Canucks Army Postgame: A Minor Setback

Radim Vrbata scored once in the first game against his former team, but it wasn’t enough to beat the ‘Yotes.

A collision between two pre-season powerhouses took place on Monday evening, when the Phoenix Arizona Coyotes came to town to take on the Vancouver Canucks. Aside from a newly appropriated franchise name, the Coyotes brought with them the full compliment of Canuck-killers in tow and their exciting lamentable brand of hockey to Rogers Arena.

The combination of boredom and team success can make for a tolerable game in Vancouver. When left ticking off the first box and not the second, though, you generally have a loss to the Nashville Predators or Arizona Coyotes. Tonight’s game was heavy on the first order and lacking on the second. You do the math.

That’s not to say that even a game as lacking in excitement as this one wasn’t worth the price of admission. From injuries to the Canucks sole remaining defensive prospect, to the offensive pressure of the three offensive ones crammed into a single line… this game wasn’t lacking in developments.

All of which I’ll try to get to, on the other side of the jump.

The Rundown

If asked to describe the flow of play through the opening minutes, the first word that comes to mind is stagnant. There was very little in the way of offensive push from either side; the Coyotes were clogging the neutral zone in mid-season form. And to the Canucks credit, they mustered very little in the way of an early response.

Ghosts of Tortorella were present, as the Canucks struggled mightily with zone entries and exits on either side of the ice. In the opening four minutes prior to the Derek Dorsett goal – a sight which I advise you out of the kindness of my heart not to get used to – the Canucks had mustered just one shot, courtesy of Daniel Sedin.

The rest of the period can aptly be described as plodding. Joe Vitale capitalized on a breakaway opportunity in a fashion which I am reticent to expect from the Canucks new netminder, Ryan Miller, a few months down the road. The puck slowly made it’s way accross the Vancouver blueline and Miller played a game of “you take it, I got it” with himself before settling for his crease, albeit poorly positioned to make the save. You could almost visualize the internal struggle that we’ve come to expect in the opening games of the Ryan Miller era. Miller is generally described as being overly aggressive, while Rollie Melanson preaches a calmer game spent playing in the shallow end of the blue paint.

Were it not for wanton PDObliteration all too reminiscent of last season, I would call the Canucks second period their best of the game. The flow of play became noticeably quicker, and the Canucks looked as though they had found their stride. A lot of the newly formed lines for tonight’s game appeared to have finally clicked. The kid line in particular, constituted by Hunter Shinkaruk, Bo Horvat and Nicklas Jensen produced sustained pressure on more than one occasion and generated chances aplenty.

The biggest takeaway from the second though – aside from two Coyotes goals of the ugliest variety – would be that of Frankie Corrado’s body. Upper body, if we’re being as specific as hockey nomenclature allows. Corrado delivered the most awkward hit I’ve seen in quite some time, as he would jump shoulder first on the backside of a Coyotes forward. He came up gingerly from that play, but was cross-checked into the boards later that shift as well. Who knows what exactly was his undoing?

Unfortunately for Canucks fans, all the excitement of this game was left in the second period. Entering the third, down by two, it seemed reasonable to expect the Canucks to have kept their foot on the gas. The opposite was the case, though, and Arizona kept the chances to a minimum and the goals at a premium. Each side would tally one more, with the game clincher for Arizona having a particular Swiss stench to it — not pointing fingers, Luca Sbisa.

On the encouraging side of things, Vancouver’s goal in the third was not only of the power play variety, but hot diggity was it ever gorgeous! The Canucks were clinical in their passing, before a cross crease missile landed on Radim Vrbata’s stick and was promptly launched towards the net. There was some confusion, as it originally looked as though Mike Smith made the save. Luckily for the Canucks, that wasn’t the case.

The Numbers

Pre-season game 5 Corsis

What’s old is new again in Vancouver. Looking at this chart, it’s easy enough to surmise that the “change” I keep hearing about on my TV is a long way from being a reality in Vancouver. The Canucks were top-heavy offensively and middling on the defensive end of things. The key similarity between this season and last, naturally, is Edler leading the ‘D in possession despite having an average-to-bad hockey game. If there was ever a time to drop the “enigmatic” label on a Swede…

The most encouraging nugget that we can glean from this poorly constructed spreadsheet, is the newly minted “Kids Line” dominating at evens. Shinkaruk and Jensen led the team in possession and Horvat was none too shabby in this regard either.

The defense fared all too poorly tonight, but how much of this is due to playing a man short for two-thirds of the game I just don’t know. Lets hope the answer is: very. Luca Sbisa’s defensive coverage was severely lacking on several occasions tonight, with at least one scoring chance and another goal coming to mind in the third. His possession totals seem a little on the generous side.

The Conclusion

I’d hardly call the Canucks play on the whole awful tonight, but it’s easy to see from the above chart that effort was lacking throughout the lineup. What’s most important to take away from these pre-season games are the individual performances of players on either side of the bubble.

Looking at Jensen and Shinkaruk in particular, I think they’ve greatly helped their case tonight. The two of them read incredibly well off each other in the fore check and made retrieval of the puck look like child’s play. For young-ish defenceman like Sbisa and Corrado, the same can not be said. With that in mind, we’re still just half-way through the pre-season.

The Canucks’ next game is Thursday in Edmonton at 6:00 PM PST. Join us then, won’t you?

  • I thought Edler was fine, maybe should have backed up instead of staying in the offensive zone on Vitale’s goal. I liked the way the Edler-Tanev pairing moves the puck up the ice and hopefully they stay together for the rest of preseason.

    That Higgins-Vey-Dorsett line got straight up murdered though. Also, I think we all know where Sbisa will be once Hamhuis and Bieksa are back in the lineup.

  • Great recap! Pretty much the summation from tonight’s game, except it’s time to talk about Sbisa.

    I’ve kept my mouth shut till tonights game. This guys has zero hockey sense. In the offensive zone, he makes horrible passes, and likes to shoot the puck down the boards when there’s NO ONE THERE TO RETREIVE IT. In the defensive zone, he doesn’t realize he’s supposed to keep the puck away from his goaltender. He also doesn’t realize what positions he’s playing, or how to do it at the NHl level. And I’m being generous.
    He’s incredibly terrible, and even being paired with Tanev can’t save this kid. I am in no way surprised he couldn’t amass half a season playing for a weak backend in Anaheim. Even they could see it.

    By January (short of defenseman injuries), he’ll be pushed out of the lineup in favour of Corrado or Weber. And Lack will likely be replacing Miller in net. Sound familiar? It’s like last season all over again….

    Change is coming………….. in the form of last year……. 🙂

    • Sbisa will need work on his offensive game, but in his own zone, he seems to have earned respect from opposing players. Sbisa is an animal in his own zone. Opposing teams will learn not to dump and chase into Sbisa’s corner. He’s a punishing player with impeccable hit timing.
      He clearly has real potential. Give it time. I’ll be interested in how he reacts to fast, speedy teams.Chicago, Edmonton, Tampa etc.
      Your points are valid though, to an extent.
      Mosey.

  • asdf

    All changes can’t come at the same time…

    Patience my friends! 😉

    Miller actually saved a lot, and at least two of the goals weren’t his to count for, but our lousy defence. 🙁 (Which will improve a lot with Hamhuis/Bieksa)

    So, Sbisa might not be there right now, or ever, but that’s not a big deal, we’ve got coverage for that.

    And Miller/Lack-tandem will be fine as well. Just give them a chance first!

    I just hope Jensen/Hunter will make the roster. Just send Sestito to waivers…

  • J.D. Burke

    How many times during this game did Mike Smith retrieve/play a dump-in? The man totally killed the Canucks’ forecheck. No goalie plays the puck better than Smith.

    The combination of Smith’s prowess playing the puck with the Coyote’s lockdown of the neutral zone gives the Coyotes a real advantage over teams (like the Canucks) who overly rely on the forecheck to enter the offensive zone.

    The only Canucks line able to consistently enter the Coyotes’ end with possession were the Sedins+Vrbata. That line had some excellent shifts in the offensive zone.

  • Mike Smith did the Canucks a huge favour last night if they choose to pay attention. There was still WAY to much “chip and chase” and not nearly enough controlled zone entries.

    Smith, with his excellent puck skills, made a mockery of the Canucks Chip and Chase game.

    When the Sedin line and Kid line kept the puck on their sticks as the they crossed the blue line, actual offensive zone chances resulted.

    Let’s hope the braintrust was paying attention.

  • On the Coyotes 4th goal, Sbisa looked absolutely lost out there. It seems that he has a lack of defensive awareness for the NHL level, and if he gets stuck out there against top competition he and his linemates will get lit up.

  • I just saw an article in the Sun that read Vey played a decent game and the kid line had a hard time sustaining any pressure. Pretty much the opposite of above. Analytics vs. old school?

    • J.D. Burke

      I was thinking exactly the same thing. The Kid line looked as good as the Sedin line this game. Shinkaruk especially, causing multiple turnovers in the offensive zone. That’s a great sign for his potential vs. lesser competition: takeaways. I watched this game, and wanted to see the Kids on the ice even more. The Sun article was ridiculous.

  • J.D. Burke

    The game over all wasn’t too bad. The I things I like.

    1. Sedins and Vrbata seemed to have a real sense for where each other will be and that is key for their increased offense. Also the PP looked crisp on their one rey.

    2. Dorrsett brought a lot of 4th line energy that has been lacking since Raffi was allowed to walk. Active guys like that on the bottomed six can draw penalties that set up the top Six.

    3. Speed if the game. Granted they were playing the second to worst team as far as selling the game of hockey as the fastest game in earth, but in the second/third periods the Canucks just looked faster out of their zone and to the puck than they did last year.

    Bad:

    1. Never want to see Weber pinch again! They guy is a walking break away.

    2.Vey looked jumpy and a bit out of control. His face offs were terrible also. Believe he is feeling the pressure to impress to prevent another season opener in the AHL.

    3. Edler was a mixed bag again. It might be rust, but he made a couple of unbelievably bad passes in the Canucks zone! Hopefully that will stop at preseason.

    Young guys looked good, but didn’t get much 3rd period play? Horvat was steady and Shinkaruk had more jump. Tough to make a choice.

    Bonino played all phases well but impressed me with a few slick passes on the rush.mi believe his play making skills were underrated coming from Ducks. Could bode well for Burrows.