Canucks Army Postgame: That Was Close…

The margin for error in the NHL can be so incredibly small at the best of times. Vancouver was .1 of a second away from being slapped in the face with this reality. While San Jose forwards exercised their annual time share on the Canucks defensive zone throughout the night, it wasn’t enough to get past a scorching hot Ryan Miller for the equalizer late in the game. 

Sometimes it’s the result that matters and not the process. Count tonight’s victory for the Canucks as one such occasion. Despite being out-shot 36-19, the Canucks were able to exit the SAP Center with a rare victory over the Sharks by a score of 3-2. I’d hardly call this a winning formula long-term, but for tonight it was good enough.

Read past the jump for more.

The Rundown

In many ways, the opening moments of this game foreshadowed Miller’s night. The Canucks gave up two high-quality scoring chances in the first 20 seconds of play and a total of six shots in the first two minutes. Familiarity was in full effect for Miller. He was facing shots at a pace reminiscent of his days in Buffalo, while playing in Northern California near his wife’s workplace. It’s all about perspective, really.

The Canucks continued this lifeless pace for the much of the first, but weren’t made to atone until the halfway mark. A failed Canucks zone-entry was sent back deep, before a cross-crease pass careened off the outstretched foot of James Shepard for the opening goal. Dan Hamhuis was there to tie up Shepard’s stick, but failed to take away his other means of scoring unfortunately. 

Were it not for a Derek Dorsett fight just a few minutes after this goal, it’s hard to imagine the Canucks mustering anything in the way of a counter attack to end the first. Nothing in the previous ten-plus minutes was indicative of it, anyways. But alas, Dorsett did drop the mitts with Andrew Desjardins and mopped the floor with him in the process. For a few minutes afterwards, the Canucks almost looked like an NHL team again. It all led to the tying goal from Radim Vrbata, with just 7.7 seconds left in the period.

That type of last minute goal on the rush generally lifts the team heading into the next period. The Canucks? Well, not so much. They entered the second in the same lifeless fashion as the first and didn’t so much as register an even-strength shot attempt until seven-minutes in. The #Shorks were rewarded for their monopoly of the puck, with a Logan Couture power play goal scored at the midway point of the period. Hockey giveth and hockey taketh though, and the Canucks matched them with a power play marker of their own just two-minutes later.

All this puck possession on the Sharks end, yet the Canucks matched them tick for tack in goals. Were that not frustrating enough, Vancouver would capitalize on an odd-man rush, developing from a broken stick in the offensive zone, for the go-ahead goal. As Nick Bonino often does, he crept in slowly on net, before decisively sniping a low shot blocker side. Regression is real and Bonino is well past due for his slice, but in the mean time, I’m just glad he brought his PDO with him from Anaheim.

From there on forward, score effects kicked in. Rather, score effects on steroids kicked in. The Sharks dominated play at a level that topped their previous two periods. It wasn’t pretty. Vancouver held on for dear life though and managed to eek out an all-too valuable victory over a divisional rival. It wasn’t easy, but they did it.

The Numbers

Canucks Corsis SJ

The chart really says it all. The Canucks were absolutely dominated and I can’t stress enough that tonight’s victory is the exception, not the rule. Getting out-shot and out-attempted to this degree would prove extremely problematic over a long enough period and is even reason for worry in the short-term. The Canucks face the Corsi Gods themselves in Los Angeles on Saturday. 

Now, the one positive to extract from this game is surely the play of Miller. Count this game as another in a long series of quality starts from Miller. There are still rare glimpses of his former self coming to light, like Shepard’s goal in the first. Were Miller a bit deeper, as Rollie Melanson preaches, it’s a save he might make. Has a better chance on, anyways. Overall though, his goaltending has been a huge bright spot. 

The Conclusion

Vancouver is just getting started on this California trip. There’s no denying tonight’s results are encouraging, but they’re also against the most fragile of the three Californian teams. They will get their most difficult challenge on Saturday, facing the defending Stanley Cup Champions. See you then.

  • That corsi graph is terrifying.

    Still, Miller’s had to win a game for Vancouver once in eleven starts. If the Canucks start getting dominated like this every other game, that’s a huge problem. If they play five more games like this over the course of the season, that is totally okay.

    • The Canucks played 0 of their first 13 games against Los Angeles, San Jose & Anaheim.

      15 of their final 69 games will be against the big 3 from California.

      Along with 3 games against Chicago, 3 games against Minnesota, 2 games against St Louis, 2 games against Dallas & 2 games against the (so far) improved team from Nashville.

      “If they play five more games like this over the course of the season, that is totally okay.”

      Hilarious…

      • To be fair, the Sharks had five days off before this game. During that time, the Canucks played two games. In a balanced league like the NHL, that kind of rest discrepancy is huge.

        • Orpo

          That’s a nice after the fact explainer.

          But, wait, shouldn’t five days off have led to some rust early in the game for the Sharks?

          Perhaps the issue is that the Sharks can line up Thornton, Pavelski, Marleau and/or Couture against Henrik and a poo poo platter of centres…

          • Orpo

            …that poopoo platter including, of course, Nick Bonino, who has as many points as Pavelski and one more than Thornton on the year so far.

            If we’re going to look at the statistics, let’s do so objectively, mmkay?

          • andyg

            I forgot about Nick ‘Gretzky’ Bonino.

            If we’re going to look at the statistics, how about we look at the ones that go beyond the ones on the back of a hockey card, mmkay…

          • andyg

            These kind of statements and ramblings just make you look like an idiot instead of someone who is serious about stats.

            The fact is that 29 of those were scored in the last 91 games. So 11 in his first 112 games.

            That sounds like a young man who is starting to find his way. He has 3 times the hands and a more accurate shot than Kesler. Who knows what his ceiling is.

          • andyg

            “These kind of statements and ramblings just make you look like an idiot instead of someone who is serious about stats.”

            Such a relief that we do not seem to agree on what we consider to be idiotic…

          • andyg

            I never said he was Gretzky. But you seem hellbent on selectively praising the Sharks for their strengths, while applying a different standard to damn the Canucks. I’m saying that a. the Canucks’ 2nd line center is showing that he’s not poopoo platter material, but also b. while you’re at it, let’s talk about the fact that on the wings, which are pretty important, the Canucks are actually much deeper than the Sharks, and the Canucks most certainly have better goaltending too. Defence is hard to say just yet, because the Canucks’ usually reliable Hamhuis and Bieksa have been below their normal standards lately, and, just like you seem to be waiting for a regression from the positives that the Canucks have been putting up (eg: Bonino’s unsustainably high S%), I am similarly waiting for a regression from the poor possession play of the Canucks’ top 4 D. See what I mean about double standards?

            I went to the game last night, and what I saw was a Sharks team that clearly was happy to shoot from anywhere, employing the apparent maxim that there’s no such thing as a bad shot on goal. Makes the Corsi numbers look great, but a lot of Miller’s saves were of the long and unscreened, routine, variety. It wasn’t artistic from the Canucks, but Miller wasn’t standing on his head either, mostly just very solid and making the saves he should make, of which there were many.

          • andyg

            The Gretzky quip is a reference to something else.

            I suspect you know that, though.

            YOU are the one that compared the respective point totals of Bonino, Thornton & Pavelski and followed it up with a remark about ‘objectivity’.

            Speaking of objectivity…in what world do the Canucks have “most certainly have better goaltending” than the Sharks?

            As you will know by Saturday night, the Canucks are going to need all sorts of luck to beat SJ or LA (Kopitar/Carter/Stoll/Richards) in a playoff round when Henrik’s support at the moment is Bonino, Richards and Vey/Matthias/Horvat…

          • andyg

            Bonino objectively has as many points as Pavelski. He isn’t necessarily as good as Pavelski, but he isn’t chopped liver either. Bonino’s totals in his age 25 season last year (22-27-49) are in line with Pavelski’s typical numbers before he had something of a breakout at age 26. Too early to say that for Bonino, sure, but it’s undeniable that he’s got an excellent tool set. At the very least, he has a ton more promise than a “poopoo platter”. He was also the 2nd line center for the defending Pacific division champions, so apparently teams with him as their second line center don’t fare all that badly.

            I don’t know why these California teams are so heavily fetishized right now, having good centers is important but it’s not the only thing that matters.

            Ryan Miller is better than Antti Niemi. That’s based on however much of a sample you’d like to base it on.

          • andyg

            “the 2nd line center for the defending Pacific division champions”

            And Anaheim thought so much of him that they traded him and a first rounder for an older centre with a higher cap hit and less team control…

            “teams with him as their second line center don’t fare all that badly.”

            Ah he’s one of those winning DNA players.

            Well, let’s start making a place for him in the Hall of Fame next to Chris Osgood…

            “Ryan Miller is better than Antti Niemi. That’s based on however much of a sample you’d like to base it on.”

            Whether one is looking at the last three years, five years or career save percentage I am not sure how one could infer that Miller is better…

          • andyg

            You’re in over your head here Pheenster.

            But since the majority of your comments on this blog are directed at me for some reason, I’ll indulge you this time.

            Back up your nonsense with one or more of my quotes on this thread with which you disagree…

          • pheenster

            Ooooh. Over my head. Lol.

            Here’s the deal. You’re a factual cherry picker of the first order. You will go to almost any length to twist those facts to support your narrative namely that the Canucks (a team of which you profess to be a fan) stink. You ridicule others with these cherry-picked facts while purporting yourself to be “objective” while you’re actually nothing of the kind. I don’t need to provide examples because you’ve been called out several times in this very thread.

            Listen son: you had a great year last year. Everything you predicted came true. To use one of those baseball analogies of which you’re so enamoured, you were like a utility second baseman who won the triple crown. You were like the Canucks Army version of Rudy. But just like the Canucks two-season run of playing beneath their potential, it all has to end. Don’t tarnish your legacy; go out on top.

          • pheenster

            Yep, we just had to have Barry Pederson, even though he’d declined a little bit and had to deal with some injuries, he was the steady scoring presence we needed. Worth trading a piece or two for, right? In all seriousness, I don’t think Bonino is the next coming of Cam Neely, only that he’s been touted as having a ton of potential and so far, is at least showing us why he was so touted. I think the point’s been made elsewhere that the Canucks will likely retrospectively be happy that they sold high on Kesler.

            The point about Anaheim was to address the fact that you seem to think that our center depth, which has Bonino at 2C, was going to be our downfall. In my view that runs contrary to the fact that last year, Bonino was a 2C and it wasn’t the downfall for that team, as it finished ahead of your precious LA and San Jose. (And yes, I realize the Ducks lost to the Kings in the playoffs, but they weren’t outclassed by them, which you seem to imply the Canucks would be). Ergo, it is possible for a team to succeed in the Pacific with Bonino as their second centre, if, of course, the other pieces are right (ie: there are more than just centers making up the team). I went on to point out that in the Canucks’ case, there were a lot of other good pieces to be optimistic about.

            How about we look in the playoffs to compare them. For as much as Miller’s performance in the playoffs last year was panned, Niemi was actually even worse. Miller had a better save percentage during the regular season too, even despite his ill-fated brief period in St Louis. I would also point out that Miller has never really had the chance to play behind a decent team (save said Blues), whereas Niemi has always done so, so I’d advocate taking some of the numbers with a grain of salt. I realize that there’s some subjectivity to saying “Miller is the only thing keeping team X from being last” vs “Niemi is holding his team back from greatness”, so I will respect that you’ll likely disagree with me there. One point that I’ll make is that Niemi seldom seems to outperform his backup, leading one to wonder how much of his performance statistics are simply team driven (I can’t be bothered to substantiate that right now, so I’m open to being disproven).

          • andyg

            It appears to be a sunny weekend here in the lower mainland – hopefully it is for you as well if you are still in California – so I’ll be slightly less caustic than usual.

            Yes, Bonino has showed some nice skills.

            However, if the Canucks are legitimately going to contend in this division, Bonino would be better suited for the 3rd line.

            He can play 2nd line on an average team, though…

            Miller & Niemi are both pretty much average starters.

            Finally, if you are going through California to watch the Canucks play for the first time…

            LA fans are a lot more raucous than Anaheim fans in my experience.

            But get to the Honda Centre a little early if you can there are usually some fun activities going on outside the arena.

            Enjoy…

          • pheenster

            I live in the Bay Area (am a transplant from Vancouver), and have seen the Canucks play at HP (called SAP now) several times, but have never made the trip to SoCal for hockey (have seen the Ducks once at home, but not vs Vancouver).

            While I’d love to have more center depth, I would also point out that Ryan Kesler was thought to have a 3rd line ceiling. He ended up demonstrating far more offensive ability than originally thought. Bonino already seems to possess that ability, and while he does not have the two way game of Kesler, that’s arguably an easier skill to acquire.

            Fans and media have been clamoring for a rebuild for some time. Assembling a bunch of talent with upside and seeing who can get it done is how that’s accomplished. The top of the roster is a little on the old side, but none are as old as Marleau and Thornton, for instance, and those guys are clearly still seen as capable of being part of a core. Between Bonino, Vey, Kassian, Jensen, Horvat etc, there’s a lot to be optimistic about. That’s basically what the Kings were saying a couple of years ago when they were struggling to score and acquiring also-rans like Carter and Richards trying to find the right mix.

          • andyg

            Bonino has been hell on blades to start the season. An underappreciated play he made against the Preds last Sunday was a great case in point: the Preds were braking down the ice on a two-on-one, but Bonino on his wheels tracked down the puck carrier and poke checked it away. Does stuff like this matter? The NHL still doesn’t track poke-checks while backcheking by a forward considered one-dimensional, but he’s would at least have a +1 in that department.

          • andyg

            Bonino has been far better than advertised — that shot of his is phenomenal, he’s been pretty good on the back check, his skating is decent, and his chemistry with 2nd line wingers excellent. I just hope we are as charitable to him when he goes through a 10-game goalless drought. Unless we think he’s somehow going to sustain a shooting percentage north of 20% the rest of the season?

      • 2PTs4FG

        Whelp, we totally got away with that one. Pretty much got every good bounce possible, and the time clock worked for us in both the first & third periods.

        So what’s the take-away on this one? Is it that the so-called scheduled losses are only so if you let them win? That a goalie plays much better when he has the chance to spend the rest of the night with his wife? That Bonino brought his PDO with him from Anaheim?

        I think this is the mirror image of the Dallas game. Take the points, burn the tapes, and get back into the process of playing the game the way the team is supposed to. Nothing to be learned here, other than Miller is still capable of stealing one.

        Back to the process.

        • Orpo

          The Canucks still have 14 of their final 68 games against the big 3 of California.

          Not to mention that winning a playoff series is almost definitely going to have to go through California.

          But, sure, burn tapes, chalk it up to an off night, take it one game at a time and move on…

          • pheenster

            I think you need to consider medication, you are such a “Debbie Downer”, never a positive thing to say about Vancouver, always waiting for failure. First, last nights game was bad, for three reasons. 1) Sad when a team has 5 days to prep for another; 2) I guess is is sad when a goalie does his job and wins a game; 3) Sad when referees have only one view of the game, 4 penalties to 1, really? Hansen penalty, really? 4) Sad there is a clock in the game, otherwise San Jose would have won.

            I am tired of people underestimating the Canucks. If one of the 3 California teams one like Van. last night we would be hearing how great their goalie was or how good teams win poor games, or if it was LA, how they can be outplayed but know how to win. Totally hypocritical.

          • andyg

            “you are such a “Debbie Downer”, never a positive thing to say about Vancouver”

            Predicting Vancouver to make the playoffs doesn’t qualify as positive?

            By the way, Kevin, are you related to Ted…

          • pheenster

            Before this thread started I was actually going to ask if this was still NM00 because some of your posts have been positively positive so I’m not sure what all the criticism of these comments is about…

            We’re not seriously having a conversation about the Canucks’ current depth as equivalent of the Ducks, Sharks and Kings are we? Come on. I really like Bonino and am overall really pleased with the trade of a guy who is on the decline and who didn’t want to be here for a solid top-six player, a borderline 5th d and a promising prospect. As a previous CA article pointed out on balance we made out better with quantity over quality. Whatever else you may think of Kesler he remains a shutdown 2C center with a significant offensive production.

            And what’s with the hate on Niemi — regardless if he was outplayed by Miller yesterday (he was) and has been inconsistent at different points in his career — he has also been a Vezina finalist and won a Stanley Cup. Hardly the resume of someone who is “obviously” inferior to Miller.

            Very glad we won last night and continuing to like the style the Canucks are playing overall. But let’s not kid ourselves (as the Canucks coaching staff certainly doesn’t seem to be) that we can survive too many games like that. If Miller doesn’t stop any of the 5-6 quality chances in the first minutes this is a very different set of conversations today.

  • I’m not sure the chart really does say it all. The Sharks really do shoot from everywhere. Aside from the early and late flurries, and more time on the PP, they weren’t really quite as dominant as you’re suggesting.

    • Orpo

      I’m with what was said above. Seems like you didn’t even watch the game but just did the analytics. Nucks had them in their zone for much of the third and weren’t throwing the puck on net just from anywhere like San Jose was doing from anywhere. First 10 minutes of the first and maybe last minute and a half of the 3rd were the only times the Sharks scared me.

    • Orpo

      I thought so too, but then I couldn’t remember, was it the goalie’s skate or the puck that determined a penalty. Anyways I checked out the video rulebook, turns out it’s the puck. #themoreyouknow

      “A player or a team may be penalized when, in the opinion of the Referee, is delaying the game in any manner.
      A goalkeeper shall not play the puck outside of the designated area behind the net. Should the goalkeeper play the puck outside of the designated area behind the goal line, a minor penalty for delay of game shall be imposed. The determining factor shall be the position of the puck. The minor penalty will not be assessed when a goalkeeper plays the puck while maintaining skate contact with his goal crease.”

  • Anyone notice the terrible performance of the officials tonight? A blown offside call late in the third took an odd man rush away from the Sharks, and that icing call with about 30 seconds left was just awful. I thought these linesmen were professionals?

    Also, the Hansen “interference” call was a complete joke.

    • Orpo

      Has anyone figured out how to ‘Fancy Stat’ the refs. Yes, calls/non-calls are subjective but the league “scores” the officials and the best of the bunch gt playoff assignments/re-hired…. But do we, the public, get to know the dirt on the Zebras.

  • It’s funny. Last year Vancouver had decent puck possession numbers against the California teams, but only the results were considered.

    Now they get creamed in possession but get the result. However, now possession makes our panties all wet.

  • Orpo

    A game we clearly didn’t deserve to win on the balance of play but then you have to have a few that your goalie wins for you outright. 2 periods we weren’t in the same league — in the third, however, other than the terrible call on Hansen (after the non-call for the knee-on-knee) bringing the PP for the Sharks, it was pretty even and the Canucks started to control play a bit more. Hard to see us getting away with playing like that and being successful for too long but it was good to get the win.

    I’m assuming Kassian was out of the lineup for injury? I’ve heard that Bonino and Vrbata are playing through injuries too? Bieksa (other than falling down repeatedly) looked generally more mobile than in recent days.

  • 2PTs4FG

    You can occasionally win a game like this, but it’s not a recipe for long-term success.

    They know that … Pearn’s comment after the game as reported by Ian McIntyre of the Sun: “Let’s get out of here before somebody calls the cops.”

    It might not have been quite that bad, but you can’t win consistently if you’re out hit, out shot, and out chanced — unless your goaltender steals it for you.

    On the plus-side in the play-offs this sort of game can shift a series in your favor.

  • 2PTs4FG

    We have a saying in the Army…to be good, you have to be lucky sometimes. We were lucky tonight, and good teams are allowed those nights.

    Hopefully we pick up the game Saturday night. The next three could frame the season!

  • 2PTs4FG

    Games like this happen. Your goalie bails you out on a night when you should have lost big. At the end of the season a win is a win is 2 points. Bag it, tag it, and get the heck outta dodge. On to the next.

  • Orpo

    I said at one point that Miller would have to steal a game in Southern Cali for us to have a successful road trip. I’m glad that he came through early.

    I can’t help be impressed with the pure scoring skills of both Vrbata and Bonino. They just look so calm and confident and patient out there when they have the puck on their tape and they are happy to take the shot. I don’t know that we had anyone on the roster last season with comparable goal scoring skills.

  • andyg

    While this will be poo-pooed, the Canucks are 11th in the league in CosiF%, one up on San Josie.

    Obviously, quality of competition play a role here. But, inarguably, this team is better than last year. Plus, they are surely better than the rest of the bottom-feeders in the conference.

    Thus, this is probably a playoff team. It’s not winning a Cup, but at least there will be action in April.

    • pheenster

      The Canucks have played very few games against the upper and middle class teams in the conference.

      They’re certainly somewhere in that middle class and will surely battle for a playoff spot.

      But a team like Nashville may very well spoil the party…

  • andyg

    Outstanding road game by the Canucks. They played hard and smart…

    For those that believe face offs are “whatever” there are plenty of times when you need to win a face off and with 6 seconds left.,,, that was a time.

    Hopefully we can keep the roll going. Miller is proving every bit the 6 million dollar man!