When you look at the standings and see that the Vancouver Canucks are 1st overall pic.twitter.com/sc0Wk887LJ
— The Commish (@NHL_Boss) November 29, 2014
These aren’t your father’s Vancouver Canucks. Not only did Vancouver fight for an early lead, but they managed to do something so many earlier versions of this roster could not: close out the game.
Whether it was the oft-mentioned fragility of last year’s team or the laid back nature of prior, more successful iterations, this was an area the Canucks have long struggled in.
Not tonight, though. The Canucks weathered the first, put themselves ahead in the second, and put the exclamation mark on this victory in the third. Bad habits of Canucks teams past were exorcised with a 5-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night. And you know what? They made it look easy.
Other side of the jump and such.
While they come out on top by the underlying metrics, I find it hard to believe that they were the better of the two clubs in the first. Much of what Vancouver mustered offensively was limited to perimeter shots made on rare forays into the Columbus zone. Where high-quality chances are concerned, there weren’t many to speak of, but I feel as though generally they were directed at Ryan Miller in the early going.
To his credit, Miller set the tone for what turned out to be a dominant performance on the night. While the final score does little to indicate this, there were several occasions where Miller had to be a difference maker and keep Vancouver in the contest. He didn’t fail.
It wasn’t until the second that Vancouver put their foot on the gas. After weathering an early penalty kill on a poor play by Kevin Bieksa (he had a few of those tonight) it was all Vancouver.
The Canucks were eventually rewarded with a
CANUCKS ARMY FAVOURITE Chris Higgins goal to notch the night’s first tally. On a won faceoff in the defensive zone, the Canucks made a few excellent breakout passes and built separation throughout the neutral zone. From there they carried the puck into Columbus territory, before Higgins snapped home a goal short-side.
It’s a shot that Sergei Bobrovsky stops probably 99 times out of 100, but there’s no arguing with the process on Vancouver’s end. In fairness to Bobrovsky, when healthy, he’s been under siege playing in Columbus. The Jackets are currently surrendering the third most shots against per 60mins in the league and to his credit, Bobrovsky has largely held the fort. He’s built enough equity for a goal like that and a night like tonight.
Heading into the third, with a tenuous 1-0 lead, the Canucks seemed poised for victory. At the best of times I’d expect Vancouver to be able to beat Columbus, but playing against a roster that’s half-AHL quality, it seemed like a given.
What I didn’t expect was the offensive explosion that ensued. I’d barely made it to my TV by the time Henrik Sedin potted the 2-0 goal, on a great pass by the third Sedin.
From there, the floodgates opened. The Canucks would add another three goals on the night, with Alex Burrows, Brad Richardson and
J.D. Burke favourite Shawn Matthias. Richardson’s was of the empty net variety, but there’s no complaining for the style points on the other two goals. Especially the Matthias breakaway.
Would you believe me if I told you that Yannick Weber was the Canucks leading possession player tonight, with a 65% Corsi? Probably not, unless I also told you he had an 89% zone starts. Right behind him was Ryan Stanton, which is significant if for no other reason than Stanton has been quite awful this year. Stanton had a 60% Corsi.
On the flip side, Linden Vey remains remarkably ineffective at even strength. Vey’s been an awful possession player for the entirety of the season and tonight’s 39% Corsi certainly didn’t help his cause. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find ways to justify keeping Vey in the lineup. Right now, it’s a Zack Kassian injury that’s cleared space. Have to imagine it’s back to the press box when Kassian is back.
Hey, lets end on a positive note. Ryan Miller was hovering dangerously towards Ondrej Pavelec territory for a while there. If I recall correctly, Miller’s sv% was at about .900 for a little bit. Two shutouts later, Miller has revived his sv% and is at a much more respectable .914.