Image via @CrownRoyal22
Reading some of the postgame quotes you’d think that Wednesday night’s lackluster effort v. the Lightning was something we’d become accustomed to seeing as part of a worrying trend, rather than an aberration. But with a 10-1-2 month of December in the rearview mirror, I think it’s fair to say it’s far more of the latter than the former, and we should take this performance for what it is: an outlier more than anything else.
After losing a game a few days ago in which they had really deserved a better fate v. the Flyers, the right team won this time around. John Tortorella hit the nail right on the head when he said the following, "that’s a team effort. It is probably our worst game of the year. We deserved to lose that one and we did.”
You sure did, Torts. Read on past the jump for a deeper look at what went wrong.
The first 10 minutes or so were really difficult to digest as an observer, with basically nothing overly noteworthy taking place. In my notes the only thing – other than "ZzZzzZzzZzz" – I have written down is "it’s probably not a good sign for this game that by far the most exciting moment so far featured Tom Sestito landing a hit on Nikita Kucherov seconds after Dale Weise missed".
It was that bad. But as the opening frame went along the Canucks seemed to finally wake up from their slumber, putting some pressure on Ben Bishop and Co. David Booth had the best two chances, both generated from crashing the net, but neither amounted to anything more than that. Zack Kassian is still stuck sitting on 2 assists for the year, but based on some of the passes he has been dishing out recently, that has far more to do with the inability of his teammates to finish than anything he’s doing wrong.
Early on in the 2nd period Chris Tanev left the game with some sort of injury (don’t worry, he returned and didn’t seem to show any ill effects), and the penalty kill looked horrifically lost without him. The coverage in the defensive zone was brutal, and if you replay that sequence ten times the Lightning probably score on 7 or 8 of them.
.. but Tanev came back, and the penalty kill looked much better when thrust into action again just a couple of minutes later. I guess you could say that the #POWERKILL was officially back to being itself. After having killed off what you’d probably classify as a "bad penalty" (with Higgins unnecessarily tripping up a defender in the offensive zone), Dan Hamhuis stepped up and separated Richard Panik (the man behind the headline of this post) from the puck with a perfectly timed check, setting up the opening goal. It was Richardson’s 8th of the year which found its way past Bishop:
He didn’t get an assist on the play, but man, you can’t help but appreciate that play by Hamhuis. He logged 29:29 on Wednesday night, and enjoyed himself a fine bounceback performance following what was a dreadful showing last time out. Still, I’m baffled as to why the coaching staff continues to trot him out their on the top PP unit, especially considering how big a load he has to carry in the other areas of the game with all of the injuries the team is dealing with. It’s inexplicable, really. Maybe the reason Glen Gulutzan never seems to show any emotion is because he’s actually sleeping?
Anyways, it was the next couple of minutes following Richardson’s goal that initially made me consider going with a headline of "And then a hockey game broke out!". I settled for the bad, but kind of good joke, which makes sense to those of you that know me. There were 4 total goals in the final 270 seconds of the 2nd period, ultimately leaving the Canucks trailing 3-2.
The one bright spot from that sequence was the following goal by Zac Dalpe, his first as a member of the Canucks. That was a blown call that should’ve been an icing, but still, look at the freakin’ pass by Dale Weise to set Dalpe up. My goodness. Weise and Sestito finished just behind Kesler and Yannick Weber on the top Corsi For % list for the night, and actually had themselves a really nice night. I’ve been openly critical of Sestito for a long time now, but I have to give credit where its due, and he has been (relatively speaking) much better lately. Those two spent most of their 7+ minutes of action throwing their bodies around, causing havoc, and if they keep doing that, I will keep singing their praises.
The Canucks pressed the Lightning right out of the gate to start the 3rd, but couldn’t beat Bishop, and after a quick insurance tally by Alex Killorn – whose line, featuring Valterri Filppula, gave the Canucks fits all night – that was pretty much all she wrote.
I know that Lack has now surrendered 7 goals in his past 2 games and what not, but once again, I think he was far down the list of reasons the team lost this game. The 2nd goal was a perfectly placed shot by Filppula while using David Booth as a screen, the 3rd was a wicked snipe by Kucherov following Higgins’ inability to get the puck out on the PK, and the 4th was a point shot which took a nasty re-direct. I guess he was due for some bad luck following the torrid start to his NHL career, but I still have the utmost confidence in his ability to handle the job in backup duties when Luongo comes back this weekend.
Image via Extra Skater
Martin St.Louis simply cannot be human. He logged over 22 minutes in this one, and was on the ice for 21 shot attempts for v. only 9 against, while seeing roughly an even dose of the Canucks’ top 2 lines.
On defense for the Canucks, Jason Garrison’s log was interesting. He finished with the 2nd worst shot attempt differential on the team (18-25), and spent most of his night with either Bieksa or Weber. Bieksa also finished with a negative differential, and was directy responsible for Tyler Johnson’s goal as he really poorly handled a pinch in the OZ. Weber on the other hand led the team with a 63.6 CF%, and is really looking like he’s gaining more and more confidence with each game. I’m not sure what more he can do to earn himself at least a temporary look on the top PP unit, though..
Ryan Kesler’s line has now been out on the ice for 5 goals against over the past 2, but despite once again not looking like the dominant two-way juggernaut that they had for the majority of December, they were much better than they were against Giroux’s line. Quite frankly I think the outcome in this game would’ve been much different had the Sedins shown up, but they didn’t.. they saw a lot of Killorn/Filppula, and finished with a sub-50% possession game.
Simply not good enough from those two, and when you combine that with the 2nd line’s struggles and the goaltending being less than perfect, it’s not exactly difficult to see why they came up on the short end.
I don’t think there’s much reason to actually panic here, for two reasons. First off, heading into this game the Canucks had been playing some really strong hockey for the past month or so, and even when they had like v. Philadelphia the other day they still more than held their own. It had been quite a while since we’d seen them lay an egg like this, so it’s hard to get too worked up about it. These things happen.
And it’s not like they threw the game away to a garbage team, either, because I think the Tampa Bay Lightning are pretty darn good. Recently Elliotte Friedman said that he thought that only the Penguins and Bruins would make the playoffs in the West out of all of the teams from the East. With all due respect to Friedge, I think the Bolts would be right up there fighting for a spot.
There is one problem though and it’s the upcoming schedule for the Canucks. Their next 6 games are as follows: @LA, @ANA, v. PIT, v. STL, @LA, @ ANA, @PHX. That’s pretty darn tough, and the way they handle that stretch will go a long way towards determining their fate in the jam-packed Western Conference standings.