— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) December 23, 2014
The Arizona Coyotes got the short end of the scheduling stick – they didn’t get the fragile Canucks of last week and managed to just narrowly avoid them escaping a regression induced tunnel with that tightly fought and contested slump-busting victory on Saturday.
Instead, they caught a confident and rejuvenated Vancouver club that was due for serious offensive regression in the most positive sense. It came early and often in a wave of first period goals that proved too much for the offensively adverse Coyotes to overcome.
When it was all said and done, the Canucks managed to ensure they entered the Christmas break on a positive note, thumping the Coyotes by a final score of 7-1. Find out how on the other side of the jump.
Tonight’s game started much like every other Canucks-Coyotes game. The neutral zone acted as quick sand and both teams struggled to muster much offensively until the quarter-mark of the first. When the pace quickened, it was Vancouver on the receiving end of quality scoring chances more often than not. There were several key saves from Ryan Miller, who felt like giving his team a chance for a change. Miller’s save on Kyle Chipchura in tight sticks out in particular, but his robbery of Mikkel Boedker in the slot was also impressive.
The rest of the first – and much of the game, really – presented no such challenges for Miller. The Canucks upped the ante as they approached the mid-way mark of the first, with Derek Dorsett leading a charge up ice, using the old outside-in toe drag to set the Canucks up inside the Coyotes zone. The ensuing zone-time led to an Alex Burrows bank-shot off the Coyotes for the opening tally.
That was just the beginning. The Canucks let loose an onslaught of chances and shots following that opening marker, with the most beautiful of them coming on a Radim Vrbata and Henrik Sedin two-on-one. Believe it or not, it was Vrbata who played the role of facilitator, launching a cross-ice pass right on to Hank’s stick. Unfortunately, the ensuing chance was robbed by Mike Smith.
A series of Canucks penalties brought the pace back to manageable levels for Arizona, but for a short-lived moment at best. By the time Vancouver regained their wheels, they began scoring at will. Leaving the penalty box, Kevin Bieksa caught a pass going down the half-wall and launched a short-side shot past Smith for the 2-0 marker. And just two-minutes later, the Canucks used their speedy transition game to notch another goal, with Vrbata and Daniel Sedin playing keep-away in the Coyotes zone, before Daniel jumped on and sent home a horrible five-hole rebound from Smith.
It’s only fitting that in just his second game of the season, it took until the second period for #TopSixtito to take this game over. Sure, the Canucks had another two goals in this frame (none of which Sestito was on the ice for) but it was Sestito’s period all the same. Generously enough, Sestito let Brad Richardson in on the scoring, unselfishly, before taking control of course.
Sure, that short-side snipe by Richardson was fine and dandy… But it was Sestito who drew the first Coyotes penalty of the night just minutes later. In the following minutes, Sestito delivered a questionable hit, fought Kyle Chipchura for his troubles, all the while drawing the most rarely called penalty in hockey: the instigator. On the ensuing power play, Vancouver scored once more. It was Burrows second goal of the night, on another crease crashing mess of a goal. They all count the same on the scoreboard though, right?
The third period was one of omens. It started offensively for Vancouver on a Shawn Matthias breakaway, which resulted in a blatant hooking penalty that frankly looked good enough to be called a penalty shot (shout-out to game management!). On the following power play, Vancouver’s second-unit saw increased action and really came to life. The power play after, they scored. It was a Chris Higgins goal in tight, on a great centering pass. For Higgins troubles, Martin Hanzal tried to maim him, as is tradition.
Just two minutes later, Matthias made good on his missed chance to open the period with a goal of his own, sending home the seventh and final goal of the night for Vancouver. Then things got awfully Dave Tippet up in this, with little happening either way and the game slowing to a snail like pace. The only excitement came late in the frame, as the clock winded down and #TopSixtito went out Hanzal-hunting. It started with a cross check, then Sestito did his best to bypass the ref and mug Hanzal. Oh, what could have been.
Courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.com
If I had to choose one phrase to describe this game, it would be “lol Mike Smith.” Despite the ‘Yotes piling up the corgis, there really wasn’t any time you felt that the Canucks were in trouble or had lost control of the game. It helped that they were in cruise control with a 3-0 lead at the end of the first period and didn’t give Arizona much of a sniff in terms of legitimate grade-A chances, but minus-31 Corsi at 5-on-5 is still striking.
It’s also worth pointing out how insanely friendly the bounces were to Vancouver tonight. Both of Alex Burrows’ goals were mostly dumb luck coupled with hard work, but those will happen from time to time if you just put shot attempts on the net, as will goals like Kevin Bieksa’s where the opposing goalie just has a brief moment of suck. The Coyotes had no such fortune this evening, and Ryan Miller was very good on top of that. Vancouver has been on the other end of games like these this year, so it’s nice to have one go their way as an early Christmas gift.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Tom Sestito was the worst player on the ice tonight in terms of Corsi, going minus twenty (+2/-22, 8.33%) in less than 10 minutes of 5v5 time on ice. But to be honest, I have no idea how that happened having watched the game (editor’s note: maybe G.O.D.I.S.A.V hacked the Rogers Arena scoring booth. You never know). What is probably surprising is that a player can have a game that hilariously in the red, but it be just a footnote in their game story. With a hit, a drawn penalty, a fight, and a (mostly endorsed) attempted murder of Martin Hanzal, it only seemed like Tom Sestito was all over the ice rather than in his own zone the whole game.
It’s not a whole lot of use analyzing blowout wins like this, just as it isn’t much use analyzing blowout losses. The Canucks will gladly put this in their back pocket, and head into the Christmas break with some good feelings, and maybe some of that always elusive momentum.
The Canucks are off until the 28th now when they play Ryan Kesler and the Ducks in Anaheim. Things are slowing down in the hockey world, and on the blog too as we all go visit family and friends over the holidays. From all of us here at Canucks Army, thank you for reading and commenting this season, and we look forward to an even better year next year, starting when we come back from the Christmas break. You’re all awesome. Happy holidays everyone!