— Gráinne (@wholegrainne) November 7, 2014
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.
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 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.
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.