Canucks Army Postgame: All Aboard The Jensen Train


This was supposed to be a huge showdown: Roberto Luongo against the evil empire that held him captive for the better part of two years. But a pair of floundering franchises whose playoff aspirations are largely extinguished at this point and a noon-on-a-Sunday start went a long way to killing any Luongo-related buzz that there would have been for an otherwise non-notable meeting between the Vancouver Canucks and the Florida Panthers in the middle of March.

Fortunately, Nicklas Jensen continued his strong play, notching his second goal in two games as well as a beautiful shootout winner to help give the Canucks a 4-3 shootout victory. Please take a moment to appreciate Jensen’s strong play before I mercilessly assassinate his character, much like I did with Bo Horvat, and read past the jump.

The Rundown

The first period started well for the visiting Canucks. Despite not scoring, Vancouver pretty clearly carried the play including a sequence where they hemmed the Scott Gomez line in the Panthers zone for a good three shifts. The Panthers would be the team to open the scoring though, as Jimmy Hayes re-directed a Tom Gilbert point shot to beat Eddie Lack on the powerplay to put the Luongos Panthers ahead 1-0.

But, Florida’s lead was short lived. Off a Henrik Sedin faceoff win, Dan Hamhuis fired a point shot that deflected off not one, but two defenders and past Roberto Luongo to tie the game at 1-1:

The de-facto top line struck again less than a minute later, giving Vancouver a 2-1 lead:

Train, train, Jensen train/The Vancouver Canucks are gonna win this game/JEN-SEN (oh yeah)/JEN-SEN

I’ve been quite critical of Jensen’s chances of becoming an impact NHL player, and while he’s been very, very good in his first real look in the NHL, I’d caution everyone about getting your hopes up. The fact of the matter is that his track record beyond these past 5 games is still full of red flags. Jensen is in his second AHL season, and just among guys who have played for the Canucks this year, Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, Chris Higgins, Jannik Hansen, Zack Kassian, Jordan Schroeder, Brad Richardson, Mike Santorelli, Zac Dalpe, Shawn Matthias and Dale Weise all got points at a higher rate than Jensen has in their respective sophomore AHL seasons. It’s possible that Jensen’s numbers have been depressed by a poor on-ice shooting percentage and that this list looks different if adjusted for age, but it’s still concerning and bears further examination nonetheless.

The second period was fairly uneventful, but Florida tied the game in the early 3rd as Vince Trocheck capitalized on an Alex Edler turnover to jam the puck past Eddie Lack and tie the game at 2-2. Once again, Vancouver responded in short order. After Scottie Upshall took a tripping penalty, Alex Burrows shoveled a rebound behind Roberto Luongo for his 3rd point of the night, and 6th in two games. Hooray for regression!

But, once more, the Panthers would battle back. After Alex Edler took a holding penalty with less than two minutes remaining in the game, Florida’s anemic powerplay once again shredded Vancouver’s penalty killers, leading to Jimmy Hayes’ second goal of the afternoon, tying the score at 3-3 and forcing overtime. The extra frame would decide nothing, setting the stage for Nicklas Jensen to play hero in the shootout. Jensen want bar down over Luongo, Eddie Lack stopped all three Panthers shooters, giving Vancouver a 4-3 win.

The Numbers

Fenwick chart for 2014-03-16 Canucks 4 at Panthers 3 (SO)

EV fenwick chart for 2014-03-16 Canucks 4 at Panthers 3 (SO)

Led by a strong night from Henrik Sedin, Vancouver was pretty clearly the better team, especially at even strength. The captain had two assists, and his line with Jensen and Burrows produced all three Vancouver goals. Alex Edler and Kevin Bieksa had an interesting night too. Despite some, uh, interesting shifts in their defensive zone, including this sequence in which Bieksa makes a great kick save, they led all defenders in this game, controlling over 60% of the shot attempts when they were on the ice.

Then again, there is this little stat:

Maybe let’s not play those guys together in the future…?

The Conclusion

If you assume that a team in the West will need at least 95 points to make the playoffs, Vancouver will need to go 11-0-1 to make the final wild card spot. By contrast, here are the records that the teams ahead of them need to reach 95 points:

  • Los Angeles: 6-7-1
  • Minnesota: 7-7-1
  • Dallas: 10-6-0
  • Phoenix: 10-4-0
Even with this win, the playoffs are more than likely beyond reach. Vancouver has zero room for error, so a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow would be another nail in the coffin. The Bolts triumphed in their last meeting back on January 1st by a 4-2 score, and now Steven Stamkos has returned to the lineup. Puck drop is at 4:30. We’ll see you then.

  • andyg

    Kess scored 33 goals in first 111 ahl games and came into a well established team.

    Jensen has 22 in 77 games. Utica has had all the growing pains of a new team.

    I also wonder about the potential of Grenier.

  • andyg

    I don’t think the first half of Jensen’s AHL season is indicative. He was legit bad, as were the Comets, but compare how many shots he took early on compared to his second half. It spiked A LOT and stayed.

    Jensen took 26 shots in 13 games in January. Then 17 in another 10 games in December. Then in January he put up 39 in 13. And then Febuary he put up 46 more in another 13 games. He only played two AHL games in March but up 9 shots in those two games.

    You don’t seem to dig too deep on the context of those AHL & CHL numbers, That’s Offside. The SOG stat isn’t all that advanced but it does imply something’s different in Jensen’s second half.

  • andyg

    Jensen hasn’t had a complete season at the AHL level yet, and Utica was awful top to bottom for the first half of the year, so I don’t think comparing Jensen’s AHL numbers to other Canucks is very useful at this point.

    Which isn’t to say we should assume he’s going to be the next Bertuzzi or something, but let’s not assume the opposite either.

  • andyg

    Schroeder has looked alright since coming back. Curious where people think he slots in our centre depth (Henrik-Kesler-Santorelli-Matthias-Richardson).

    On Jensen – is he good enough to be carried around by the Sedins on a top line? Also, Torts has given him an incredibly long leash (considering his track record) – instructions from above?

    • andyg

      Ideally Richardson would be playing wing and not centre. Schroeder is solid two-way and has more offensive upside than Matthias, but he’s also smaller. I’d imagine if everyone’s healthy, Schroeder and Matthias would be playing the 3C and 4C positions (depending on chemistry, opponent, who is hot, etc), with one of either Sanotrelli or Kesler playing wing and the other centering the second line, and Richardson playing 3/4 wing.

      Doubtful we’ll ever see that though, as there’s no chance the whole team will be healthy again before the off-season and we’re probably going to see a pretty different looking team next year.

      Jensen backchecks pretty hard and hasn’t made any big defensive blunders that I’ve noticed. That plus a couple goals gets you a long leash in most coaches’ books.

  • And here is Jensen’s updated profile:

    Thanks @Kyle for pointing me towards his shots-per month at the AHL level. I think that is more indicative than his assists.

    Also, does anyone think that Horvat/Shinkaruk (or any other prospect) has a better fantasy potential (basically points) than Jensen for the next couple of years? I don’t.

  • argoleas

    I can at least enjoy these games against teams like Florida because they are as awful as we are and we can get away for the most part with all the poor defensive coverage, sloppy passes, and half-hearted efforts. And squeak out a win (as long as we’re not up by 3 against the Isles).

    Too depressing to watch us against a good team.

    I’d like to know why the Canucks seem to always turn back into their zone against the forecheck, even when there’s no one up on the boards. It’s not a Tortorella system thing, they did it under AV too. It drives me crazy, either resulting in tons of time in their own zone or in awful giveaways like the Edler one on the Trotchek goal. And Henrik, despite the face-off wins and the assists just seems to be one or two seconds behind the play. On one of the PPs he came into the zone and we had numbers and position yet he peeled off and waited until FLA was set. I just don’t get it, it’s not just missing Daniel, it’s like he is playing as though it’s 2011; the league looks like it’s caught up to him.

    At least it’s enjoyable to watch a number of the younger players, not just Jensen, but Kassian, Tanev, Stanton, etc. Schroeder has looked ok but is too easily pushed off the puck. I wish it hadn’t taken the total collapse of the team to actually give the young guys a chance.

    Still on the fire Gillis train.

    • andyg

      What I can’t under stand is why Torts is still pushing with 3 lines. He had a chance to to put Arch back in and get some good minutes out of them. Now we have to play a tired crew tomorrow.

      The twins always played around 18 min under AV.(correct me if I am wrong)

      • andyg

        I think the twins played 17-18 minutes *even strength* under AV, but usually got a couple minutes on the powerplay too, bringing them up to about 20 on most nights. They’ve played about a minute more at evens under Torts, and a minute or two on the PK, so they’re up in the 22-23 minute range, which is dumb.

  • andyg

    My god!! didn`t Edlar have a terrible game? Didn`t anyone else noticed that?.Holy crap!! that giveaway, that penalty he took at the end ? They ripped him apart on 1040`s postgame show.He deserved it.Why the hell is Torts playing him 26 mins a game when he`s been dreadful? Minus 30 now and growing,(the 2nd worst plus minus in the entire league) his butt should be on the bench, not logging top mins.Sheesh!!
    Oh well you guys know your hockey better than me, so any comments/insight into this travesty (I`m still shaking my head) are muchly appreciated.Thanks.

  • andyg

    Nick spent the first half of the AHL season recovering from the shoulder injury that he received while at Canucks training camp. So to blame him for his lack of production is a little unreasonable.

    Then again, expecting patience from Canucks fans is a bit much.

  • asdf

    “It’s possible that Jensen’s numbers have been depressed by a poor on-ice shooting percentage and that this list looks different if adjusted for age, but it’s still concerning and bears further examination nonetheless.”

    You are intent are ruining are dreams for a happier future!! *sobs* DON’T EXAMINE IT FURTHER. Let us be delusional (to borrow NM00’s term).

    Actually, wasn’t his scoring in the Swedish Elite League (or whatever it’s called now), considered pretty good for his age last year? Saying Jensen is in his 2nd AHL season ignores that he spent most of his time with AIK last year, and was clearly adjusting with a Wolves team with different imperatives than the Canucks’ interests, and then this year it was a whole new franchise.

    And, small mercies: at least there’s now one Gillis first rounder playing for the Canucks…we won’t have to hear about that ever again, right NM00?

    • asdf

      “And, small mercies: at least there’s now one Gillis first rounder playing for the Canucks…we won’t have to hear about that ever again, right NM00?”


      Try finding a quote of mine to match your nonsense.

      Gillis has had the job for 6 years and the only one of his picks that “might” qualify as an NHL regular on Vancouver is Schroeder.

      And even that would be stretching.

      Jensen is a replacement player at the moment and that’s all Corrado has been as well.

      Frankly, that’s probably the best descriptor for Schroeder as well.

      You’re delusional if you think that’s “average”.

      But I encourage you to find an NHL team during the same time frame (2008-present) that is doing this poorly.

      Instead of sitting back on your heels and constantly apologizing for his blunders, you might also want to try and put forth a logical argument as to why he should remain in the GM chair.

      Aside from his sunk cost of a contract, that is…

      • asdf

        What’s sad is that the current run of semi-decent (WPG, FLA, WAS) and semi-disastrous (NYI) play means that the status quo will likely extend well into the offseason. Tortorella is more likely to be gone than Gillis, but in no way should Gillis be presiding over the retool/rebuild. He has had time enough to prove himself and the team has slid sideways and then backwards. What are his options between now and the start of next season? FA and drafts. He’s decent in the first and pretty terrible in the second. I see no reason to give him another shot.

        I think Schroeder’s more of a fringe player (at least the way he’s being utilized) than Jensen at this point. Regardless, it is time to engage in full auditions for the youngsters and I am hoping that Markstrom plays tonight. If not tonight, then when?

        • asdf

          As long as the team misses the playoffs, I’m not sure a few points here or there will change Aquillini’s mind.

          Though I still suspect Gillis gets another year unfortunately.

          I’m not sure why anyone would want Gillis in charge of a rebuild, though.

          His blunders are largely the reason the Canucks need a rebuild as opposed to what San Jose is doing, for example.

          The organizational depth chart has completely eroded under his watch.

          May as well play Markstrom.

          Although the Canucks now have one of the worst goalie tandems in the league.

          If they want to contend next year, at least one of these two goalies will need to be replaced…

  • andyg

    I think the criticism of Jensen has been generally too much. As others have posted he has been dealing with an injury the first half of this season and he hasn’t looked out of place when given a chance to have top six minutes. Not just the wicked shot; he’s been really hustling out there. Some dumb plays (especially the penalties mostly on over pursuing guys on the forecheck) but at least he’s not getting benched for making mistakes.

    Speaking of getting benched, why in god’s name is Sestito still out there? After a few weeks of not entirely putrid play, he’s back to his old self. He got into an entirely predictable and completely useless scrap that started as the Canucks were coming in on an odd-man rush. I’d much rather see Archibald and Welsh with Dalpe on the fourth line.

  • andyg

    If Jensen keeps this up, the question will be: can Daniel Sedin play alongside a center who’s not his brother? It would be nice for Jensen to play alongside Burrow/Henrik for an extended amount of games before you split them up again. W

    Versatility of skill set and attack contributes greatly to success on the ice. For the past 8+ years, we have been locking up our top 6 forwards with the same combination of Daniel/Henrik plus the game of “you-name-a-winger.” You can’t keep putting the same tricks out there because your opposition is constantly upgrading to be better than you each year….

    Henrik has been consistently been a fantastic center. He holds the puck so well and makes players around him alot better. We need Daniel to contribute alot more in his own way (and by that, I don’t mean he should increase the amount he carries the puck to dictate play like Henrik) to better distribute the skill set of our players when things go wrong.

    Daniel needs to learn to be more versatile… Maybe plug him next to a hard-working center like Matthias and big right-winger with hands in Kassian when you need to attack… or Hansen when you need to grind out a close lead.

    Because at the end of the day, Daniel cost as much as Henrik but is not performing as well as Henrik. He needs to find other ways to contribute besides just waiting for Henrik to pass to him.

  • argoleas

    I have to agree with many of the comments here…

    You might as well say that he’s in his second NHL season….he played 2 games in the show last year.

    He played 26 AHL games before this season….technically he’s still a rookie in my books. Maybe not a “newb”, but a rookie nonetheless.

    Is he going to be a star? Probably not. Of the Canucks prospects, the only legitimate star potential I see is Shinkaruk….and even he will probably end up as more of a solid first-line/top 6 forward than n actual star.

    At this point I see Jensen as a slightly upgraded version of Mason Raymond….a speedy top-6 forward capable of consistently putting up 20-25 goals (consistency being the main difference between he and MayRay)and 40-50 points.

    However, I do think he’ll score 30 at some point, if even just the once. Especially if he gets to play with Henrik on a regular basis.

      • islander

        I think he has more of a skill set than Raymond, more size as well. Have him play out the string here, gain some confidence and see what next year brings.I’m cautiously optimistic about the kid but then again Gillis will probably trade him at the draft to move up one pick.