The K.R.E.A.M. always rises to the top.
This is a regular Friday feature combining a healthy mixture of observation, analysis, and foresight on the Vancouver Canucks. If you’d like to get at me about anything covered in this column, follow me on Twitter at @yyjordan and let’s start a textual relationship (wink).
1. The Canucks can go no worse than 4-2-1 on a brutal road trip that didn’t include Alex Burrows and saw them lose Jannik Hansen, Jordan Schroeder, Dale Weise and David Booth. Break that down however you will; it’s impressive. Sure, facing the 5-1-1 St. Louis Blues tonight with 8 real forwards (Tom Sestito and the call-ups don’t count) could quickly erase any positive vibes from the past week and a half, but it’s been a gutsy trip and the players and the coaches deserve credit.
2. An extended road trip reveals a lot about a team at the best of times, and especially so when they’re playing for a new coach. It’s been interesting to watch how this team comes out game after game through a gruelling schedule. This group of veterans is even offering up a few surprises.
3. One very pleasant surprise was how the team came out against Pittsburgh last Saturday. They thoroughly dominated the Pens in possession for much of the game; no small feat considering Crosby’s squad currently sports a Fenwick Close% north of 60%. The result in the shootout felt almost inconsequential given what the Canucks showed during the actual game.
4. The Columbus game was as frustrating as the Pittsburgh performance was encouraging. The Canucks again controlled possession, but couldn’t convert that to goals. I think there are going to be more than a few nights this season where goals are going to be hard to come by. Torts said it best: "Good teams find a way to win that game. We didn’t."
5. Possession is something we talk about a lot here at Canucks Army, mainly because it’s probably the best way to identify which teams are truly elite. The Canucks currently are controlling roughly 52% of shot attempts in score close and tied situations, which puts them on the fringe of the top 10 in the league. 12 games isn’t enough of a sample to draw a conclusion, but so far those are very similar numbers to what they put up last year.
6. This road trip has been one giant experiment for John Tortorella when it comes to his line combinations. The most radical may have been the top line of Sedin-Sedin-Kesler, which despite its star power hadn’t produced much 5-on-5 save for a flukey bounce against Cory Schneider last night. Torts clearly prefers Kesler playing along the boards and in the corners as a winger, even though that further ravages Vancouver’s already depleted centre depth.
7. In his short tenure behind the bench thus far Torts has shown he doesn’t much care about the established norms from seasons past, which begs the question: will he reunite the twins with Burrows when he returns to the lineup? Because when it comes to chemistry, that line has been the blue meth of the NHL for a long time.
8. Since the Buffalo game, Zack Kassian has been an animal. His tip-in goal vs. the Pens was a thing of beauty, and he’s been physically dominant at times. When the Canucks first hired Torts, Kassian was one of the players I thought would benefit the most, as Torts seems to get the most out of players with a combo of size, grit and skill.
9. As fun as it’s been to see some OT heroics from new players like Mike Santorelli and Brad Richards’ son in this early season, I like that those players are actually getting ice time at 4-on-4 with an extra point on the line. Without Burrows, Hansen, and David Booth barely holding a spot in the lineup, the Canucks would be in a nightmare situation if their late summer pickups hadn’t panned out the way they have.
10. NARRATIVE CHECK: Has Torts made any media members cry yet? Nope. Have Torts and Kesler "butted heads" yet? Quite the opposite. Have either of the Sedins lost a limb from blocking a shot? Not that we know of. Hmmm. Weird. Could it be that John Tortorella — the guy who in a recent post-game scrum had his arms around two sick children he’s been supporting since last year — isn’t actually evil incarnate, but rather the right guy for this team and city? I don’t know what to believe anymore. Meanwhile, in New York…