Canucks Army Post-Game: A Crowning Achievement

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Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin – USA TODAY Sports

Playing their first game in four-plus days, the Canucks hosted the visiting Los Angeles Kings for a weeknight affair at Rogers Arena.

The Kings always offer a handful, even when the results don’t reflect their merit among the league’s premier teams. They’re mean, fast and tenacious on the forecheck. Perhaps most importantly, they’ve had a near monopoly by shot share metrics since Darryl Sutter took over those many years ago.

A few confounding factors were working in the Canucks favour, though. They’re getting healthier. Other than Erik Gudbranson and Jannik Hansen, this roster is about as healthy as it’s been all season. Opposite them, the Kings played without Jonathan Quick, Tyler Toffoli and Brayden McNabb.

As far as level playing fields go, the Canucks aren’t going to find one much better than tonight. And to their credit, they took full advantage. Vancouver built an early lead and battened down the hatches. Loui Eriksson put the Canucks up on the power play in the first; then Henrik Sedin deflected a Troy Stecher shot on a Kings turnover early in the second. Were it not for a poor offside call, Sven Baertschi’s deflection in the second would’ve held up and given the Canucks a 3-1 lead, even.

The Kings pressed, and the Canucks bent but never broke. With some inspired play from Ryan Miller, Vancouver was able to hold the lead and take home the 2-1 victory.

Miller stopped 36 of 37 Kings shots. Peter Budaj stopped 18 of 20 Canucks shots.

Stats

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Quick Hits

  • I know it’s only December 28th, but if the Canucks lost this game, they lost whatever small shred of belief in a playoff chase they might’ve left the Christmas break with. Tonight’s game puts the Canucks five points back of the Kings, who hold down the final playoff spot in the West. Had they lost tonight, they’d be nine down. Their odds aren’t great as is, but that’s just about the final nail in the coffin. You just can’t understate how important this game was for the Canucks. 
  • Edler takes a lot of grief in this market, almost all of it undeserved. I wrote today about the possibility of Troy Stecher as the Canucks best defenceman. The only player that gave me moment for pause was Edler. He was at his best tonight. Edler was physical, contributed offensively and held his own in the defensive end. He was also the only Canuck to leave tonight in the black by shot attempt share. Not bad for his first game back from a broken finger, right?
  • Luca Sbisa’s been playing well this season. Right now he’s on the Canucks second pair alongside Chris Tanev, which makes a tonne of sense. I’m not sure if he’s playing well enough to warrant a team-leading 22:36 in ice-time, though. He didn’t necessarily look bad at any point, but it’s hard to succeed as a team when Sbisa is your lead horse. That’s something the Canucks would be wise to monitor, and maybe adjust going into their next game.
  • The Canucks second unit power play looked great tonight. Loui Eriksson was its featured member, scoring the opening goal and almost potting another shortly thereafter. That unit is fairly shooter heavy, so it makes sense that they’d be relatively successful in the Canucks current power play configuration. Hopefully that’s a developing trend and not a flash in the pan.
  • Miller was the star of the game. The Canucks had a ten-minute span in the first period without a single shot attempt. They followed that up in the third with a 15-minute span without an even strength shot attempt. Their forwards didn’t win this game. If you want proof, look at the HockeyStats shot plot posted under the stats tab. 

  • crofton

    “He didn’t necessarily look bad at any point, but it’s hard to succeed as a team when Sbisa is your lead horse”…..apparently not tonight.
    I didn’t think the Kings looked particularly threatening , aside from a few flurries, despite the shot total. That speaks to team defense.

  • Bud Poile

    I agree with Crofton.

    Teams can win big with stellar D and great goaltending.

    This type of game was the NHL game of the 50′, 60’S and early 70’s.

    I sense that’s the type of team and game Benning has envisioned with Erikkson,Sutter,Sbisa,Tryamkin,Miller,etc..

    He has built-and is constructing- a defensively capable team.

    • Freud

      It’s more complex than that.

      Tonight at 5 on 5

      Sutter and Erikkson were 4/10 in shots on goal differential. 10 shots was the most against for all forwards.

      Sbisa was 2/13. 13 shots against was the most amongst d-men.

      Tryamkin was 2/9.

      Miller had a good night, but all average NHL goalies have their nights. Miller has a .908 sv% this season which is well below average and 41st amongst all goalies.

      Not sure the examples you used demonstrates stellar D or a defensively capable team.

      I truly hope even Benning understands that was a game nobody would ever envision for their team, just because the result was in his favour.

      • Bud Poile

        Goaltending and team D wins championships.

        The days of teams stacking ringers is long gone with the cap, NTC’s and NMC’s.

        Miller has seen his best days but comes up with a superb performance now and again.

        I would like to see Markstrom exposed and Demko brought in to be mentored by a Vezina winner.

        If Vancouver had a Dubnyk or Dubrovsky JB would be a CA genius and WD would be a Jack Adams candidate,instead of that lunatic we have to hear dick head Pratt rant about.

        • Freud

          ?

          First you list players that played “stellar D” that helped the team win. It is pointed out, with evidence, that your list is highly questionable.

          Your response is a cliché that has proven to be false, time and again.

          The evidence shows creating more scoring chances than your opponent wins championships. Playing defence is part of that, but if you’re only playing defence while on the ice and rarely in the opponents zone, (Sutter/Sbisa), you’re not going to win often.

          Also, the last number of champions have done so with goalies sporting only average save percentages. You’d have to go back to 2011 to find a Cup winning goalie with a remarkable playoff save percentage.

          and who is Dubrovsky?

          • Bud Poile

            Maybe you had a chance to watch Tim Thomas stand on his head against a certain Vancouver team or watch 21 y.o. Matt Murray wow the league last year.

            A great NHL goaltender can single handedly win his team a game, a playoffs series, or even a Stanley Cup. If a goalie knows how to bring his A-game and get on a hot streak at the right time, it can be hard to put anything by him.

            A great goaltender can make a bad team look good, a good team look great, or turn a great team into a dynasty.

            http://www.thesportster.com/hockey/top-15-nhl-teams-that-were-carried-by-a-goalie/

          • Tom Selleck's Moustache

            Freud already addressed your point. Simply repeating something that’s already been refuted doesn’t make it more true. Your link also just reinforces his arguement

  • Smyl and Snepsts

    No love for Tryamkin tonight? I thought he had a great game against the big Kings team (despite the numbers). Kings on their busts or stapled to the boards whenever he was on the ice.

    • TheRealPB

      I thought the same thing. There were multiple times I really marveled at the fact that the Canucks d didn’t get bounced off the puck in the way that I feel has happened for much of the last five years. Sbisa had one or two glaring giveaways but for the most part was decent enough (and it’s a little bit more understandable that he’d be the high minute man since the other two — better — vets are recently returned from injury, and the other three d are all rookies or second year players). But Tryamkin really stood out I thought, not biting on most of the fakes, shutting down quite a few rushes by Kopitar, Brown and Gaborik. He also hammered them behind the net and along the boards and there was much better clearing of the net in general. Hutton looks worlds better not playing with Gudbranson.

      I also don’t think we were outplayed quite as much as the shot totals would indicate — there were some real chances generated by almost all of the lines though not all of them made it on goal. To be honest, while I expect the Canucks to be not that great I was mostly surprised at how mediocre the Kings looked. I didn’t even think Gaborik was playing, Kopitar looked invisible compared to games of the past and Brown was pretty useless. We all know about the Canucks being a bottom of the league team going through a painful transition but I’m not sure how stoked I’d be if I was a Kings fan and have Kopitar, Brown and Gaborik locked up for five more years at a combined cost of $21 million against the cap when they’ve combined for 35 points in 76 games between them this year.

      Two posts from Megna who actually looked decent on the top line (at least he can retrieve pucks and hustled on the back check). I was surprised Rodin didn’t get a shot with the Sedins. Is he hurt again or just being rested.

      • DJ_44

        “Hutton looks worlds better not playing with Gudbranson.”

        Hutton was the (very) weak link in the Gudbranson/Hutton pairing. I realize he is a bit of darling of CA. Hutton is outmatched and anything above a 3rd pair. It was not Gudbranson, he was brutal when paired with Tanev as well.

        He must dramatically improve his game to move up the ranks. His slightly improved play last night was more related to being demoted to 3rd pair rather than his partner, although Tryamkin was good.

        I do not see Hutton as a necessary part of the left side in near or longer term future of the Canucks. Juolevi and Tryamkin are the future, Edler is not going anywhere (shortish term) and then there are some younger prospects on the rise (maybe Briesbois). This all assumes that Sbisa goes in the expansion draft. Maximize his value and trade Ben for offensive forward prospects sooner rather than later.

  • A win against the Kings is always appreciated. Kings may not be the power house they once were, but are still pretty good. Canucks didn’t play a perfect game, but played well enough. Tryamkin made some nice defensive plays. Miller stood out.

    To claw our way back to the top, we will need elite goaltending from both Miller and Markstrom. That’s just the way it is.

  • DJ_44

    I agree with the majority of the sentiment that the characterization based on shot totals that the Canucks were some how dominated and except for Miller, it would have been a loss. Garbage.

    They took the lead and held it. Miller made two huge saves: the one glove save on Pearson where he got position on Hutton (I won’t be overly harsh on Hutton for that play since it was a give away at the line) and the right pad save on Kopitar (talk about being snake-bit). The other saves were solid goaltending and the defense, for the most part, handled the rebounds/traffic in front. It wasn’t the fire-drill defensive zone we have witnessed in other games. It was structured and controlled.

    What was most noticeable was the physical play of the defense, Tryamkin (the likes of Clifford and Pearson looked surprised that they were actually (over)matched physically down low), as well as Sbisa (some great hits) and Edler. Tanev and Stecher were good.

    I also like the second PP unit because they create movement. If they replace Hutton with Edler that would be very advantageous since Hutton is incapable of moving the puck up the ice this year.

    Sven is perhaps the most frustrating player to watch. I mean going 1 on 3 with the PP? It is almost if he loses interest on half his shifts, an is a world-beater the other half. Willie had very good reason to sit him during the road trip…..I suggest he uses that tactic with a few other players if required.

  • Dirty30

    So Groot is doing everything that Gudbranson was advertised as bringing to the team, except he’s doing it better, and for way less money.

    I don’t care if his stats suck or he doesn’t become Bobby Orr. He uses his size and skill for good positioning, finishes checks, and he’s still very young.

    If Stecher wasn’t playing like he’s single-handedly trying to win every game himself, Groot would look even more amazing.

    It’s good that Hutton can drop down to the third pairing for a while and clear his head. Whatever he’s been thinking that he’s supposed to be doing, he needs to try a little “opposite George” and do something else instead

    No matter what, any win over the Kings means something. And anytime Groot turns Anne Kopitar into Linden Vey just makes it that much sweeter!

  • Marvin101

    I think the answer is to play Miller every 3rd game. He’s excellent with lots of rest but not so excellent when he’s tired.

    Getting outshot 31 to 8 in the last 2 periods is not a recipe for long term success.

  • Janetz90

    The Sedins are good when they have the puck but they are a defensive liability without the puck. They should not be on the ice in the last minutes trying to protect the lead! Never ever!

  • Locust

    “Hutton was the (very) weak link in the Gudbranson/Hutton pairing. I realize he is a bit of darling of CA.”

    He was only the darling of the people that don’t watch the games but rely on post game stats to determine if the game was entertaining and the Canucks played well ….

    IMO flashes of brilliance surrounded by long periods of ineptitude and third pairing average-ness.

    The eye test is everything …. ask anyone that has ever dealt with a “three dressed up as a nine….”

  • TrueBlueGreen

    Could we talk about how good Bo looked on that PP from the right side??? That kid had two clapper’s that had a slight resemblance to Laine ( Except being backed up by putting that shot in 16 times this year so far! ).

    If you have him on that side with Stetcher feeding him? Who knows what would happen. And why not switch it up, the PP doesn’t seem to be working that great by December. Even on a “crazier note”, stick Tryamkin towering in front of the opposing goalie! Get some screening going by the Russian Bear!

    And let’s talk about Tryamkin. Pinned Kopitar to the boards several times. Then slid across the net in his usual “one-knee” shot block, while swiping his stick 7 ft to knock the puck out of the zone? Oh, and put the puck in the back of the net once followed by a lazer of a wrister going off the post. This guy may turn out to be much much better then most expected.

    Yes, the team is hard to watch this year. Yes, once we get back Edler, Hansen seems to get hurt. But there are some silver linings in Stetcher, Tryamkin and Bo. Get Boeser in there next year and this team could see this rebuild happen a little sooner then some bandwagoners would realize. Let’s get on a roll here, and get a W against Nashville because I’ll be at that game and I’d like to see them put a wrench in the Preds plans to make the playoffs!

    Stay TrueBlueGreen folks.