Canucks Army Postgame: Nail, Meet Coffin

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Hey, at least it wasn’t 9-1.

The Rundown

Here at the Army, we had a pretty modest goal for the Canucks tonight:

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:

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.

The Numbers

I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting the most important bits of tonight’s Fenwick charts, courtesy of Extra Skater

DucksVCanucks

DucksVCanucks2

“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:

PlayoffChances

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:

Lack-ingGoalies

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:

KassianBoothWOWY

richardsonWOWYbooth

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:

KassianBoothWOWY2

KassianBoothRichardsonWOWY

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.

The Conclusion

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!

      • argoleas

        So the question would be what center would those two really benefit from? Perhaps a center coming back in a potential Kesler trade? Any ideas what such an ideal center for those two would look like? Are we one big center away from having our own version of the Legion of Doom?

        And I guess this also puts the nail in the coffin for the Booth Buyout.

      • andyg

        What more could Horvat gain from the WHL?

        He can’t go to the AHL. I am not a big believer in bringing players to the NHL before some time on the farm but he may be an exception.

    • andyg

      Nah, with our luck he’s too young and too green for full time NHL checking line duty. I’m hoping Schroeder can hold his own at 5 on 5 next year. I think two semi-power forwards with the little man down the middle could have some potential as an offensive puck possession style third line

  • Or maybe, Edler and the Sedins sat Lack down and carefully convinced him of the importance of Operation Tank. In Swedish to keep Torts in the dark.

    “Yes, yes, we were just explaining the finer points of Roxy etiquette. Not planning a tank job that might get you fired, coach”

  • Big Cap

    Even though this Franchise is a complete disaster from top to bottom, its VERY clear Eddie Lack is NOT even close to being a legit #1.

    The good news is, at least the Twins are locked down for another 3 years…..

    1 Playoff win in 3 years.

    • Big Cap

      It’s so cute to get trolled by Oilers fans. At least Bruins, Blackhawks, Ducks, Kings, etc (i.e. real teams) know what the mythical land of the playoffs looks like. Trash talk about limited playoff wins would mean a bit more coming from a fan of a team that actually has seen them in the last decade.

  • I was thinking if they want to tank it, they should play markstrom. now I see the brilliance of playing Lack – he is awful and almost single handily will help the canucks draft a few spots better.

    `fight till the end, don’t give up, we still have a shot,’ the players mutter to the microphones, and then head home to play video games and laugh about how f’ed the team is.

  • Big Cap

    @That’s_Offside

    Do you know if there’s any way to look at age and save percentage in the different leagues for Lack, Markstrom, and Eriksson, and see if there’s any chance of predicting which one is most likely to be above average for the NHL? I know goalies are really hard to predict.

    Is one of those guys a possible number 1, or do you think the Canucks should see if they can get Reimer in the offseason for cheap?

    • When I’ve looked at goalies in the past, my analysis has kinda been bounded to whether or not they’ll make the NHL in any capacity rather than whether or not they’ll be good. There probably is a way to try and look at this, but experience from studying CHL goalies tells me that the fail rate for goalies is so high that any kind of linear regression won’t yield an answer.

      Once goalies are in the NHL, they’re pretty much voodoo. I know @garik16 on Twitter has done some stuff predicting future goalie performance based on past NHL performance and other factors like age, but again I’m not sure how valid this is given Lack and Markstrom’s non-exist any track records.

      Vancouver should probably explore Reimer, Halak, Hiller, etc anyways. No matter what you think of Eddie Lack, it’s insane to charge forward with him as your #1. He’s a massive unknown that may still has as good a chance of being Ondrej Pavelec as he does Pekka Rinne.

  • Big Cap

    Half the team has quit, they are just going through the motions. Players who are in their contract year are trying and also the young players.

    Trading Lou was the signal to the veterans the season is over.

    Can’t really get upset at the results of the game/games they have quit.

  • argoleas

    No Reimer, please. His GAA is 44th of the 45 goalies listed by TSN and his save percentage is 34th. All the goalies mentioned as a replacement for Lack have much worse stats. I’m sure Kesler would blind himself before he agreed to waive his contract to go to Edmonton. Gillis may have turned the Canucks into a gong show but Lowe has made the Oilers a full 3-ring circus!

  • andyg

    @That’s_Offside:

    Thanks! It seems like goaltending is the last place “seeing him good” is really the only way to go to find young talent. And then you hope you got lucky.

    Not sure that Torts is the best guy to decide how to use the young goalies. I can’t understand why he’s not starting Markstrom (or calling up Eriksson), especially on the second game of a back to back.

  • We have big, semi talented centre to play with Booth and Kassian next year on the third line. His name is Shawn Mathias. Henrik Sedin is our first line centre and – one would hope – our second line centre will come In return for Ryan Kesler. Or if no one steps up with a decent offer it will be Kesler himself.

  • andyg

    Mathias is more of a quality 4th line centre. Bo might be the 3rd line experiment between Kassian and Booth. Hank will be in the 1-2nd because he is what he is. The question has to do with Mister Kesler trade (or not) and the the wingers coming up or in. Will there be a new line, a new centre? We do not know. Let’s just enjoy the try-outs of the new kids over the next few games, because it is all we have for now.