The Canucks Competed Like Bastards, But Were Ultimately Still Swept By the Sharks

The handshake line can only mean one thing – a long summer ahead for the losing team.
Image Credit to Don Smith/Getty Images.

The 2013 season ended abruptly for the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night, after they were swept by the San Jose Sharks. While watching the Canucks play throughout the season would have quickly clued you in on the fact that this was a flawed club which resembled a shell of the team that made the Stanley Cup Finals just two years ago, I don’t think anyone expected their postseason run to be this short. They’re officially the first team to get bounced from the playoffs, and the only one out of the 16 entrants to fail to win a single game.

There will surely be plenty of time in the coming months to talk about future moves, and potential solutions to fix this team. But for now, let’s settle for taking a closer look at what happened in Game 4, and nailing down what exactly caused the Canucks to be sent packing.

Click Past the Jump for More In-Depth Analysis, and the Scoring Chance Totals.

Who and/or what’s to blame?

You’ll probably get varying answers depending on who you ask; I’m sure that social media, television and radio personalities, bloggers, your friends, or even random strangers at the grocery store will all have their own conspiracy theories and beliefs as to what was behind the Canucks’ undoing. Unfortunately, I can already tell that the most common scapegoats will be some combination of the goaltending, the officiating, and the coaching. Sure, I’d say that each of those played some part in the team’s playoff exit. But if you truly believe that any of those three are the major reason that the team lost, then you’re missing the plot.

In Tuesday’s elimination game, the Canucks were out-chanced by a margin of 28-7, including a second period in which they literally did not record a single chance. That means that in the final two games of the series, they gave up 54(!) scoring chances, while registering just 14 of their own. Usually when that happens, you lose. And you deserve to lose.

I’ll conceed that the officiating was definitely suspect, nearly all the way throughout the series. The Sharks – the league’s 7th most efficient power play throughout the regular season, converting 20.1% of the time – received 24 power plays, and 35:16 of overall ice-time with the man advantage. The Canucks on the other hand, had just 10 power plays, combining for a grand total of 15:36 with the extra attacker. That is easily the most lopsided differential out of any of the first round matchups. Ray Ferraro had a great quote on commentary today, which was, "from a Vancouver standpoint you have to feel like any time there has been a 50/50 call, it has gone against you. They have to be furious." It sure seemed that way, didn’t it?

In this particular game, there were two rather suspect calls that ultimately wound up deciding the game. The first was Kevin Bieksa’s cross-checking penalty with 5:01 left in the game, and the Canucks clinging to a 3-2 lead. I personally thought that it was a rather soft call, especially given the circumstances. At the same time, he did extend both arms as he followed through on Wingels’ back, and former referee Kerry Fraser agreed with the call when he made his appearance on TSN’s panel. Sure enough, the Sharks converted just 34 seconds later. Then came the Daniel Sedin "boarding" penalty in overtime, which I thought was way more dubious. It appeared to be a good, strong, shoulder-to-shoulder hit. We see that exact play all the time. Anyways, you’ll never believe this, but the Sharks scored 15 seconds later to win the game.

However, what it all boils down to is that I have a difficult time saying that the Vancouver Canucks lost this game, or this series because of some sort of officiating conspiracy against them. They were rather thoroughly outplayed, and outclassed, and the Sharks took advantage of their power play opportunities. The Sharks generated 35 scoring chances with the man advantage, looked absurdly dangerous nearly every time their top unit was out there, and wound up scoring 7 power play goals. Is it the officiating team’s fault that the Canucks simply had no answer all series long?

Let’s get back to Bieksa, whose performance will unfortunately likely be remembered for the aforementioned penalty that led to the Sharks tying it up. Which really is a shame, because he played a heck of a game. He led both teams in ice-time with 33:33 (nearly 3 minutes more than anyone else), played a key part in Alex Burrows’ power play goal by chipping in with a timely pinch to keep the puck in the offensive zone, and even prevented a sure-fire goal by blocking a Joe Thornton shot with a yawning cage behind him. In the Game 3 recap, I called him out for his horrible play, which I thought was justified at the time. And while it looked pretty clear that he was dealing with some sort of injury throughout the series, he failed to use that as an excuse in an interview after the game. I respect the hell out of him, even if his uneven play drives me crazy every so often.

Up front, Alain Vigneault finally relented, and started the game with Sedin-Sedin-Kassian, Raymond-Kesler-Burrows, Hansen-Roy-Higgins. That 2nd line was extremely feisty throughout, and wound up generating the team’s only 2 even strength goals. Burrows played easily his best game of the series, which was bittersweet, because it was difficult to watch his performance without wondering where the heck it had been for the 3 prior games. Raymond did a lot of good things in what was likely his final game as a Canuck, which is so classic Mason Raymond; you give up on him, he shows you flashes that make you want to believe there’s something legitimately there, before he inevitably disappoints you once again. There’s always going to be someone that bites on that potential, though.

I’m not even going to waste any space on this platform on Derek Roy right now, because it’s not worth it. He was a complete abomination in all 4 games, and quite frankly I’m convinced he took that dumb boarding penalty in the 1st period just to remind people that he was actually participating in this series. He’s a UFA this summer, but even with his stinkbomb, he will surely still get handsomely paid because of how barren the crop of free agents is.

I was disappointed by the way the Sedins and Kassian played while they were together in this one. The experiment was fairly short-lived, as desperation caused Vigneault to replace Kassian with Hansen, which actually worked. Once those three were put together the Sedins came alive, and spent a large chunk of time in the offensive zone. In the midst of all of that, they put vintage Sedinery on display in setting up Alex Burrows’ goal. That entire play was a thing of beauty. Unfortunately Hansen got injured on a hit by Raffi Torres, and didn’t play in the overtime session. 

Which finally brings us to Schneider, who will be skewered by fans and media for the way in which he mishandled the final two goals. He seemed to have a chance to corral both, but couldn’t, and obviously that wound up costing both him and the team. He started the game off a little shaky, and seemed to be fighting the puck. But I just don’t understand how you can pin this loss on a guy that stopped 43 of 47 shots he faced, a large chunk of which were quality chances. When you feel the need to rip Schneider’s performance, just remember the 2nd period in this one. His team was down 2-1, and 6 full minutes were spent shorthanded. He made some seriously high quality saves while facing 10 scoring chances (with his teammates being unable to generate a single one on the other end), and kept it at a 1-goal deficit, giving the Canucks a chance to make their run in the 3rd period. Without his play, this game gets out of hand in a hurry in that dreadful middle frame.

The Canucks channeled their inner Jon Snow and really competed like bastards, but it wasn’t enough. Blame the goaltending, blame the officiating, and blame the coaching all you like. The fact of the matter is that at the end of the day the Vancouver Canucks were eliminated from the 2013 playoffs by a superior hockey team.

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 Overtime Totals
Canucks (EV) 4 (3) 0 !! 3 (2) 0 !! 7 (5)
Sharks (EV) 5 (2) 10 (4) 7 (5) 6 (4) 28 (15)

Individual Chance Contributions:

Individual Chances Taken Chances Assisted Chances Total
Dan Hamhuis 2 0 2
Daniel Sedin 1 1 2
Derek Roy 2 0 2
Alex Burrows 1 0 1
Mason Raymond 1 0 1
Jannik Hansen 0 1 1

Individual Scoring Chance Differential:

Individual EV F – A PP F – A SH F – A Total F – A
Henrik Sedin 2-11 1-0 0-1 3-12
Daniel Sedin 2-10 1-0 0-0 3-10
Alex Burrows 1-6 1-0 0-10 2-16
Ryan Kesler 1-3 1-0 0-9 2-12
Jannik Hansen 4-1 1-0 0-2 5-3
Mason Raymond 1-4. 1-0 0-1 2-5
Chris Higgins 2-3 0-0 0-2 2-5
Derek Roy 2-1 1-0 0-1 3-2
Steve Pinizzotto 0-1 0-0 0-0 0-1
Max Lapierre 0-4 0-0 0-0 0-4
Dale Weise 0-1 0-0 0-0 0-1
Zack Kassian 0-4 0-0 0-0 0-4
Dan Hamhuis 4-8 1-0 0-3 4-11.
Jason Garrison 3-3 1-0 0-7 4-10.
Alex Edler 1-4 0-0 0-7 1-11
Kevin Bieksa 2-7 1-0 0-8 3-15
Frank Corrado 0-4 0-0 0-0 0-4
Andrew Alberts 0-3 0-0 0-0 0-3

External Resources

  • Schneider wasn’t the reason they lost and I’m definitely not saying that choosing him over Lou was the wrong decision (time’s going to tell on that one), but it is worth noting that the Canucks success over the last several seasons was anchored by absurdly good goaltending.

    Luongo’s had his blow ups over the years, but on the whole, he’s given the Canucks a chance to win games when they shouldn’t have time and again. Schneider didn’t this year.

    Again, that’s not to say Cory was outright bad or the reason they lost, but if we’re comparing this season to season’s past, when the Canucks have succeeded, a lot of the time it was because their goalie gave them the opportunity to win when they had no business winning.

  • The Funky Chicken Has Left The Building

    I’m sick of everyone making excuses for a team full of average players that have
    No heart. Get rid of the twins , if anyone will take them. 0 goal production in 13 games is a joke. The only members if that team that should feel safe in their jobs are Kesler and Burrows and maybe Schneider . Build a completely new team. Get back to Canadian and American players that have heart. Better yet find some young talented guys from bc. Give them a reason to want to be a Canuck other then the pay check . With the exception of a few Russians European players don’t have any playoff heart. Get Trevor linden back in the organization .

    It’s gonna be a long road back

    • Amazing Don Cherry impression! Sincerely hope that was sarcasm…

      This is going to be an interesting summer, loads of questions. Just hope Gillis and/or Aquilini take their time with the big decisions!

  • DCR

    I don’t think the officiating was the reason the Canucks got eliminated, though I do think that side of the game was severely slanted against the Canucks to the point that if I had the money I would fund an independent study to see if the Canucks are treated differently than other teams.

    I’m not arguing a conspiracy, but I am leaning towards a strong subconscious bias that causes at least some refs to use a presumption of guilt when looking at anything the Canucks do.

    Where I see the real problem is scoring. Whether it be percentages, systems, skills, or some other factor I don’t know. But the Canucks seem to have left the ability to score behind with San Jose when they beat them in the 2011 series and never got it back.

  • james_dean

    Schneider is the reason the team lost Quinn. Look at those 2 goals he allowed. The 1st one to tie it up, he couldn’t even glove it & the 2nd to lose it he couldn’t even corral it. Pathetic!!!!

    & u sign this guy as your #1. Never, ever, ever will they win with this guy.

    & to treat Lou like that. Classless GM, Classless Coach.

    Hope Lou gets dealt to a team that appreciates him.

    • UkeeRob

      Scheider is the reson the team lost?
      I guess the fact the Sedins along with the team didn’t do anything has nothing to do with the loss. Did Longo WIN the fist two games? Leaky luu plays great in meaningless games, or games he doesn’t win,but does he ever win in games he’s supposed to win? Afraid not. The proof is there on the history fact sheet.This team couldn’t win with both goalies crammed into the net.

      Manyoure as blind as they come, or you’re a relative of leaky luu’s. how many games has leaky luu won? how any playoff games did leaky luu win last year? how was leaky luu in all the boston games the year before during the finals? Have you forgotten or is it selective memory on your part? the management suck, the coaching sucks, and the team sucks, along with an overpaid , over rated sucky when it counts luongo. those are the facts, look at the fact sheet. Don’t get on the luongo bandwagon when he hasn’t doe a thing here or in his career. And don’t mention the olympis because playing on an allstar team doesn’t count, esp when sid the kid saved luongos bacon from the tying goal.

      You really SERIOUSLY think that leaky luu could have won the last 2 games that corey was in? Need I remind you that corey was winning the games towards the end of the regular season until leaky luu came in for the last 2 and LOST. Luongo has lost how many playoff games in a row now? The guy is old, over rated and want to be traded , cory is the young future, and you probably want corey to go and to keep and old fart like luongo who doesn’t even want to be here? Are you sure you don’t work for Canucks management? The next thing you’ll say is that is no one fault, and that theyre close and all they need is one more fourth liner and they’ll go all the way.LOL

      Wake up man, this team couldn’t win a bagel in a dumpster behind a bakery. This team hasn’t won anything for 43 plus years.

      I don’t even care if leaky luu goes to a great team and flukes out a win, the point is, leaky luu didn’t DO SQUAT when he was here when it counted. The Sedins didn’t DO SQAUT when they were here, along with has been losers like Mclean, Linden, Lumme, Quinn, Edler, the list goes on and on and on and on.

      This team is bad on all fronts, scouting, coaching, management, clueless and cheap owners, and the delusional fans who love keeping the useless core do-nothing players.
      By the way, you do know that regular season doesn’t count, don’t ya?

      Yes we can? ….UH, NO YOU CAN’T!

  • Graphic Comments

    With you Quinn.

    Neither the offense or the defense has demonstrated an ability to win games in the last 3+ series. During that period Luongo (and Schneider at times) has held the fort and against the odds (scoring chances) given us chances to win.

    In regards to this year, personally, I feel that Vigneault never had a grips on the team. The shortened season and injuries, plus the loss of Malhotra, and his desire to switch lines/d pairings changed things up far too much. But a great coach adapts and overcomes such issues.

    Ultimately – the only way I can see this team succeed moving forward is developing a top line of Burrows/Kesler/xxxxxx, 2nd of Sedin/Sedin/Kassian and then a third and fourth line that can legitimately play. This continues to enables us to maximize Sedin offensive starts while putting the pressure to shut down other teams top lines on our 3rd line.

  • james_dean

    People who bandy about the term “conspiracy theory” in an effort to stifle discussion of the very clear differential in the officials’ calls offer nothing of value. For sure the discrepancy in the penalty calls should raise eyebrows, even if it is completely innocent. It’s just not realistic in a series contested by two relatively similar teams.

    It didn’t decide the series, but it absolutely sheds some light on the idea of “reputation calls” or the relationship between the team and the league.

    It would be far *more* surprising if NHL refs were truly a paragon of impartiality and independence than the opposite reality that exists in all other walks of life — that they are emotional humans, whose job security is largely dependent on the prosperity of the league.

  • james_dean

    Many people believe that their biggest problem is lack of scoring and that may be true but why is there a lack of scoring?

    1.) Other teams have figured out the Canucks systems and can effectively shut them down.

    2.) There is a severe lack of motivation/determination/desperation to overcome reason #1.

    3.) A lack of execution.

    Ineffective systems and a lack of motivation are mostly coaching problems. AV is a great coach but things have gotten stale I think it’s time this team needs a new voice and a new direction. A lack of desperation, motivation, and execution falls on the players. There is a lot of baggage in that locker room and some tweaking to the top of the roster (maybe moving a piece of the core and a major overhaul of the bottom 6 forwards and a new coach would provide the team with a fresh start.

    This era is over, its time to start a new one.

    Go ‘Nucks.

  • Oilers21

    Good unbiased wrapup. Certainly the Sedin penalty was cheesy (and so was the Bieksa one to an extent), but I also remember a sequence in the 3rd where the Canucks were on the rush and easily could have taken 3 hooking penalties, but nothing was called. At the end of the day, the Canucks just had difficulty playing against a high-tempo puck possession team. And no excuse for Daniel hitting the post on the open net chance; that may have sealed the deal right there. I hate to use terms like “step up their game” and “find a way to win” but the Sedins have to do something to elevate their play in the playoffs or this team is always going to be doomed to failure. The only time they were effective for a long stretch in this entire series was in the 3rd when SJ decided to stop playing

  • james_dean

    It’s sad to see Thom and friends pound away at old, stale and false hockey narratives here all season long.

    They present rational and analytical takes on the team and the response is a comments board with stuff like effort, motivation, execution, heart, etc…

    Anyways, thanks for the good reads this season and keep up the good fight.

    • One thing I’ve learned writing over the past two seasons is whatever you may put forward, people will continue to believe what they want to believe. In many ways I understand, we are all emotional beings and emotions are what we move to first.

      To quote at least one famous Canuck – ‘it is what it is.’

      It’s safe to say that we will continue to advance our thoughts and views on how hockey works. We know there are plenty of listeners.

      (I will continue to remember how bad things were at the end of the 90s. This team has come so far, not as far as we would like, but there are tonne of wins between then and now.)

  • vetinari

    Oiler fan here — since my team has been nowhere close to the playoffs for years, I put aside rivalries and pull for all the Canadian teams during the playoffs and out of all of the series this year, the ‘Nucks looked like they were outplayed by a hungrier, more consistent Shark team from top to bottom.

    Vancouver certainly had some bad bounces and the officiating didn’t help them, but you guys may want to redefine your core players moving forward and finally cash in one of your goalies for some help in the offseason. The window to reload is narrow and it won’t be long before it passes.

    Good luck next year, guys!

  • asdf

    not to blame refs for losing the series, but can’t discount how much pk’s affect the offensive momentum of a team like the nucks, esp. the sedins. getting most 50/50 calls going SJ way in the series can sum up to more consequence than one might think. but yes the better team won.

  • The Funky Chicken Has Left The Building

    CANUCKARMA…who signs a goalie to a 12-year/64M deal? Who puts the ‘C’ on a goalie? Who manipulates it’s goaltenders game appearances so they can win the Jennings? Who sneeks a player off the bench after he plays 22 seconds so he can maintain an ‘iron man’ streak? Who’s media dubs them Canada’s team without first checking with the rest of Canada? Who…..but I digress – the good news is that there is a God and he is a hockey fan.

    • UkeeRob

      Umm what about the Islanders and Dipietro’s contract. What about Bryzgalov’s contract. If Vancouver hadn’t signed Luongo to this contract he would have been a ufa and another team would have given him a similar deal. It’s not even really a 12 year contract. The last four years he gets paid very little in real money in comparison to his cap hit of 5.3 million. An American team will take that in order to appear to get to the cap floor. That’s exactly why the Islanders “traded” for Tim Thomas. Your attempt to make the Canucks look like idiots is laughable. Your use of God as a canuck hater is offensive.

  • elvis15

    You might not spend any time on Roy, but I’ll say this: he looked like he might be a good fit when he first started playing with Higgins but with the cap going down next year I’m fine with dumping him and using our center depth of Sedin/Kesler/Lapierre/Schroeder/Lain/Gaunce/UFA/trade/etc to fill the void.

    And I liked the intensity the Sedins seemed to have with Kassian, even if they weren’t as effective, they just need Kassian to not try and look impressive by spending a minute at a time controlling the puck on the boards with his back to the net. He needs to follow the Sedins example and help with the cycle as they need it but pass it to open space and then head to the net. That’s what Burr does so well with them on the cycle, but Kassian can do that and bring a more physical presence.

  • Oilers21

    Vancouver fans will be crying the officating for sure and If it were any other team I would have a soft spot for them, but its the Canucks and they deserve every bad call they get. For the last 5 years weve seen nothing but the most cowardly hockey, diving, whining, biting, hair pulling, spearing, and every other kinds of BS and nonsense that a referee would hate. This team has no heart, they are absolutely gutless. The Canucks as a team have done this to themselves and need to look in the mirror, not the referees.

  • UkeeRob

    It always sounds like sour grapes when discussing the officiating of a series in which your team just lost. Having said that, the fact that SJ had 24 powerplays to Vancouver’s 10 is ridiculous. The weak calls at the end of playoff games, third period or overtime, should not be happening. Not seeing the SJ player put his hand over the puck to take it off the goal line in game 3 was laughable. The officiating in the NHL right now is not adequate. It’s not just against the Canucks either, I’ve seen brutal officiating all over the league in the last few years. Right now all the Canuck haters are loving it, but wait until it happens to your team and see how you feel. The refs didn’t lose this series for Vancouver, they have bigger issues, but it certainly didn’t seem like a level playing field and that should never be the case in professional sports.

  • Action Bronson

    Good write up on the demise of the Canucks this year. If the Canucks would just stop whining about the officials (even if they have a point) and acknowledge the fact that they were absolutely dominated in all phases of the game in this series, it will make their quick playoff exit easier to accept. Seven straight losses to the Sharks this year with zero wins is what it is.

  • UkeeRob

    There is no question the NHL is the worst officiated professional sport. Referees are inclined to, and are perhaps instructed to, “manage the game” rather than enforce the rulebook. From “even up” calls, to “veteran bias” (letting veteran players get away with stuff that rookies aren’t allowed to) to “reputation calls” (see Canucks-Sharks 2013), officiating in the NHL is capricious, arbitrary and often downright mystifying. Case in point – what the heck is a “distinct kicking motion”, if it wasn’t Zibanijad going all Lionel Messi on Ottawa’s first goal last night? And the officials even had the benefit of replays on that one, before screwing up the call.

    Canucks fans have a point, but unfortunately, it won’t win them any games. I don’t know the solution, but a reliable scoring line would be a start.

  • UkeeRob

    I don’t disagree that calls went against the Canucks. Obviously, there is a lot of grey area around officiating.

    But something that players, past and present, will tell you, you have to manage officiating, just as you would manage a game. You have to be smart about it. Of course, the number one rule is that you don’t embarrass the ref. Sidney Crosby whined and complained to the refs for his first two years in the league. Guess what, Crosby didn’t get any calls.

    The Canucks are paying for their sins two years ago with the diving and embellishment they took to a record low. Unfortunately, the Canuck relationship with the officials has not improved much since. Their failure to improve that relationship over the past 2 years has cost them and will continue to cost them unless they start shipping out certain players.

  • UkeeRob

    As much as I like the Sedins, great skill players yes, and fine young men, they’re not built for this NHL game. Every year they utterly disappear in the playoffs, year after year now. They have great skill but they have next to no emotion and absolutely no toughness. To the rest of the league they’re ‘the sisters’. You can’t build an NHL winner around them as central to a team. At the very least Henrik should not be captain and someone like Kesler should be.

    • UkeeRob

      Agree + one billion.

      I honestly don’t know how in hell anyone that’s not on LSD can see Daniel Sedin as the Captain of this team , let alone anything. Heck, Daniel and his brother couldn’t captain a lego play set.

      If the Canucks were pirates on the high seas, can anyone honestly see the Sedin’s as the captain?

      If the Canucks were pirates, the Sedin’s would be nothing more than the cooks or garment makers.
      Av and Gillis would be the ship idiots and Edler would be the traitor, Luongo would be the Captain’s pet while Burrows would be the pet monkey.

  • UkeeRob

    Very nice write-up.

    As a Sharks fan, the thing I’ve noticed about the Canucks over the last few years is that their system hasn’t changed much, especially on the attack. Specifically the Sedins: they make the same basic plays consistently. I don’t know how much of that is coaching and how much of it is the players, but my hunch is they could change if that was expected of them. They’re not dumb, but they’re not challenging themselves.

    A coaching change might do them some good. I don’t think the team needs to be blown up, but it’s hard to say from the outside. I do think there’s potential there for the team to play to their strengths and return to being a serious threat, though, and the league is better when that’s the case.