Riding a wave of favourable percentages, hot goaltending, and as accommodating a three-game stretch as the schedule can offer, Vancouver put the cherry on top of a three-game winning streak with a 2-1 victory over the newly anointed #FancyCats. This, just two weeks after the Panthers came into Rogers Arena with some guy named “Roberto Luongo” in tow and had their way with the then hapless Canucks.
The “road win” formula was followed perfectly tonight. The Canucks capitalized on early defensive miscues by the young Florida blue line to build an early lead, then sat on that lead until the game was over, preserving their big guns for tomorrow’s game in the process. If not for a Brandon Pirri one-timer (which ended Ryan Miller’s streak of 212:52 without surrendering a goal) there’d be almost nothing to complain about!
Meet me on the other side of the jump and maybe I’ll find something after all!
- For a team that was playing their third game in five days, the Canucks didn’t look overly tired to start the night. They were the better of the two clubs early, dominating territorial play and generating offensive chances aplenty. The Canucks first line looked especially potent and were rewarded for their troubles with the opening goal. Henrik tied up his man in the circle, Daniel picked up the trash and sent a beauty of a pass lengthwise to the waiting stick of Radim Vrbata who made no mistake.
- I’m not sure what the Canucks want from Zack Kassian. Production? Well, if it’s during the right part of the season. Physicality? Well, sure, but they need production too? It’s an impossible paradigm for Kassian to navigate, but I feel he did as well as could be reasonably expected tonight. Kassian led the team in hits with three and wasn’t exceptionally cumbersome in terms of possession – a more impressive feat, when one considers his linemates tonight have a history of middling-to-terrible possession play. I’m disappointed by the doughnut shot-total, but I remember some exceptional shows of vision and feel that in general the “Kasquatch” was much more engaged than usual.
- It was nice to see Bo Horvat find the scoreboard again. I don’t necessarily expect Horvat (as a nineteen year old) to light the world on fire offensively – especially given the mountain of evidence that suggests 29-year old Bo Horvat probably isn’t capable of this – but it would be nice to see his name on the score-sheet occasionally all the same. Tonight was one such rare occasion. The young centre kept on a 2-on-1, before launching not one, but probably three shots. Eventually the puck trickled through a clearly exasperated Luongo for Horvat’s first marker in seven games.
- Speaking of ugly, unproductive stretches… how about that Chris Higgins guy? What ever happened to him anyways? Well, if there’s one thing I can say for the snakebit forward, it’s that tonight he finally generated something in the way of offence. Higgins led the Canucks in shots by a mile with five on the night and comes out almost even in terms of puck control. You have to imagine the goals will follow if he continues to play like that. One can hope as much, anyways.
- Huge hat-tip to Ryan Miller! It seems like just weeks ago now that Miller was teetering dangerously into replacement level territory, and yet here he is with a .919sv% on the year. If not for a garbage time goal from Pirri, Miller was mere minutes away from a three-game shutout streak. Assuming Miller doesn’t falter, he could be well on his way to his best season since 2009-10; he’s already matched his shutout total from that season, with 5.
The Canucks are Hansel-hot. As hot as a Steve Simmons #fancystats take. And tomorrow they play their fourth game in six days against the Atlantic Conference leading Tampa Bay Lightning. It remains to be seen whether Miller will get the nod in that one. Conventional wisdom suggests that one might not play their 34-year old goaltender – that’s mentioned fatigue as a contributing factor to his slow start – in two straight sets of back-to-back games. Then again, Luca Sbisa made his return to the lineup at Frankie Corrado’s expense tonight, and Eddie Lack may be battling the flu, so all bets are off.
Catch you then!