Back to the drawing board for Tortorella after this one, no doubt. (Image via James Guillory)
It had been 149 days since the Vancouver Canucks last played a meaningful game heading into Thursday night’s regular season opener against the San Jose Sharks. As you’re all aware of, that game took place in the same building as this one, and I’m sure many a Canucks fan was still dealing with the trauma brought on by the Sharks’ prolific power play back in May.
Well, it was a similar result this time around as the Canucks fell to the Sharks by a score of 4-1, but they did so in a different manner; San Jose had 8 power play opportunities, including a 2-minute 5-on-3, and failed to register a single goal. Yet they still managed to handle the Canucks with relative ease.
So what went wrong on Thursday night? Here’s a hint: more things went wrong than right. Read on past the jump for some quick thoughts.
In the 1st period, the Sharks out-chanced the Canucks by a 5 to 1 margin at even strength (and 8-2 in total). The shots were 16-7 in that frame in favour of the home team, yet somehow the Canucks managed to hold a 1-0 lead heading into the intermission. That somehow is Roberto Luongo, who was fantastic.
He made a handful of big-time saves, with probably the biggest one coming at the expense of Joe Pavelski who found himself going in on a breakaway with his team down a man. He also got some help from his teammates, too, as Alex Burrows pretty much stopped a point blank shot with his face while Luongo was out of position.
The 2nd period was a weird one, as I thought the Canucks actually played a much better 20 minutes of hockey overall. They won the scoring chance battle 7-3 at 5-on-5, and even managed to get through a full 2 minutes of 5-on-3 hockey against San Jose’s potent power play unscathed (thanks in large part to Joe Pavelski, who failed to convert chance after chance from ‘The Steven Stamkos Spot’). Unfortunately, none of that really mattered as the Sharks scored 2 goals in the frame to take a one goal lead after 40.
Nothing much happened in the first 14-15 minutes of the 3rd period, honestly. The Canucks registered 2 scoring chances, but realistically, the only actual chance they had to tie the game up was on a Chris Higgins opportunity right in front of Niemi. It wasn’t a great stretch for Higgins to say the least as a brutal turnover on his part led to San Jose’s 3rd goal, essentially putting the game away. They scored a 4th one just a minute later to put a cap on things.
I should point out that John Tortorella did his best Alain Vigneault impersonation in this one with his line juggling. As the game went along, he moved David Booth up to play with the Sedins, while utilizing a 2nd line of Burrows-Kesler-Higgins, and a 3rd line of Santorelli-Richardson-Hansen. You’ll notice I didn’t really mention the 4th line. That’s because Tom Sestito, Zac Dalpe, and Dale Weise all played less than 12 minutes combined.
On a positive note, everyone and their grandmother felt vindicated when Jason Garrison scored on a beautiful setup from the Sedins to open the scoring on the man advantage. Speaking of the Sedins, they were dangerous as always in this one, creating a handful of legitimate opportunities off of the rush.
I’m not sure what the worst part of the game was, though.. the team’s 2nd unit power play – which failed to register a single promising moment, while gifting 2 golden shorthanded opportunities to the Sharks – or Dan Hamhuis, who was uncharacterstically terrible. It’s difficult to get on his case considering how consistently efficient he is, but he seemed to be skating in quicksand all game long. Strange performance from the team’s best defenseman.
But hey, at least Alain Vigneault’s new team, the New York Rangers, also lost 4-1 in their opener, too. Plus.. it’s only Game 1 of an 82 game schedule. There were some disconcerting things in this game, sure, but nothing that can’t be fixed over time.
*As you’ll notice, this isn’t the game recap format that you’ve probably become accustomed to if you’ve been a loyal reader of Canucks Army over the past few years. This year – at least initially – we’ll be posting some thoughts as quickly as possible after the game’s conclusion, so that you guys have a platform to discuss – whether it’s in the form of ranting, complaining, celebrating a victory, or posing questions – via the comments section. The morning after we’ll do a more in-depth post which takes a deeper look at the numbers from the game the previous night. So at least there’s that to look forward to.