I am told that there was a hockey game this Thursday night. I am also told that it was aired on Rogers Sportsnet Pacific at 6:00 PM Vancouver time. Well I am not sure about you guys, but when I sat in front of my television set at 6:00 PM Vancouver time, rapt with anticipation to witness the glorious spectacle that is an NHL hockey game, I did not get to witness a hockey game.
I was treated to watching paint dry for three whole, painful hours.
This game was just that bad. It was truly one of those hockey games that made you sit in your seat and question your very dedication to this fickle sport. I debated just turning the thing off and watching Japanese Macaques throw their feces at each other over on the Oasis channel at points during tonight’s game, and in retrospect that probably would have been a better use of my time, but I ultimately decided against it so I could write tonight’s postgame report. Now please do me a favour and read past the jump. I promise it won’t be as boring as the 1-0 Canucks loss we all collectively witnessed.
Phoenix scored a powerplay goal in the first period after a centering pass deflected off of Dan Hamhuis. Martin Hanzal attempted to cripple the entire Canucks team in the 3rd, and nearly succeeded. Apart from that, nothing of note happened. Nothing. I have five lines of notes I wrote while watching this game and they’re all vapid observations like "gee, there sure are a lot of penalties!" or "man, there is not a lot going on tonight!" Well, Henrik had a goal waved off too, but that’s pretty much it.
The only silver lining from last night is that the Canucks didn’t break someone’s neck in a game in which they allowed nine goals, so I guess not allowing nine goals tonight is a step in the right direction. That being said, if Martin Hanzal did partially succeed in his conquest to eradicate all Vancouver Canucks and Santorelli, Booth and possibly Henrik miss any length of time, the outlook becomes rather bleak for a team that’s already having difficulty scoring goals.
Courtesy of ExtraSkater.com.
There were no good or bad players for either team tonight. Everyone was just a varying degree of mediocre. John Tortorella loaded up the top line with both Sedins and Ryan Kesler, and they were predictably the least (most?) mediocre. Daniel and Kesler were the, uh, "best" Canucks with about 60% of the Corsis at even strength while Henrik was a distant 3rd with 52%. But here’s the stat of the night:
That is the number of goals the Canucks scored against Mike Smith, who, as Dimitri pointed out in his pre-game report, has stopped 90% or more of the shots he’s faced just once in his last seven games. That’s quite bad, if you didn’t know. Yet he looked like an olympian against the Canucks tonight. Oh wait…
Really though, these results are starting to highlight some major issues that have been present since early December. While the Canucks went on a great run of success, it was mostly fueled by a nice spike in PDO, as shown by this nice chart here:
Their recent struggles? Not much more than some pretty rapid regression towards the mean, I’m afraid. What’s far more concerning is what’s been happening to their possession numbers. Dimitri wrote a nice article about it a while ago, but I figure it’s alarming enough to keep bringing up. Travis Yost, a quality Sens blogger of "Ukranian hackers deleted me from the internet" fame, illustrates the stark contrast in the Canucks 1st quarter season performance and 2nd quarter season performance with this graph of score adjusted Fenwick:
Only Minnesota has been in the tank more, and they have the added excuse of losing Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise to injuries for a large portion of the second quarter. The Canucks too have been hit with a rash of injuries, and losing Alex Burrows has particularily seemed to hurt. Here is the Canucks 5v5 FenClose with and without Burrows in the lineup:
The biggest change is in FenwickFor per 60 minutes, as Vancouver attempted 6 more shots per 60 minutes in score close situations while Burrows was in the lineup – that’s a huge difference. Surely though, a change this large can’t just be due to one player’s absence, but the ebbs and flows of Vancouver’s possession game seem to coincide with Burrows’ presence in the lineup.
The change in shot attempts for is probably the biggest reason why the goals have dried up of late, as the Canucks have scored just 7 goals in the past 5 games, with 4 of those coming against Pittsburgh. It’s not a "strength of schedule" thing either, as Vancouver has had success against Western Conference and Californian teams this year. In the first half of the season, Vancouver posted a 55.1% 5v5 FenClose% in 6 games against their Californian rivals, but have gone just 44.7% in the 5 games since.
I have no idea why Vancouver’s in a bit of a tailspin right now, but the good news is that given their play earlier in the year against top opponents, it’s extremely unlikely they are a true-talent league-average possession team. Earlier this season, they controlled play to the same extent that Los Angeles and San Jose did, and did so against L.A., S.J., and Anaheim themselves. So, what’s gone wrong? I hate to say, but I have no freaking idea.
I have never been more excited for a Calgary Flames game, but I guess that excitement could be tempered pretty quickly if Booth, Santorelli and/or Henrik Sedin are injured for any length of time. I’m not sure what would be more embarassing: a 3-2 loss to the Calgary Flames or the debacle that happened in Anaheim. At least Calgary can’t score either and their goalies are brutal, so it’s as good a chance as any to bump this slump and possibly get back on the right track.
The game goes Saturday at 7:00 PM on Hockey Night in Canada. I don’t have anything else witty or sarcastic to say, so see you then!