It’s not often when the opposing team can come in to your home barn, score three goals to your two, and you still come out with the win. Well, as little sense as that sentence made, that’s exactly what happened tonight as the Canucks finally broke their five game losing streak, beating the Calgary Flames by a score of 3-2 in overtime.
Read past the jump for a look back at tonight’s bizarre affair.
The game started off in a really weird fashion. After trading shot attempts in the very opening minutes of the game, Luca Sbisa took a tripping penalty below the goal line in Vancouver’s zone. The Flames pulled their goalie for the extra attacker, worked the puck around down low, and after a funny bounce, opened the scoring… by shooting the puck all the way down the ice and into their own net. I may be biased, but this is the goal of the year in my opinion:
The hockey gods can be cruel sometimes, but let it never be said that the Canucks don’t get bounces.
The Canucks also killed off Sbisa’s penalty, and this appeared to provide a spark for the rest of the period. They began to generate some pressure soon after, and were able to build on their 1-goal lead on a powerplay after Josh Jooris boarded Yannick Weber. Henrik Sedin won an offensive zone faceoff, and the Canucks worked the puck down to Alex Burrows in front of the net. Burrows jammed the puck on Jonas Hiller while fighting off two Flames defenders, casing it to squirt out towards Calgary’s Paul Byron. Byron appeared to be focused entirely on the puck however, as Radim Vrbata easily reached in front of him and slid the puck into the open net:
Vancouver continued to carry the play in the first, but weren’t able to put any more pucks behind Jonas Hiller.
The second frame started off with a scary moment, as Jannik Hansen took a hit from Dennis Wideman while forechecking. Hansen bounced off Wideman, and appeared to be in pain as he skated to the bench doubled over. While on the bench, Hansen appeared to pass out as he suddenly slumped forward, prompting the officials to immediately halt play and bring a doctor across the ice. Fortunately, Hansen was able to leave the bench and walk to the dressing room under his own power. More good news came after the game, as Willie Desjardins indicated that Hansen was doing well in his post-game press conference:
Hansen was checked out at the hospital and everything looks good, according to Desjardins. #Canucks
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) December 21, 2014
Maybe this scare affected the Canucks’ play, but they definitely were not as strong in the latter stages of the second period. Calgary began to get more zone time and generate more chances about half way through the second, and nearly cut the Canucks lead to 2-1 when Raphael Diaz hammered a slap shot off the post and out, beating Ryan Miller cleanly.
The Flames were eventually able to get on the board shortly thereafter though, as Ryan Miller couldn’t handle a Kris Russell shot from a bad angle, dropping the puck right on the stick of David Jones. Jones, left relatively uncovered because he wasn’t picked up by Luca Sbisa after Chris Tanev left him alone to go chase Russell, shoveled the puck just past Miller on the short side to cut Vancouver’s lead to one goal.
The third period started fairly slowly, but after a nice passing play in Vancouver’s zone left Luca Sbisa chasing, Johnny Gaudreau was able to carry the puck into the high slot as he shoveled a soft, bouncing wrister though Ryan Miller’s 5-hole to tie the game at 2-2. There wouldn’t be much more of a push from the Flames, as they seemed content to run the clock and pick up a single point on the second half of a home-road back-to-back.
Vancouver struck quickly in the overtime though, as the Sedins and Chris Tanev capitalized on an odd man rush, emphatically putting an end to the five-game losing skid:
Courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.com
Forgive me in advance for my cynicism, but while a win is a win and I’ll take a win every day of the week, and while the Canucks controlled the flow of play on the whole, but tonight kind of had a “playing down to your opponent” feel to it. The Flames (and Jonas Hiller) played last night against the Dallas Stars, but the Canucks were only a +2 Corsi over the final 40 minutes against what should have been both a less skilled and tired opponent. Score effects are one thing, but they generally aren’t supposed to really show up until the latter half of the third period.
Oddly enough, Vancouver’s top line was the source of their biggest shoot generation issues. Radim Vrbata was a team-low -7 Corsi (38.7%) and was a -1 on the night, but he was fine on the powerplay as he also had 7 shot attempts and a powerplay goal. The Sedins were both also under 50% Corsi on the night at 5-on-5 and were outshot 10-5 when they were on the ice, but once again they were lethal on special teams, helping set up Vrbata’s goal, and making the play to give Chris Tanev the game winner.
Also, after two more goals against tonight, Luca Sbisa is now a team-low -8 on the season for a GoalsFor% of 41.5% according to War-on-ice. His on-ice goals against per 60 is also the second highest on the Canucks, behind only Zack Kassian. Plus/minus has its issues, mainly that it’s influenced by PDO in small samples, but it’s also worth noting that Sbisa has never had a PDO at or above 100.0 in his career, and has never had a GF% above 46.2% over a full season either. The eye test also back up that he struggles at times and is prone to the big error.
This isn’t to crap on Luca Sbisa so much as it is to illustrate the fact that Vancouver needs some help on D if they hope to go anywhere in the playoffs. At 15:06, Sbisa played more minutes than only Yannick Weber tonight, but you can’t have guys that are chronically prone to getting out-shot and out-scored playing in your top-4. They’re going to need to find some help some time, unless they’re secretly hoping to pick up Mat Barzal or Travis Konecny or Mitchell Marner around 10th overall.
Vancouver has one more game before the Christmas break, as they’ll wrap up their home stand against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday night. The ‘Yotes are also struggling this season, so it’s a good chance to put the five game skid firmly in the rear view mirror and build some momentum for the new year and post-break schedule.
We can also hope for a Christmas miracle come Monday too: a game in which Martin Hanzal doesn’t injure anybody. That may be asking for too much, though.