Canucks Army Postgame: Ewing Theory

Who needs Ryan Kesler who you have this guy? [Image via Jeff Vinnick]

All of the talk heading into Wednesday night’s game between the Vancouver Canucks and St.Louis Blues was about Ryan Kesler, and his reported trade demands. The discussion on that front did a good job of overshadowing the fact that his absence due to a hand injury was leaving the team with a Kellan Lain-sized hole down the middle against one of the Western Conference’s best, and deepest teams.

Yet some how, some way, they managed to pull out a 1-0 victory for what feels like the first time in exactly one month (January 26th v. Phoenix). It wasn’t a dominant performance by any stretch of the imagination, and there were most certainly long sequences in “action” (using that term loosely) which perfectly resembled what you’d expect a game between these two teams to look like, but there’s something to be said for the way that the Canucks managed to outplay OJ Tushy, Kelly’s Husband, and the rest of the Blues on this night.

And that very something will be discussed just past the jump. If you take anything away from this game it should be this: who needs Ryan Kesler when you have Top Sixtito, right? Just don’t call it a Ewing Theory.

The Rundown

As I mentioned above, it was a Blues/Canucks game, so there aren’t too many noteworthy highlights to pass along in this section. In fact, I’d argue there were only two moments really worth bringing up at this time. The first of which came in the first period, when Alex Edler tried to step up on Ryan Reaves as he entered the offensive zone. Edler has been known to throw some surprisingly wicked hits over the years, but Reaves is one big boy, and wound up getting the best of him here. TJ Oshie knows the feeling.

Combine this headstand with the time when the crowd chanted “Eddie! Eddie!” (which still works, but was presumably directed at goaltender Eddie Lack) despite the fact that he was actually the one to thwart a Blues scoring chance at one point, and he probably could’ve had a better night.

GIF via Lor-Zod on Reddit

But enough of that, let’s get to the main event of the evening. The only goal of the game scored by either team came with just under 9 minutes left in the contest, and it was a thing of beauty. Take a gander for yourself and then let’s break down the unlikely nature of this particular sequence ever happening again:

First off: the Canucks were very fortunate that Tom Sestito’s awesome, prolific twin brother Top Sixtito decided to make an appearance on this night. I’d still wager that the outcome was something of a fluke – I’m sure he won’t admit it, but come on now – but who cares? Every once in a while, we see Top Sixtito show his pretty little toothless face; he makes an outrageously nice play, which can’t help but stagger you a little bit. “Where did that come from?”, you ask yourself..

.. It probably came from his “sick mitts”, bro. The sauce was oozing from that pass, as he not only did it on his backhand, but also perfectly led Jannik Hansen allowing him to hit the seam.

But obviously what put a bow on the reel was the finish by Hansen, which may’ve actually been even more surprising than the events leading up to it now that I’ve given it some thought. Hansen is a fine hockey player, but he has had all sorts of struggles with finishing from in close throughout his career, so the fact that he managed to get one by Halak here was like finding loose change.

The Numbers

Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 10.14.38 PM
Chart via Extra Skater

As the chart shows, at 5v5 the Canucks managed to attempt 38 (unblocked) shots to only 29 by the Blues. Even after Hansen scored to break the deadlock, the Canucks kept St.Louis to only 2 fenwicks in the final 8:47, which is quite the feat. Not only did they succeed in out-possessing their opposition, but they also managed to admirably fight off score effects.

When all was said and done only 20 pucks actually wound up making their way through the defense to Eddie Lack, and he stopped them all. His save percentage is up to an impressive .924 on the season, as he continues to turn in a fine rookie campaign which, despite not being an overly large sample size yet, should inspire confidence in fans of the team moving forward.

I’d say that the best line on the night for the team was the Booth-Richardson-Kassian trio, which is nice since I covered them in detail in today’s 60 game recap. Their underlying numbers continue to match up with the eye test. And it was much of the same for them as they once again in this one; they made stuff happen in the offensive zone, took 7 shots combined, and controlled possession for the most part.

The problem remains that they’re awfully snakebitten and can’t seem to buy a goal, but here’s the thing: they’re essentially the team’s 3rd line, and if they can be in the black in the possession game and chip in offensively here and there, I’m sure the Canucks would take it. It’s not “sexy” considering the expectations that accompany Booth and Kassian, but they’re providing legitimate defensive value this season. We also need to keep in mind that they’d likely be producing more goals if they had a better pivot between them.

5 more shots combined between Alex Burrows and Daniel Sedin, and zero goals to show for their efforts. I’d say that it’s getting comical, but we passed that point a looooong time ago already. The one big positive from that line: it sure looks like the time off did Henrik Sedin a world of good, as he looked significantly closer to his old self (compared to the one we saw grimacing on the bench and gingerly hobbling around the ice in Boston three weeks ago).

A telling sign for me: he took 19 faceoffs and won 13 of them. Last time we saw him he was in so much discomfort that he wasn’t even capable of taking the draws. Maybe he’ll be able to snap his two linemates out of their scoring funks, though at this point only black magic may be able to save them.

Anyways, we’ll be back on Friday with coverage of the game against the Wild, who currently have 4 points on the Canucks in the standings (with 2 games in hand).

  • andyg

    WRT trading Kesler, the Canucks should be able to get at least what the Ducks got for Bobby Ryan. Kesler has 2 years left at $5 mill per which is very affordable with the cap going up so wait and trade him in the off season to maximize the return. How about Kesler to Philly for Couturier, Laughton or Morin, and Philly’s 1st

    • andyg

      Math doesn’t work. Philly has $2.9 mill in cap space, and Couturier costs $925K. That would leave the Flyers about $1.2 million over. They’d have to dump a salary or two to make the grade, and I don’t know how many contracts the ‘Nucks have space for.

      My opinion, for what it’s worth: If we sell of Kesler for anything other than someone else’s disgruntled star player (The math works for Kesler/MSL), then we may as well move other assets that won’t age well & reboot. We’ll be on the outside looking in for 2-3 years anyways.

      • andyg

        I think the whole tons of injury problems is a bit over blown. 4 straight (-2 games) full seasons followed by a 77 game outing and then last years injury filled season. Broken fingers are certainly not something I could contribute to any long term or lingering effects.

  • Mantastic

    I’m glad to hear the underlying numbers match up to the eye test for the Booth/Richardson/Kassian line – I thought they looked great. There was one play where they coughed up the puck and gave the Blues an odd-man rush, and Kassian backchecked like a demon and got himself back into the play – it wasn’t long after that that he found himself taking a couple of shifts with the Sedins (coincidence?).

    Regarding this not being a “dominant performance”, they shut out one of the best teams in the league, outshot them 35-20, and significantly out-corsi’d and out-fenwick’d them. That’s about as dominant a performance as we’re likely to see from this team these days.

    • andyg

      That line could be even better without Booth. All he can do is skate. He can’t pass and has no finish at all.I think he holds that line back from being something special.(Archibald)

    • andyg

      The team is neither as good as the most optimistic fans hope or a bad as you and the other doomsayers proclaim.

      This is a top 10 possession team with top 10 goaltending and immense difficulty scoring (see: Kings, Los Angeles). They have also had more than their fair share of key injuries.

      They have the misfortune of playing in the toughest division in the NHL as well. In the East, they would be a shoo-in playoff team. Here in the West they are on the bubble.

      Ownership, management and the fanbase have lofty expectation for how this team should perform. As such, whether they sneak into the playoffs or miss them, we will likely see a more concerted effort at a “mini-rebuild” in the off season, helped by a rising salary cap that gives every NHL franchise increased breathing room.

      The team will not be “blown-up”. Gillis, Torts and Co. will not all be fired. I personally doubt the team will do much of anything before the deadline – which will elicit howls of outrage.

      What happens this season will happen and then a predict I fairly busy and interesting off-season.

      • andyg

        “The team is neither as good as the most optimistic fans hope or a bad as you and the other doomsayers proclaim.”


        I’ve never said this was a bad team.

        It’s mediocre. And old.

        “They have the misfortune of playing in the toughest division in the NHL as well.”

        False. See Oilers, Edmonton and Flames, Calgary.

        This should have been a playoff team even though they will probably miss this season.

        They could bring everybody back next season, and prior to this Kesler stuff that appeared to be the plan, and make the playoffs next year.

        That isn’t the issue.

        The issue is that it’s hard to envision this team becoming a contender again in the next 2-4 years (Sedin era).

        Which is completely different than pretty much every other team in the Western Conference…