Leading up to tonight’s game between the New Jersey Devils and Vancouver Canucks, there was any number of hockey related story lines that could have taken precedence in the hours before puck-drop. Instead, the loss of former Canucks head coach and player Pat Quinn was paramount in our hearts and minds. A time will come for warm reflection, but for today at least the Canucks let us share a human moment and mourn his passing.
Following a chilling moment of silence, fabled Vancouver opera singer Marc Donnelly belted a beautiful rendition of the Irish folk-song, Danny Boy. I know somewhere, in some way, the “Big Irishman” was giving his sideways grin through the entire rendition, cigar in tow.
While the Griffiths family brought financial stability to the #Canucks, Pat Quinn brought credibility.
— Bruce Ng (@transcendwebs) November 26, 2014
The Canucks honored the fiery Irishmen’s legacy to the tune of a hard fought 2-0 victory. There’s not a lot to chew on from tonight’s game, but we’ll tackle what little there is on the other side of the jump.
If Vancouver was to honour their bench boss from the 90s, New Jersey certainly wasn’t to be outdone. Shades of Jacques Lemaire and his vaunted neutral zone trap made an appearance early and often, leaving no room for offensive gains from either side. Being on the final leg of a grueling Western road trip certainly didn’t help the Devils cause; especially when one considers that they aren’t the most exciting of clubs on the best of nights. What little did happen in the first was almost always in Vancouver’s favour.
I shan’t be making the mistake of confusing high event hockey for high quality hockey ever again. Despite the Canucks sky-high 17-shot first period, little in the way of chances was mustered. And so that trend continued for much of the second. What little entertainment was there in the second came courtesy of yet another Derek Dorsett fight, this time with Seth Helgeson.
From there the Canucks and Devils exchanged menacing glances and extended forays into each others end of the neutral zone… It was enthralling stuff. The merits of shutdown defensive play in an increasingly offensive NHL have been up for debate for quite some time. By large, there are rare exceptions where talent adverse clubs (like the New Jersey Devils) have to continue this style of play to keep up with their more nimble and creative peers. It can be a largely effective strategy, but not when the primary offensive casualty is yourself.
The Canucks have so far been a middle of the pack shot suppression team, yet managed to only surrender 20 to the Devils – eight shots lower than their average. For all the Devils ability to make hockey as fast and entertaining as lawn darts, they couldn’t contain the Canucks quick play with the puck throughout. With the ability to use their foot-speed all but negated, it took a quick transition play at the Devils blue line to notch the night’s first tally. Kevin Bieksa intercepted a pass and sent it immediately onto the outstretched stick of Alex Burrows for a deflection past Cory Schneider.
A whole lot of nothing happened between that goal and the final tally on the night. It got to the point where Rhys was taunting me for even having chosen to do tonight’s post-game:
So @JDylanBurke asked if he could do the postgamer tonight. Lol what a goof
— Rhys Jessop (@Thats_Offside) November 26, 2014
I am a goof, and really a horrible person on the whole. And yet karma remained on my side! A miscue at the Canucks blue line by Devils defenceman, Marek Zidlicky, led to a Shawn Matthias breakaway. While his original effort was stopped, the rebound bounced off of the repentant back-checking defenceman and in. I always believed in you, Matthias.
For Devils fans this might be the last breakaway they see this season. For Vancouver, it was the insurance goal needed to put this one away.
essentially, roberto luongo just scored on cory schneider
— Gráinne (@wholegrainne) November 26, 2014
Ahem, that’s some mighty good looking Corsis you got there, Vancouver. All the better when one considers that New Jersey has been a consistently dominant possession squad under Peter DeBoer, and that the Canucks have struggled in this realm for most of the season.
Leading the charge tonight was Vancouver’s second-line. All three members posted Corsi% north of 70%, with Chris Higgins leading at 77%. The trio started only a quarter of their even-strength shifts in the offensive-zone tonight, so yeah, they were kind of dominant.
Maybe my drink was spiked, but I’m also seeing that Luca Sbisa had a Corsi of 65% on the night as well. In fairness to the oft criticized evergreen of a defenceman, his underlying numbers paint an accurate picture of what I felt was his best night as a Canuck. He was consistently played against Jaromir Jagr and for the most part kept him in check. At one point in the third, Vancouver’s lumbering Swiss defender even launched the usually sturdy Jagr into the boards, sending Twitter into a frenzy.
@JDylanBurke he pulls a game like that out of his ass every so often to entice you.
— Kid Ish (@kid_ish) November 26, 201
Vancouver has strung together a few strong performances in a row here and, dare I say it, appears to have a little momentum heading into Friday’s meeting against Ryan Johansen, his Big Macs, and the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets may look considerably different between now and Vancouver rolls in to town, so that will be an interesting storyline to keep your eyes on. Until then, thanks for reading.