Canucks Army GDT #31 – Canucks vs. Stars

After a few days off to rest and reflect on the embarrassing 5-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday night, the Canucks are finally back in action to take on the Dallas Stars in the second game of their four game pre-Christmas home stand. After being atop the NHL standings less than two weeks ago, their short 4-game losing skid has dropped the Canucks to within just two points of the final playoff spot in the West. They have also dropped 5 games in a row against the struggling Dallas Stars, so the Canucks are surely keen to snap a couple of bad streaks and put some more daylight between themselves and the Flames and Wild.

Read past the jump for a preview of tonight’s game.

Broadcast Info

Puck Drop: 7:00 PM PST

TV: Sportsnet

Radio: TSN 1040

Lineups

Courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

Defensive Pairings
Alexander Edler 
Alexander Edler
Chris Tanev 
Chris Tanev
Luca Sbisa 
Luca Sbisa
Kevin Bieksa 
Kevin Bieksa
Ryan Stanton 
Ryan Stanton
Yannick Weber 
Yannick Weber

The Radim Vrbata on line 2 experiment was short lived, as Willie Desjardins put his lines back in a more familiar setup tonight. Zack Kassian and Dan Hamhuis are still on IR. Tom Sestito was recalled from Utica but will not play. Eddie Lack gets the nod in goal tonight.

Defensive Pairings
Alex Goligoski 
Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg 
John Klingberg
Jyrki Jokipakka 
Jyrki Jokipakka
Trevor Daley 
Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn 
Jordie Benn
Jason Demers 
Jason Demers

Kari Lehtonen will start for the Stars – his 25th appearance of the season.

Preview

To say the Stars have been disappointing this season is an understatement. After making the biggest offseason splash by acquiring Jason Spezza via trade, Dallas hasn’t been able to repeat their strong 5v5 play last season as they sit tied for last in the Central division. However, their record likely isn’t fully indicative of their talent, as some poor goaltending has let them down this year. Kari Lehtonen sits 47th in the NHL with a 0.912 even strength save percentage, which is tied with Eddie Lack, and 11 places ahead of Ryan Miller (0.903).

Speaking of Miller and Lack, it appears that the Canucks have followed Thom Drance’s advice from yesterday, and are starting Eddie Lack tonight in place of Ryan Miller. To be honest, neither goalie’s performance has been acceptable so far this season, but Miller’s at the age where a goalie’s play really begins to deteriorate. He’s not a true talent 0.900 save percentage goalie right now – at least he really shouldn’t be for another two years or so – so you should expect him to pull that up going forward. Still, his struggles have opened the door for Lack to perhaps muscle away a few more starts should he string together a few good games, and Eddie can make a good case for himself tonight.

Dallas has owned the Canucks recently though, as they’ve won five games in a row against Vancouver. Erik Cole and Tyler Seguin in particular have lit the Canucks up recently. Cole has struggled mightily in recent years, but has 12 goals in his last 10 games against Vancouver. Seguin, who leads the NHL in goals with 23 and points with 38, has also lit up Vancouver with 4 goals and 7 assists in his last 5 meetings against the Canucks.

If there’s a fatal flaw to Dallas, it’s that they can’t prevent goals, shots, or shot attempts to save their life. They’re dead last in the NHL allowing 2.91 5v5 goals against per 60 minutes, and are the 2nd worst team in the West at preventing shots and attempts, ahead of only the Colorado Avalanche. This means that, despite a super high-end scoring and shot rate, they aren’t really capable of outscoring or outshooting opponents. They rank one spot below Vancouver in score-adjusted Corsi at 49.8%, overtaking the New York Rangers.

If the narrative that fast teams give Vancouver trouble is true and not just a euphemism for “the Canucks aren’t very good,” then Vancouver’s defence corps may be in trouble tonight. That top line of Benn, Spezza, and Seguin seems like it would be lethal off the rush, and, well, we all remember Saturday. Vancouver will have to be very careful to not get torched once again tonight.

  • Brent

    What is not acceptable about Lack’s performance?

    He makes average backup money and has been an average backup.

    He’s been fine.

    What’s unacceptable is that the first comment on a gameday thread is at nearly 4pm PST…

      • Brent

        I remember last year trying to explain to you that goaltending would be almost impossible to fully analyze because of the lack of calculation for trajectory. That angles are not only being defended by the goalie, but also the players. Not exactly word for word, but something like that. You can take 100 shots from the same place but not all of them will hit the same mark or be defended the same way.

        This article comes pretty close to explaining that statistically. Thanks for passing it along as I haven’t seen it before. I’m all for better analytics for goalies as long as they make sense to my experiences playing the position for as long as I have.

        Neat thing that he mentions Dubnyk not doing as well after leaving the Oilers, then as time catches up to his analysis/article, he actually does this year. Proving some of his theory correct.

        Good thing the Ottawa game is boring or I’d probably be watching hockey at this hour as opposed to discussing it.

        • Brent

          What I like about Boyle’s goalie articles (he has a number of them on Sportsnet) is that he doesn’t ignore visual data simply to prop up the current (and soon to be archaic) statistical guard.

          As an example, he was in favour of Price over Luongo for Canada last year while a certain analyst on here suggested Canada would be “screwed” without Luongo.

          This is what happens when one is a slave to the “best statistics we have” instead of using both statistics and visual data/experience.

          I’m a huge fan of Luongo. But he clearly doesn’t have the athleticism that some of the new wave of goalies like Price/Schneider possess.

          Which is why, in my opinion, Schneider (like Lundqvist) was better suited to play deeper in his crease like Mellanson wanted.

          Because Schneider has superior lateral movement whereas Luongo would too often end up on his belly trying to slide across the crease.

          Logically, wouldn’t it make sense that defenders have to play differently to compensate for a goalie’s weaknesses while also having the ability to cheat off of a goalie’s strengths?

          If so, how much value can we place in save percentage as a pure goalie stat when a goaltender’s size/technique influence how the skaters in front of him play?

          “I’m all for better analytics for goalies as long as they make sense to my experiences playing the position for as long as I have.”

          Agreed.

          I think this is particularly true with goaltending where (even strength) save percentage is pretty much the only stat many analysts use and even then a very large sample size is needed to have confidence.

          By the time one has this sample size, a goalie may very well be moving on from the prime of his career to the decline phase.

          Hopefully that’s not the case with Miller…

          • Brent

            There are 3 goalies I’ve seen play that I’ve said, “Wow, that guy is textbook perfect on everything.” Kirk McLean, Carey Price, and Cory Schneider. I’m sure there’s more, but I haven’t seen them personally. So square and perfect on the angles, each of them. So good at knowing where the play is going before it happens.

            It’s weird with goaltending because timing and anticipation have a lot to do with the position. A goalie can have the best technique yet once the timing is off, things go south in a hurry. A lot of that timing can also get thrown off when the guys in front of you are off as well.

            Not on the angles quick enough, guessing, going down early, or overcompensating, are big time symptoms of this. Miller is showing many of these, but I doubt it’s erosion of skill causing it. He doesn’t look slow or unset, he looks off, if that makes sense.

          • Brent

            And I wonder how much of that “looking off” could be related to fatigue.

            Goalie is such a physically demanding position.

            It’s amazing how much work goes into the position even when a shot on goal isn’t recorded.

            Which is why I’m glad Lack is playing and hope he plays more if Miller isn’t performing.

            As I said, I’m a huge fan of Luongo.

            But it’s not really because of his technical abilities.

            He was one of the first truly big goalies with good enough athleticism.

            When he’s on, his economy of motion is as good as any goalie in the league, in my opinion.

            Basically what we saw in 2007 and for long stretches after October for many years.

            Whereas I feel Schneider has the higher ceiling because of his superior technique/athleticism while having, what, 95% of the size that Lou has.

            Of course, it’s a VERY different league now as opposed to the early 2000’s when Lou was pretty much the best goalie in the league in his early 20s.

            It’s a pity he wasn’t Vancouver’s goalies during the West Coast Express days…

  • Brent

    Not sure if it’s fatigue or just having played the same system for so many years. Mental fatigue perhaps, but the conditioning is different. There’s no way he should be physically tired unless it’s a sickness.

    Lu was definitely the first of his kind. Big and athletic. He kind of brought us into the era of the gigantic goalie. Now it’s commonplace.

    A little late for our organization for sure. Not sure what they saw in Clouts. A guy I miss, and who was my favourite player from those days was Ohlund. One of the best in the game before his eye injury, in my opinion.

    Looks like Eddie is fighting the puck a little this period.