Photo via Rich Lam/Getty Images
If there’s one positive thing to take away from tonight’s game between the Canucks and the Flames, it’s that, for at least another night, we’ve been spared from referring to the team’s performance as “rock-bottom” (for what would be, unofficially, the 128128121291205th time this season). It most certainly looked like we were headed towards that all too predictable outcome for a while there, but in the end the Canucks wound up prevailing by a 2-1 for the first time in the post-Roberto Luongo Era, so let’s shelve that phrase for now. Just don’t put it too far out of reach.
In a somewhat surprising turn of events, these two teams decided to forgo the fisticuffs from the last time they met up, settling for a game of hockey instead. While it wasn’t all that entertaining, at least it wasn’t a completely embarrassing sideshow.
But let’s not fool ourselves: it’s a testament to how far the team has plummeted – and in turn, how much we’ve needed to lower our expectations – that we’re reaching for stuff like this as positives. This was a game in which they won and got the two points, but beyond that, if you’re the Canucks you may as well burn all of the tapes and deny that this March 8th game was anything beyond a figment of everyone’s imagination.
The game started out with a bang. It wasn’t a full-out line brawl involving all 10 players on the ice, per se, but what it was, was Kevin Bieksa laying a good ol’ fashioned licking on Mark Giordano. Giordano, the captain of the Flames, is a tough dude (one of Don Cherry’s favourites, even!) and I’m not suggesting that he should back down from a fight..
But all I’m saying is that it probably would’ve been a wiser option to let this go and not ask for a fight. Maybe one day players around the league will learn that you don’t want to fight Kevin Bieksa when he’s mad and things aren’t going well.
Beyond that, though, if you were to write a script of the worst possible way to play the first 22 or so minutes of a game, it probably would’ve been acted out very similarly to this. The Canucks took 2 shots on goal in the opening 20, barely outdone by Calgary’s 3. Then just 2:13 into the 2nd, Brian McGrattan shot the puck by Eddie Lack and into the net.. from center ice..
Hey, wait a second! That was a completely unnecessary low blow from me to you, and I sincerely apologize for that. There was no need for me to rip open that wound that had been nicely scabbing up, nor did I need to pour rubbing alcohol into it. Here’s the actual video:
To Eddie’s credit, he bounced back pretty admirably from that mishap. The wheels really could’ve come off following that, but they didn’t. Had made some big saves as the game went on and the team in front of him turtled (more on this below), stopping 22 of 23 shots and earning the First Star for the game. This pad save on Lance Bouma was definitely his finest of the night.
There were a couple of real individual positives that took place in this one, so let’s get to them first. First off: congratulations to Darren Archibald on scoring his 1st career NHL goal, after our friend Rhys used him as a punchline of sorts to try and temper people’s expectations of Nicklas Jensen with a backhanded comparison involving him.
When Darren Archibald tells his grandchildren about his this moment one day, he’ll bounce them on his lap and reminisce about the team he streaked down the wing and went top corner with a bullet against Prime Miikka Kiprusoff. His story will be rebutted with “grandpa, you’re crazy, we just searched it up on this iPhone 24 here and you pretty clearly banged home a goalmouth scramble against Joni Ortio!”
A goal is a goal, right?
There was one more goal, and it was scored by Yannick Weber. For those scoring at home, tonight’s goal scorers were Darren Archibald, Brian McGrattan, and Yannick Weber. What a world we live in. Objectively speaking, the Weber tally to give the Canucks the lead was easily the nicest one of the night (not that it had any semblance of competition or anything..).
One of the things that people love about newcomer Shawn Matthias is his size, and he did a fine job of putting his 6’4” frame to use by taking the puck hard to the net. His line was easily the team’s most effective one all night, and we’ll get into their efforts in more detail in just a second. For now, enjoy the video and the over-the-moon Yannick Weber celebration that proceeded to take place:
It wasn’t overly pretty following that Weber goal, but Eddie Lack and some Canucks prayers for the clock to speed up were enough to secure the 2-1 win. Let’s get to the numbers, shall we?
Via Extra Skater, duh:
Looking at the numbers (to supplement the 3 hours of hockey I watched, so feel free to cancel your snarky comment about me “watching the game”) I don’t really know how the Canucks won this game. They finished the night with 14 shots on goal, which was easily their lowest total on the season. They’ve done 20 twice, which isn’t good, but 14 is a whole ‘nother level of stinky.
They failed to register a single fenwick event (a shot attempt that wasn’t blocked) in the final 12 minutes and 50 seconds of the game. Now, a lot of that can be attributed to the 3 bizarre penalties Chris Higgins took in the span of 8 minutes. I guess we got a GIF of him licking his lips out of it (s/t to Sean Larson). The problem is that the team was basically forced to flatline, and turtle up as Calgary threw everything but the kitchen sink towards their net. Thankfully they were mostly facing an Abbotsford Heat squad, so they wound up getting away with it, but pretty much 25-26 other teams would’ve at the very least tied this game up.
We briefly touched on their exploits when discussing the Yannick Weber goal, but the Sestito-Matthias-Booth line was the best one the team had rolling in this one. Booth led the team with a 61.9 corsi for % at 5v5 (13 shot attempts for, 8 against), and drew a penalty to boot. He didn’t get an assist next to his name, though, which makes this the David Boothiest performance ever. Classic.
Let’s get to Nicklas Jensen, who made his much anticipated season debut tonight. While he didn’t score or blow anyone away, I thought it was overall a pretty successful showing from him. To his credit, John Tortorella didn’t bury him, and actually put him in a spot to succeed. He looked like he had a real nose for getting to the right spots in the OZ in his 16:18 on the night, which was mostly next to Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins. When he wasn’t with them, he was with Henrik Sedin.
I’ll be interested to see how long a leash Tortorella gives him moving forward. If he wants to keep seeing this kind of time, he should probably make sure he doesn’t miss the net as badly as he did here the next time he gets a chance, though.
PJ: Are you saying Torts was going to be fired? Elliotte: There was a possibility tonight if they lost that something was going to happen
— Taj (@taj1944) March 9, 2014
Ho boy. Things have been pretty cataclysmic in Vancouver lately, so this shouldn’t come as *that* big of a surprise, but still. We’re less than a year into his tenure, and it’s widely believed that the team’s ownership won’t want to be on the hook for paying two coaches next season.. so you figure he stays, unless things really spiral out of control. Even further, I should say.
If this report is true, it’s ironic that Ryan Kesler played an integral part in saving the coach’s job. He played 24:54, won 14 of 21 faceoffs he took, saw a ton of Backlund/Cammalleri, and still managed a 55.6 corsi for %.