Canucks Army Postgame: Effort Lack-ing

Winners of four of their last five contests, the Vancouver Canucks took their hot streak to the First Niagara Center looking to close out their successful Eastern swing against the lowly Buffalo Sabres. 

Reeling from injuries throughout their lineup and road wearied, circumstances weren’t in the Canucks corner going into tonight’s contest. Then again, how does one complain when it’s arguably the worst team in hockey history in the other end?

In a trudging, ugly sort of game that would favour a less skilled team like the Buffalo Sabres, Vancouver didn’t have enough left in the tank to secure the win. Defensive miscues and poor bounces played a large role in felling the Canucks, who left Buffalo on the losing end of a 6-3 score.

Lets break it all down, on the other side of the jump.

Highlights

Quick Hits

chart (3)

(Courtesy: Hockeystats.ca)

dum shots

(Courtesy: War-on-Ice.com)

[Canucks.com Recap] [Face-Off Summary] [Event Summary] [War-on-Ice Stat Pack] [NaturalStatTrick.com Stat Pack] [HockeyStats.ca Stat Pack]

  • You’re not the only who noticed. Yes, Shawn Matthias is somewhat of a Sabres killer. Not quite on a Milan Hejduk vs. Vancouver plain, but consistently producing against this lowly Metropolitan squad all the same. With tonight’s goal, Matthias now has 10-points in 16-games against the Sabres in his career. Matthias has only registered more points against the Carolina Hurricanes, with 13 against them over his career. Great way to finish a red hot February for Matthias, who registered seven goals and the one assist during that span.
  • If you’re curious as to what keeps Chris Higgins in the Canucks lineup despite his offensive struggles, consider his underlying numbers from tonight. Higgins had a solid Corsi of 79% on the night. On a team that is short defensive acumen among its forwards crops, Higgins stands out in the most positive way. Among Canucks forwards with more than 100-minutes on the season, Higgins is fifth in SF% and sixth in CF%. For a team intent on making the post-season, Higgins reliability from his own zone will always be a valued commodity. Then again, if other teams see it that way and are willing to fork over a pick… But I digress.
  • Latvian Lightning was raining down on both ends of the rink. At his best, Ronalds Kenins was in hot pursuit of anything wearing the wrong shade of blue, forcing turnovers and wreaking havoc physically. All these qualities were on display as he forced turnovers aplenty before setting up the Jannik Hansen slap-shot goal in the second. Then, for the first time since joining the big club, Kenins had himself a rookie moment. Pressing offensively and cycling the puck, Kenins went for a jaunty stroll up into the high slot of the offensive zone. A turnover was forced by the Sabres, who sent Chris Stewart in on a breakaway on Lack. The original shot was stopped, but it eventually rolled in for a goal. Hate to say it, but I think Kenins might be human. 
  • I’m starting to think that this dangerous side to Willie Desjardins might be more than a phase. We’ve seen it before on this road trip. With the Canucks trailing late, Willie D has begun to put out a four forward unit with a sizable amount of time remaining. Before tonight’s game was completely out of reach, Willie D did the same, icing the Sedins, Zack Kassian, Radim Vrbata and Dan Hamhuis. Of course, he could’ve upped himself with a Patrick Roy-esque pull of the goalie to accompany his forward heavy set, but sometimes you can’t have your cake and eat it too. 
  • There were shades of authentic “Hammer” tonight. Dan Hamhuis was active offensively, setting up the Hansen goal in the second and spending considerable time aiding the Sedins in their cycles through the third. Defensively, Hamhuis was old reliable. It’s been a bit of a struggle for Hamhuis since returning from a destroyed torn groin mid-season. I’m sure that Hamhuis didn’t envision returning from his injury and playing the role of sole top-four d-man in the Canucks stable. Not exactly easing your way back into the swing of things.
  • Don’t think luck plays a role in hockey? Try explaining the Sabres winning hockey games this season. Short their two top scorers in Zemgus Girgensons and Tyler Ennis, the moribund squad from upstate New York still managed to pull this one out! 
  • Was Lack spectacularly bad? Well, the five goals surrendered tonight might suggest as much. He screwed up royally on the last of them, but for the most part, it was defensive breakdowns and weird bounces that led to Sabres goals and chances. 
  • Is Zack Kassian’s spot in the lineup secure? He’s rocking a 0PPG in his last one games, so I’d hardly say it’s a given.

Conclusion

Closing out any road trip with a loss to Buffalo will leave a bad taste. That said, I’d still call this road trip a shining success for the Canucks. They beat some very good squads in the New York Islanders and Rangers, along with those fringe playoff guys in Boston. Vancouver escaped with six of a possible ten points. All this with an AHL blue line. I ain’t trippin’.

It’s a three day layoff until their return to action at home against the St.Louis Blues. I’ll see you then!

  • wojohowitz

    How ugly was that? Instead of three stars how about three dogs. First and worst was Clendening – Welcome home son. Buffalo is not far from Utica if you keep playing like that. Second was Bonino – never won a corner battle and turnovers. Third was Kassian – Most of the game he was a spectator and when he did have the puck he couldn`t figure out what to do with it but turn it over.

  • I don’t think you can seriously argue this is the worst team in NHL history. The 74-75 Capitals won 8 games, and lost 39 out of 40 on the road. The next year they won 11 games. The Sabres are pretty clearly the worst team of the post-lockout era, but they are still head and shoulders above the mid-70s Caps (and the early 80s Jets and the early 90s Sharks).

  • acg5151

    After the Islanders victory a blog get said… A split would be a successful road trip between Boston and Buffalo…. Not what I was thinking?!,

    Two losses on roadie to NJ and Buff. Wierd!

  • Spiel

    At least LA and SJ lost even if Minnesota and WPG picked up points.

    That was the worst game I’ve seen in a long time. We really played down to their level — actually we dominated them for long stretches but too many dumb mistakes forwards and D and a lack of finish on some chances. Bonino is clearly playing hurt and Kenins was far less effective after hurting himself.

    Looking forward to having Edler and Tanev back. This patchwork show can only go on forever. Biega and Weber are too easy to push off the puck.

    • Spiel

      Yes I am looking forward to the return of Edler and Tanev, but I take issue with your dis of Weber. Last night was not his fault it was collective. Biega is an AHL player and needs to be gone, but overall on this trip I would rank Weber as second to Hamhuis in overall performance. What I saw is that Clendening is still developing, and Biega will never make it long term in the NHL. Stanton is hit and miss. Sbisa, is Sbisa, meaning he will probably always be a number 5 or 6 guy. I am still not convinced that Corrado is ready, so I would keep Weber, despite his lack of height. Oh and I would not be upset if Bieksa only returned to the locker room and not to the ice, because he is a step and a half slower, but still plays like a river boat gambler.

      • Spiel

        I like Weber and he’s not nearly as error-prone as Sbisa. I disagree that he’s played worse than Stanton, I think Clendenning moves the puck much faster, and if Weber and his heavy shot isn’t going to really be used on the PP I still think as a defenseman he can’t handle the hard forecheck. And I think on this trip he’s being made to look better by the fact that Hamhuis is single-handedly keeping our D afloat.

  • andyg

    On TSN1040 before the Bruins game, somebody had called in guaranteeing a win vs. Boston and guaranteeing a loss vs. Buffalo. Late in the game last night I remembered this caller, and asked myself: Does this guy have a time machine? And where can I get one?