Hey, at least it wasn’t 9-1.
Here at the Army, we had a pretty modest goal for the Canucks tonight:
Realistic goal for the Canucks: don’t give up 8 more.
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) March 30, 2014
Then Luca Sbisa snapped his 41-game goal scoring slump by floating a slapshot from the point underneath Eddie Lack at 7:36 of the 1st period to open the scoring for the road-weary Ducks. And just over one minute later, Matt Beleskey whacked home a rebound to put the Ducks up by a 2-0 score. Expectations were quickly amended:
Updated realistic goal: keep things within single digits.
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) March 30, 2014
Fortunately for the Canucks, their fans, and ownership’s dwindling hopes of some playoff gate revenue, the Booth-Richardson-Kassian line continued their strong play, and generated a goal to pull the home side within one:
The video doesn’t really do justice to what was an excellent sequence of offensive zone pressure from Vancouver’s hottest line of late, as it only shows the last 5 seconds or so before the goal. Booth and Kassian controlled the puck down low for an extended period of time, generating three shot attempts in the 20 seconds before Brad Richardson hacked home the rebound.
We shouldn’t really expect the offense to keep coming from this group (with an assist, Zack Kassian now has 7 points in his last 4 games), but it’s nice to see the much maligned pair of Booth and Kassian get some bounces and consequently some love from the fans and media. As we’ve mentioned on this site before and will mention again shortly, Booth and Kassian have been a very effective pairing for the Canucks this season even when the goals weren’t going in.
The rest of the game went much worse however, as Eddie Lack had a really rough night. Saku Koivu fired a backhand past the Swede at 11:02 of the second period after the Edler-Bieksa pairing from hell was (predictably) burned for the 3-1 goal, then Anaheim added two more in the 3rd as Corey Perry and Mathieu Perreault scored to give the Ducks an insurmountable 5-1 lead. Game, set, season.
I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting the most important bits of tonight’s Fenwick charts, courtesy of Extra Skater:
“What the hell is 0.47%?” I hear you asking. Well, that’s Vancouver’s chance to make the playoffs after tonight’s loss to Anaheim and Dallas’ win over the St. Louis Blues according to SportsClubStats.com. We give the Leafs a lot of grief for driving the semi truck over the cliff, but Vancouver’s kind of done the same thing. Here’s the graph of the Canucks’ playoff chances over the course of the season:
Yeah. You can look at all the gory details here.
Part of the reason for this downfall is that Eddie Lack simply has not been good enough to give the Canucks a chance to win. He’s been brutal since the Heritage Classic, and so bad that even Ondrej Pavelec would be expected to stop more pucks in this span. Again, here’s a graph illustrating Lack’s downfall:
The blue line is Eddie Lack’s save percentage on the season, which was 0.924 after Vancouver lost to Ottawa at B.C. Place. The red line is Lack’s save percentage since that game. Now, I have no good explanation as to why this is the case. It could be that Eddie Lack is a true-talent below NHL average goalie and this is just regression towards the mean. It could mean that Eddie Lack is a true-talent above average NHL goalie and this is just some bad variance. It could mean that starting eleven thousand consecutive games is not a reasonable thing to ask of a rookie goaltender and he’s just dead tired. There are probably elements of truth to all three scenarios, but it still doesn’t change the fact that Lack is faltering badly down the stretch.
But finally, on a more positive note, we have David Booth and Zack Kassian’s performance. They were both very good again tonight, generating six shots and ten shot attempts, carrying a Corsi of 60.9% and 67.9% respectively, and helping Vancouver score their only goal. If you remember some stuff from January/February, you’ll recall that strong play from the Booth/Kassian pair was something that we’ve been touching on all season. If not, here are the graphs I made for a post in January:
Basically, David Booth and Zack Kassian have been exceptionally strong together for the whole year, consistently carrying play and out-attempting the opposition. Only now have pucks been bouncing in for them and more people are starting to take notice that, hey, these guys are actually pretty useful depth forwards.
What the Brad Richardson chart shows is that Richardson isn’t the key to getting these guys going either. In fact, Richardson has been a boat anchor at 5v5. I looked at this stuff again tonight, and found that pretty much the same stuff is happening:
Booth and Kassian seem to help each other out, while Richardson looks like a total passenger. I will admit that these WOWY charts do undersell Richardson a little, because he’s been with guys like Sestito, Weise, Hansen and Higgins when without Kassian or Booth, and also deployed in an extremely defensive role–he has just a 30.7% offensive zone start rate on the year. That being said, I definitely don’t think he’s helping Booth or Kassian much if at all, and Vancouver desperately needs a good centre for those two. Maybe then we’ll start to see some of this scoring sustain itself over a full 82 games and not just a couple of weeks if they can find a guy better than a career 4th liner in free agency or from within.
One more note: both Kassian and Booth have a sub-45% offensive zone start rate too, so it’s not as if their success has been a result of being sheltered. At this point, I don’t see a good reason why Kassian and Booth should ever be split up.
Wait! Don’t go! The season isn’t over yet! Our big get-together event is on Tuesday at The Pint against Alain Vigneault’s New York Rangers. Please get your tickets here and join us for a few hours of self-loathing, prospect hating, and worship of the old gods. We hope to see you then!