Canucks Army Postgame: Oilers D in Mid-Season Form

Vancouver entered Edmonton on Thursday night with one of their most complete rosters of the preseason. With the extremely notable exception of the Sedin twins, Vancouver’s top-3 lines and entire defense looked like something you could expect to see at some point this season.

It wasn’t a fantastic performance against a young and largely unproven Oilers squad, however, as both teams struggled to generate much in terms of offense for the night. The Canucks would manage to capitalize on two glaring defensive miscues by the home side, and Eddie Lack was nearly perfect once again, giving the Canucks a 2-1 win.

Read past the jump for a full recap.

The Rundown

The first period was by far and away the most physical period Vancouver has played this season, thanks in large part to some of the Oilers depth guys looking to make an impression. Bo Horvat was an early victim of a big Tyler Pitlick hit, as Pitlick caught the young Canucks centre looking the other way on a defensive zone breakout. Horvat left the game and would not return with an upper body injury, limiting the Canucks to just 11 forwards for most of the night.

This also seemed to spark some nastiness, as Kevin Bieksa took a run at Pitlick later in the shift, missing the Oiler forward. Derek Dorsett would drop the gloves with Steve Pinizzotto a few minutes later, in the first of three fights on the night.

Edmonton would open the scoring later in the period, as Kevin Bieksa scrambled to cover a player on Dan Hamhuis’ side of the ice, leaving Teddy Purcell all alone in the slot. Despite being hounded by Chris Higgins, Purcell slid a backhand past Eddie Lack and just over the goal line before being shoved into the Canucks netminder. Lack would be slow to get up, as it looked like he had injured his neck, but would remain in the game and stop every other Oiler shot he faced.

The end of the 1st and beginning of the second was marked by more ill will, as Shawn Matthias and Will Acton squared off – Matthias’ first NHL fight since 2012 – and Tom Sestito appeared absolutely determined to make an impact on the scoresheet in the only way he really knows how. Sestito dropped the gloves with Oilers forward Jesse Joensuu, who turned out to be an unwilling combatant. Then, he ran Oilers goalie Viktor Fasth mere second upon being released from the penalty box and got into a scrum with Darnell Nurse before being sent off again.

Vancouver would tie the game at 1-1 a few minutes later, as Alex Burrows beat out an Edmonton backchecker, drew every single person in the building wearing an Oilers jersey to him, then slid a pass to Alex Edler who set up Nick Bonino for as easy a shorthanded goal as you’ll ever see:

I mean, just look at that defensive coverage:

And oh, those Oilers weren’t done there. After a too many men on the ice penalty negated a Vancouver powerplay, Derek Dorsett battled the puck out of the Canucks zone, allowing Nicklas Jensen to gain the Edmonton zone and find Alex Edler out for a lovely stroll right down main street, who made no mistake, and gave Vancouver a 2-1 lead:

Once again, Edler had just a bit too much time and space, I think.

edlergoal

It was also an impressive sequence by Derek Dorsett, who you’ll notice is engaging the Oilers defender, preventing them from making an aggressive play on Edler. The newly acquired pest picked up an assist on the play, finishing the night a goal short of the Gordie Howe hat trick.

Eddie Lack turned away a couple of final Oilers chances and exhibited some excellent rebound control, allowing Vancouver to hold on for the 2-1 win.

The Numbers

It wasn’t a banner night for the Sedin-less Canucks, as they finished -7 in the Corsis at even strength. Still, it wasn’t as if they gave the Oilers much to work with – Edmonton only managed 38 shot attempts the whole night, powerplays included. Considering Vancouver was missing their best offense generators it’s not an entirely unexpected result, but against an Oilers team that played last night, you’d ideally like to see more from guys like Hunter Shinkaruk, Shawn Matthias, and Nicklas Jensen in terms of pushing the play in the right direction.

Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen were the only Canucks forwards in the black for ES Corsi, while Derek Dorsett and Nick Bonino, who were both solid with some very good sequences, broke even. The best Canucks on the night though were Chris Tanev and Alex Edler, the latter of which finished with two points on the night. As we talked about earlier today, hopefully this is a sign of the regression that’s to come.

The Corsis for this game, courtesy of Greg Sinclair’s new HockeyStats.ca

The Conclusion

Vancouver’s preseason wraps up on Saturday with another game against the Edmonton Oilers. It remains to be seen if Brad Richardson or Zack Kassian draw back into the lineup if they’re healthy, and the team will surely be awaiting word on Bo Horvat. Granted, a Horvat injury would make some of the roster decisions that need to be made in the immediate future much easier, but it’s still less than ideal. Vancouver needs to decide if they’re going to keep him around or send him back to the CHL eventually, and missing evaluation time due to an injury would be less than ideal.

The Sedins and Radim Vrbata are likely to draw back into the lineup on Saturday as Vancouver should have its most representative roster of what will happen in the regular season yet. I’d also expect Ryan Miller to get the start in goal, kicking off what is surely to be another fun season debating the merits of two goalies. Eddie Lack has been virtually unbeatable here, and if it were an open competition, would probably have done enough to be the opening night starter. Unfortunately for Lack, Miller is probably the guy until he falters.

There are still plenty of questions left unanswered, but regular season hockey is now just days away.

  • Canuck4Life20

    Lack and Edler were very very good tonight which bodes well if they can keep it up.

    Lacks play will have everyone buzzing about signing Miller or trading Eddie, but having both guys is a luxury. Both guys give the Canucks a chance to win each night they go out there. Lack has the personality to sit back a play 20-25 games and not have a melt down. He did tweet about Miler and him having dinner the day Miller was signed. Don’t believe there will be any tension, only good solid competition.

    Edler looked free and loose which no one saw last year. Hope coach Willie and playing with Tanev are what will bring the best out of him.

    Dorrsett is growing on me. The guy plays 100 mph and fore checks great. He may not score many, but will drive the play into the offensive zone and draw face offs and penalties, which will be goals for others.

  • I thought the Burrows/Bonino/Vey line looked very good. I am not convinced they should keep Horvat around. Send him to London, with instructions to think offense. I would have a chat with the Hunters, if they will not give him more offensive opportunities, then send him to Sweden for the year. I like the d, especially Edler, who looks like a new man. Bieksa is starting to show some age and made a few bad decisions, but playing with Hamhuis should cover those up. Sbisa also looked good. I would like to see a Higgins/Matthias/Kassian third line and move Hansen to 4th line LW. Today showed me again that Sestito ought to be gone, or at least begin a long period in the press box. He runs around looking for someone to hit or fight, but I see little purpose in his actions, unlike Dorsett, who runs around with clear objectives. Sestito was almost embarrassing.

  • bossram

    My god, Sbisa is a walking mistake machine…or skating, rather.

    I hope they can get some good work in with him, but Stanton has got to be ahead of Sbisa right now. Just brutal.

    You notice when defensemen who can’t move the puck out of their end are handling the puck, because that whole defensive zone turns into a tire fire. (SBISA, SBISA)

  • Don’t look now but in the 2 games that the Edler-Tanev pairing have been together, they’ve been the best players on the team while Hamhuis-Bieksa hasn’t looked so hot.

    Small sample size to be sure but will we finally see a reversal of who the 1st pairing is? I’m quite comfortable (ecstatic really) with Edler-Tanev leading the way in the future and for it to start now seems like perfect timing.

  • Question: did anyone notice that the Canucks D were really passing the puck back and forth a lot, and also with the forwards, in the defensive zone? Esp in the first half of the game. It looked like they were trying to play “possession” hockey, and break out as a unit. I haven’t been able to watch a lot of the preseason, and I don’t remember their break outs last year. So, this may be completely impressionistic from a couple of plays.

  • “Eddie Lack has been virtually unbeatable here, and if it were an open competition, would probably have done enough to be the opening night starter”

    Uh let’s at least see Lack outplay Miller in meaningful games before starting another so called controversy.

    One would hope professional hockey executives aren’t dumb enough to overvalue a string of games that mean a lot more to Lack (solidifying an NHL job) than to Miller (who has hardly played and has zero incentive to ramp things up).

    Or were Luongo’s slow starts a good reason to indulge in reactionary delusion every October…

      • andyg

        As small as a sample it was last year, Lack did play well in a limited role with good rest prior to Lou being traded.

        I hope that management is willing to play Lack more – if his play merits it – to maximize the team save percentage.

        That obviously should be the objective.

        Goaltending is an extremely taxing position so good rest for both Miller & Lack could be beneficial.

        Hopefully Horvat is good to go I’d at least like to see how he does in meaningful NHL games…