— The Royal Half (@theroyalhalf) November 20, 2014
The Canucks never make things easy. With four days rest, all of which I assume was spent ruminating on their last contest against the Arizona Coyotes, it seemed reasonable to expect Vancouver would send the Oilers all they could handle. I’d hardly say they met expectations, but for enough individual sequences they were able to execute a level of dominance over Edmonton that has become commonplace in these match ups. The final, a 5-4 victory for Vancouver, does little to reflect this but counts as a win all the same – Vancouver’s fourth of the season over Edmonton.
Perhaps we’re all too enamoured with Zack Kassian shenanigans and ensuing silliness that an ordinary hockey game, complete with lead changes and momentum swings, has ceased to excite us when these two teams meet. Maybe we expect more of Vancouver against these perennial basement dwellers and barely scraping out a win in this shootout style game leaves much to be desired?
Whatever the case, the Canucks were great at times, but there’s a lot that needs fixing coming out of tonight’s match. Results aside, I’ll try and touch on this on the other side of the jump
Coming out of the gate on four days rest, the Canucks seemed to be a little off on their timing. Some of their better territorial play occurred in the opening minutes of this contest, but it resulted in little to nothing on the scoreboard. One might suggest that the Canucks only break from the Oilers zone in the early goings was the result of a Derek Dorsett fight with former Canuck
great, Steve Pinizzotto.
I’m giving the decision to Dorsett. And not solely because Dorsett replaced Pinizzotto through seven degrees of separation on the Canucks fourth line. Like, think about it. Mind blown? Speaking of brain jarring, that wasn’t the only clash of titans in tonight’s contest. Hell, it wasn’t even the only one in the first. Reigniting some 2011 Stanley Cup Finals flames, Kevin Bieksa bull-rushed Ben Scrivens and made Andrew Ference suffer the consequences of defending his netminder. It was cathartic, I guess?
The Canucks came out on top in this one, as far as I’m concerned. What turned out to be the most beneficial part of this sequence for Vancouver was the goaltender interference minor that led to the Oilers power play. Want to take a step into bizarro-world? Jannik Hansen would go in one-on-one with Scrivens, on a breakaway, shorthanded and launch home the opening tally for Vancouver. That wasn’t an earthquake you felt… That was Mount Drancer erupting in full from Toronto. Casualties number in the thousands and in the aftermath all Drance had to say for himself was “I told you so”.
Speaking of eruptions, how about the offensive surge from both club’s in the second? In years past, it always seemed as though the second period was Vancouver’s kryptonite. Seeing them surrender three goals in the middle frame brought back vivid memories of this problem. Or it would, anyways, had Vancouver not sent home another three of their own. I’ll call it a draw and leave happy.
Vancouver spent much of the third period on their heels. Call it score effects, or taking their foot off the gas or whatever. It wasn’t impressive. While poor goaltending from Ryan Miller let the Oilers stay in this game for the first two frames, his veteran savvy was enough to cool him down and hold the fort for much of the third. While his numbers do little to impress, Miller seems to do exceptionally well at putting bad goals or periods behind him. Tonight was one such occasion of this.
It wasn’t solely Miller that sealed this one in the third, though. It was the unlikeliest of contributors who sent home the game-winning tally. Yannick Weber, who probably wouldn’t have played tonight if not for Luca Sbisa’s fiftieth “illness” of the season, roofed a cross-ice pass from Daniel Sedin past Ben Scrivens for the fifth and final goal of the game. I can’t be the only one who hopes this keeps Weber in the lineup, right?
Try and try as the Oilers did, they couldn’t get that fifth goal necessary to send it to overtime. The closest they came was a kicked in goal with ten seconds left, that would eventually be overturned.
So by scoring on himself, Ryan Miller paradoxically prevents a 5th goal against
— Rhys Jessop (@Thats_Offside) November 20, 2014
Much of the talk in today’s preview was about the Canucks being as possession inept as the Oilers thus far into the young NHL season. It was encouraging to see Vancouver assert their possession supremacy over what’s supposed to be a vastly less talented team. That kind of separation is encouraging. Even with the added benefit of score effects, Edmonton was no match.
The Canucks bottom-six did not play well tonight, territorially anyways. The highest Corsi among forwards in the bottom-six belonged to a sparsely used Zack Kassian, who was at 42% 5v5. At the bottom rung of this, you’ll find Derek Dorsett rocking a moribund 20%, and in the middle was Bo Horvat’s 30%. I’d love to blame this on low zone-starts, but all of them were either at or north of 50%. You can’t extrapolate a trend from one point of data, but it was pretty clear that the bottom-6 forwards were having troubles hanging with the fast Oilers.
The Sedin line buzzed along at about a 55% pace at 5v5, which is pretty much par for the course against Edmonton. Most importantly, they combined for a total of seven points. Like a fine wine, they get better with age… against Edmonton – death, taxes and Sedins owning the Oilers. Their second line counterparts had themselves a night, too. They controlled roughly 65% of play tonight, with less than optimal zone-starts. It’s safe to say the Canucks finally have secondary scoring. Tertiary, well, that remains to be seen.
There’s been a lot of talk around town about how great Miller’s been. Yeah, cute. Coming into tonight’s contest he had a .902 sv%, which would be bad even for Ondrej Pavelec. After tonight’s shellacking, it’s at a tenuous .900. Are these numbers inflated by blowout losses? Sure, but if we decide they aren’t worthy of including in the larger picture that makes up his body of work, let’s remove the St. Louis and San Jose games where he was exceptionally good. Tonight Miller posted a .875 sv%. They won in spite of him.
This is a game the Canucks should win, so I would advise against getting overly encouraged by this. The Canucks face a real challenge tomorrow night in the Anaheim Ducks, on the second half of back-to-backs. The stage is set in an eerily similar fashion to the last time these two clubs met, save for the fact that tomorrow’s tilt is in Vancouver. Oh, and yeah, that Ryan Kesler guy is back. Or so I hear. See you then!