It’s official: Canucks’ sellout streak ends at 474 games with less-than-capacity crowd vs. Lightning. http://t.co/opDQ3WEK4x
— Yahoo Sports NHL (@YahooSportsNHL) October 19, 2014
The Canucks already saw their sellout streak at home spoiled, but they entered tonight undefeated to start the season. On the second night of back-to-backs, facing a team that doesn’t hail from Alberta, it’s fair to say the Canucks faced their first real challenge of the young 2013-14 campaign.
Tampa Bay with their lengthy list of B.C. born talent – including a very upset Jason Garrison – came to town with hopes of improving upon their 2-1-1 start to the season. The Lightning are the subject of much adulation from pundits everywhere and are generally expected to compete for the Eastern Conference title. With their high-octane offence in tow, they aimed to showcase they were better than their record. A step was taken in the right direction tonight, at the expense of our beloved Canucks.
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Very little went the Canucks way off the hop. Vancouver slogged their way through the neutral zone with little to no success off the opening faceoff — controlled or otherwise.
On their first extended foray into the Lightning zone, Henrik Sedin coughed the puck up at the blue line to an eager Ondrej Palat. The PDO All-Star from last season launched a tape to tape pass onto the stick of Steven Stamkos, who happened to be floating around center ice at the time. This type of play doesn’t usually end well for the defending team, and this held true as Stamkos would launch a backhand deke past Eddie Lack.
That the goal was scored less than a minute into the game made for a bad start for the home team, but for Lack this was doubly ominous. After all it marked his entrance into the 2014 season. Having been relegated to a backup role, this was Lack’s first shot in 12 days. A Stamkos breakaway! Yeah, not ideal.
It wasn’t until the eight minute mark that things opened up for Vancouver, when an up-ice pass from Alex Edler was jumped on by Chris Higgins. Joining Higgins on this rush was none other than second-line center, Nick Bonino. They tic-tac-toed their way to a Chris Higgins chance in the slot, which was originally stopped by Ben Bishop, until Higgins snapped the rebound home.
Much like last season though, the Canucks first step forward was met with another back. The Lightning would reestablish their lead on Stamkos’ second goal of the night, as he hopped on a loose puck in the slot and out-muscled Henrik Sedin to put a backhander past Lack.
It was Lack who paid the price, but Henrik’s awful first period set the stage. Hank’s sole redemption came in the dwindling minutes of the period, as he and Alex Burrows went gangbusters on the penalty kill and actually generated a beautiful chance for.
Unfortunately for Vancouver, the second period started much like the first. They were sloppy, spent much of the time in their zone and paid the price for it in the form of a Dan Hamhuis tripping penalty. An ordinary tripping penalty generally wouldn’t be noteworthy, but it seemed as though the ensuing penalty kill did much to spark Vancouver’s resurrection back into this game. The Canucks managed to generate more pressure than the Lightning on this kill and as Burrows often does, he drew a penalty. Almost immediately following Hamhuis’ exit from the box, the rushing Canucks led by the Sedins and Edler did some excellent East-West passing before Edler launched a wrist shot high-glove on Bishop.
The penalty kill that set in motion that goal also set the table for much of the remaining game. Vancouver controlled the flow of play going forward and save for a brief spurt of chances, highlighted by an Eddie Lack save on Brian Boyle in the slot, that second period was very much so in the Canucks favor. It’s fair to wonder how much of this coincides with Victor Hedman’s departure from the game due to what looked like an injury to his hand, the result of blocking a puck, but the Canucks began driving play well before that — they just happened to up the ante afterwards. If not for a late Ryan Callahan goal on the power play, this would have been the perfect period for Vancouver.
Victor Hedman will not return tonight. Upper Body injury.
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) October 19, 2014
Vancouver continued this play in the third, but to little or no effect on the scoresheet. Continuing what had been a great night for Bishop, the door was shut and any hopes of a perfect season for Vancouver simultaneously dashed. No matter the Canucks move, the Lightning had an answer in net.
Interspersed in the Canucks onslaught of third period shots and chances, the Lightning used a rush play from their second-line to put things away for good. A recurring theme for the Canucks in the early going of this promising season reared its ugly head again, as the Canucks center failed to properly track and lift the stick of the trailing forward. In the case of this final goal, Henrik lost track of Alex Killorn who potted home a screened Eddie Lack to seal the deal.
The Canucks possession game throughout this contest was very encouraging. It’s fair to wonder how much score effects are at work here, but in score-close situations the Canucks still edged the Lightning 36-27. I hate to go there, but process is important over an 82-game season and if Vancouver can continue to play in a similar fashion to tonight’s showing, I’m hopeful for a good season.
There were a few drags on the Canucks possession tonight, but none were more apparent than Dan Hamhuis. Here’s the overlord himself on Hamhuis’ struggles:
Dan Hamhuis, usually Vancouver’s steadiest two-way D, has been on the ice for 4 Canucks shot attempts for and 10 against. Shield problems?
— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) October 19, 2014
The Canucks leading possession players land on both ends of the Canucks Army affection spectrum. Leading the way with a silently effective night was Chris Tanev, with a Corsi Rel% of 30.56. Next in line is Nick Bonino, who had a great night, as exemplified by his Corsi Rel.% of 20.54 on the night. Those were the leading possession players for each positional group.
Want some encouraging news regarding the Sedins and their usage? Tonight was a lot more 2010-11 than it was 2013-14, and that is encouraging. This club needs to rely on them offensively and did tonight, to the tune of 70% offensive zone starts.
This isn’t necessarily a numbers thing, but I think the Canucks need to take a good look at their defensive depth and how they feel it can hold over the rigors of an 82-game season. Below is a picture of the shift chart. Notice, if you will, that Yannick Weber saw the ice once in the entire second period. The Canucks are one injury into their top-six. Not good.
With the odds stacked against them, hosting a legitimate contender on the second night of back-to-back action, it’s hard not to feel all warm and fuzzy about the Canucks performance. They were driving play for the entirety of this game and were it not for an outstanding performance from Ben Bishop, it’s hard not to imagine them winning this game. In the mean time, I’m more than willing to settle for a…
— Dapper Don K (@khatinthekar) October 19, 2014