me when I see an NHL player pic.twitter.com/piVKnLN2At
— Schneider’s Teeth (@SchneidersTeeth) October 9, 2014
Okay, so, maybe they won’t quite go 82-0. Maybe they’ll even lose a game or two or thirty-eight along the way. Maybe they’ll lose 7-0 to Arizona on a rainy Tuesday in mid-January, losing Henrik Sedin and Dan Hamhuis to injury. Maybe they’ll go on a 10-game losing streak and miss the playoffs entirely. But for right now, the Vancouver Canucks are perfect. As of Wednesday, October 8th, 2014, Vancouver leads the NHL in points and has yet to lose a game. They won’t be perfect for long, and we don’t even know if they’ll be good for long, so we might as well enjoy the possibility of a perfect 2014-2015 season while we can.
Wednesday’s 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames was far from perfect. The defense made some sloppy turnovers, the team sat way too far back in the third period, and the Sedins got buried in possession, but a win now is worth the same as a win in March or April or May. What’s important is that they win 44 more games over the next 8 months.
Read past the jump for a recap on what was a night of many firsts for the 2014-2015 Vancouver Canucks.
As should be expected from a team playing in their home opener, the Calgary Flames were by far and away the more energetic team off the hop. They managed to draw the Canucks into going down 3-on-5 at one point, but were unable to capitalize on their early two-man advantage. Their best early chance came off of a brutal Alex Edler giveaway, but fortunately for the Canucks, VANCOUVER GIANTS LEGEND Lance Bouma wound up with the puck, firing it wide of Ryan Miller.
Still early in the 1st period, Luca Sbisa drew a penalty (+1 fancystat points!). The Canucks won the ensuing faceoff, worked the puck back to Dan Hamhuis, who fired a shot that Alex Burrows deflected through Jonas Hiller’s 5-hole, giving Vancouver a 1-0 lead:
Yes, not only did the Canucks score a powerplay goal on their first opportunity of the season, but Alex Burrows – he of the 0 goals on 70+ shots last season and history of brutal powerplay production – scored on his first shot on net. Surely, this is a sign of the apocalypse.
Vancouver very nearly made it 2-0 at the end of the first, as the Sedins, who were on the ice to kill a penalty (I thought they fired Torts…?), rushed down the ice and set up Chris Tanev who was robbed by Jonas Hiller’s glove.
The Flames would pull even early in the second period, however. Jannik Hansen turned the puck over to Joe Colborne at the offensive blueline, springing Paul Byron and another Flame on a 2-on-1. Byron kept the puck and snapped it through the pads of Ryan Miller, tying the game 1-1.
The tie was short lived however, as Zack Kassian gave Vancouver the lead just over a minute later. Brad Richardson pinched off a Flames clearing attempt along the boards, then attempted a little give-and-go play with Linden Vey. Unfortunately, Brad Richardson is not known for his soft hands, and Vey’s return pass bounced off of Richardson’s stick nullifying his scoring chance…
…and creating an even better one for Zack Kassian, who made no mistake in giving Vancouver a 2-1 lead.
The Sedins would score their first points of the season six minutes later, setting up Radim Vrbata for his controversial first goal as a Canuck:
The play was initially ruled no-goal by referee Tim Peel, but the call was reversed after video review. A call going the Canucks way? Surely, this too is a sign of the apocalypse.
Calgary would pull themselves back to within one goal though, as Jannik Hansen lost a puck battle on the side boards, causing the puck to squirt to an unexpecting Alex Edler, who bobbled it right into the slot and on to the stick of Jiri Hudler. Hudler snapped a shot past Ryan Miller, making the score 3-2 for the Canucks.
Vancouver had another glorious chance to take the two goal lead back again at the end of the second, but Daniel Sedin did literally the worst thing in the world and tried a slap shot from the top of the left faceoff dot while on a breakaway. That’s the type of move that talentless beer league hacks try, and it never seems to work. Hell, even Paul Byron’s move earlier in the game when he froze Miller with patience then snapped the puck 5-hole was a far, far better move. I can’t understand for the life of me what Daniel Sedin’s obsession is with slap shots off odd man rushes seems to be, but it’s a thing he does with alarming consistency for a guy that’s supposed to be a goal scorer. It’s not a goal scorer’s move, even if he is being caught from behind. It’s a plug’s move and he has to eliminate it from his game.
Okay, rant over. Henrik Sedin made up for it with a beauty of an empty netter to seal the deal, giving Vancouver the 4-2 win and making everything right in the world:
Even though ExtraSkater is gone, both Greg Sinclair and A.C. Thomas have stepped up to fill the game-by-game stats void. Check out Sinclair’s site at hockeystats.ca and Thomas’ at war-on-ice.com. Chart courtesy of HockeyStats.
For the bulk of the game, Vancouver really was the better team. They took over at roughly the 8-minute mark and were quite solid until the 3rd period, when score effects caught them hard. But, there are score effects, and then there is sitting back far too much. Vancouver was guilty of the latter. Hopefully, this isn’t the start of a trend. For a team that was pretty terrible at holding on to leads after two periods of play, it’s not the type of performance you want to see. It’ll take a while to figure out if it just takes a while to beat the Tortorella out of the upholstery, or if this is a concerning quirk to how new head coach Willie Desjardins coaches.
Speaking of quirks, for all the talk about the Sedins getting more Vigneault-like deployment this year, Willie Desjardins went to the Tortorella school of zone deployment, then took it further. Daniel and Henrik were actually last among all Canucks forwards in offensive zone start percentage tonight, while the fourth line of Hansen, Matthias, and Dorsett all saw heavy offensive zone deployment. Going further in on the I-thought-they-fired-Torts story,
Daniel Sedin was second among all Canucks forwards in shorthanded time on ice, playing more than their three best penalty killers remaining from last season: Brad Richardson, Chris Higgins, and Alex Burrows (who had the 7th highest SH TOI among Fs).
Edit: as Daniel Wagner of that other, less attractive Canucks blog pointed out, the official game summary has Daniel Sedin with 0:58 of SH TOI rather than the 1:30 that war-on-ice.com displayed. So, while Daniel was not second among the Canucks in SH TOI this game, he still exceeded what his average SH TOI per game was under Tortorella. Again, hopefully not the beginning of a trend.
Perhaps these factors played a large role in Henrik and Daniel’s 35% and 29% Fenwicks on the night; sub-Sestitoian numbers.
On the other end of the spectrum, Alex Edler and Luca Sbisa had very Alex Edler games: excellent possession numbers coupled with a couple of hilarious-only-because-they-won giveaways. Edler had a 66.7% Fenwick, while Sbisa’s was nearly 58%. Sbisa did start 2/3rds of his shifts in the offensive zone however, but hopefully this is the start of some solid play from him.
Perhaps the most impressive night was from Chris Tanev, though. The defenseman had two assists, a scoring chance, led the Canucks in shorthanded time on ice, and a 63% Fenwick despite a 25% OZS rate – Drew Doughty-like numbers, but lots of guys can have Doughty-like numbers in one-game samples. If he can turn in games half this impressive for the rest of the year, Jim Benning better lock him up long term. But that’s still a big “if.”
It wasn’t a real 60-minute effort, and there is still lots to work on, but it was nice to get a bunch of firsts out of the way. First win of the year, first NHL win for Willie Desjardins, first Canucks win for Ryan Miller, first Canucks points for Linden Vey and Radim Vrbata, and first goal for Radim Vrbata too. It was also great to see Alex Burrows, Zack Kassian, and Henrik Sedin to find the goal column early in the year, because god knows it wasn’t so easy for any of them last year for a variety of reasons.
Vancouver continues their quest for a perfect season against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday at 7:00 PM in Vancouver. Hopefully the Sedins can get back on track from a possession standpoint against a team they’ve traditionally feasted on, and the Canucks can take another step in the right direction. Until then, be sure to stick around Canucks Army as we’ll have a ton more stuff for you in the coming days. Here’s to 81 more good games.