Canucks Army Postgame: A Heritage (Of Losing)


In isolation, or to the outside observer, I’m sure the Heritage Classic was a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon as the NHL gears up for the trade deadline and post-Olympic stretch drive. It was a relatively fast-paced game with goals scored off the rush, plenty of shots, scoring chances both ways, and some intensity and nastiness to boot. Under different circumstances, we’d probably be regaling in how that was an entertaining game and a welcome break from the monotony of the regular season, and even though the Canucks didn’t get the result they wanted, they can put this in their rear view mirror and get on with their season.

Of course, the operative term is “different circumstances.” John Tortorella (or Rollie Melanson if you pay attention to Jason Botchford) decided to bench Roberto Luongo in favour of Eddie Lack, kicking the “goaltender controversy” hornets nest that had so far been dormant. The move backfired, as fans voiced their displeasure at John Tortorella and the rest of the Canucks brass who allowed this to happen by booing the likable Swede at times during the game. Like the rest of the Canucks, Lack didn’t have a particularly strong game in a 4-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators. Read past the jump for more.

The Rundown

Spurred on by the raucous energy generated by a Sarah McLaughlin rendition of the national anthem, Vancouver looked good in the early 1st period. They outplayed the Senators by a significant margin in the game’s first 15 minutes, jumping out to a quick lead. Jason Garrison opened the scoring with a floater from the point that illuded Craig Anderson. The goal was especially significant since it was the first powerplay goal the Canucks have scored since they last played the Ottawa Senators in 1915 [citation needed]:

Alex Burrows almost added to Vancouver’s lead a few moments later, as Henrik Sedin set him up all alone in the slot, but he couldn’t beat Craig Anderson. Burrows remains the only significant forward in the NHL without a goal this season and it’s well beyond insane, and in to “he’s obviously the target of some voodoo curse” territory. Of all the players that have appeared in 31 or more NHL games, Alex Burrows has the 558th “best” on-ice shooting percentage at 5 on 5. When he’s been on the ice, opposing goalies are stopping 96.6% of all shots the Canucks take. Only five players in the entire league are seeing fewer pucks go in than Burrows: John McCarthy, Trevor Lewis, Luke Glendening, Matt Hendricks and Colin Fraser. I bet you didn’t even know that at least two of those guys were real people.

Also on that note, Alexander Edler is 548th in the league, and 3rd worst among defensemen at 4.1% on-ice shooting%. The guys he’s ahead of? Brett Bellemore and Mike “the 3rd best” Weber. There is some truth in Laurence Gilman’s “this season is an anomaly” comments, but I’ll touch on that later.

Back to the game, Zack Kassian pounced on an Erik Karlsson turnover deep in his own end and fired a shot through Craig Anderson to give the Canucks a 2-0 lead with just over 8 minutes to go in the 1st period:

Things were looking good for Vancouver at this point. They were carrying nearly 70% of the Fenwicks and looked to be a good bet to break the mythical 3-goals-in-1-game mark, but then they sagged. Ottawa started to pick up their play, as Clarke MacArthur tipped their first goal of the game past Eddie Lack with just under 5 minutes to play in the 1st period. Then, on a powerplay less than two minutes later, Erik Karlsson slid a weak point shot that found it’s way just inside the far post to tie the game at 2-2.

Ottawa really seemed to take over at this point, controlling play for the majority of the second period. From the point where Vancouver took a 2-0 lead to the start of the 3rd, Ottawa out-Fenwick’d Vancouver 25-14. Things went from bad to worse for the Canucks as Daniel Sedin was taken awkwardly into the end boards by Marc Methot and suffered what appeared to be a left groin or hamstring injury. He would leave the game and would not return.

In all honesty, Daniel Sedin’s injury probably won’t hurt the Canucks so much as it will limit whatever upwards mobility they had in terms of offensive improvement. While he and Henrik have still managed to maintain strong possession numbers and consequently limit the opposition’s ability to score, the fact of the matter is that you can’t win a hockey game with defense. Daniel wasn’t scoring, so losing him for any length of time just means that improvement is less likely now. Not that this matters, because the Canucks have lost 9 of their last 10 games so “not improving” is synonymous with “continuing to suck.”

Young Cody Ceci would jump into the rush a few minutes later and fire a shot past Eddie Lack’s blocker to give Ottawa a 3-2 lead. From there, the game went as you would expect: Vancouver had a stronger 3rd period as they tried to come back and tie the game, but Ottawa held them off and Colin Greening potted an empty net goal for some insurance, as the Senators avenged their 1915 Stanley Cup defeat with a 4-2 win.

The Numbers

First of all, the Fenwick chart you all know and love, via ExtraSkater:

Fenwick chart for 2014-03-02 Senators 4 at Canucks 2

And new at ExtraSkater, even strength Fenwick charts!

EV fenwick chart for 2014-03-02 Senators 4 at Canucks 2

You can really see how Ottawa pulled away from Vancouver in the 2nd period on the second chart. Really, the Canucks weren’t much of a threat after going up 2-0. Chris Tanev and Alex Edler were probably Vancouver’s most successful defense pair at 5-on-5, as they controlled 78.6% and 64.7% of the Corsis respectively. Echoing Dimitri’s thoughts, the Ryan Kesler line with Hansen and Higgins was Vancouver’s most dangerous unit, posting the best possession numbers of all Canucks forwards, granted it was mostly in ice time against the Ceci-Phillips defensive pair. Henrik Sedin on the other hand saw a steady diet of Karlsson-Methot-Ryan-Turris-MacArthur, which would go a ways to explaining his 44.4% Corsi.

Getting back to the thoughts about how this season has been a bit of an anomaly, I don’t necessarily think that Gilman’s wrong. Between losing both Sedins at different points (assuming Daniel is now injured), and every single defender not named “Jason Garrison” missing time, Vancouver has suffered through some ridiculous injuries. On top of all that, the powerplay shooting percentage is the worst it’s been in years, and while we don’t know if that’s systemic or not, there’s certainly an element of luck involved. Oh, and there’s also that 5v5 stuff about Burrows and Edler that was mentioned earlier. As the season slips away-and it surely has slipped away now as Dallas and Phoenix both have 3 games in hand on Vancouver-it’s worth remembering that nearly every roll of the dice and flip of the coin has gone against the Canucks this year. There are still pieces in place here that are a solid foundation.

Of course, while we can see the foundation, we can’t see the blueprint. This could all change by Wednesday afternoon based on what direction Mike Gillis and company choose to take. But we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there, so all we can do is hope that the bridge’s name isn’t “Brandon Sutter.”

The Conclusion

Really, I can’t think of a more Canuck afternoon than hosting an outdoor game indoors, holding a ceremony to honour a team that lost, stirring up a goaltending controversy that was dead and buried, and blowing a 2-goal lead to a mediocre opponent. I’m sure that buckets upon buckets of digital ink will be spilled breaking down just what the hell John Tortorella has done in benching Roberto Luongo for Vancouver’s marquee event of the season, but I have to think that they’re going to get eviscerated for it. When you turn your own home fans on a guy as likable as Eddie Lack, you’re doing something wrong. Really wrong.

A playoff spot may have slipped beyond reach during this most recent slide so the focus will be on the future, and just how the future looks will be largely determined by what happens Wednesday. We’ll have all your Canucks trade news here, as well as a thorough breakdown of the seemingly imminent Ryan Kesler deal if it happens. The Canucks’ next game is on Tuesday against the Phoenix Coyotes, and Vancouver desperately needs a win to keep pace with the teams they’re battling with for the final wild card spot in the West. We’ll see you then.

  • J.D. Burke

    Dear Roberto,

    If you go full Bryzgalov, make ambiguous comments to the media, rip management and intentionally let in goals for the rest of the season to force a buyout, I will still support you.

    • andyg

      Lu didn’t deserve the benching and Lack didn’t deserve the boos. Gillis and Tortorella should get both. I think I’ll check back on the team in November this is now just embarrassing, especially the shoddy treatment of players who deserve so much more.

  • J.D. Burke

    It looks like Lu has to be bought out. I can’t imagine either side wanting to go through this again in the offseason and the next few years. Also if Kess is traded to Pitt for Brandon Sutter, a 1st, 3rd and a Dman , then we could have some serious cap space to make a solid move.

    It’s to trade Kessler, but something has to be done. This team is in a shambles.

    • I don’t know why so many people hate this idea (Luongo being bought-out). I’m not for it, nor am I against it. Luongo doesn’t seem happy with the current situation in Van, but who could replace him? If Vancouver was to buy-out David Booth, and Roberto Luongo they would have 13+ million dollars worth of cap space (Keep in mind some players have to be re-signed, and the salary cap goes up). When Vancouver goes into the off-season, they can sign players like Vanek, Vrbata, Stastny, and loads of other great UFA’s. But there are no real stand-outs in goal. Mike Gillis (If he’s still around at the end of the season) would have to make a move for another goaltender, because if Joacim Erikson isn’t back-up material, and Eddie Lack isn’t good enough to start, Vancouver would have royally screwed themselves. If I were Canucks GM Mike Gillis, I would really start investing my scouts time into goaltending.

      I do feel Vancouver should start a rebuild or a “Re-tool” as Mike Gillis likes to call it. But I don’t want to see my team in the dumps for another 2-3+ years. Theres no winning in a rebuild (literally) it will never go your way.

      And about Kesler, he should go to Columbus (If he would go there) for Ryan Johansen. I know it might sound like I’m dreaming, but package something with Kesler, cause Vancouver would not only get a local Vancouver boy, but they would also be getting younger.

      • andyg

        Canucks only have 1 buyout left because they bought out Ballard. With the money and years remaining Lu has to be bought out. Lack has played very well this year as a rookie and think that the Canucks could excel with him in net.

        Doubt Kess would OK a trade to Columbus…. Going to your home town isn’t always it’s cracked up to be and they aren’t a Stanley Cup contender. This will be an interesting few days

      • andyg

        Do you really think high profile UFAs would want to sign in Vancouver? Keep dreaming.

        And Johansen is a big skilled centre who is just starting to scratch the surface. Columbus is not going to trade him for a veteran with lots of miles on his body.

        • andyg

          If Columbus was a serious contender then I could totally see them pitch a package (one that would include Johansen)to Vancouver for Kes. They’re just not that strong right now. The goal is the Cup and Kes would a huge asset to obtain to get to that goal.

          I hate the Pitt package offered for Kes. It’s a slap in the face. Give me a break.

  • andyg

    Lack has been one of the brightest spots of this season and fans were booing him? Those fans should be ashamed of themselves.

    With the Lucic business earlier this year, this nonsense today, and a few other things that have happened recently (not to mention, you know, two Stanley Cup riots), I’m ready to get on board with the “Canucks fans are the worst in the league” sentiment.

  • andyg

    I don’t under stand why all the sad faces. This is the best thing that could have happened to the team. This will push ownership to finally allow the big reset button to be pushed.

    Maybe Lou will end up in Florida. They need a goal tender and we have one that wants to be there.

  • andyg

    At this point, I don’t know what the hell is going on with the goalie situation. There’s really no controversy: Lack doesn’t have the experience yet to be a #1 (unless we want to do the full Dubnyk on him), so Lou has to be driving the bus.

    So why is the team management going out of its way to piss him off? He wants to be traded already; he’s signed a waiver to the no-trade already (at last year’s deadline). There’s no need to run him out of town.

    I hate to agree with NM00, but this is really starting to look like a team that needs a management reset. Not because they’re playing puppet-master games with Luongo; because they’re doing it so ineptly.

  • Gunnar

    Luongo should have been bought out last summer. We wouldn’t be having this conversation. There would be no more ‘additional’ crap this team has to deal with.

    Aquilini needs to get his sh#$ together.

  • Gunnar

    Curious to find our from those at the game if the “boos” were actually “Lou-s”. Hard to think that the fans have turned on Eddie Lack as he seemed to be one of the bright spots in an otherwise horrid season.

  • andyg

    It would be nice to see some write ups on this years draft.

    They say that is not as deep as next year but there looks to be some very good players in the top 10. Mostly forwards!

    Kind of what we need.

  • Mantastic

    why would you want Gillis to continue to re-tool the team? remember his idea from the end of last season where he thought the same thing and all he did was made the team thinner in depth and just change coaches? what makes you have faith in his thinking and actions?

    • andyg

      Well he put together the team for the 2011 run.

      The nhl level is thinner but we have more prospects in our system than we’ve had in years.

      Youth is what we need. I am just saying lets look at the bright side. We could be picking in the top 10.

      Lets look at whats there!

      • Mantastic

        You seriously think he put together the 2011 team!?!

        Sedin, Sedin, Kesler, Burrows, Hansen, Raymond, Bieksa, Edler, Salo, Luongo & Schneider were already here.

        He gets big props for stealing Ehrhoff from the rival Sharks.

        Aside from accepting Hamhuis’ gift to BC, all he did was replace the secondary/role players that were here prior to his arrival with new ones.

        It would have made little difference if Samuelsson, Manny, Torres & Ballard were instead Grabner, Morrison, Pyatt & Mitchell.

        Come to think of it, the latter group probably would have been better…

        • andyg

          OK that is true. Gillis was wise enough to keep what was here. I will go with that.

          You made a point that tradeing Kess we should be looking for front line players.Also true but when you look at what is out there you will see that it is slim picking.

          Moving him now could help us land a front line player at the draft. We could be picking as high as 5th.