Canucks Army Postgame: Just another moral victory

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 6.57.46 PM
Screenshot via @Gloomybb

If there’s one thing I remember from the 2013-14 Vancouver Canucks season – other than the Roberto Luongo trade, Ryan Kesler wanting out, Alex Burrows needing 68 games to score his first goal, and Henrik Sedin finally missing a game (..fine, it’s a longer list than I initially thought) – it’ll be all of the moral victories they took home. If you got points for those sorts of things in the NHL, the Canucks would be right up there in the Presidents’ Trophy picture, like the good ol’ days.

I bring it up because they managed to rack up another one of ’em on Friday night in Washington, in a game which they lost by a 4-3 score to a mediocre Capitals squad despite a hurried 3rd period comeback. Despite the battle and resolve they showed in the final frame to charge back, all they have to show for their efforts is another loss. That’s now 22 losses in their past 29 games, as the team now already has more regulation losses (29) than it has had in any season since ’07-’08 (the last time they missed the playoffs).

“Well, you have to be a realist.” Those were the ever-so-wise words by philosopher (and now proud owner of an NHL goal) Nicklas Jensen, following a moral victory that failed to get the team any points.

The Rundown

The Caps opened the scoring in the first after Jason Garrison was caught admiring Jason Garrison’s lack of wherewithal in the defensive zone. I don’t blame him, it was hilariously mesmerizing. I think we need to have a discussion about Jason Garrison, though. Here are his ice-time totals over the past 7 games: 17:31, 16:15, 16:24, 14:24, 18:28, 16:38, 12:46. 

He’s basically a 3rd pairing defenseman who plays on the 2nd unit power play at this point. I think there’s reason for concern with him, and after being quite high on him heading into this season (even if it was from more of an offensive production, fantasy pool point of view), I’ll readily concede that I was wrong. He’s slower than a glacier out there already, which is a problem since he’s about to turn 30 years old and is on the books for a $4.6 million cap hit for the next 4 seasons. Just something to keep in mind moving forward.

In the preview for this one I mentioned how I was looking forward to seeing Zack Kassian and David Booth play with a pivot who wasn’t named Brad Richardson, because I strongly believe we’d be looking at their seasons differently had they been playing with someone more offensively capable. Particularly Kassian, whose stellar passing has often gone unnoticed due of the black hole it has dipped into far too often. If you don’t believe me, check out this beautiful pass he makes to set Schroeder up for the goal that made it 1-1 (also, while we’re at it let’s give some love to Dan Hamhuis’ bowling ball routine that made it all possible):

The next two goals were scored by the Washington Capitals, and were assisted by Tom Sestito Top Sixtito. The ironic part about that moniker I started, is that it was initially sparked by a running joke about how the team was having so many injury problems that we’d start seeing him be a fixture in the top-6. But now, the joke has evolved into a reality – he’s doing everything he can to ensure that the Canucks pick in the top 6 come the draft.

Washington’s 2nd goal came with the man advantage following an ill-advised hooking penalty by the man that the Capitals’ broadcast team described as “a penalty waiting to happen”. Sestito has 24 PIMs more than anyone else in the league (and 47 more than 3rd place), so that’s not a terribly wrong description.

The problem in this instance was that Washington has the 2nd ranked PP in the league, and the main key heading into the game was to stay out of the box. They’re a mediocre 5v5 team, and they’re horrendous on the PK, so by giving them that opportunity you’re basically giving them an out. It didn’t take long for Ovechkin to score his 45th of the season

While Evgeny Kuznetsov’s brilliant pass definitely played a major role in the goal that made it 3-1 Washington, it was only really made possible by Sixtito’s casual defensive effort on Tom Wilson. You can actually see the moment where he realizes he’s out of position, and gives it his all to get back and cover him.. but it’s too late. 

The effort in the 3rd period by the Canucks, who entered the final 20 minutes trailing by a seemingly insurmountable 2 goals, was admirable. They pressed hard for some goals, and the Capitals turtled up like we often see teams do in such situations (though this was a little extreme, as they failed to register a single shot on goal in the opening 10:18 of the period).

Here’s Higgins setting up Matthias to cut the deficit to 1:

And then just 3 minutes or so later, here’s Nicklas Jensen’s 1st career goal to tie it up at 3:

Let’s get to Higgins first, who set both goals up. He’s now 4th on the team with 38 points on the season, and 2nd in goals with 17. With Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin both out, it’s at least feasible to believe that he’ll wind up being either 1 or 2 in both categories by year’s end. Considering the type of tough minutes that he plays, and that he hasn’t missed any sort of significant time (yet), does he finish on the short list of candidates for the Cyclone Taylor Trophy for the team’s MVP? He’s probably right up there with Kesler and Hamhuis at the moment. At least for me. 

As for Jensen, he’s doing a fine job of making the people who were pleading to see him up with the team for months now look smart. He topped 20 minutes on the night, registered 4 shots on goal, and put that beauty of a wrister home past Halak. If nothing else watching him develop and hit new levels will make the final weeks of this predominantly lost season redeemable.

I say that because Mike Green’s goal on the first shot of the 3rd period for the Capitals made it 4-3, and wound up being the game winner. With this regulation loss even the most irrationally optimistic fans out there need to start admitting to themselves that this isn’t the year. 

The Numbers

via Extra Skater [dot] com:

Fenwick chart for 2014-03-14 Canucks 3 at Capitals 4

EV fenwick chart for 2014-03-14 Canucks 3 at Capitals 4

The Canucks wound up dominating the overall shot differential battle at 5v5, but that was due to score effects more than anything else. In the 28 minutes of “score close” situations, the Capitals out corsi’d the Canucks 30-24. As you can see from the chart above, the landscape significantly changed in the 3rd period once the Canucks went on to have 16 unblocked shot attempts to just the 5 by the Capitals.

Eddie Lack stopped just 17 of the 21 shots he faced in this one, and in 6 games since the Roberto Luongo trade, he now has an .877 save %. Forget the fact that many of those goals against have directly stemmed from horrendous breakdowns in front of him. It’s six games. Just as it was too early to be proclaiming him the next big thing following his impressive 20 starts prior, it’s silly to jump to conclusions following this rough patch. 

Even the best, most established and reliable goaltenders in the world have wild fluctuations in their numbers, so it’s something that just comes with the territory. I get that the “there’s a difference between being in the shadows and being the team’s number 1!!” crowd has a leg to stand on because of the aforementioned numbers, but let’s try to remain rational here. He could just as easily string together a couple of stellar starts in the next week.

The Conclusion

Next up?


Feelings. You’ll need to wake up at Noon PST on Sunday, for what’ll surely be a massive group therapy session filled with tears, hugs, and memories.

  • Mantastic

    The Garrison issue is a matter of finding the right partner. We have three higher event guys in Garrison, Bieksa and Edler who seem more prone to errors and three ‘safer’ guys in Hamhuis, Stanton and Tanev. How hard is it to pair them up and avoid pairings like Edler-Bieksa?

  • andyg

    It was nice seeing Booth’s sister at the game and knowing she was going to score as many goals as him was fun too. They really need to scratch him for the rest of the season – he’s due for an injury soon and will probably screw up the buyout if given the chance.

  • andyg

    I love this team but to be honest, I’m hoping the fall continues as we head for a decent draft pick this year (for a change), heck, the way Gillis seems to find NHL talent late in the first round he might be able to find one early in the second.

  • argoleas

    I’ll take these moral victories.

    Great to see Schroeder get one, with the sweet Kassian assist as icing on the top.

    And also Jensen getting his first goal.

    I agree with van that the problem with Garrison can probably be fixed (or at least mitigated) by pairing him with someone who can help cover for him.

  • Uhhh… What?
    Tell me more about how you are on a Canucks blog for Canucks fans dissing the content provided to you for free (or probably at least less than minimum wage) by a Canucks blogger…
    On the other hand… Ellipses are fun… So I’ll give you that.
    This homer just said it isn’t our year, and the only thing we can take from it is a (somewhat sarcastic, somewhat sadly real) moral victory.

    Sorry for feeding the troll guys..

    • I’ve been wondering what his weird axe to grind is. Bizarre and a bit creepy.

      Watched all of six minutes of the game — turned it on in the second to see Sestito’s useless penalty followed by Ovechkin’s goal and shut it off. Turned it back on in the third to see Matthias and Jensen’s goal, both nice snipes. Could tell the whole shift before the Caps scored that it was coming and turned it off right away. That’s what’s so sad now, so little faith in this edition of the Canucks that one goal is kind of a backbreaker. Still, at least it’s nice to see some of the younger players getting more of a look.

      None of it changes my conviction that Gillis and Tortorella have to go.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    Deleted that comment. We have no time for personal attacks that do nothing to contribute to relevant discussion on this site. That person needs to do himself a favour and #logoff.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    Caman, all we want is top 5 pick!!

    This teams not making the playoffs. Pretty sure Aquillini knows who he’s going to can already. Why try and win games when you are in a good position to get a high draft pick. How often have they been in this poisition for a LONG LONG time.

    Time to tank. I fully support this.

  • andyg

    Hey guys, we need to fire Torts because it’s obvious he doesn’t fit the team. I mean, all we need is a new coach and we are back to ars being real contenders! We all know it’s never the teams fault, and the reason why the team has sucked is because the core needs more help. It’s like a lazy worker, if you can’t get him to pull his weight, why fire him and just bring in new ppl to cover his lazy ass, right? As far as I’m concerned, I believe the Sedins 100 percent when they say they still have the team to do it. I mean, why would the Sedins and Kesler and Burrows lie to us right?

    If we keep supporting this franchise, sooner or later they will reward us all with a Stanley Cup, right? You guys need to forget about any wholesale changes because we can wait. Heck what’s 44 years? I’m down with waiting for another 5 years to reach that wonderful half a century plateau! Then we can gather all the past canucks that have done nothing and celebrate how many awesome memories they’ve given us! Memories like the first finals when the team was raped by the islanders. How about when “fivehole” mclean and Linden choked in game 7? Oh, and my favorite memory of all time, when our captain Sedin was punching Marchand’s face with his glove!

    You see guys, the Canucks are all about building a winner, cause their motto has always been ” if at first you don’t succeed, try the same thing over and over and over again!” How can anyone argue with a plan like that? Don’t listen to all these Oiler haters, two presidents trophies in a weak division are enough after 44 years. And don’t even get me started on luongo, it’s so unfair of management to treat luo after all that he’s done during the Boston series for us. Luo was always the victim, and what a classy guy he is, especially when he said that his multi million dollar contract sucks. With all the children starving in this world, a man who is brave enough to say that his 60 million sucks is the epitome of class. Luongo, keep your head up, that sucky contract is something no one should be made to endure, and your jersey will be raised at the arena just like all the glorious Canucks who have won so many regular season battles for us! Oh, and by the way, you suck, POOPOOHEAD00!

  • andyg

    Hopefully the one bright spot from this season is that Nick Jensen proves he belongs in the NHL. He has the size and speed and the scoring touch has been shown. Will he keep it up? I hope so.

    If Jensen does belong in a Top Six forward situation the Canucks future isn’t complete disaster. 10-14 mil in cap room can cover a lot of holes, and the one thing this team has been lacking is top picks coming in and performing.

    Jensen and Kassian need to perform. Kass has shown offensive skills and some toughness but they get over shadowed by the ignorant mind boggling stupid plays. No more suspensions and no more drop passes in the offensive zone that start 3 on 1 .