Dale Weise wearing the Haida Hat as the Player of the Game. [Image via @VanCanucks]
Something had to give heading into Thursday’s night’s game. On one hand, the Canucks were 1-4-3 in their past 8 games, having scored just 15 goals over that span (with 6 of them coming in one game against a less than stellar opponent). They’d dominated most of those games from a shot differential standpoint, but despite all of their efforts, the goals weren’t coming.
However, they were facing an LEastern team in the Ottawa Senators; this was significant because they’d been 8-3-2 against the inferior conference. I noted in the preview that if the Canucks were ever going to put together some goals, it would be against the Sens, who have been giving ’em up in bunches all year long.
It turns out that the latter trend prevailed, and the Canucks broke through in a big way with a 2nd period flurry en route to a 5-2 win. The most surprising part of it all, though, was the guys who stepped up in getting them there. Read on past the jump for a look at all the goodness from Thursday’s contest.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Canucks gave up the 1st goal, and got off to a slow start themselves. The Senators went up 1-0 on a goal by MacArthur; which there’s no shame in really, since he’s really good at hockey, making the fact that the Maple Leafs let him walk so that they could sign David Clarkson (for significantly more money) even more hilarious.
I’m not sure how responsible Jannik Hansen and his lazy backcheck were for the goal itself, but who cares because John Tortorella let him have it anyways:
GIF via @TheStanchion
The team’s fortunes quickly changes in the 2nd period, and they didn’t wait long to make it happen. Just 31 seconds into the frame Daniel Sedin scored his 300th career goal. Thanks to a nifty little graphic from Sportsnet we learned that Henrik has assisted on 214 of those, which is a pretty remarkable stat. Those two guys seem to have some chemistry, eh? In case you were wondering Alex Burrows is 2nd on that list with 35 assists. Speaking of Burrows, he didn’t actually get an assist on this one, but he really should’ve considering it was his strong forecheck that caused the turnover, and eventual goal:
Here’s another fun stat for you: David Booth and Dale Weise both hadn’t scored a goal since October 6th, while Jason Garrison hadn’t scored one since October 5th. I think you know where we’re going with this, don’t you? Booth finally scored – and in the process put an end to Jason Botchford’s "YOSO" (You Only Score Once) nickname, which I thoroughly enjoyed while it lasted – on a shot that I wouldn’t necessarily consider a high quality scoring chance or anything. If anything, it was just another Corsi event that happened to go in.. because that’s what happens from time to time.
Garrison’s goal was sweet, but probably wouldn’t have happened if not for Ottawa’s completely incompetent penalty kill which is the 2nd worst in the league. What are they doing on this play? Regardless, good on Garrison for finding the open space and buring the goal. Ironically enough it wasn’t his patented bomb that got it done, but a nice little snap shot. Don’t look now but Garrison has 4 points in his past 3 games, and looks to have regained his spot on the top power play unit from Dan Hamhuis (thank goodness!).
And finally there’s Dale Weise’s goal, which came from in front of the net on a rebound, which is what you’d expect from him. He followed up what quite possibly was his best showing as a Canuck with another inspired performance, likely earning him a longer leash on that 3rd line with Santorelli. I like his game when he keeps it simple, works hard, and doesn’t try to do too much. Knowing the limitations to your skillset is an oft-overlooked skill.
One last thing before we get to the numbers. I spend a lot of time getting on Tom Sestito’s case.. which I think is warranted, because he’s more times than not a very useless member of the team. I think his value as an "enforcer" and someone who throws hits is vastly overrated by some Canucks fans, for whatever reason. He’s almost always a liability to the team I cover, which is why I pick on him. Not because I personally dislike him or anything like that.
On Tuesday though, he stuck up for teammate Ryan Stanton after that rat Chris Neil went after him, and maybe more surprisingly than anything else that happened in this game, held his own in the ensuing fight. I have to admit that I enjoyed seeing that. Unfortunately, Neil went on to shove Alex Edler right into Roberto Luongo after the play had been blown dead later in the game, proving once again that having a guy make someone like Chris Neil "pay for his actions" really doesn’t act as a deterrent.
Image via Extra Skater
As the puck was about to drop to signal to start of the 3rd period, John Shorthouse seemed to be somewhat surprised as he read out the shot totals: "the Senators are actually outshooting the Canucks 25-17 through 2.."
The thing about that though is that it wasn’t all that surprising. Shots on goal were actually just 11-10 for the Senators in "score close" situations, and both teams were actually tied with 20 unblocked shot attempts (i.e. Fenwick) following the goal that made it 4-1 Canucks. After that, the Senators attempted more shots with the Canucks holding onto a bigger lead, playing a somewhat conservative brand of hockey.
I’ve seen people making jokes about how the Canucks pulled a play out of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ playbook, getting badly outshot but still winning. That 34-20 shot on goal (and 58-36 shot attempt) margin is deceiving, though. Most of that has to do with score effects, as the Senators went on a 12-1 run in the dying minutes of the game. The Canucks definitely do as well as I thought they’d do against a poor possession team like Ottawa, but it was hardly the type of lopsided effort that you’d think it was at first glance.
In his preview today Jason Botchford had some interesting quotes re: the Edler/Garrison pairing, which will stick together for the forseeable future despite some ugly results. On this night at least, that paid dividends, as they had a really nice game (beyond just Garrison’s offensive production). I’m still skeptical about whether it’ll actually begin to turn around as we go along, but we’ll see..
For those scoring at home Roberto Luongo bumped his save % on the year up to .915 following his 37/39 performance in this one. That’s certainly nothing to write home about, and I expect that’ll get up to .920 as we go along, but just keep in mind that the following guys currently have a lower save % than Luongo: Jaroslav Halak, Mike Smith, Corey Crawford, Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick, Sergei Bobrovsky, Jonas Hiller, Craig Anderson, Dan Ellis (lol).
Finally, I should point out that after Hansen’s incident on the MacArthur goal, he was replaced on the Higgins/Kesler line with Zack Kassian. Back on November 16th I cited that as a combination I’d really like to see. I think it’s an ideal situation for Kassian to finally begin to thrive in. I’d be much more excited about this development if I figured there was any chance it would stick around, but given Tortorella’s juggling, I really don’t.
Just a programming note: the Canucks next two games come at 11 AM PST on Saturday against the Rangers, and at 10 AM PST on Sunday against the Hurricanes. I can’t really remember the last time they played two early games like that back-to-back, and I’m not looking forward to that Sunday morning performance.. it’ll probably littered with sluggish, ugly hockey. Oh well, that’ll still probably be better than all of the Alain Vigneault talk heading into Saturday’s game..