Ryan Kesler and the Canucks defenseman wearing #5 celebrate in Nashville. Wait a second..
The footage from the first 35 minutes or so of Tuesday night’s game between the Predators and Canucks may as well be buried in a secret place where no one will ever find it, because my god was it ever boring. The most exciting part from that stretch came when Viktor Stalberg went in on a breakaway, missed the net, but the goal horn went off anyways. It was looking like it’d be that kind of night..
.. but then business picked up. Lineup changes happened, goals were scored, and trends were continued/busted. Read on past the jump for a recap of the 3-1 Canucks victory. As Mike Santorelli wisely said in his postgame interview with Dan Murphy, "3-1 is a lot different than 2-2." Those words have never rang truer than they do tonight.
As I mentioned above, this game broke out at a snail’s pace. While I’d say the Canucks generally controlled most of the play in the opening period, the Predators actually generated 8 shots on goal to their 5. Aside from the Stalberg goal horn incident, and Ryan Kesler nearly batting a puck in out of mid-air (instead hitting the crossbar), there was basically nothing to write about.
The 2nd period started off pretty quietly, as well. While there wasn’t anything happening on the scoreboard, there were a few lineup wrinkles to discuss:
a) Alex Edler left the game with what’s being called a "lower body injury", and he didn’t wind up returning. As a result Jason Garrison and Chris Tanev shouldered a larger load, both logging ~24 minutes on the night (and Hamhuis bumping all the way up to 27:43). More on Garrison’s big night in a second. As for Edler, we’ll see what the severity of his injury is.. but there’s rampant speculation on Twitter that we’ll see Frank(ie) Corrado called up from Utica. We’ll see how this situation unfolds.
b) John Tortorella started the night with Mike Santorelli on the wing with the Sedins, taking the place of the injured Alex Burrows. By the 2nd period though he had Santorelli down to the 2nd line with Higgins and Kesler, replacing him with David Booth. The switch paid dividends for the Canucks, as both lines managed successful nights.
The scoreless affair became a 1-1 game within a 30 second span in the final 5 minutes of the frame, as the newly formed Weise-Richardson-Hansen line generated a goal to open scoring (before a juicy rebound by Luongo knotted the game right back up).
Jason Garrison’s big night started in the dying minutes of the 2nd, with the Canucks on the power play:
He actually even took a shot just before the 18:21 mark, and missed the net on another. He wound up registering 6 shots on goal on the night, and 2 assists, while logging 23:51. After putting together 9 points in his 1st 10 games, Garrison went pointless in 14, before this most recent 8-in-6 stretch.
What a weird season for the bearded one.. but he’s now in the top-15 in scoring for defensemen, and has firmly entrenched himself on that 1st unit PP gig (which has quietly scored a goal in each of the last 6 games). Remember when he lost his spot to Dan Hamhuis? Yeah, I’m glad that’s over with. It’s not even close how much more dangerous the team looks with his patented bomb of a shot out there. My love for Garrison knows no bounds, and I don’t care who knows it.
The man of the night from an offensive standpoint was undoubtedly Ryan Kesler, though, who put together his 2nd straight multi-goal game. He now has 14 on the year, putting him on pace for 38. He was flying out there bringing back flashbacks of the 2011 playoff series, but both of his goals actually came off of rebounds in front of the net. I’m not sure what it is about Nashville, but it sure seems like Ryan Kesler loves playing there.. (*insert Carrie Underwood joke*)
Image via Extra Skater
As you can see, the Canucks sort of took control of the game from the final few minutes of the 2nd period onwards. Still, Roberto Luongo’s performance – in which he stopped 30 of 31 pucks he faced – was an encouraging one. It was the first time he had given up fewer than 2 goals since his shutout against the Maple Leafs back on November 2nd. He should also receive an award for this masterful piece of acting. As for the goalie on the other end, Mazanec was pretty solid, but ultimately wound up giving up over 2 goals for the 1st time since November 15th (a stretch of 8 starts).
I spoke about how successful the Canucks PP has been with Garrison back on it, so I’ll back that claim up with a cool stat for you: in just 7.5 minutes of time with the extra skater, they managed a whopping 21 shot attempts (with 12 of them making it on target). That’s a recipe for success any way you slice it.
The Higgins/Santorelli/Kesler line had a very successful possession night, as they posted a high-50’s Corsi night (Santorelli had a 20-14 differential, and Higgins a 16-10). The Sedin/Booth line actually didn’t have a good night in this regard (finishing well below 50%), but in fairness they spent a majority of their time against Josi/Jones + Fisher’s line. They also had a few very nice shifts where they hemmed the Preds in their own zone without necessarily having any dangerous scoring chances to show for their troubles.
How did Zack Kassian do in his return to the lineup? Well, he only played 5:05 alongside Sestito/Dalpe on the 4th line. Out of his 8 shifts, the one where he went in on a 2-on-1 with Sestito was the most memorable one, but not for a good reason. With the defender playing the pass, Kassian still tried to force a laser through to Sestito anyways. You’ll never believe this, but it didn’t work out.. I know Kassian doesn’t exactly have the greatest hockey IQ(/sense), but that particular play was dreadful.
Another win for the Vancouver Canucks where they scored >2 goals, meaning that they still don’t have a win this year in which they scored anywhere from 0-2 goals. I get the feeling that Blake Price will be able to sleep easy tonight, knowing that he has weird little narratives to hold onto and rant about for at least another few days.
The Canucks now go home for a 5-game homestand in which they’ll play some intriguing games (vs. PHX, COL for standings purposes, and vs. BOS for all of the other reasons), and some not so important games (vs. CAR, EDM). Something to keep in mind is that they’re now 10-5-2 on the road, and only 5-5-3 at Rogers Arena. As you’ll recall, their last homestand was mostly an unmitigated disaster.
But you figure they’ll start winning some games at home soon enough, and considering some of the suspect opposition they’ll face, this upcoming stretch is as good a time as any to buck the trend.