Canucks Army Postgame: Bo Knows Winning

Yes it’s with the Ducks, but Nick Bonino’s been doing a lot of celebrating lately.

Between Bonino and Bo Horvat, Vancouver’s Bos came to play tonight against the struggling Colorado Avalanche. Sure the Avs blew out Vancouver a few short games ago, but Vancouver was rested and ready this time around, and they did not disappoint. After falling behind early, they laid the boots to the Avs, outshooting them heavily and winning by a 5-2 final.

Read past the jump for a recap of Canucks Army Top Prospect Bo Horvat’s first NHL game.

The Rundown

In a nice gesture, Willie Desjardins placed Bo Horvat in the starting lineup, so he could get his first NHL game underway right off the hop. Horvat won the opening draw, his first of eight wins on the night.

But it was the Avs that struck first. Dan Hamhuis pinched in the offensive zone, leading to Brad Richardson to cover for him. Colorado rushed up the ice and Hamhuis failed to pick up John Mitchell, the trailing man, who fired a laser past Ryan Miller to give the Avs an early 1-0 lead.

Colorado would score again with three and a half minutes to go in the first to give themselves a 2-0 lead, as the Canucks were caught running around after some good offensive zone pressure. Jarome Iginla did some good work behind the net, and found Jamie McGinn with a centering pass, who snapped the puck by Ryan Miller.

Now, the Avs aren’t a uniquely bad team when leading by two goals – the Canucks are actually one of the few teams that have been worse – but they are quite bad, and Vancouver is quite good when trailing by two as well. So as you would expect, the rest of the game was pretty thorough domination on behalf of the Canucks. They really began to lay the boots to Colorado in the second period, generating a plethora of chances, including some from Jannik Hansen, Shawn Matthias, and Daniel Sedin, before Henrik Sedin finally broke the ice with just 4 seconds remaining in the period:

From there, the floodgates opened. Derek Dorsett tied the game just 2:27 in to the 3rd:

Then Nick Bonino put the Canucks ahead 3-2 just over two minutes later, finishing off a nice passing play from Linden Vey and Chris Higgins:

Bonino wasn’t done however, as he took another Chris Higgins pass a few shifts later and fired a shot bar-down on Varlamov to put the Canucks ahead 4-2:

And just for good measure, Shawn Matthias took advantage of Gabriel Landeskog blowing the zone early, picked off a breakout pass, and burst in to beat Varlamov low to the blocker side to give Vancouver a 5-2 lead:

The Avs would hold the Canucks without any more shot attempts, but it was all garbage time though. Vancouver skated away with a convincing 5-2 win.

The Numbers

G12 v Colorado

Courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.

First and foremost, Bo Horvat had a really solid night. As advertised, he was excellent in the faceoff dot, winning 8 of 12 draws. He also had a reasonably good night in terms of puck possession, with a 61.5% Corsi at even strength (the team was at 64.4%). Score effects and quality of competition play a role in this, but it’s also worth mentioning that Horvat had a team-low 16.7% offensive zone start rate, and a team-low 8:52 of ice time. He wasn’t used much, but Willie Desjardins appeared to trust him enough to use him in the D-zone.

On to Nick Bonino, who is literally “a better human than Kes,” also had himself a pretty great night. He had two goals on the evening, bringing his season totals to 6 goals and 5 assists for 11 points in 13 games – a 70-point pace, which is a pretty high end 1st line total. It goes without saying that Nick Bonino isn’t a high-end 1st line C, and won’t finish the year with around 70 points, but it’s also worth pointing out that for as good as the second line has been – and it has been legitimately good – this offensive success is entirely unsustainable.

Bonino’s personal shooting percentage is nearly twice as high as his career mark, and he came into tonight’s game with an on-ice shooting percentage north or 10%, which is unsustainably high for basically all players not named Sidney Crosby or Steven Stamkos. He is guaranteed to score at a lower rate from here on out, which is why it’s important for Bonino to continue his very good possession play and not slip below the 50% Corsi or Fenwick line.

As for tonight’s game, the Avs are really quite bad. The Canucks carried nearly a 75% Corsi in the second period, and outshot the Avalanche 37-22 overall. Most of the damage came against Max Talbot, who was a -20 Corsi, yet just a -1 in terms of goals, in just nine and a half minutes of ice time. It was a disastrous outing for Colorado’s depth.

The Conclusion

9-3-0 and 2nd place in the NHL feels fantastic right now, but a) it’s early, and b) here’s a little perspective:

We were still in the “John Tortorella has been good for the Canucks!” stage at this time last season, so there’s still plenty of time for things to go sideways. While this success won’t last, there are lots of promising signs, and we should expect the Canucks to continue to be a strong team for the rest of the year. 

Vancouver starts running the California gauntlet this Thursday, as they play the San Jose Sharks for the first time this season, before visiting the Kings and Ducks on a weekend road back-to-back. Alex Burrows will return to the lineup, and with Bo Horvat around, that creates a bit of a dilemma with who will come out. We’ll see this week though, as the Canucks will have to put on the big boy pants to string together a few more wins.

  • andyg

    Boom goes the Bo’s

    Had to watch the Colorado feed and the commentators said Bo would play his 9 games and go back to London… I beg to differ. If he keeps up 8-12 face offs and plays well defensively, why wouldn’t you keep him. Face offs are a problem and if Horvat can get descent time, he should stick around!

    • BlazingSaitls

      Because 8-12 is two better than exactly average and three better than awful. Faceoffs are not a problem worth solving. If he wins the Canucks 2 extra faceoffs for the remaining ~70 games, that’s worth 1-2 additional goals for over the entire season. It is not worth keeping a guy in the lineup for that.

      He played fine, but the team he was playing against was awful, and he’s playing a 4th line role. Not worth burning an ELC year for that, particularly when it’s not even clear that the Canucks will make the playoffs this season much less take a run.

      Give him his 9 games and send him back until next year.

      • andyg

        There is nothing for him to learn in London! Maybe the World Juniors will help, but that is two weeks. The guy won 8/12 in his first game ever and the Canucks are second to worst in face offs. He played well and could learn a lot this year.if he all of a sudden looks out of place, sure send him back to London, but don’t kill his ,development to save a year on a contract.

        Kings did the same with Dustin Brown. Kept him around the first year and let him learn the ropes in the NHL. Tanev has learned the game by playing in the NHL.

        Face offs are underrated as was Horvats screen on Dorsetts goal. If the kid can play well on the fourth line, by the end of the year, I bet he improves a lot!

        PS…The Canucks will make the playoffs this year.

    • BlazingSaitls

      Just to be clear, Horvat is not going to win 67% of faceoffs in the NHL over any meaningful sample.

      Malhotra in his faceoff prime never did that in a full season.

      That being said, it was a good debut and hopefully he draws in the lineup versus the big 3 of California.

      While there are legit reasons to be optimistic – even for the curmudgeonly NM00 – the competition level is about to get serious which is around when the optimism began to die last season.

      #nomoremoralvictories…

  • BlazingSaitls

    Vancouver born/raised, Denver living fan here…..real nice not to have to stream a game for once 🙂

    Team looked good throughout and I wasn’t concerned when they were down 2. Loved that we got a goal from every line on our way back to winning this. That’s the depth Willie has been preaching, and the level of quality that winning in the NHL dictates.

    Big tests coming up – let’s do this!

  • BlazingSaitls

    Oh, and on a lighter note – make sure you watch the Avs feed replay of the 4-2 Bonino goal. It’s on nhl.com. The angle they have does a better job of showing how ridiculous it was, mainly the pass reception… Guy takes the pass from Higgins, which is behind him, tips it up between the legs and immediately lasers it over a confused Varlamov. The whole thing together is just a thing of beauty.

  • BlazingSaitls

    @JDM

    No need to decide on Bo until after his 9th game and the World Juniors. He didn’t look out of place last night, and I am sure he will be better in his second or third game. There is nothing to learn for Bo in Juniors. He has been to the Memorial Cup two years in a row. If the Canucks are out of the playoffs by Christmas, then I don’t think we should keep him around in a negative losing environment. If we are winning and he is contributing both offensively and defensively. I don’t see why we don’t keep him around for the entire year.

  • BlazingSaitls

    I’m not sure why that toot from Taj is noted in your conclusion. I think most of us are quite aware of our record from last year and how we collapsed. Everyone can go back and check these numbers via that crazy new invention: the internet.

    It’s still way too early. Lots can happen between now and April.

    For the Cali trek, I think they should sit Hansen.

      • BlazingSaitls

        Sure. I’m not sure what the deal is but the coach doesn’t go to Hansen that often. He’s on line 4, no PP and not much PK. But then he gets promoted to the top 6 over Kassian. Not sure what’s going on but I digress.

        I would have said sit Matthias for Burr but we need size in Cali. I don’t think there is an easy choice here. Maybe someone with a nagging injury gets sat down?

        Bo looked solid in game 1. I would prefer he go back to junior but I’d like to see what he does over the course of 9 games. I just don’t want him to be rushed.

  • BlazingSaitls

    Of course the difference between 17 points in Tortageddon 2013 and 18 in Williefest 2014 over the first dozen games is that we’re not playing our top players for the entire half of the game, going with three lines overall and refusing to do things like practice the PP or shootouts. There were certainly critics last year in the honeymoon phase who pointed out that this was simply not sustainable in the long run. This year’s performances are much more even, with the exception of a couple of blowout and weird losses.

    The win against STL they were pretty flu-ravaged but was still pretty good. The losses to TB and NASH were fairly competitive, the Dallas game was weird and the first COL game was just crap all around. But overall it just has seemed to be a far more even keeled start to the season and the style of play seems more enjoyable and sustainable.

    I’ve been particularly impressed with the forward group as a whole — Vrbata and Bonino have been better than I expected, the Sedins seem really rejuvenated, Higgins and Hansen are playing very well (you’d sit him Ted? really?) and I actually think Kassian has been fantastic — that third line would be nothing without his skill in passing and increasing ability to play a cycle by using his size. I’d much rather see Vey on the wing on that line than Matthias who has size and speed but whose timing and finish are generally lacking. If someone has to come out I’d pull him, keep Horvat on the fourth with Hansen and Dorsett (who’s also been really fantastic, much better than I expected), move Vey to the second with Higgins and Bonino and drop Burrows to the third where he might actually finish Kassian’s passes.

    As good as they’ve been I think the goaltending and d are pretty inconsistent. Based on last night’s play I think Sbisa should draw back in for Weber, Stanton looked rusty, and both Hamhuis and Bieksa are really struggling. The best two are clearly Tanev and Edler.

    Of course everything could look a lot less rosy once we hit California, though SJ has looked beatable. Anaheim and LA are still beasts and we haven’t touched the real challenge of the Central either.

  • andyg

    Two things. First, stop with the Bo stuff, it is ridiculous and beneath the level of comments we need on a classy blog site. Horvat is going to be a big third line center, but he will never be an offensive star. Jensen, McCann, Shinkaruk and Virtanen are far more important long term. I would keep him around for 9 games, not playing every game. I would play him again on Sunday, resting someone like Hansen for one game. Then play again after a couple of games in place of someone like Matthias or Richardson. After he plays 9 he goes to Worlds, returns to junior and they get him a power skating coach and a skills coach. Second, why the dis on Bonino getting to 70 points. I see no reason why he cannot make it. He has a great wrist shot, hyper accurate, he has three or four options for his wingers who can score 15 to 20, and he is a decent skater, not as bad as some people say. I could see him getting 30 goals and 30 to 40 assists and doing as well as Kesler does in Anaheim. Again I think Benning won that trade hands down.

    • Mantastic

      i don’t think you recognize how difficult it is to score 70 pts in the NHL in this era. just look at the players who have scored 70 pts in full seasons and you’ll see how difficult it actually is to score at that rate, especially with 2nd line mintes and non-1st unit PP.

      and Jensen will never be an offensive star, he never was in any league he’s ever played, from the OHL to the AHL.

  • Canucks fan logic: Bonino is scoring well, therefore Gretzky.

    Seriously people, if no player aside from Crosby or Stamkos has been observed scoring at that pace for a whole season, in what world do you think Bonino is going to keep scoring at that pace?

    Unless, apparently, Bonino is scoring well, therefore Gretzky/Crosby/Stamkos.

    Seriously, guys, it’s not hard. What Mr. Offside posted is completely reasonable.

    • andyg

      No need to overgeneralize all Canuck fans, it’s just plain insulting and incorrect on your part.

      I agree that what Mr. Offside posted was not unreasonable and I highly doubt most Canuck & non-Canuck fans really think Bonino is going to ever outscore the Crosbys and the Stamkoses of the game.

      That said, hockey statistics are important indicators as to trends & performance but they unfortunately just that, indicators. They don’t always paint a full & accurate picture.

      Is Bonino up there with the Rob Browns, Steve Vickers, Tom Mcarthys, Pat Elynuiks, Ray Ferraros & Andrew Brunettes of the league? There are at least 40+ players with better shooting % than Gretzky… does that make Gretzky the 40th best all-time shooter in the league?? I doubt it, but hey, stats never lie!

      I do think that Bonino’s percentages will drop but wouldn’t be surprised if they remained higher than average. IMO, Bonino will outscore Kesler simply because 3 forwards are more effective than 1 trying to do it alone.