Canucks Army Post-Game: Capital Punishment

At some point, the Vancouver Canucks are going to get a bounce or two. The Canucks are shooting at a five percent clip at even strength. The list of teams in that range last season is a short one, insofar as nobody shot lower than six.

They had no such luck tonight. Vancouver bucked the goalless trend of two games prior, but aside from a last minute push, the Canucks were mostly toothless.

They launched 25 pucks at Philip Gruabauer and even converted on two such occasions. At the opposite end, they made Jacob Markstrom suffer the Capitals offensive onslaught to the tune of 35 shots, many of which were ten bell chances.

The Canucks can hang in most games if the events are low enough. At that point, all it takes is the elusive bounce. Going blow for blow with one of the league’s most potent offences, well, that’s playing with fire. And the Canucks were burnt. Burnt on many occasions.

It wasn’t just the goals, and they surrendered more than their fair share of those. The odd-man rushes, numerous as we’ve seen them this season, converted at a rate low enough to belie the offence this club bled shift after shift. It’s not often one can say this without a hint of hyperbole, but the Capitals 5-2 victory really undersells the extent to which they dominated this game.

Were it not for Markstrom standing on his head, particularly in a rapid fire second period, this game could’ve got ugly, and fast. 

And Willie Desjardins tried to stop the bleeding. He shuffled his pairs. The Canucks power play, which has operated with four forwards and one defenceman for much of the season, was adjusted to include local hero Troy Stecher on the first unit alongside Philip Larsen. 

To little effect, unfortunately. The Canucks power play went 0-3 on the night, going a fourth straight game without converting. 

A team can survive an ineffective power play, though. It happens. It’s a lot harder to do so when you’ve 2/3 as many shot attempts as your opponent. Not a single Canuck was in the black by raw Corsi For%, and Brandon Sutter suffered an abominable 23% on the night.

Then again, it wasn’t all for naught. Desjardins went to the Jannik Hansen well, pairing the Dane with the Sedin Twins, and reaped instant rewards in the form of an even-strength marker. Hell, amidst a whirlwind of controversy surrounding Jake Virtanen’s ice-time and usage, he found himself on the Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi line, and wouldn’t you know it, he played a role in their second-period tally.

That’s really a spotlight into this season, though. For the Canucks to win on even a semi-regular basis, they’re going to need almost everything to go right. Two touches of deployment magic aren’t going to be enough, and it wasn’t tonight.

Most teams can come at you in waves offensively, and the Capitals did. They had goals throughout the lineup, on the power play and with the empty net.

When the final horn went, that firepower reflected in the score. For the most part, anyways. The Canucks lost 5-2 and it could’ve been worse. 

  • Rodeobill

    In the games vs. LA and ANA, I was frustrated by almost everything. Contrary to the score, I was oddly content to watch this game. Passes seems to connect, it wasn’t all dump’n chase, there was chemistry through the lines and pairings. It wasn’t a win, but I thought it was something to build on, and they hung in there until around halfway through the third. They did get hemmed in a bit, but at least it wasn’t endless neutral zone turn overs all game.

    Stecher looks like the real deal, but all our D did ok this game, even Spisa and Larsen had their moments. I thought Jake looked good. The more I see Gaunce on the Fourth, the more I like it too. He belongs here and not in Utica anymore. We need a new first line soon so the Sedins can move into more a supporting cast.

    • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

      I agree and disagree at the same time. Yes it was frustrating to watch, no it wasn’t all dump and chase, though there was quite a bit of it. And there was also a lot of glass-and-out of the d zone, both of which point strongly to bad possession. They were somewhat hemmed in, I’d agree, but they also showed promise in certain areas. Hey, at least Stetcher looked good. I would say at this point that he’s more likely to deliver the whole “local boy makes good” warm and fuzzy narrative to Vancouver than Virtanen, personally. Virtanen looks to be on a bottom six crash course with serious eyes to the 3RW position.

      Seriously, the only real disagreement I have with any of your comments is that it isn’t time for the Sedins to move down to the second line anytime soon with the current prospect pool. Yes, Boeser shows top line potential, but a single player doth not a first line make. The only hope is that the Canucks continue on their current trajectory, Finish the season bottom 1-7 and get a top three draft lottery pick and take the best centreman available.

      That’s a big “if”. Plus, there’s always that risk Benning goes off script and decides to draft someone of a lower consensus pick because he talked to him for 20 minutes and decided he liked his character or some other rubbish like that.

      • Bud Poile

        “Plus, there’s always that risk Benning goes off script and decides to draft someone of a lower consensus pick because he talked to him for 20 minutes and decided he liked his character or some other rubbish like that.”

        I am pretty sure you are confused with the Gillis era where ‘character’ was his buzzword for not having one clue about drafting.

        “His ability, leadership and character were all over the top as far as I was concerned,” Gillis said. “[The psychologist] had him ranked at the very top in terms of leadership, integrity and character.”

        Gillis on Hodgson,relying on the psychologist as his draft day ace.

        • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

          “Character” was just a word I pulled out randomly, but you’re right. And when you’re right, you’re right.

          The Lindenning regime has typically used descriptors like “intangibles” and “tough to play against” when describing the poor choices they’ve made/are about to make.

  • Suzycue123

    All I saw was wave after wave of pure domination from the caps. Let’s not kid ourselves the Canucks deserved to lose tonight.

    And now off the Montreal. We all know how this season will end…

    And with the first pick in the 2017 draft the Canucks are proud to select…

    ER- wait. They’ll lose the lottery and pick 3rd.

  • defenceman factory

    Why is Suzy the troll still allowed to post on this site JD? Honour your word

    From October 21

    About those trolls… we’ve had enough! If you don’t intend to add anything meaningful to the conversation, why bother? If you’re just aiming for a rise, chances are your comment will be deleted. If you do this with obvious malicious intent, you will be flagged and banned.

      • Bud Poile

        I don’t think you have read or you simply choose to support Suzy the troll’s offerings:

        #25 Suzycue123
        October 28 2016, 03:52PM

        The canucks have ZERO anything.

        No passion. No culture. No fans.

        The fact the idiot writer who cannot take his job seriously is a reflection of the uneducated and dysfunctional organization that is the canucks.

        Like seriously! !!? Who the F do u have??

        The sedins??? Come on man.

        And look at jake the whiner. Cry me a river….

  • bigdaddykane

    Its October and I’m already reduced to cheering for more losses. This must be how Edmonton fans have felt for a decade before McJesus their savior descended from the heavens and into their lap. Lets face it; each canucks loss gets us closer to a top 3 pick which we frankly could use more of. It forces this team’s ownership and management to look reality in the face which is that this half-@ssed attempt at rebuilding/lying to the season ticket holders about pushing for an 8th round seed to be murdered by a Chicago in 5 games isn’t working and the rebuild must begin in earnest. Benning can draft with the best of them. Lets all pray for another crater of a season because we’ll get a new coach who actually coaches and another lottery pick.

  • ShockTop

    Same post game title after the Senators game, eh? (kidding). This team doesn’t feel like it is motivated every single shift. I know this team is not very good, but I would like to think they can play better than this. Sure, they were some bright sparks during the game, but they are few and far between.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I just don’t like Larsen. I think he is not very effective at even strength and his impact or lack thereof on the power play won’t change that for me. I just want to at least try Tryamkin. Honestly, could he be any worse?

  • crofton

    Watching this game, I was forced to wonder if, or hopefully when, Benning will make a trade for a scorer. Despite the goal total against from this game, Canucks’ D and goal tending are much better than last year, so there is hope there. However, trying to trade for a top six 25-30 goal scorer ( setting my sights somewhat conservatively) would have to come at the expense of a Tanev or another of similar capability. And that’s scary. Scary but necessary, I think. Despite the deluge of CA bloggers naysaying that would surely follow. And 1.75 goals/game won’t keep many seats warm.

    • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

      At this point, I would say Benning trading for a 25-30 goal scorer is possible, but not likely. Benning is an old guy and he trades, drafts and signs contracts like one, tending to reward players for their past performances rather than their future ones. Sometimes this approach works out, like in the case of Radim Vrbata (though he was two years younger at the time and playing with the Sedin Twins who were also two years closer to their prime and his second season wasn’t quite as nice). Other times this approach doesn’t work quite as well.

  • Rolland

    I’m as big a Sedin fan as anybody, maybe it is a rough start and they will find their game. So far they are ineffective and predictable. Eriksson is pretty well invisible and he looks snake bit and lost out there even with the Sedins. Hopefully this will all work out in the next fifteen games or so, if not, then we have no first line as is and a big chunk out of the cap. Small sample size but I do not like what I’m seeing.

  • Fred-65

    I didn’t expect a good game against the Caps and that turned out to the case. However the reason I didn’t expect much was they were scheduled to ply two games in less than 24 hours. It’s a farce and frankly the compact schedule makes a farce of the league. The World Tourney may have topped up the NHLPA pension fund and added more to the NHL coffers but those often for gotten fans are left with the back wash. The NHL seems extremely uncaring about the fans. Just like the LA & Anaheim game ….. two games with some thing like 20 hours the game really becomes meaningless and often leads to more injuries ( tired players being more vunerable )

    In addition to the lousy scheduling ( and some of this must fall on TL/JB shoulders ) Vcr is playing without players who frankly are not performing, Ericksson, Baertschi and I’d add Gudbranson who somes times looks lost and makes panic plays. Larsen is a toss up if he’s any improvement on Weber. I thought strangely enough that Vcr missed Dorsett and Burrows indefeatable attitude.

    On the plus I was glad to see Hansen back with the twins. Speaking of the twins ( I admire every thing they stand for on and off the ice ) but they’re starting to show their age. They’re still the best we got but maybe Father Times is catching up.

    By the way for those that enjoy marking term papers with grammar and spelling please confine it to private messages back and forth. It inhibates posters and detracts from the intent of the forum

  • wojohowitz

    Holy cow. Two weeks in and the pressure is already building and in fact only the last week was bad. This team looks a lot like last years team and that team had a half dozen rookies and a revolving door of injured players.

    Why do they appear to be over matched against just about everybody? No respect. It was very noticeable during the Edmonton game. The chirping, the stick work, the cheap shots, the face washing. Lucic and Kassian love playing Vancouver.

    As noted somewhere; They seem to miss Dorsett and Burrows. Two small, slow, old forwards who at least demand respect.

  • TheRealPB

    The issues run much deeper than this particular game or stretch of games as we’ve talked about for some time. When the Sedins were 18-22 and averaging a little under 40 points per season, they had the cover of having the WCE in their age 25 (Bertuzzi and Morrison)/27 (Naslund) through 29-31 seasons. In other words they had a first line that was right in the prime of its career, along with a core of D (Ohlund, Salo, Jovo, Sopel) who were also in their mid-20s, if not superstars. We have some good – potentially very good – young players in Horvat, Baertschi, Hutton, Virtanen in the NHL right now and I think based on play so far Stetcher is also likely in that mix. But they don’t have any cover, any room to really grow into their roles because the Sedins are looking completely out of sorts, slow and unproductive as first line players and the vets we do have in their “prime” are simply not that kind of player (Sutter, Hansen, Gudbranson, Markstrom). They’re good, but not first line good. The youngsters therefore have to be leaned upon to play much bigger roles than they’re capable of, with a safety net of 36-year-old, not 26-year-old first-liners.

    I think the two worst things we could do right now would be to trade more young players, prospects or picks for “proven” scorers as some counsel (acquiring them as FA is ok as long as it doesn’t hamstring us in the future and I think trades like the Gudbranson one is also a good bet) or to be so hasty with the young players. Virtanen will come into his own — I know it can be tough watching Nylander dominate a game like last night, but Jake will still be a good player — and it doesn’t help people jumping all over him for each mistake.

    I frankly don’t know what you can do about this situation. Part of it is the nature of the game; it’s essentially impossible to replace generational talents without a combination of luck and timing. Our push for the Cup during the Sedin prime years meant that we left the cupboard bare when the need to rebuild became apparent. I’m still not sure how you can “plan” to build your first line — even with all the lottery tickets in the world you might miss repeatedly. We’ve been able to paper over it in part because the Sedins seemed to be able to defy the odds but it’s clear that they are catching up with them (for all their possession, they can’t mount much pressure on most shifts with the opposition pretty easily breaking up the cycle in the corner). It’s likely to be a bumpy ride ahead.

    • Dirty30

      Well, one thing you don’t do is pass by three reasonable young players on waivers who might have developed into something. Can’t keep waiting for the next draft to pick someone who has to come in and save this team.

      You also don’t sit your big guy on D and play a guy who isn’t making the PP work and can’t seem to defend either. I’ll put Groot up against Looch any day.

      And if the Sedins can’t work together, then split them up *gasp!* and try something to get some line going.

      A new Coach might stimulate the team to do something, but as noted, this problem is more than one or two players or positions.

      If the problem is that Henrik is hurt again, then plan the parade to the podium at the draft. There’s no fixing that problem easily.

      • TheRealPB

        You’re not picking up first liners on the waiver wire so I’m not really sure how you think that’s going to solve the problem. Pulkinnen, Pajaarvi and McIlrath went unclaimed (and in some of their cases waived for at least the second time) by all the teams in the league. Sure you could pick them up and waive them when you get back all of your injured players and maybe stash them in the minors again (like Etem or Pulkinnen this year) but again how exactly does this address our issues? How does dressing an out of shape and not exactly “team first” attitude Traymkin solve the problem of not enough dynamic offensive d-men? Why would the Sedins be better split up than together? In the one game that was sort of tried out, did they produce more offense?

        None of these things you’re listing can really lead to significant improvements or address core problems. I don’t know what the solution to the Sedin and Eriksson slumps to the start of the season is, but it’s not good when you’ve got $20 million tied up in 3 players who aren’t really pushing play.

        • Dirty30

          Yes, the waiver pick-ups aren’t first line guys, but maybe one of them jumpstarts something or not.

          But is sitting on your thumbs hoping this team will suddenly turn into a collection of first liners a better or more effective strategy?

          Sure, Groot looks more like a stump than a willow, but is it better to have your players trounced every game to keep a guy like Larsen out there floundering?

          Splitting up the Sedins for one shift or even one game may not get them going, but maybe it allows you to isolate the problem and deploy your very limited assets strategically to improve their play and your chances when they are deployed differently.

          Loui should have been a sure bet — he’s not. Does Benning know it’s not 2011?

          I agree with you about the state of this team and that none of what I suggested may work. But I’d like to hear more from management than platitudes and ridiculous plans.

          And I swear Willie has completely lost it.

    • TheRealRusty

      Agree with the everything you said except for the “how you can plan your first line part”. McJesus draft year guaranteed a generational player (one of McJesus or Eichel) to the team that finished last. Management should have be well aware of the sure bet in drafting either one and had a tire fire (aka Buffalo tank).

  • RuxinsVinegarStrokes

    Does anyone else worry that the Eriksson signing might turn really ugly as in fans booing?

    This is from a guy who backed the signing before you go trash me….

  • Burnabybob

    I agree with what others have said- there is no easy route forward for the Canucks. The simple truth is that the competition is improving faster than they are, with teams like Edmonton, Winnipeg, Arizona, and even Toronto likely to leave them in the dust the next couple of years.

    The defense is coming together, and they at least have the makings of a future top four, and a very good goaltending prospect, but it is totally unclear who their top six will be after the Sedins retire. Boeser? Probably, but he’s never played a game in the NHL. Virtanen? Hopefully. Horvat? Probably.

    That still leaves six openings on the top two lines, especially at first-line center, probably the hardest position to fill on any hockey team.

    To address it, the Canucks need some luck in the draft lottery, pure and simple. If there’s any silver lining in the Canucks’ situation, it’s that they’re likely to have good odds the next couple of years.

    To become a contender again, they also need some of their draft picks to exceed expectations. Hopefully Juolevi becomes a great hockey player. The franchise has never had a Norris trophy caliber defenseman. Maybe he can be the first.