Canucks Army Postgame: Capital-izing On An Opportunity

It was a definite improvement over whatever the hell Friday was, but then again, most everything would be. The Vancouver Canucks first game home from a short road swing resulted in a 4-2 win over a pretty good Washington Capitals side, as three quick second period markers and some good discipline prevented the Caps from really getting a foothold in this game.

Oh, and Luca Sbisa scored the game winning goal. It’s not every day that you can write that sentence. Read past the jump for a full recap.

The Rundown

Vancouver looked much better in the early going than they did in their blowout loss to the Avalanche just two days ago. They pressured the Caps early in the period, generating a number of scoring chances, notably by Radim Vrbata who missed a backhander, Linden Vey who was stopped in close by Justin Peters, and Jannik Hansen who couldn’t re-direct an Alex Edler slap pass home. Peters was perfect in the first, as he kept the game tied at 0-0 entering the first intermission.

The second period almost started in a disastrous way, as Eric Fehr was sprung on a breakaway right off the opening faceoff, but Ryan Miller turned him aside. The Caps would continue to pressure Vancouver though, as a defensive zone turnover fell to rookie centre Andre Burakovsky, who set up Marcus Johansson for the 1-0 goal. This lead would be short lived however, as Vancouver continued to chip away at Justin Peters, before the dam finally burst with 14:00 to go in the second period.

First, Henrik Sedin shoveled a puck past Peters from an awkward angle on the power play to tie the game 1-1:

Then Nick Bonino fired a laser of a shot off the post and in on a 2-on-1 to give the Canucks a 2-1 lead:

And finally, Luca Sbisa’s(!) point shot found it’s way into the back of the Caps net just 25 seconds later, giving Vancouver a 3-1 lead that they would not give up:

Liam O’Brien would manage to cut into the Canucks’ lead as he caught Kevin Bieksa sleeping and snuck into the slot to redirect a puck past Ryan Miller, but that was as close as the Caps would come. Miller would close out the game with a couple of nice stops to preserve the lead, including his nicest ones off Troy Brouwer and John Carlson, and Radim Vrbata would add the rare powerplay empty net goal to seal the 4-2 Canucks win.

The Numbers

G08 v Washington

Chart courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.com.

The Canucks came out strong in the first period and generated a bunch of shots and chances early at even strength, but Washington made it a much more even game in the second and third periods. Where the Canucks really excelled was staying disciplined and not allowing Washington to have much powerplay time. The Caps had just two powerplays, limiting Alex Ovechkin to just under two and a half minutes of time at 5v4.

As far as individuals go, the Sedins saw heavy usage against the Ovechkin-Backstrom-Fehr line in the defensive zone, and it resulted in a rare off night for them, as each member of that line had a Corsi% below 45%. Still, the twins and Vrbata were very good on the powerplay, manufacturing two goals, though one was into an empty net.

Interestingly enough, their ~45% offensive zone start percentages were still among the highest on the Canucks. As a team, Washington seems to excel at generating offensive zone faceoffs – as evidenced by their relative lack of guys who start mostly in the defensive zone – so this isn’t really surprising.

The fourth line of Jannik Hansen, Linden Vey, and Derek Dorsett was also very prominent tonight, as they generated a number of prominent chances and also led Vancouver in the puck possession department. Luca Sbisa, who was beyond awful on Friday, had himself a solid bounce-back night tonight too. The defender scored his first goal as a Canuck, saw a 48% Corsi despite a sub-30% OZ start%, and avoided any massive brain cramps (though the first Caps goal is debatable, I’d put that one more on Weber than Sbisa. There was also that pinch that took out Shawn Matthias and led to a Caps odd-man rush, but hey, baby steps, right?).

The Conclusion

Though nearly any effort would have been an improvement over Friday, it’s nice to see the Canucks bounce back and get right back in the W column. Vancouver’s next opponent is the Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner-less Carolina Hurricanes, who look to be early contenders for the Connor McDavid sweepstakes.

Despite their lousy record, the ‘Canes have actually been a just slightly worse puck possession team than the Canucks have been, but they’re also one of the few teams being submarined by worse even strength goaltending than Vancouver has seen. The big difference being that while Miller and Lack have been inconsistently bad, Ward and Khudobin have been consistently awful. And unlike Vancouver, Carolina can’t even outscore their goaltending woes. They’re no good, but they probably won’t be a bottom-5 team by the end of the year.

Oh, and one fun fact before we leave you: Roberto Luongo is currently 3rd in the NHL in even strength save percentage at 0.963, and Cory Schneider is 12th at 0.940. Miller and Lack? 25th and 42nd out of 43 qualified goalies. This stat means absolutely nothing right now and I expect both Vancouver goalies to climb much closer to both former Vancouver goalies before too long, but it’s still funny nonetheless.

  • Overall a very good bounce back game after Fridays debacle!

    Though they scored 4 goals the Canucks had a few other very good chances that Peters stopped. The opening of the second period was very disappointing.

    If there are two things that I hope the Canucks work out this year are the disappearing act they do over the course of a game. In the second they just went to sleep after a very good first period.

    Also a true home ice advantage. It would be nice to see Rogers Arena a place that is tough to play.

  • Man, if that’s as good as Sbisa gets, then we need to get rid of Sbisa. He has no hockey sense. Even on his goal, if he missed or fanned that then its a breakaway going the other way. Even when he does good, he’s still playing dumb. He’s just no good

  • andyg

    The top two lines look very good so far this year.Can the Sedins hit 90 to 100 points this year? Anything is possible if they can.
    The bottom six cannot stay the same if they are serious about making the playoffs.

    I would like to see some youth,given a shot. Grenier, Gaunce,Jensen can’t be worse then what we have seen from Matthias. Grenier is making a strong case for himself.

    • andyg

      Here is where a stat line may be a bit deceiving. It is nice to see Bonino have a nice stat line, but if you look at last night’s game against the Caps, if the Canucks still had Kesler, his line would have been matching up against Ovi’s, resulting in the Sedins to have more possession by not having to do so.

      Some things can’t be measured by points and especially a flawed stat like +/-

      • andyg

        This is some what true. I think we are going to see that Bonino will do well in a shut down role when it is asked of him. They may have matched the twins with Ovi’s line even with Kelser on the team.

        You must admit that it will be fun to watch their stats this year. An interesting side show.

      • andyg

        Your point highlights one of the main problems I have with Kesler, he is a shut down centre that worked hard to develop his offensive game. I’d much rather develop a third line guy (hopefully Horvat for the firs couple years of his career) to cover the shut down role and have two top lines that can score and play good defence.

        While Bonino needs to work on the defensive side of his game, he is a natural playmaker…he makes his line mates better…Kesler rarely did that.

      • andyg

        Valk pointed out last night that Kesler not being on the pP has actually opened up the top PP.

        Also, how many assists did Kes have last year? 2-3? He doesn’t improve his linemates. His best days are gone and Bonino is a solid player now, that I hope will continue to improve with more time and responsibility

  • DCR

    My concern is best summed up by this phrase:

    “Can you say ‘unsustainable shooting percentage?’

    I knew you could.”

    Look at the Top 6:

    Daniel 8.3%
    Henrik 28.6%
    Vrbata 14.3%
    Bonino 18.8%
    Higgins 9.5%
    Burrows 12.5%

    Henrik Sedin is not going to sustain an almost 30% sh%, and both Bonino and Vrbata are pushing 5 percentage points higher than their career averages. Burrows and Higgins are just under their career averages.

    Daniel’s the iffy one, he’s doing better than he has since the Keith hit, but still below his career average.

    • andyg

      This is one of those years where we could see some teems tank on purpose. We will see one on the ice tomorrow night. This could inflate players stats this year.

      Makes me wonder, why not us?

      However this is a year where the cup winner could draft a very good talent at 30. Unless Buffalo has their pick.

  • andyg

    Bonino has looked very good so far and I like his all around game. I was happy that Trader Jim was able to get him in the trade as I thought that they would end up with a prospect rather than a more established player.