (EV)||3 (3)||3 (2)||5 (4)||11 (9)|
|Canucks (EV)||7 (7)||7 (6)||8 (5)||22 (18)|
Individual Chance Contributions:
|Individual||Chances Taken||Chances Assisted||Chances Total|
Individual Scoring Chance Differential:
|Individual||EV F – A||PP F – A||SH F – A||Total F – A|