Canucks Army Postgame: Canucks to Go 82-0, Sweep Playoffs, Win Stanley Cup

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.

The Rundown

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:

The Numbers

chart

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.”

The Conclusion

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.

  • One game sample size but its never pretty to see your top line get murdered like that, by the Flames no less.

    Faceoffs were also abysmal tonight and is something the team needs to keep an eye on. Looked like something that contributed to those putrid numbers for the twins.

  • It saddens me to see the Sedins used like this. They should not be penalty killers and they should be starting 60+% in the offensive zone, especially at this point in their careers.

    Desjardins, you are on thin ice with me starting now.

    • WHY DON’T YOU GIVE THE TWINS A BABY BOTTLE WHILE YOU’RE AT IT?

      Do you also want to spoil rich CEO’s and politicians too?

      What is so bad about getting the twins to work at what they are being paid to do?

      Hasn’t anyone ever told you to ” earn your pay”?

      Sedin is getting paid to do a hockey job. He needs to earn his pay or go hustle on Main and Hastings.

    • Willie has stated he will not be afraid to use them at the very end (final 20 seconds of the penalty kill if he can), i believe av used them in this role to some degree as well. So your going to see them in some degree on the PK, whether it becomes more or less remains to be seen.

      • mk

        Yes, exactly, it wasn’t like the Sedins were out there for the bulk of the PK or on the 5-3. It was at the end of the period for the 1st period PK and later towards the end of the other PKs. People need to chill.

        I actually thought Sbisa was much better than I thought he’d be — he still seems dumb and prone to very high risk outlet passes (or ones that leave his partner to be crushed) but he laid a few good hits and was much more mobile than I thought in the preseason. With a few exceptions (Higgins, Burrows, Tanev, Vrbata) they all looked pretty rusty. A very sloppy game on both ends. I was particularly surprised at how noticeable Gaudreau was and how totally invisible Monahan was (but I think he was nursing an injury, no?)

  • “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.”

    http://canucksarmy.com/2013/12/6/safe-is-death-has-come-to-vancouver

    If the social scientists don’t agree, who am I to believe…

  • It sorta seemed like the Sedins ended up on the PK at times to create a rush situation, as opposed to penalty kill via cleaning the puck out of the d zone. The Tanev chance being the obvious example. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

  • “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.”

    Huh Torts?

    You were around in 2012-2013 when the fan base demanded av be fired for trying to protect one goal leads? This is the 3rd coach this is happening to, not a torts thing. This is also a coach if you watched the texas stars games did not want his team sitting back. If this becomes another common theme the core needs to be looked at.

    But with that in mind its far to early to be pointing any fingers.

    • mk

      Also just to clarify with my quote i was referring to this.

      “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.”

      The fan base was in a rage during av’s final seasons blaming him for the team sitting back protecting 1 goal leads, then torts came in with his safe is death approach and it backfired, not only did we not hold the leads, we blew them.

      Its time this fan base stops pointing at coaching for things like this, i think av proved last season it was not his fault. Willie’s teams have always been built on hard work and never letting your foot off the gas. If you can get a hold of texas stars games from last year it was a sight to behold watching that team play. If it occurs all season under him as well (our 3rd coach), its time we stop blaming the coaches every season.

    • mk

      I’ve got to disagree with you there. The Canucks’ propensity for sitting way too far back to kill one- or two-goal games dates back to at least 2009-10. The ‘Hawks beat the boys in the playoffs in part, at least, because every time the Canucks had a lead, they would basically dare Chicago to score on them. So Chicago would, because they could.

      With a bad team, like Calgary, it’s disturbing. With a good team, like Chicago, it’s a messy form of suicide. And it is a bad habit the team has had for at least 5 years now.

  • mk

    My few thoughts on the game.

    The Sedins and Vrbata looked good but too often the defense pair on the ice with them got caught standing still watching them cycle and it lead to a lot of cycling down low but not a lot of quality scoring chances in front of the net. As a 5-man unit they need to be more fluid and dynamic to generate more chances. It’s the 1st game of the year so I expect they will work it out.

    The most-improved player award from last season goes to Zack Kassian – Where did those wheels come from? It seemed like he was all over the ice and dangerous every time he was in the offensive zone.

    I liked what I saw from Shawn Matthias. Good hard working blue-collar type of game. Stats don’t show it but he had a solid night.

    Do Edler and Sbisa have a bet on who can turn the puck over for goals the most this season?

    What kind of horrible death is Chris Tanev planning for Jonas Hiller’s glove?

    • mk

      To be fair, the Sedins were on the ice vs Backlund/Brodie/Giordano a lot last night. That trio is (other than Gaudreau) is the best on the Flames and actually up there as a great one in the league. Giordano + Brodie was one of the league’s best pairings last year.

      • mk

        Yeah I know, they were out against the Flames best all night. I wasn’t trying to say they should have been better because they had a pretty good night. But more than a few times I saw Hank behind the net or on side boards just standing there with the other 4 Canucks players doing the same, they weren’t moving as a 5-man unit very well. It’s probably just rust. It seems every time I noticed it happening Stanton was one of the defenseman. From what I remember he hasn’t had a tonne of ice-time with the twins, and Vrbata is new to the scene so it is a familiarity thing too. I expect in 10 games they should get it sorted out.

  • mk

    It’s one game, so I wouldn’t be too worried about Daniel’s PK usage. Besides, wasn’t that also because he was deployed near the end of penalty to catch the Flames PP unit on a counterattack? IIRC, AV used to do this to good effect.

  • andyg

    It was nice to see Burr get on the score sheet quick as well as Hank. Kassian did his best Kassian impression with bad plays followed by a goal and Edler started shaky, but didn’t get in his head and continued to play an aggressive game. A couple of things I noticed were:

    Tanevs confidence seems to be growing especially on the offensive end. If he keeps it up, he may end up being more than a solid stay at home D man.

    Verbata looks great with the twins. He plays there type of game and shoots the puck ALOT which should count for a few extra slithery goals created just by a shot. Health permitting, the top line should be a top line.

    Hanson needs to play tougher if he is going to be on the third line. He crashed last year and had two terrible plays that caused goals.

    As long as the Canucks don’t make bone headed plays , they should be tough to score against. Break always because of bad pinches or sloppy passes through the middle of the ice kill this team. Make the other guys make plays to score, don’t hand it too them.

  • andyg

    By the way for defensive zone deployment of sedins and the jumping to conclusions by the author.

    Botchford tonight said on team1040 the entire staff at rogers arena was extremely concerned with the game and the reason the sedins were in the defensive zone was not because willie is dumb and the next torts, but because he had no choice with how poorly the rest of the team was in the face off circle and they were very concerned about it.

    Sometimes you do need the entire story beyond the numbers.

    To bad we dont have manny malhotra and ryan kesler anymore, a luxury AV used well.