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:
That goal looked like drunk Sedinary.
— BrowntoBure (@BrowntoBure) October 19, 2013
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:
KASSIAN GET OFF MY TEAM
— House Centipedes (@searexx) October 19, 2013
.. 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.
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.