Canucks Army Postgame: The Pacific’s Top Predator

After faltering in the desert, Vancouver came in to San Jose looking for a significantly better effort against a Sharks team that has struggled at home of late. Well, the effort was much better, and the results were better, but the process left a hell of a lot to be desired, as some lucky breaks coupled with the heroics of Radim Vrbata, Bo Horvat, and Eddie Lack lifted the Canucks to a much-needed 3-2 win over their division rivals.

Read past the jump for a recap of tonight’s performance.

Highlights

Quick Hits

G65 v San Jose

G65 v San Jose2

[Canucks.com Recap] [Event Summary] [Willie Desjardins Postgame] [War-On-Ice Stat Pack] [Natural Stat Trick Stat Pack]

  • For some baffling reason, Ronalds Kenins was a healthy scratch tonight. We’ve sung Ronalds’ praises rather recently, pointing out that he’s performed like a legitimate first liner in nearly all measurable facets of the game since being called up from Utica. Add his physical play and energy he’s brought to the table, and it’s a pretty big head scratcher. If you’re drawing up the roster based solely on recent performance then nearly anyone should be a healthy scratch before Kenins, and it certainly doesn’t make sense to play Linden Vey or Brandon McMillan over him. But hey, good Western Canadian boys right?
  • The first period started off with some feeling, as Jannik Hansen got tied up with Brenden Dillon, causing Dillon to crash dangerously into the end boards. A big scrum ensued, setting the tone for the rest of the night. I won’t say the game had a playoff-type feel, but the Canucks were definitely more engaged against the Sharks than they were on Thursday in Glendale. My personal highlight of the night was Nick Bonino earning two-thirds of the Brad Marchand hat trick in one sequence, spearing Melker Karlsson in the groin then punching him in the face.
  • Bo Horvat just seems to keep getting better with every passing game. We’ve previously pointed out how rapidly he’s been improving since Ronalds Kenins was called up to Vancouver (see below), and he’s now one of the most efficient 5-on-5 scorers on Vancouver at even strength. It’s not just his goal scoring that’s promising (after all, we know goals can be deceptive), but Horvat also seems to be making small plays with regularity that you don’t see other guys making. For example, shortly after his game tying goal, he was in good defensive position as Dorsett and Hansen forechecked. The Sharks gained control of the puck, and sent an outlet pass through the neutral zone. Instead of simply tying his man up or backing off or playing the puck to his own D, Horvat stepped up, intercepted the pass, forced his way through San Jose’s forwards, and very nearly generated an odd-man rush himself. Small plays like that happening with more frequency will go a long way to turning his strong defensive skills into a large defensive impact.
keninshorvat

  • And man, was Horvat’s goal ever nice. Big flashy moves are one thing, but to have the presence of mind to realize the puck isn’t settled, see where the goalie is, and make that chip shot with a literal yeti Brent Burns baring down on you is something else.
  • Speaking of something else, both of Radim Vrbata’s goals were beauties too. There was some luck in the first as it bounced in off of Antti Niemi’s pad, but it was still a really creative play. The second was just straight gorgeous:

  • Vrbata also had a hell of a night by the fancystats, placing second on the Canucks behind linemate Nick Bonino with a plus-7 Corsi. He also fired six pucks on net, and missed the mark six more times, giving him a game-high 12 individual shot attempts in all situations.
  • It was definitely fun, but let’s not kid ourselves: Vancouver is pretty lucky to skate out of San Jose with the two points. Think of all the close calls the Sharks had: Radim Vrbata pulling the puck off the goal line, the quick whistle and disallowed goal, and of course, this:

  • By War-on-Ice’s count, the Sharks out-chanced Vancouver 31-17 at even strength. The Corsis were fairly close for the majority of the game, but San Jose really pushed hard out of the gate, and again once score effects kicked in. It wasn’t a very good defensive performance by any stretch, and a game Vancouver was fortunate to win.
  • Derek Dorsett tangled with Barclay Goodrow early in the game and took on John Scott in the meeting prior so he’s an element that you’d ideally prefer to have in your lineup, but not when he’s getting just slaughtered at even strength. Dorsett was a game-low minus-22 Corsi on the night and seemed to be on the ice for every goal-mouth scramble the Sharks generated in Vancouver’s zone. He was unsurprisingly obliterated by Joe Thornton’s line, going +0/-19 in just over 4.5 minutes of 5-on-5 time on ice against Big Joe. I like scrappyness and toughness too, but having it is a luxury you can only afford if it doesn’t come at the expense of not getting almost scored on every shift.
  • More Ronalds next game, please.

Conclusion

Vancouver continues the Death March (get it? Get it? I’ll show myself out) on Monday night as they play host to old friend Ryan Kesler, newly acquired James Wisniewski, the always pleasant Corey Perry, and the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks were winners at the deadline, picking up the aforementioned Wisniewski along with Simon Despres and Jiri Sekac, and look poised to take the Pacific division crown this season. Vancouver will look to continue winning hockey games and maintain their grip on playoff home ice advantage, while hopefully getting healthy too.

  • fuzzysheep

    It’s so quiet in the comments section. Looking at the poll, there are plenty of votes for the Canucks to miss the playoffs. LOL So funny! The Sharks will have to go 12-4 in their final 16 games to make the playoffs.

  • fuzzysheep

    From a development standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to play Dorsett over Kenins. From a trying-to-make-the-playoffs standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to play Vey over Kenins.

  • acg5151

    You know, I’m not going to get too pissed about Desjardins playing Vey over these guys because NHL coaches usually do weird crap in their lineups and in the grand scheme of things it’s not a huge deal, but sometimes I get kind of pissed because Kenins and Kassian are both better than Vey and sometimes they get the shaft.

    • Dirty30

      I’m as surprised as anyone that Kenins wasn’t in the line up. Seemed to be his kind of game. Maybe’s he’s hurt? Vey seems to attract the ire of a lot of fans. A little light? I find it much more frustrating to watch Kassian out there than anyone else. He seems to be directing a lot traffic, pointing here and there, but not doing much. Brutal in our end and not very hard on the puck when forechecking (generous description).

  • pheenster

    Rumour has it that Vey was on the block at the deadline but Willie said he’d quit if Vey was traded.

    OK, I just made that up. But if Vey was on the block it would have been true.

  • fuzzysheep

    It does seem weird to play McMillan, Dorsett and Vey ahead of Kenins but all things considered I think Willie has earned a little benefit of the doubt. Sometimes in sports there are factors that aren’t visible from the outside. Maybe he just had a hunch; coaches can be impulsive sometimes.

    I dunno, I’d like to see more Kenins, maybe WDJ just had a brain fade.

  • Dirty30

    I’m hoping Vey is flogged at the Draft for a pick …

    Lack stood on his head for that game! Tacos for everyone.

    And super nice goal from Bo — if that’s the future it’s looking good.

  • bigdaddykane

    Usually you see moments of brilliance in a young players season followed by disappearing for long stretches. Vey hasn’t had ANY moments of brilliance. He loses every puck battle, gets brushed off like a dog scratching a flea and sucks the life out of any line he’s on. Not fast, not big, not overly offensively gifted. So far he looks like Benning’s first bad trade.

    • Dirty30

      This is on Coach Really Good. He needs to get his head out of Junior and start recognizing that Vey may have been ‘really good’ at one time but that time is not now.

      The unfortunate thing is trying to flog him for a pick may not get much value now (certainly not the 2nd Benning coughed up for him) but maybe a 3rd to fill in that draft gap between the first and fourth picks.

      If Kenins wasn’t available I’d have a little more patience for Vey now that Kassian is getting quality ice time– but there’s no reason to play Vey ahead of anyone on this team at this time.

      • bigdaddykane

        I think my dislike stems from more willie D than Vey. I like WD a lot as a coach. Its a breath of fresh air to have a coach willing to let a young guy work through it. But the handcuffs Kassian gets vs the kid gloves Vey gets is irritating. Plus, honestly, Vey doesn’t add anything of value when he’s out there. Gets crushed on faceoffs, looks slow out there, and watching Backes slap him aside was an eye opener. Maybe he turns into a Gallagher but so far has no inkling of that type of game and willingness to go to the net. More like a Raymond without the speed so far

    • bigdaddykane

      I still don’t get the hate on for Vey. Is his trade really such a bust? Garrison (who I always liked and was a whipping boy last year for being slow) has been ok but not fantastic for TB (admittedly there are several D above him on the roster but I’m not sure he’s worth the salary still) and McKeown was part of LA’s overpayment for Sekeras. Vey is a first-year NHL player. We used to give such players — especially the non-star ones — at least a little bit more leeway; now we expect them to light it up from the get go?

      McMillan is totally useless and I have no idea why he’d be played before Kenins.

  • wojohowitz

    Kenins banged up his knee a couple of games ago and maybe they would rather not talk about it.

    I notice how quiet Horvat is off the ice, like getting him to talk is like pulling teeth, just the robotic 110% stuff. It seems he is all business and knows that in the years ahead he might be called upon much more often to express his opinions. I`d go so far as to say he will be the Canucks next captain – our own version of Captain Serious. Horvat`s speed is surprising but if you watch him you`ll notice his strength is also NHL calibre. You`d think he would get knocked on his ass a lot more being 19 years old.

    Goaltending and puck luck win playoff games and that`s not necessarily the dominate team – like San Jose.

    • bigdaddykane

      @wojohowitz Horvat’s a big boy. Wasn’t he trying to lose some weight last off-season to get faster? He was already 210-220 pounds last summer wasn’t he?

  • bigdaddykane

    Redirect your Vey hate at Dorsett. He’s an epic anchor. Hansen CF% is 10 % better without him and Horvat’s is 9 % better. That’s like replacement level to 2nd line difference. Let Kassian and Bieksa fight. Dorsett has no talent the Canucks need.

  • wojohowitz

    Horvat is listed on Yahoo at 6`0″ and 206 but typically a young player will bulk up and lose some speed until he finds his best playing weight which should take 2 or 3 years. I doubt that at his age Horvat is sure that his playing weight is optimal. During the playoffs most players will lose 10 to 15 pounds which affects their performance. It would not surprise me that in a couple of years Horvat is 6`1″ and 220 pounds. Is Horvat mature for his age? Well yeah he sure does come across as older than 19.

    That reminds me of a couple of guys who were absolute fire hydrants in the corners – Stan Smyl and Joe Sakic. When they went into the corner to pick up the puck the defenseman would come in and hit them only to bounce right off. It takes years to get that strength and stability.