It’s November 22nd, approximately 10:00 PM. The Canucks have just finished a 6-2 rout of the Columbus Blue Jackets, featuring goals from five different scorers. Finally, scoring! Positive regression! And with the hated Chicago Blackhawks coming to town tomorrow, busting this tremendous funk comes at the perfect time.
Fast forward 24 hours, and the picture is significantly less warm and fuzzy and wonderful. Once again, the Canucks peppered a goalie with more than 30 shots and failed to score more than a single goal. Meanwhile, a brief lapse in concentration led to two rapid Blackhawk goals, turning a 1-0 lead into a 2-1 defecit in less than 10 seconds. On the balance it was a solid effort, especially against a Chicago team that’s arguably been the most dominant in the NHL once again this season, but an inability to put more than a single puck behind the NHL’s 30th ranked goalie in save percentage cost them more points in the standings. For a more detailed look at the game, read past the jump.
The game started well enough, as both teams came out of the gates with enthusiasm and intensity. Chicago carried the play for the most part, as they out-attempted Vancouver by a 2-to-1 margin and generated some excellent scoring chances, none more dangerous than this Patrick Kane shot on Luongo:
Then, the Hawks got in to some penalty trouble. Ryan Kesler drew a slashing call on Brandon Saad (his 2nd drawn penalty of the period), then Andrew Shaw did a dumb, clipping Daniel Sedin’s skates and taking an interference penalty while on a shorthanded 2-on-1 with Jonathan Toews, leading to a Canucks 5-on-3. With Jason Garrison manning the point and a 4-forward set, the Canucks capitalized quickly, as Ryan Kesler fired a rebound through Corey Crawford to give Vancouver the 1-0 lead:
The 1st period was also notable for Tom Sestito stickhandling his way to a glorious chance, and this absurd missed call in the Canucks’ favour. Let it be said that the refs don’t always hate Vancouver.
The 2nd period was largely uneventful as Chicago had the run of play early before the Canucks settled the game down later. Vancouver took a tenuous 1-0 lead into the 3rd, where any hope of milking that home was quickly dispelled.
In a textbook demonstration of score effects, Chicago hemmed the Canucks in their own zone for the early 3rd period, registering 7 unblocked shot attempts to Vancouver’s zero. After an extremely fortunate bounce where a Blackhawks point shot hit the crossbar, rolled across the goal line, and deflected off the far post to stay out, Patrick Kane sent a pass off Andrew Shaw and through Roberto Luongo’s 5-hole to tie the game at 1-1. Then just 9 seconds later, Marcus Kruger capitalized on a 2-on-1 chance, snapping a puck also through Luongo’s 5-hole to give the Blackhawks the lead.
As expected, the Canucks pushed hard to tie the game for the final 15 minutes, but couldn’t beat Corey Crawford, as the Chicago goalie finished with 36 saves in the win.
The 3rd period in this chart may as well be titled "score_effects.png" as it pretty much sums up what happens late in games when one team is trailing. When the Blackhawks were down by one goal, they out-Fenwick’d Vancouver 7-0. When the Canucks fell behind by one, they held a massive 19-3 advantage in unblocked shot attempts.
That big 3rd period masked what was otherwise an ugly performance for a lot of players. For example, Jason Garrison and Alex Edler began the game +2/-8 in Corsi, but both finished just under 50% for the night. As a team, the Canucks were pulling just 28% of the Corsis at one point, but finished the game at a dominant-looking 57.3% of possession. To put that into perspective, they had 10 more shot attempts tonight than they did last night against Columbus. Sure doesn’t seem like it though.
Brad Richardson and Jannik Hansen both played a strong game, as each hovered around 60% for Corsi, despite just a 12.5% o-zone start rate.
And finally, file this under "kind of a good thing but still probably shouldn’t happen," the top-3 Canucks in shots on goal were Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler and Jason Garrison, whom you may have noticed are all defensemen. This trio combined for 12 of Vancouver’s 37 shots, and considering that shots from defensemen are generally less likely to result in goals than shots from forwards, it’s probably not a good thing that they’re shooting more often than guys like Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler. Offence from your blueline is always a positive, but you just hope that it isn’t coming at the expense of offence from your forwards.
Losing to a rival always stings, and in a lot of ways it feels like the Canucks are back to square one again when it comes to goal scoring. Still, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the goals should start to come with more consistency even if the Canucks are uniquely terrible at generating scoring chances. However, there’s no reason to believe that they’re uniquely terrible because they’re still a strong possession team. They had passed the division leading San Jose Sharks earlier in the day in score close Fenwick%, and now sit just outside the top-5 teams in the entire league after the Sharks dominated New Jersey and re-took 5th place. Just have to stick to the process and the results will follow. *sucks lozenge*
But just in case you were hopeful that more goals would be in the immediate future, the next game comes against the red-hot NHL GAA leader Ben Scrivens and the extremely stingy Los Angeles Kings. So yeah, get ready just to copy-paste this game review to use it all again Monday night unless Scrivens regresses in a hurry.