Canucks Army Postgame: Breaking The Hab-it

In the early going, the Montreal Canadiens have made a habit of falling behind in games and clawing their way back to earn victories either late or in the shootout. While they rolled in to Vancouver with an impressive 8-2-0 record, their underlying numbers showed some warning signs that they couldn’t keep up this pace, and they were bound to drop a few games eventually.

Well, road-weary but still tenacious, the Habs managed to fall behind but claw their way back into the game once more, before the hometown Canucks finally fended them off with some beautiful Sedinery in overtime.

Read past the jump for a full recap of a hard-fought (and controversial!) 3-2 overtime win.

The Rundown

In a nice gesture to begin the game, Habs coach Michel Therrien put former Vancouver Canucks Mike Weaver, Dale Weise, and Manny Malhotra in Montreal’s starting lineup along with local boy and VANCOUVER GIANTS LEGEND Brendan Gallagher. It was a thoughtful move on behalf of the visiting coach, and it almost paid dividends as the Habs jumped out of the gate. Fortunately, it didn’t amount to anything though, as Vancouver quickly took control of the even strength game.

The first period was highlighted by a couple of missed scoring chances from guys you wouldn’t expect to score. First, Derek Dorsett blew past Jared Tinordi and Mike Weaver for a partial breakaway, but couldn’t manage to get a shot on Carey Price. Soon after, Dale Weise flew past the Canucks defense, but his stick was slashed in two by Kevin Bieksa. There was originally no penalty on the play, but Weise tossed the evidence in the direction of the referee, which was enough to deservedly indict Bieksa.

Nick Bonino had a glorious chance to score in the dying moments of the first period as well, but he wasn’t able to lift the puck over Carey Price, who robbed him with his head while sprawling cross crease. Vancouver had another fantastic chance to open the scoring in the second period when Zack Kassian caused a turnover which led to a wide open Shawn Matthias one-time chance that rang off the iron.

After carrying the play for much of the first half of the game, another Habs turnover led to a Nick Bonino and Derek Dorsett 2-on-1, and they executed it perfectly:

But wait, how the heck did that breakdown happen? Let’s zoom and enhance.


Yes, that is indeed Alex Burrows taking a late run at Habs defenseman Alexei Emelin and hitting him in the head. Emelin would return to action to start the third period, but let’s be straight up with ourselves here: it was a dirty hit. It was late, it was to Emelin’s head, and while it didn’t appear to cause anything more than a stinger, it’s interference at the very least, and a probable rule 48 violation. Although there was no penalty on the play, there absolutely should have been and Burrows does deserve to be suspended. Send out the Sixtito Signal, since they’re going to need a replacement.

Anyways, Burrows would have a glorious chance to give Vancouver a 2-0 lead in the early 3rd period, but he managed to slide a puck right past a wide open net and off the inside of the far post. Just a few seconds after though, Brad Richardson did his best Alex Ovechkin impression by cutting down his off wing and firing a high wrister through the defenseman’s legs to beat Carey Price:

This will be the first and last time that Brad Richardson is ever compared to Alex Ovechkin.

But the Habs are nothing if not persistent while trailing, as they would fight back to tie the game in the latter half of the third period, as they have done so many times this young season. First, Alex Galchenyuk tipped a P.K. Subban point shot past Ryan Miller, who looked to be wearing VANCOUVER GIANTS LEGEND Brendan Gallagher as some kind of overcoat. Upon review, however, it was determined that it was Kevin Bieksa’s fault that Gallagher was on top of Miller in the first place, and that Gallagher didn’t wind up on Miller until after the puck had sailed by. This looked like the right call upon video review, and Miller agreed with it after the game too.

Shawn Matthias had another fantastic chance to restore Vancouver’s two goal lead off of a quick Kassian centering pass, but he was robbed by the pad of Carey Price. This would almost prove costly too, as the Habs managed to tie the game at 2-2 shortly after. Radim Vrbata couldn’t clear the puck out of the Canucks end, and in the resulting chaos, Dale Weise found himself with the puck on his stick. Channeling his inner Derek Dorsett, he made a great pass in a 2-on-1 situation to a much better goal scorer (Max Pacioretty in this case), who tapped the puck into a nearly open cage, tying the game at 2-2 and sending it to overtime.

The result wasn’t in doubt for long though, as Tom Gilbert threw a pick in the offensive zone and was whistled for interference. And on the resulting powerplay, Sedinery happened:

 Canucks win in OT, 3-2 final.

The Numbers

G10 v Montreal

Courtesy of

Between the posts, scoring chances, and the run of 5-on-5 play, the Canucks were pretty clearly the better team tonight. They wound up carrying a 57.3% Corsi on the evening, and outshot the road weary Habs 26-20 at even strength.

Alex Burrows led all skaters in this game with a 76% Corsi and 82% Fenwick, as his play made a major impact on the ice. His tenacious approach proved a headache for the Habs all night long, and his second line shouldered a heavy burden for Vancouver. Fortunately for Canucks fans, Burrows’ line interfered with any plans the Habs had of winning in a big way.

Okay, I’ll stop now.

Yannick Weber also had one of his best games as a Canuck, firing eight shots towards Carey Price and seeing 66.7% of the Corsis go his way at 5-on-5. He did see some fairly cushy deployment as he started 3/4th of his shifts in the offensive zone mostly against Montreal’s 3rd line, but he still looked as if he was determined to score on the other Price sibling. (He is a former Hab too, but that’s a much more common plotline.)

The Matthias-Richardson-Kassian line had another strong night, as that trio continues to generate offensive zone time and look good playing a down-low bump-and-grind board game with some solid puck movement courtesy of Kassian as an added bonus. I’m skeptical that they can continue to play this well (just as I’m skeptical that Luca Sbisa can continue to be a positive possession player and Hamhuis and Bieksa can continue to be awful), but I’ll take three mediocre games if they can follow it up with three good ones on a regular basis.

The Conclusion

Not gonna lie, I did not see that coming. Vancouver is actually tied for the 4th most points with Nashville, Los Angeles, and San Jose, while trailing Tampa Bay, Montreal, and Anaheim. You’ll notice that three of those teams happen to play in the Pacific, so even though the Canucks are playing .700 hockey, they’re just keeping pace with their closest rivals.

Realistically though, Vancouver is a good team, but likely not the 5th best team in the NHL. They may exceed our preseason expectations if Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa and Brad Richardson and Shawn Matthias have all taken steps forward beyond the players they have been so far in their NHL careers, but it’s way, way too early to make that call.

The Canucks have a couple of deceptively tough opponents coming up in the improving young Oilers and red hot Nashville Predators before venturing into the murderers row of California for the first time next week. It’s a tough stretch – this is the NHL, they’re all tough stretches – and Vancouver’s depth (minus Alex Burrows, presumably) is going to have to keep playing well if they want to keep pace in the Pacific.

Until then, have a happy Halloween!

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    Ducks record: 8-3-0. Canucks record: 7-3-0 with a game in hand. It’s early still but one can’t help but wonder if Ryan Kesler is harboring any regrets.

    • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

      If he is paying attention it’s with a voodoo doll of Fin.

      Kesler seems like the kinda guy that would rather root for the Canucks demise without Himyarites appreciate any success he has with the Ducks.

      The “you are nothing without me” syndrome.

    • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

      Yeah, that would be ironic. The best would be the Canucks eliminating the Ducks in the playoffs. That would be awesome!

      BuffaloBillsOfHockey? Is that in reference to the Canucks? Really? Pretty stupid. You can’t really compare the two franchises at all.

  • Chungus

    That was a fun game to watch!

    But ya, Boninos carrying a 20%+ shooting %, Sbisa never gonna be a positive possession player despite getting the easier mins out of any dman, and the 3rd line (or 4th line, I’m still not sure which one is which) of mass-Richardon-Mathias is gonna get eaten alive against SJS, LA Chi and any team with 3 deep centres.

    Horvat is coming up on Sunday. Should be really interesting to see how he fares against the big boys. Unless he’s Sean Coutier’s doppleganger – I can’t imagine he’s ready as a young gun. He’s a great player, but he’s better off away from this team. Cause in 2 months time, this teams gonna be swimming, the fanbse is gonna be angry, and there’s gonna be a lot of pressure on the players. Better to keep all the young guns away from the trauma. Keep them in Utica and send Horvat back to Jr.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    Very interesting game in that it was a past and present , but hopefully not the future.

    The Canucks played well again for 2 1/2 periods. They were tough on the PPscored only two goals, but Dorsett had two good chances, Burrows hit a pos as well as another by Mathius. Then the ghost of Torts showed up around the 8 minute mark!,,, dun dun dun!

    The Canucks stopped playing and went on the defensive! Clogging up the neutral zone and letting the Habs control the play. Edler turned into Special Edler from last year and boom. Tie game

    Here’s hoping Coach Willie will not let an NHL team down two goal control the play and just stand still.

    Also how tough is PK… Jumping on Danny when he is lying on the ground. Wonder if he will go out tomorrow and take bags of candy away from 10 yr olds. Pathetic display of being a fake tough guy.

    • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

      The thing is the canucks simply dont have enough high end skill to bury a good team and put them away like they did back in the glory days.

      AV had us sitting back during his final seasons and the fanbase was erupting! Absolutely pissed at what he was doing. Turned out after torts came in and the blown leads got worse, av was right having us sit back and defend the lead.

      The team sat back but the habs announcers were saying how great they were playing defensively clogging up the neutral zone, the habs generated very few shots. I think the story here is just like it has been the last 3 seasons, late in the game when the game is on the line you cant make mistakes,take even a shift off, or make a bad play, good teams will make you pay. To many poor judgment lapses continue to cost us late in games and thats on the players, not coaching having us defend the lead. Av still has the rangers playing this way and they close out games with little issue. And believe it or not torts coached rangers were among the top team every season not blowing 3rd period leads…

      Back in 2011 we would have potted another goal or 2 and it wouldnt have mattered if we gave up one or two. That was when we were the best team in the league though.

  • Chungus

    I am sick of all the panning of Brad Richardson’s ability based on an extremely flawed Canucksarmy analysis from last year. He is not a bad possession player at all.

    This website’s analysis based that conclusion on his “WOWY” numbers, suggesting that Richardson’s two regular linemates were better off without him. Here’s the problem with that: Richardson was deployed frequently without those players in the defensive zone (by far the most defensively deployed player on the team, way more than Kesler even). As defensive zone starts naturally lead to more Corsi Against events, even for the best of players, Richardson’s numbers are completely skewed by that, making it look like he’s holding his linemates back when really, it’s an artifact of the statistical method.

    I mostly like the way canucksarmy does their analyses, but you guys need to recognize that Richardson is not a “tire fire” of possession, your analysis was not correct in his case. He’s not an elite player by any means, but he should definitely not be considered healthy scratch material either.

    • Chungus

      Hmm, that’s a really interesting point. Is it possible to show? Are there any sites out there that would provide WOWY’s by Zone Start, or something like that?

      Sbisa didn’t look particularly good to me last night, but I admit to not having an expert eye, and I don’t know what the numbers were like.

      On the other hand, how long before Tanev will be the best defenseman on the team? 1-2 years? As long as he’s not injured (and it seems like he’s protecting himself better than before).

      • Chungus

        Tanev already is the best defenceman on the team, or at least he is playing like it every single game.
        Many people are still writing him off as being too small, no offensive upside, not worth his pay check. I have never understood it. From day 1 he has played like is right now, and he is getting better offensively.
        Great wheels, under rated passer, amazing positional play, rarely makes a mistake, and makes whomever he plays with better.
        Lock him up and do it now!

      • Chungus

        IIRC, were there not two other NHL teams interested in signing Tanev when he was a free agent?

        Along with the Canuck scouts(!), that’s probably a credit to Gillis/Gilman for getting him locked up to an ELC.

        I once said Ehrhoff was the only legit core piece the previous regime added in six years aside from accepting Hamhuis’ gift to the province of British Columbia.

        Tanev now has to be added to that short list as he has definitely turned himself into a core player…