There was a goal called off in the second period that perhaps shouldn’t have been, but nonetheless, the Vancouver Canucks offence was squelched in a loss to the Dallas Stars. The team has now dropped a game against every team in the former Pacific Division in the last 12 days. They scored six goals in those five games.
The result against Dallas was disappointing, but probably not indicative of the way the team played. The Canucks out-shot, out-possessed and out-chanced the Stars from beginning to end, but ran into a hot Kari Lehtonen, who played just as well as Antti Niemi and Frederik Anderson. The entire Nordic region seems to have the Canucks’ number, but thankfully when the Canucks play the Florida Panthers on Tuesday they’ll be seeing an American goalie…
…Tim Thomas. Oh, hell. 2-1 the final at the Rog.
Valeri Nichushkin opened the scoring in the first period. That goal was a big of a sore spot for Vancouver fans, since Nichushkin was selected a pick after the Canucks took Bo Horvat at 9th overall in June. I’m somewhat reminded of a bit from Jim Robson’s book Hockey Play-By-Play. Robson recalled a game in Minnesota (the original location of the Stars franchise) where an 18-year-old Trevor Linden sniped a hat-trick in a game that “was to feature the top two picks in the previous June’s amateur draft: #1 Mike Modano of the North Stars versus the #2 selection, Trevor Linden of the Canucks. The only problem was that someone forgot to give Modano and the North Stars the script. The centreman had returned to junior hockey after he and Minnesota had been unable to come to terms on a contract, so the stage on this night belonged exclusively to the 18-year-old rookie, Linden.
The final score was 7-6 for Minnesota. The buzz after the game wasn’t about the result, but about Linden. Jim remembers the media reaction the next morning: “The Minnesota papers second-guessed North Stars management, asking, ‘Did they get the wrong guy? Because our kid is back in junior and won’t sign and Vancouver’s pick looks great.”
Just because I know it’s going to be a topic of discussion tomorrow… Nichushkin has still exhibited some growing pains at the NHL-level, obviously. That play was mostly Tyler Seguin’s, who fended off a hit from Alex Edler behind the net to find a wide-open man in front. 1-0 Dallas.
The notable event of the second period was the no-goal call:
It’s not a particularly good call, but manages to weave its way into the narrative because the game was decided by a goal. It came right at the start of a powerplay, and is just another symptom of the bad luck the team has had with the man advantage to start the season. It’s right up there with posts, missed nets, and what-have-yous as Vancouver just can’t seem to match the amount of goals they’re getting with the amount of chances. Is finishing really a skill we can judge after 20 games?
Lehtonen made an excellent save off of Kevin Bieksa on the next sequence:
At the start of the third period, down by a goal, the Canucks had a good shift that resulted in a two-on-one against, as two players got caught below the goal-line and the one forward that wasn’t, Henrik Sedin, is not as speedy as the young Cody Eakin, who feathered a nice pass across to Erik Cole, henceforth known as “Dallas David Booth”. Cole made no mistake, putting the Stars up 2-0.
Henrik scored a powerplay goal seconds later, but the Canucks weren’t able to generate any more goals in the third period. Their best chance came with ten seconds left in the game as a scramble gave Henrik another chance—the puck squirted free into the slot—Henrik ultimately couldn’t elevate the puck and that was the last attempt on goal the Canucks had.
Another game that helps the Canucks in the chase for the Corsi Cup playoffs, but doesn’t line up with the result on the ice. Corsi isn’t good for attempting to explain the past, but it does an admirable job of predicting the future considering hockey is an unpredictable game for the most part. The shooting and save percentages are hurting the Canucks lately more than play is, and while it’s discouraging to be getting losses because of some bad luck, it beats the hell out of them coming because of poor play.
John Tortorella split up the Santorelli-Higgins-Burrows line that had been gangbusters for the last couple of weeks. Instead, Santorelli played with Zack Kassian and David Booth (that line was the Canucks’ second-best Corsi line on the night, at +14/-7 per ExtraSkater) and Ryan Kesler dropped to the second line to play with Jannik Hansen and Chris Higgins. While Hansen was held without a shot, Kesler had five and Higgins had six—and Daniel Sedin led the Canucks in forwards with ten shots on goal.
The team itself put 43 shots on Lehtonen, and he wound up making 42 saves, some of them pretty good. That’s a .977 save percentage, which is about the highest save percentage you can get without a shutout (Carey Price put up a .975 on Vancouver in October and Curtis McElhinney had a .974). Corsi was originally developed by a Buffalo goalie coach looking to measure the overall workload of a goalie, noting that goalies still had to set themselves even on shots that were blocked or missed. Canucks had 83 Corsi events tonight, which is the most they’ve had this season by quite a bit: the team had 74 against the Oilers and against the Maple Leafs.
I thought the team did quite a number on the Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin combination, which has been bananas this season. Benn mostly saw time against the Canucks top pair of Chris Tanev and Dan Hamhuis and was held to 11 on-ice unblocked shots at 5-on-5. That’s 41.0 over 60 minutes, which is good because on the season Benn’s been on the ice for 46.3 unblocked shots per 60. The only Stars line that was able to get much going in the way of possession was Cody Eakin’s. Him and Cole were the only two plus Corsi players on the Stars.
SUM IT UP
Vancouver could of, should of won. People like results in the short-term, but a variety of luck factors influence results. The luck factors often even up over a long, long season. The Canucks have now shot 4.5% in the six games since the win over Toronto. People will begin to question overusing the Sedins and Kesler, but they were fine tonight. Good goaltending happens, but it doesn’t always happen.
As mentioned above, next up is Tim Thomas and the Florida Panthers.