Paul Gaustad is a large human. Image via Justin Bourne.
The Nashville Predators came to town with the 3rd worst 5-on-5 save percentage in the entire league, the 5th worst 5-on-5 possession numbers, and seem to have had a tough time preventing the Canucks from scoring on them in recent years. So that would seem to be the perfect remedy for Vancouver’s recent offensives woes, right? Well, if you’re a cynical Canucks fan like me, there’s no way you read a lede like that and went "Yeah!" So good for you. Also, you probably watched the game so you know the answer already.
If you didn’t watch the game, the Canucks couldn’t score a powerplay goal again, only managed one even strength goal again, and now have just eight goals in their last seven games, just like the 2011 Sta– sorry, I won’t go there. Tonight’s 2-1 loss to Nashville wasn’t nearly that painful, but it was still frustrating. Read past the jump for a recap.
As is usually the case when the Preds meet the Canucks, the first period was fairly quick and up-tempo. They play was fairly even at 5-on-5, with both teams attempting 14 shots. The Canucks had a decided edge in powerplay time, as Matt Cullen took a 4-minute high-sticking penalty and Paul Gaustad cross-checked Kevin Bieksa roughly five minutes later. While the Canucks didn’t score, they at least looked dangerous by moving their feet in the offensive zone, instead of the same bland static setup we’ve been seeing for most of the season. Maybe, just maybe, it was John Tortorella and not Glen Gulutzan that was holding the powerplay back ALL ALONG!
Haha just kidding. That’s insane. It was clearly Henrik Sedin.
Actually though, it was probably Dan Hamhuis who was most at fault for the lack of powerplay goals on the night, as he did his very best Mark Reynolds impression, whiffing on something like five seperate would-be scoring chances. But hey, I guess that’s what happens when you bench your three best offensive defencemen in favour of a guy who’s never scored more than 7 goals in an entire NHL season.
Vancouver came out stronger at 5-on-5 in the 2nd period, culminating in a Chris Higgins goal, off a Dale Weise shot that looked relatively harmless:
Shots on goal are never a bad play. Unfortunately for the Canucks, that would be the only time they would put a puck behind Carter Hutton on the night, as the scoring woes continue. According to Sportsnet, they are tied for last in the NHL for goals in January with the Calgary Flames. More on that later though.
The 3rd period was pretty bad, if we’re being honest. Vancouver only managed to direct twelve shots towards Carter Hutton, with half of those coming after Eric Nystrom took a late penalty to give Vancouver a powerplay. Before that though, Nashville managed to wrestle the lead away from Vancouver off of goals from Craig Smith and Seth Jones (Jones’ goal may have been redirected by Nick Spaling, however). Luongo didn’t look great on the Smith goal, but it’s pretty unreasonable to expect him to stop everything every night, which is what he would have needed to do for the Canucks to win. Nashville took the game by a 2-1 score.
Chart courtesy of ExtraSkater.com.
At even strength, Vancouver modestly out-played the Preds, to the tune of a 54.4% Fenwick, and had a ton of attempts on the powerplay, but couldn’t beat Carter Hutton. Some of the scoring woes are clearly due to icing a lineup that has Zac Dalpe on the second line, some of them are due to being without Henrik Sedin who was crippled long before his ironman streak came to an end, but some of it is also just plain old bad luck. Vancouver’s 10-game rolling PDO is as low as it’s been since their November malaise, except their possession numbers are in the tank too at the moment:
Is this a reason to be concerned? Hell yeah it is. Is this a reason to panic? Probably not, seeing as they went through a similar, worse swoon back in 2011-2012:
They were able to right the ship to a certain extent and win the President’s Trophy before an unceremonious first round loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champion L.A. Kings that year. I’d expect that they’d do the same soon this year once Henrik Sedin and Mike Santorelli return to health and the schedule softens up. The thing is, they’ll have to be dominant once again in the stretch drive to sell anyone on being even a moderate contender for the Cup this year.
I still think that even when healthy, Vancouver is another top-6 C playing in the bottom-6 away from contending. Despite what you will most assuredly read in the comments, this recent rough stretch is not indicative of the proverbial window slamming shut. If they could just get the damn powerplay turned around, the outlook on the team may be a good deal more positive.
Perhaps the 39-year old legs of Vinny Prospal can help, seeing as he’ll be signed to an AHL tryout with Utica as soon as tomorrow. Desperate times, right? In all honesty though, he lead an NHL team in scoring as recently as last season, and is essentially a zero-risk pickup. If he works out, great. If not, he’ll probably have his contract mutually terminated and pursue the twilight years of his career overseas. It’s not at all a sexy pickup, but it could definitely help in the short term.
Here’s Blue Jackets reporter Aaron Portzline with the 140-character scouting report:
@sportsnetmurph Hey, Dan. Can’t skate, but he never could. Knows where to stand. Passionate, smart player. Has a love/hate thing w Torts.
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) January 24, 2014
I can hardly contain my excitement.
A quick shout-out to the Shap crew who did a good deed tonight and auctioned off a #FreeTorts t-shirt for $160, with all the proceeds going to Canuck Place. Thanks for giving back, guys.
As for the Canucks, the short-term pain will probably continue for the forseeable future, so we’ll all just have to grin and bear some more pretty dull hockey. The next game is Sunday against the Coyotes at 5:00 PM. I’ll be doing the postgame for that one too, which I absolutely can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to doing. Oh boy.
What I am excited for is that the super mega awesome Canucks Army rally event at the Pint is just under a week away. Go follow that last link, get your tickets, and come tell Dimitri how much of an idiot he is in person. I hear he really, really appreciates that. Also, the Utica Comets are in town this Friday and Saturday to take on the Abbotsford Heat, the Vancouver Giants play a pair of home games on Friday and Saturday, and the UBC mens Thunderbirds, who are in danger of losing their varsity status, also play on Friday and Saturday. You can go here to purchase tickets and help support this great program and help it remain B.C.’s only varsity hockey program.
In short, it’s a great weekend of hockey ahead, so I hope you all have fun. See you guys later.