Either the Canucks get in the win column on Sunday, or this face will haunt them (& their fans) over the course of a long summer.
"Over a long stretch of games, counting shots tends to be more predictive of success that counting goals alone, but in the playoffs, it’s the results that count; the teams that can’t turn a good process into short-term results get bounced early."
That is an excerpt from Cam Charron’s post on the San Jose Sharks, and their string of bad shooting luck over the last several postseasons (prior to this one, of course). I figured it was a great place to start the preview for Sunday night’s Game 3, given how very applicable it is to the Canucks at the moment.
All season long we have preached patience regarding the process on this blog, citing possession numbers as a reason for optimism; with the logic being that eventually, if you continue to have the puck more often than your opponent, chances are that pucks will inevitably start finding their way towards the back of the net. Through two games at even-strength, the Canucks are +42 in Corsi and +19 in Fenwick (shot attempts not taking into account those that are blocked).
But while the team has played two games that they certainly could have very easily won thus far, that’ll be of hardly any solace given the hole they now find themselves in. It’s admittedly difficult to remain patient when you’re staring a swift elimination right in the face. Ultimately, they’ll need some bounces and breaks to go their way in Game 3 if they hope to get into the win column, and make this into a series.
Read Past the Jump for More on the Game.
Puck Drop: 7 PM PST
Radio: Team 1040
On Saturday, Jeff Angus wrote about a few potential "quick fixes" which the Canucks should consider regarding their lineup. One particular point I whole-heartedly agreed with was the one on defensemen, which is pivoting off of a point that Drance made in his recap of Game 2. It makes zero sense to me that Dan Hamhuis, easily the team’s best defenseman, has gotten 51 seconds of 5v5 ice-time less in this series than he averaged during the regular season. When push comes to shove, with every shift having added importance, I’d certainly like to see him out there more often.
The only question I have is who he’ll be paired with, and whether it’ll remain Jason Garrison. This has much less to do with Garrison and his play, and more to do with the fact that I have this sinking feeling in my stomach every time I see Kevin Bieksa and Alex Edler out there together. There’s no doubt that they provide moments of brilliance, but the mental errors and questionable coverage is too rich for my blood. Both need to see their share of time out there, but it’s likely in the team’s best interest to limit the amount of times when both are on the ice at the same time. Chris Tanev travelled with the team, but he’s still in a walking boot, and will not be ready to go just yet.
Update: Apparently Edler and Bieksa will in fact be split up. Edler is reportedly being paired up with Frank Corrado (which means that the Canucks have now officially burned the first year of the young defenseman’s ELC), while Bieksa will be playing with Alberts, which is a tandem that we have seen a handful of times in the regular season. All of which ultimately means Hamhuis and Garrison will remain together for the time being.
Speaking of players travelling with the team, Jordan Schroeder made the trip to Northern California. It was hardly surprising news, as there has been an ever-growing clamour for his insertion into the lineup. The fact of the matter is that the Canucks have managed to get just 3 pucks by Antti Niemi through 2 games, and need to generate more offense. I don’t think anyone would find themselves missing Andrew Ebbett were the Canucks to make that shift, quite frankly.
Update: Unfortunately it appears that Schroeder will not be suiting up on Sunday night. I don’t buy the argument that throwing him into a playoff series in Game 3 on the road would have been a cause for concern. He has the potential to give the Canucks something they need, in a low-risk role, replacing a player that is currently giving the team nothing. A true shame.
As for the situation in net, the team is re-running the 2012 playoffs, apparently. Cory Schneider is apparently healthy enough to suit up, and will be replacing Roberto Luongo. I think it’s fair to wonder if Game 2 was the last time we will see Luongo in a Canucks uniform. If it turns out to be the case, he will go out having put forth two very strong performances that gave his team a chance to win.
There were definitely some positives to build off of from Friday night’s loss. For one, the team clearly made adjustments on the penalty-kill, after having their fecal matter wrecked by the Sharks’ man advantage in the opener. In over 8 minutes of time on the kill, they only allowed four shots. If they can keep that up and limit the damage in that area of the game, it’ll be huge; and something I honestly didn’t expect after the showing in Game 1.
The other two main positives are that their best players played like their best players. While the Sedins didn’t generate any goals at 5v5, they controlled play, and looked much more like themselves. I would like to see them take a few more shifts with Zack Kassian on their right wing. He has looked great this series in limited action, and at this point, what is there really to lose? As for Ryan Kesler, he turned it up in the second half of the game in terms of both physicality (just ask Justin Braun), and production (with 2 goals, and winning 19 of 29 faceoffs). If they hope to win they’ll need more of that, and then some.
In advance of Game 2, I wrote about what kind of daunting task faced the Canucks if they fell down 0-2. Well, it’s now a reality. It’s difficult enough a task to begin with, before even getting into how good the Sharks have been at home this season. They’re 17-2-5, and nearly all of their other home/road splits are staggeringly in favour of their performance at the Shark Tank.
I’m not saying that this isn’t doable for the Canucks, because it is. But it’ll be tough. They’ll need a combination of some great individual performances, and some of that puck luck they’ve yet to receive in this series, to all click at once.
Consider some of these bets heading into this one:
Ryan Kesler to SCORE A GOAL and VANCOUVER TO WIN at 5-to-1 odds. We just discussed the flashes of brilliance that he put on display in Game 2, reminding us all just how dominant a player he is capable of being. Heading into this series we all knew that it would be a tight one, and nothing that has happened in the first 2 games has changed my mind. If the same trend continues and the Canucks play as well as they have, surely things will eventually go their way, right? If they are to win this one, it’ll likely be thanks to another herculean effort from Kesler. [PLACE YOUR BET HERE].
Silencing the Shark Tank. We have seen some strong goaltending thus far, and there’s no reason to believe that’ll change in this one. If you believe the Canucks will find a way to get back into the series, then getting 3.75-to-1 odds on the combination of a Canucks win and the total number of goals scored being under 5.5 may interest you. [PLACE YOUR BET HERE].
Go to this PlayNow Sports promo page, register for a PlayNow account, and insert the promo code "CANUCKSARMY" (all caps) and PlayNow Sports will give you $25 worth of "freebets."
Game Day Links
- Thomas Drance takes a look at some of the key numbers thus far in the series.
- Fear the Fin takes an in-depth look at zone exits (and pressured breakouts).
- Jason Botchford on the Canucks approaching this series as "us against the world".
- Tony Gallagher on the aging group of core Vancouver Canucks.
Don’t forget to play StreakCred the new playoff pool game from the Nation Network. You can win a trip for 2 to Oktoberfest in Germany among the awesome prizes up for grabs. Only $20 and a portion of the proceeds go to Edmonton Charities. SIGN UP HERE.