— Schneider’s Teeth (@SchneidersTeeth) December 31, 2014
I’m not sure there’s any one formula for road success. The going theory in hockey lore, though, suggests you build an early lead, weather a storm and with the help of solid goaltending, leave the opposition’s building victorious. Vancouver was able to check all these items off their list, en route to an impressive 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks.
I’ll tell you how it all went down on the other side of the jump.
The Canucks driving force tonight was their fourth line. The scrappy trio of Alex Burrows, Bo Horvat and Derek Dorsett buzzed early and were involved physically throughout. It didn’t take long for their hard work to be rewarded. Horvat launched a prayer on net and the ensuing dog-pile somehow nudged the puck slowly past the Sharks goal-line.
More encouragingly for Canucks fans though was the insurance goal scored by Radim Vrbata. All year the discussion surrounding the Canucks first line has centered on their inability to generate offense against tougher opponents, but they came through tonight.
That was the last of the Canucks three goals, which proved more than sufficient to leave the SAP Centre with the W. The Canucks were all too happy to enter a defensive shell for the remainder of the game, and while the shot totals are unflattering to say the least, they weren’t surrendering many 10-bell chances.
- While I touched on the first lines inability to generate offense against more difficult teams already, there was a more concerning trend to emerge out of Vancouver’s first quarter on the team scale. The Canucks were often mentioned as making hay on weaker competition, while struggling to even look the part of a playoff team against the Kings and Sharks of the league. Tonight’s victory was able to at the very least ease these concerns, if only for a night.
- Canucks fans were none too upset about the decision to keep Horvat with the big club. As the narrative goes, he’s nothing left to learn in junior and even the World Juniors offer little to his advantage in terms of development. In reality, he’s playing too damn well to be kept out of the lineup and it’s probably as simple as that. His faceoff prowess has been lauded since his introduction to the lineup, along with his stellar defensive play. It was nice to see a more offensively inclined Horvat tonight though, as he chipped in with his first goal in over a month.
- Break out the tinfoil hats. Vancouver was called for not one, but two penalty shots tonight! Miller was able to shut the door, with a little help from the crossbar.
- Miller wasn’t as lucky on the second penalty shot. Joe Thornton worked his way in slowly, before going post and in for the Sharks only goal on the night.
- One of the Canucks better defencemen tonight was Ryan Stanton. It’s encouraging to see the reliable defender regaining much of his form from last season. Better still were Stanton’s contributions tonight offensively. While he wasn’t rewarded for his efforts, Stanton had one near-break down the half-wall and was seen on a 2-on-1 with Dorsett much later in the game. Stanton showed another side to his game, completing several key breakout passes as well. He finished the night with 2 shots and a Corsi For of 53%.
- How about that Jannik Hansen? The offense keeps coming for the pesky Dane, who’s on pace to shatter his points total from last season playing in a severely diminished role. Tonight, Hansen was flying at both ends. He provided the game winning goal, immediately after exiting the box for a questionable hit on Tommy Wingels.
The easy part is over. Next up for Vancouver is a Thursday night showdown with the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the L.A. Kings. In Vancouver’s last match-up with the Kings, they were lit up to the tune of 5-1. That said, the Kings did just lose to the Oilers tonight, so maybe Vancouver is catching them at their weakest. Can only hope so. Happy New Years and see you then!
Note: As we mentioned earlier today, we’re trying out some new looks to our game coverage. We won’t know what works and what doesn’t until we test it out, so let us know what you’d like to see and we can do to improve. Your feedback is appreciated!