— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) November 21, 2014
For a night that started off disastrously and ended merely poorly, there was really a lot to like about Vancouver’s performance in the second half of a back-to-back against one of the Western Conference’s top teams. They may have lost 4-3 in a shootout, but they battled through some early adversity, laid the boots to a rested Anaheim Ducks team in the second period, and saw Bo Horvat score his first NHL goal and dominate Ryan Kesler in the faceoff dot.
The news may get really, really bad tomorrow, but for now, there are quite a few positives, and – dare I say it – moral victories to go over tonight. Read past the jump for a recap.
It’s almost impossible to imagine a worse start for the home side. The Ducks got the jump on Vancouver, applying some serious pressure in the opening minute. Luca Sbisa and Yannick Weber shockingly broke down defensively, allowing Andrew Cogliano to pounce on a loose puck, shovel it over Eddie Lack, and give the visiting Ducks a 1-0 lead.
Things got worse when Dan Hamhuis clipped skates with Daniel Sedin just moments later on a rush up the ice. Hamhuis’ right knee appeared to buckle, and the defender collapsed immediately to the ice. He was unable to put any weight on his leg leaving the ice with the help of Mike Burnstein and Henrik Sedin, and would not return. Here’s a video of the rather innocuous-looking play:
Not good RT @VanCanucks No updates on Hamhuis but coach expects him to be out for a bit.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) November 21, 2014
Judging by the amount of pain Hamhuis appeared to be in, the worst fear is probably a torn MCL or ACL, which would put Hamhuis on the shelf for months. Regardless, the early prognosis (“he’ll be out for a bit”) doesn’t look particularly good. Bobby Sanguinetti and/or Frank Corrado can probably expect a phone call from Vancouver soon.
And remarkably, things would get even worse for Vancouver shortly thereafter. Just as the home side appeared to be gaining some traction in the game, Ryan Getzlaf walked Luca Sbisa like a sick dog and snapped a backhand past Eddie Lack to give Anaheim a 2-0 lead.
Fortunately, the Vancouver Canucks brought their lunch pails and work boots tonight, as they went to work shredding the Ducks for the majority of the game afterwords. They finished the first out-attempting Anaheim 21-12 at even strength, and started the second much the same way. Their persistence was rewarded with Bo Horvat’s first NHL goal:
Zack Kassian made a good play to gain the offensive zone and get the puck to Derek Dorsett, but Dorsett made an even better one to fire a backhand centering pass through two Ducks defenders and right on the tape of Horvat, who made no mistake and pulled the Canucks to within a goal.
The Canucks kept pushing the play through the second period, until a delayed penalty led to an extra attacker situation, where Jannik Hansen was the 6th skater sent on to the ice. The puck was passed around the perimeter to Hansen, who drilled a puck past Frederik Andersen to tie the game at 2-2.
Jannik “on pace for 20 goals” Hansen. pic.twitter.com/b3fkCHVFDv
— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) November 21, 2014
The Canucks weren’t done there, as just 30 seconds later, the Sedins found Radim Vrbata all alone in front of the net. Vrbata slipped a backhand past Andersen, giving the Canucks their first (and only) lead of the night:
As should be expected from a team leading in the third period on the second half of a back-to-back, the Canucks let their foot off the gas, and it proved costly. Matt Beleskey was able to shovel a puck past Eddie Lack roughly half way through the third period, tying the game at 3-3, and ultimately sending it to overtime.
Despite Anaheim dominating the extra period, it was the Sedins who manufactured the best chance of either team. Daniel and Henrik worked a beautiful give-and-go, but Daniel just tipped the puck through a diving Frederik Andersen’s five hole and past the far post, missing the net. The game would proceed to a shootout, where Corey Perry and Jakob Silfverberg scored for the visitors, while Bonino and Vrbata missed their attempts, sealing a 4-3 shootout win for the visitors from Anaheim.
Courtesy of HockeyStats.ca.
Vancouver was dominant from the end of the first period until the start of the 3rd, and carried a 59% 5v5 Corsi through regulation, which is even more impressive considering that they did it with five defensemen for essentially the entire night, and on the second half of a back-to-back.
With that in mind, the performances of Alex Edler and Chris Tanev (even though he had a few rough moments, including the Matt Beleskey goal) were very, very impressive. Edler played a game-high 32:24, including 27:32 at even strength, and finished +27/-21 for Corsi with 6 shot attempts and 4 blocked shots. He had a tough time containing Getzlaf and Perry, but dominated the rest of the Ducks lineup, including Ryan Kesler. Tanev too had a couple of difficult sequences and bobbles in the offensive zone, but continued to to the little things right that he always does, and ate 27:44 of ice time while leading all Vancouver defenders in Corsi at 60.5% on the evening.
But most encouraging for Vancouver is that Bo Horvat had a hell of a game. Not only did he score his first goal, but he won a game high 64% of his faceoffs, including 5 of 8 against Ryan Kesler, and was second on the Canucks with a 67% Corsi (+8/-4) behind only Derek Dorsett. In fact, Horvat played the majority of 4:41 of his 9:31 of even strength ice time against Ryan Kesler, out-attempting Kesler 4-1. If Desjardins can trust Horvat enough to give him around 12 minutes of ice time per night, and if Horvat can consistently play with a similar effectiveness, he may stick wit the big club.
It was also nice to see Derek Dorsett have a strong night, punctuated by a highlight reel assist. Dorsett has had a tough go of it this season, but he’s traditionally been a premium 4th liner who can break even by possession standards with pretty brutal defensive deployments. Maybe it’s no coincidence that this coincided with Linden Vey being moved away from his centre, or maybe it’s randomness. Who knows.
It’s out of the frying pan and into the fire for Vancouver, as the Chicago Blackhawks are in town this Sunday for a 6:30 PM showdown. The ‘Hawks aren’t exactly rolling to start this season, but they’re still insanely good and have been going through a bit of an on-ice shooting percentage malaise, as they sit second-last in the NHL by this measure.
Chicago’s offense is going to start rolling again soon, Vancouver was shredded the last time they ran the gauntlet of top-end possession teams, and Dan Hamhuis will likely be absent. It’s going to be one of the biggest tests of the season.
If you’re looking for some hockey to hold you over until then, the Vancouver Giants are in action tomorrow night at 7:30 PM against the Regina Pats at the Pacific Coliseum. Tyler Benson is returning to the Giants lineup to face fellow top 2016 prospect Sam Steel, so it should be a good game.