Rangers, Vigneault get the last (and never ending) chuckle in return to Vancouver

On Tuesday night the Vancouver Canucks welcomed former bench boss Alain Vigneault and his New York Rangers to the friendly, if sparsely attended, confines of Rogers Arena. Vancouver’s club played really well against an Eastern Conference team that I personally expect to make the Conference Finals, assuming Ryan McDonagh’s apparent shoulder injury isn’t too serious, of course. 

But despite a Herculean effort from Vancouver’s top-line the Canucks lost 3-1 and came undone thanks to some weak special teams play. 

Read past the jump for more.

Vancouver’s top-line deserves a lot of credit for very probably their best game of the season. Ryan Kesler, Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows suffocated the Rangers whenever they were on the ice, but were unable to get more than a single puck past Henrik Lundqvist. That happens, especially when you’re shooting on the best goaltender in hockey.

Still, the Canucks attempted 25 shots with Kesler on the ice at five-on-five on Tuesday night while surrendering just three shot attempts against. That’s an insane ratio, and it held steady (more or less) for both Burrows and Sedin. That Vancouver’s top-line manhandled a solid McDonagh, Girardi defensive pairing is an excellent sign going forward and suggests that maybe, just maybe, Vancouver’s top dogs have some bark left in them yet.

Unfortunately for Vancouver, and stop me if you’ve heard this one before, the bottom end of their lineup got torn apart by the Rangers supporting pieces. This Canucks club has dealt with a catastrophic lack of depth for several seasons now, an affliction that continued this season (and became pronounced when Henrik Sedin and Mike Santorelli were injured in the same game, by the same player, in mid-January). New York’s surprisingly good fourth line of Dan Carcillo, Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett just dismantled the Canucks at even-strength, and were rewarded with the game opening goal.

That first goal was kind of iffy, I’d say. Eddie Lack appeared to have covered the puck, and it’s tough to believe that the referees kept sight of it throughout. Still, it’s clear that Lack didn’t ultimately have control and I’d prefer, frankly, that referees were a little less generous with their whistles in similar situations as a general rule. Whatever, bad breaks happen.

From there the Rangers scored a pretty power-play goal, the result of some nice passing in the offensive zone. Kesler answered to make things interesting in the second period and that’s how it remained until the third frame when Vancouver received two straight power-play opportunities and did less than nothing with them. Nothing would’ve been an improvement on the actual result, actually.

The Canucks surrendered two five-alarm scoring chances on their second of two back-to-back power-play chances, the first a breakaway caused by a Jason Garrison whiff that the Canucks defender only just got back to stop. Vancouver wasn’t so lucky on the second such opportunity when Yannick Weber badly misjudged a pinch and sprung Rick Nash and St. Louis, two players who are pretty good, on a two-on-one. Nash set up St. Louis with an early pass and the sniper made no mistake, scoring his first goal as a New York Ranger by roofing the puck past Eddie Lack.

How good is St. Louis that he hadn’t scored a goal in 14 games and yet that short-handed, back-breaking tally was his 30th of the season?

Finally, because no Canucks game is complete without a bit of controversy, Burrows finished a hit on McDonagh while the Rangers defender was tied up with Zack Kassian while retrieving a dump in late in the third period. Burrows didn’t tag McDonagh from behind, and he didn’t appear to hit him in the head. But McDonagh was hurt on the play and Burrows is Burrows, so the Canucks winger was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct and Rangers fans are thirsty for his blood. 

Here’s a video of the hit in question:

Generally I’d call the major penalty and a misconduct an overreaction to the hit, maybe even a massive overreaction although it’s tough to get worked up about the call late in a decided regular season contest. I’ll accept that it was a bit of a cheap hit based on the time left on the game clock and the way McDonagh was already engaged with Zack Kassian, but it’s a minor penalty (if that) in my view. Will the league discipline Burrows further? I’d say a fine or a short suspension wouldn’t fall way outside what we might reasonably expect, especially if McDonagh is hurt, but I’d be mildly surprised by such an outcome.

With the loss the Canucks are now really, definitely, absolutely not making the postseason. But we’ve known that for weeks. More important than winning out for a sliver of a prayer of making the playoffs, the Canucks are pretty well poised to make a final Kursk like assault on a top-six pick and more favorable lottery odds.

With 79 points in 77 games the Canucks are within shouting distance of the Nashville’s and the Carolina’s of the universe, and that might be the difference between drafting a player like Michael Dal Colle or Hayden Fleury, or picking a guy like William Nylander and Robby Fabbri (you’d rather have the former two than the latter). Unlike Michael Dukakis, the Canucks would be well served by getting their tank on.

  • Darryl

    I believe this is the part of the season that Daniel, Bieksa and Kesler get put on LTIR and we bring up some scrubs to finish this tank correctly.


    All the rankings/mock drafts I see have Hayden going in the 8-15 range (ISS has him 10th). Which service are you using/referencing?

    A Dman makes sense as they will need three years minimum before they are ready and that is when our NTC contracts start to expire. But politically, I see GMMG (the owner) drafting a forward and sadly going for size, as opposed to skill. The team needs top line skill and bottom six players. With a top ten pick one should draft for the top line. I agree with @thatsoffside about Horvat. He will be a great 3rd line player/ average second line player, but there were top line players available in that draft slot (Nichushkin).

  • andyg

    I don’t think the Burrows hit was that bad. A bit late but no elbow and no contact to the head.

    I thought the hit on Matthias was worse.

    Burrows will probably get suspended. So goes this year.

  • andyg

    Team #tanknation should be thrilled at a potential Burrows suspension. Clearly that line was playing far too well. [eyeroll]

    So watching the last few games I’ve found myself asking myself (I have few friends) the same question over and over again.

    “So why do we want to trade Ryan Kesler again?”

    The guy plays with heart. He hits. He blocks shots. He kills it in the face off circle. He scores (goals, not assists apparently).

    Is Ryan Kesler the problem on this team?

    Gillis better get a king’s ransom for this guy or tell him he’s staying a Canuck. The rumoured offer we received for him at the deadline was dismal. Unless a team like Colorado or Philadelphia steps in at the Draft with the offer to true young talent (Statsny/O’Reilly/Couterier) we simply have to keep him.

    • Mantastic

      You want to trade Kesler because the team is so far from contention that hanging onto him and getting what the Isles did for Vanek at the 2016 trade deadline would be utterly pointless.

      Though for the sake of his own job security, it would not be surprising if Gillis keeps Kesler because trading him will almost assuredly make the 2014-2015 Canucks worse.

      And to think that a few months ago delusional Canuck fans were targetting 2015-2016 as the season when a Sharks-style “retool on the fly” would have Horvat and company supplementing a “core” of Kesler & mid-30s Sedin, Sedin & Luongo.


      • Darryl

        Here’s the thing. The “blow it up, we suck” crowd are professing a self-fulfilling prophesy. If we blow it all up, we WILL surely suck. Removing very good players from your roster and replacing them with players that aren’t as good doesn’t strike me as an awesome formula for winning.

        And being really, really bad is often a great strategy for remaining really really bad. For every example of a Pittsburgh or Chicago or Colorado there is an Edmonton or say the Vancouver Canucks for the first 30 years of their existence.

        If Kesler really, really wants out and we can get a worthwhile return for him, so be it. If the return is Simon Despres and a crappy first round pick in a crappy draft, colour me unimpressed and unconvinced.

        • Darryl

          My point exactly.

          Here is your four through ten from the 2010 Draft:

          4. Ryan Johansen CLB

          5.Nino Neiderreither NYI

          6. Brett Connolly TB

          7. Jeff Skinner CAR

          8. Alex Burmistrov ATL (WPG)

          9. Mikael Granlund MIN

          10. Dylan McIlarath NYR

          Johansen is a great young centre. The rest are okay at best, non-existent in the NHL at worst.

          The next four picks look like this:

          11. Jack Campbell DAL

          12. Cam Fowler ANA

          13. Brandon Gormley PHX

          14. Jaden Schwartz STL

          Are you telling me that having a 4-10 pick guarantees you something? That it gives you better odds at an impact player than picking 11 through 14? That’s weak reasoning. The sure-fire stars are normally taken 1 through 3, and that would mean the Canucks need to be truly awful. And one awful season compounds with another, where soon you’re wondering why you’re still wearing the jersey you brought to the arena.

          People like to cite Chicago as proof that tanking works, or Pittsburgh. But those two franchises weren’t awful for two season and then rebounded. They were awful for some time. Does anyone remember the half-empty United Arena during the early 2000s? How close was Pittsburgh to moving before Sidney Crosby fell in to their lap?

          And for those who say, “well, you’ll suck so bad next year, Connor McDavid will soon be selling out Rogers Arena.” But that happens only if you are some kind of suck AND the draft lottery goes your way. That`s a lot to bank on in a market with thin patience like Vancouver (or B.C. if you wish); and in an NHL era where Buffalo and Edmonton are already the poster boys for this type of failure. Neither will be good next year, and then what? Start Eddie Lack all 82 games? Let Torts play a little power play time? Tell the Sedins to play energy minutes? — Wait a minute! That could happen!

          Sigh, I like watching winning hockey. Trade Kesler? Sure. Just make sure what you are getting back matches his value.

          • andyg

            You are right the top 3 or 4 are always the best and after that it is a crap shoot.

            The Canucks have an aging group so we need top young talent to replace them. You can try to fill the holes through FA and maybe get to the play offs a couple more years.

            Then Kess will leave and we will get nothing. Also who is going to trade a proven young center to us for Kess.Why would anyone trade a 23 year old for a 30 year old?

            What you are going to get for a player like Kess is a young prospect (some one who has not proven himself) and draft picks.

            The only place you are going to get top 1st line players that are worth building around is in the draft. So you can either trade for a top 4 pick or suck bad enough to get one.

          • andyg

            But that is not entirely true. First, the Canucks have young players with which the future could be bright. Horvat, Shinkaruk and Cassels all look like guys who will be at least second liners in the NHL. Not next year, per se, but within the next three.

            Second, Kesler will fetch you value, but this year was tough for teams because of the shrunk salary cap. As the cap enlarges, teams will be able to take more liberal approaches to line-up construction. Kesler might not have fit a lot of contenders payroll structure this season, but in a offseason with very little on offer for great two-way centres, a guy like Kesler will draw suitors.

            Given that this year is a weaker draft year, there is little sense in trading Kesler when the prize is a lower end first round pick. That’s like grabbing a second rounder in 2015. Fans pulling for a season ending tank would be turning over police… climbing walls in disgust with that type of return.

            Looking forward to next season, the Canucks might find themselves with a better than expected value this summer for Kesler. Maybe a team with a need for a great two way centre, who kills penalties, plays physical and can score pops up. Maybe it isn’t a young centre the Canucks receive in return.

            This season jumped the shark the moment Torts ran hogwild in to the Flames dressing room. Since then, everyone has turned to tanking. But trading Kesler for a deal like Depres, Sutter and a late first round pick is three quarters for a loonie. That’s not good return considering what he still brings, and given he’s not yet 30 with two years control left.

            Let’s say how this plays out draft day forward. And let’s hope the player isn’t wearing a stupid neck beard.

          • andyg

            I agree that we have some very good young players coming.(Gaunce 2 more points tonight)
            To me Cassels looks like a steel.

            It has been a strange year and it will be interesting to see what the off season brings.

            If Kess wants to go, then they may have no choice. I just can’t see a team swapping him for a top young center. Maybe a young D from someone who needs a center and has depth at defense.

    • Darryl

      Because some people don’t understand how drafting works, how mediocre players picked 4-10 tend to be, and though they have zero faith in the current GM’s drafting skill, want him to have more draft picks to waste.

      Yes. Fans are insane. But tankers are also stupid.

    • Mantastic

      We’d have to finish near the bottom for almost a decade to have a similar party.

      Nope, I don’t mind finishing top 6 (for draft picks). There is no way we can do a quick fix.

      Gillis will have to deal vets for promising NHL youngsters. So, if Kes does go to Pitt then we’d need like a Bennett and Depres in return.

      Yes, we should deal Kes. He is not going to get younger and you should sell high once in a while to keep your team competitive.

      • andyg

        I think Kess will be moved.

        You have got to think that some of the other players with NT contracts and who want to win now will ask to be moved.

        Next years draft is consider a good one. Now is the right time.

        We have had some good years and some great hockey but nothing lasts forever.

        • Mantastic

          Once Kes leaves then I wouldn’t be surprised if others with NTCs waive. I suspect Bieksa and Hamhuis will want to stay as would the Sedins. I’d deal Hansen and Higgins as well if they bring anything in return.

          Yes, the 2015 draft is another deep one. The 2014 is pretty meh. Rumor is the top 8 picks will be very good but then there is a drop off. Having said all that, you can never tell.

  • andyg

    I look forward to when we are officially, mathematically eliminated so we don’t have to hear media/broadcasters carrying on the farce of the Canucks still being “in the hunt”. We know we’re done…it’s depressing to hear talk of the Canucks making the playoffs when we know that’s not going to happen.

  • andyg

    On the bright side, if Gillis is still calling the shots, the 2014 1st rounder + Bo Horvat + Zack Kassian will make for a very stiff 3rd line of the future…