Canucks Postgame: Skills Competition Settles The Game That Had it All

This was probably the least entertaining part of the game, but I enjoy this photo for some reason. 
(Image via Justin K. Aller)

If you had a hectic Friday night out and about and missed the Vancouver Canucks take on the Pittsburgh Penguins as a result, that sucks, because it was an enjoyable affair. Getting out of bed a few hours before I normally would on a typical Saturday morning was totally worth it; this game pretty much had it all.

The Canucks put forth pretty clearly their most impressive showing of the season (keeping in mind the quality of competition), before ultimately losing out on a potential 2nd point in the shootout. Given their performance from start to finish, they really deserved better. But there’s reason for optimism regardless of the end result, and things to build off of going forward in the final 4 games of the roadtrip (and beyond).

Read on past the jump for a recap of what went down.

It’s probably an understatement to say that things went in the favour of the Canucks in the early going. The Penguins rang iron on 3 different occasions (including one where the goal horn went off), meaning that Roberto Luongo is ~6 more of those away from being able to put what happened against the Canadiens last Saturday behind him.

Then came the opening goal of the game..

Woof. Obviously the result was an incessant amount of jokes about the playoff version of Marc-Andre Fleury showing up early. For what it’s worth Fleury – a goalie who I’m not a particularly big fan of, to say the least – has been pretty awesome so far this year, stopping 147 of 157 shots his way before this horrendous gaffe. For the remainder of the game nearly everything the Canucks fired at Fleury was up high. At one point he finally made a glove save to stop play, prompting John Garrett to ironically congratulate him. 

The lead was short-lived though (not the last time you’ll read this) as the Penguins tied the game up less than 2 minutes later. The highlight of this one is pretty hilarious; Daniel snatches a rebound out of the air with his glove and essentially tees up Crosby right in front of the net by laying it down perfectly for him. I have no idea what he was doing on that play, but it’s probably not the smartest of strategies since Sidney Crosby is a guy I’ve heard of.

After the Penguins took the lead in the 2nd on a power play tally by Chris Kunitz (getting set up on a bunny goal like that by Crosby and Malkin must be a nice feeling), the 4th line tied it back up with a beauty:

Yep. I honestly can’t decide what my favourite part of that highlight is: Kevin Bieksa totally nonchalantly skating through the crease and subtly slashing Brooks Orpik’s stick as he tried to get out of the way, or Tom Sestito awkwardly jumping in on the celebration afterwards.

In the 3rd Zack Kassian irked some people on my timeline after nearly ending Pascal Dupuis (who ducked out of the move, or it could’ve been ugly). As you’d expect all of his critics came out of the woodwork and started freaking out. Like so: 

.. But then this fantastic shift resulting in a goal happened, and everything was okay once again.

I particularly enjoyed two things about that play:

a) Kassian keeping the puck in the zone, and then showing some sweet hands to keep the play alive (and continuing on the hands subject, the tip was sweeeet).

b) Kevin Bieksa’s patience in hanging on to the puck and waiting for the shooting lane to materialize before releasing. You see so many defensemen panic in that situation and recklessly toss the puck into the shin pads of an oncoming defender. Bieksa had an assist on all 3 Canucks goals in this one, and was strong throughout. He continues his bounce-back season.

Unfortunately the lead lasted a grand total of 32 seconds, with the Penguins coming right back down and getting one of their own. Some soft coverage and a juicy rebound by Luongo were the main culprits on Olli Määttä’s tying goal. Shortly after Bo Horvat tweeted and congratulated Määttä, a former teammate of his in London, on his 1st career tally. Some Canucks fans didn’t seem to like that all that much. Vancouver.

A few final things before we get to the numbers:

Jordan Schroeder left the game near the end of the 2nd period with an apparent left foot injury, and didn’t return. Around the same time the team officially announced that it had sent Zac Dalpe down to Utica for a "conditioning assignment". Makes sense, since he was never on the ice over the past few weeks.. probably got out of shape. I assume he’ll be right back up if Schroeder is out for any extended period of time.

Luongo stopped a penalty shot from Brandon Sutter with just over a minute left in regulation, and then stopped Jokinen and Crosby in the shootout before Malkin got the better of him yet again. Santorelli, Edler, and Kesler all got stopped on what I can only describe as meek attempts. The Canucks suck in the shootout, and the Penguins are now 22-3 in their last 25. Seemed like an inevitable result as soon as the final seconds ticked off of the clock in OT.

The Numbers

Yesterday I tweeted about the fact the 5 teams the Canucks had beaten on the season had a combined 6-25-7 record, and a -41 goal differential. Some people proceeded to start arguing with me about that. I didn’t point that out to try and take anything away from what the Canucks had accomplished thus far, or even to try and act like it had any sort of predictive value going forward.

They’d taken care of business against the poor competition that the schedule had put in front of them, which is what a good team should do. The fact that they were outclassed twice by the Sharks doesn’t mean that much since the Sharks are probably the best team in the NHL right now. The only reason I pointed those numbers out was because I thought they were astoundingly extreme. That’s it.

Anyways, we’ll learn a whole lot more about this version of the Canucks over the next however many games as they begin to face some better non-San Jose Sharks competition. So far, so good. They went into Pittsburgh – who despite missing Kris Letang and James Neal were 6-1 on the year with a +11 goal differential, and a top-10 possession team – and more than held their own. At 5v5 they outshot them 35-22, and attempted 54 shots to the Penguins’ 40. Impressive.

I talked about Bieksa’s impressive performance in registering 3 assists, but he was also on the ice for 22 shot attempts for at 5v5, vs. only 9 against. His partner for a large chunk of the game, Ryan Stanton, was similarly impressive with a 16:4 ratio. He continues to impress. And finally Mike Santorelli, who was tasked with the unenviable responsibility of going up against Evgeni Malkin’s line posted a 17:7 ratio, not looking in the least bit out of place. 

As for the "BeastModo" line, they were just O.K. I’d say. They had a few chances where they looked dangerous, but overall it wasn’t exactly an impressive showing. The Sedins were barely in the black in terms of shot attempts, while Kesler was actually one of the only Canucks to have a negative differential (though he did start a larger number of shifts in the defensive zone). After the game Tortorella said that he plans to stick with it for the time being, which is good, because I’m very curious to see what they can do together if the 3 of them are giving a legitimate chance to work it out. It’ll probably help when they’re not going up against Sidney Crosby, too. 

  • acg5151

    Torts should stick with the Sedins and Kessler. The problem in the past was lack of depth scoring, but right now the 2nd and 3rd lines are chipping in. It’s only a matter of time before Kess lights it up especially on the PP. Guys need to stop trying to get highlight style goals every shift. Take shots and get to the net. Ain’t pretty but it works. The difference I do see with this team under torts is that the play more even keel. And they are continually improving. You can’t win every game but you can bring constant effort and that is what I have seen. AVs teams got up for big games vs Boston or Chicago then went to sleep for a couple of weeks. Hope this continues

        • acg5151

          Agree and disagree. They are important when you are building confidence. Stringing together games like they have may not seem to mean much to you, but factor in the circumstance and I’d bet they carry a little bit of weight in the room. This is a team that’s trying to learn a new system, has faced early adversity, kind of a crap schedule, and managed to get off to one of their better starts in recent history. At the very least a game like that makes things seem like the transition is going smoothly. Makes me look forward to seeing what sort of Fairy Dust Torts can sprinkle over the next month.

          Really though NM00, nice to see you give a little credit where it is due. Peace.

  • acg5151

    I’m seriously getting sick of October Luongo. He’s been dreadful this yr at even strength. Seriously.

    Also, Chris Tanev. What a game from this kid shutting down Malkin, paying just about 24 mins tonight.

    HOpe Schroeders ok.

    • acg5151

      I agree completely. The game against Buffalo was the worst shut out performance I have ever seen. Watching down in the States on center ice package I watch the opposing TV coverage and each commentator says the same thing that Kess said in the Olympics, “Luongo looks shakey.” It seems like he can’t track the puck and each rebound ends up in the crease? That .899 save percentage has to be among the worst for starters. It just seems other than the Edm game each opposing goalie out performs Luo.

    • acg5151

      Don’t worry. October Luongo will show up again in the post season when it counts. After all, the guy is more interested in people pumping his tires more than stopping the puck.

      The Canucks could have saved alot of money and had a better team had they just given Scotty Bowman few million to come here. But since when have the Canucks ever truly valued bringing in winners to build a contender? No, for that they bring in Gillis, a man who doesn’t even know what it’s like to make it to the NHL, let alone win there.

  • Mitch

    So far, 6th in the league in ES possession with the score close.

    PDO is 98.6.

    Yet, despite owning the puck 54% of the time, Vancouver has only 42% of the penalty calls.

    The powerplay is generating the 4th most shots/60 minutes, but is shooting only 4.4%.

    As the sample size grows, the special teams stuff should regress and things might actually be looking fairly positive going forward.

  • acg5151

    To be honest, this is one of the better starts the Canucks have had in the last five years. The fact that the Canucks almost beat the Pens in their own building in October is pretty great. We’ll see how the rest of the trip goes but so far 2-0-1 isn’t bad.

    • acg5151

      I’d even go as far to say this is some of the more entertaining hockey we’ve seen on an early road trip in recent memory. We’re not diving into the defensive shell waiting for mistakes, we’re driving play making them happen. It’s been pretty fun to watch and I like the systemic changes already. Kinda have the feeling once the PP gets on a roll it’s going to be hard to stop.

  • acg5151

    I know we’re talking about a bottom-pair d-man but I’m really surprised that Chicago let Stanton go to waivers — he seemed to have nothing but glowing reviews and clearly trended upwards the past few years. He’s not going to be a star but is an enormous upgrade over Weber or Alberts. I know they wanted to keep Kostka on the roster but it seems like a waste of their Tanev to have shipped him down (or tried to do so).

    The game was good, Luongo looked inconsistent, though not his fault on the shootout and what the hell were the Canucks’ shooters doing? Especially Edler? He skated in so fast with one hand on the stick that he barely had time to make that lame and predictable move. Still, a pretty good game all in all. Probably toughest test till St. Louis and another weird start time to look forward to tomorrow.

  • acg5151

    Luongo , master of the shoot-ins does it again. Life must be good to get paid all that money to make no difference in difficult games. Do the Canucks pay this guy to be bad in the shoot outs as well?

        • acg5151

          So just to be clear, you spend all this time watching a team you don’t like and writing all these messages in the comments section for a blog about the same team? Seems like a good use of time…

          • acg5151

            He does it because he’s a lonely git. This is the only attention he gets, so by you responding to his over the top negative remarks, you are filling his life with meaning. Your charity should be rewarded.

          • acg5151

            Awww, does the truth hurt, kid? Don’t be so angry just because some people out there don’t see the Canucks as anything but a mediocre team. You must be some kind of shill pom pom cheer leader, waving your pom poms around while trying to do the splits in your mini skirt. Your life is filed with delusions. People like you believe in everything you are told. You probably believe in politicians too…and magic shows and fairy tales. Such an optimistic retard.

          • acg5151

            Wow, you put the words into my mouth for me. Now would you like to declare anything else for me? Are you going to declare yourself as Marry Poppins here as well for me?

          • acg5151

            I’m sorry, did I get that wrong? Are you saying that I misinterpreted what you’ve been doing? You mean you actually like the Canucks? And that’s why you’ve been posting here so often? I’m so sorry, I must have completely misread you.

            Who is Marry Poppins, by the way? Related to Mary at all? Or just a Poppins who really really likes getting hitched?

            Have a very nice night indeed. It’s really great to see such a dedicated Canucks fan like yourself staying up to date on their games!

          • acg5151

            I’m so happy that I can make YOU happy. I really appreciate it. Have an excellent day! It’s great to see you making such excellent contributions to these discussions about your team.

          • acg5151

            You have all the time in the world when you live in your parents basement and dont have a girlfriend… Edmonton. Holy crap…I actually feel sorry for him.

  • acg5151

    Luongo is too slow, too old, too leaky, too many loose rebounds, too many soft goals, too bad on the shoot out, too overpaid for such minimal return. If Luongo put as much into his goal tending as he does his twitter or poker, he may just improve a bit. But I guess the Canucks expect Luongo to bring them a cup when he’s in his 40’s. Who needs youth and vitality when you have old cougars?

    Now I know why Mike Gillis has hard time making good trades. It’s that no other GM in the league take that joker seriously. Gillis must be a great bullsh#tter, how else could he have gotten that job as GM? Oh, wait, it’s with the Canucks, a team that has never truly cared about building a real elite winning team. I’m going to apply for the job too but I won’t get it because I have something called standards. We all know how much Canucks management hates that.

    • acg5151

      I know, eh? So many folks still believe the Canucks are some kind of cup contender. I guess they see things with super rosy glasses and they want everyone else to see the same thing. Stupid fantasy trolls.

      • acg5151

        Sorry guys but just because you dare point out a players flaws doesn’t make you a troll or a hater. One of a fans rights who buys tix, jerseys or tv packages is to be critical when their team is not performing as expected. Yes everyone knows Luo’s October struggles and GREAT players do what they can to fix their flaws. Any goalie can tell he is struggling to stop easy shots and now that the Canucks are in a tough division they can’t just give points away. The Canucks are contenders despite some trolls views out there. Just like any other team there are iFs that need answering. If Lu can keep it together and be just above average, if Booth and Kessler can stay healthy and become players once again…. But they are contenders

        • acg5151

          The Cauncks are contenders despite…” Say, who died and made you the god of who is a contender?
          So if someone thinks the Canucks are contenders than they are the Jesus of hockey, but if someone else says they are not a contender than they must be trolls?