Behind the Numbers: Game 1 Review & Looking Forward

VANCOUVER, CANADA - APRIL 11: Goalie Jonathan Quick #32 of the Los Angeles Kings reaches out to try and make a glove save as Jannik Hansen #36 of the Vancouver Canucks bumps into him during the second period in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Arena on April 11, 2012 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Rob Scuderi #7 of the Los Angeles Kings tries to help defend on the play. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Game 1 Ugh! We waited 10 months for that? Now Down 0-1 in the series. This is unfamiliar territory for the team. They had won the first game repeatedly in playoff match-ups. Why did they look so bad? Is the sky really falling? Who is to blame? And, most importantly, what can be done? And, could Ryan Kelser have actually been the Canucks best player in game 1?! Time to vote and to check behind the numbers to find out!

In order to fix a problem you first have to clearly identify what it is. What are we hearing? .

#1 The Canucks were undisciplined:

Yes, the Canucks were called for eight infractions. However, only one was a bad 'undisciplined' penalty. ( Bitz on Clifford), made by one inexperienced player (only his 5th playoff game) A two game suspension. vs. no games for this hit. Injury on both...Major on both... what do you think?

As any experienced observer of NHL hockey games knows, players and teams have very little control over what will /won't be called. To think otherwise would be simply foolish. There simply is no rhyme or reason to it.

Suddenly, without warning power plays rain down on the NHL playoffs on opening night. (I warned you). Teams can't be called undisciplined simply because no consistent standard has been set by the officials. A King speared Luongo in the chest in the first period, no call, so the Kings are disciplined? Shea Weber, in a non-hockey play..you get the picture....so lets just move on...

2.Ryan Kesler being schooled by Mike Richards?

Since Luongo can't be blamed, Ryan Kesler was the new whipping boy for many media members. Repeatedly on team 1040 broadcasters took runs at his performance in Game 1 .We know Kesler is not the easiest interview and it seems that once again the a player's likeability is being confused with his performance on the ice (i.e. Luongo, Matt Cooke).

The reality is Kes played great. He went to the net and made a difference on the first goal. (The Detroit Red Wings are masters at this) No, it wasn't a penalty he was outside the blue - (that's why they paint it) and Quick spread himself out to initiate contact. Canuck fans know what real goaltending interference is: Dustin frickin' Byfuglien

Kesler was a dominate 55.6% on faceoffs. with no advantage in oz starts. And, he won a key draw on Edler's 'lucky' goal at the end of the second. Meanwhile, "defensive' specialist and trade deadline acquisition Samuel Pahlsson managed a meager 25% efficiency. Kelser also logged 4.5 minutes of pk time second only to Burrows and he was on for two scoring chances more than he gave up ( 6/ 4). Kelser was a positive factor and not on for a goal at even strength. Even coach Vigneault wrongly singled Kesler out saying he didn't like the Richards / Kelser match-up. Why not? Richards lit up the Canucks vaunted checking line for the winner and scored on a 5/3 on a goal that Luongo should have had.

Vigneault inexplicably fawned over the play of Richards. (This coach does not get it! Respect your opponent Yes! Go out of your way to overly praise them in the playoffs? No way!) Was he taking another unwarranted shot at Kesler?

I think so! Something is still really off? We remember there spat back in January. Could there be an unrepairable rift between Vigneault and Kesler? Is that why A.V. won't even try the All American Line together? (If not, I'm open to another reason?) Could one be gone this summer? If the Canucks continue to underachieve, it ought to be Vigneault who is let go. My fear is it will be Kelser, maybe a deal involving Ric Nash? as Kelser played at Ohio State University ...we will discuss after the playoffs)..oops, correction, I let my frustrated fan speak...got to keep the faith...

3. The Special Teams:

The Canucks penalty killers were faced with a difficult task and rose to the occasion.They actually did a great job. And, kept the team in it. Neither goal scored on the pp was a chance and they only gave up 5 chances in 11+ minutes of high quality PP minutes.

The Canucks power play was dreadful but Canuck fans are use to this. We have said it before, they clearly miss Christian Ehrohoff (explained here) and have not replaced him. In addition, Cody Hodgson where are you? Have you ever seen a powerplay without a center on it? And of course Daniel Sedin...

The fix:

Try the All -American line together on the PP?. Attack the kings with speed! Nothing else is working? Ballard on the2nd unit? Call up skilled forward, Jordan Schroeder? I know I'm reaching...

Goaltending:

Luongo clearly had the tougher game. And was the better goaltender on the night. He face better quality chances against and more pressure (long penalty kills) He allowed two pk goals but could only be faulted on the first one. Although Luongo was good, as we mentioned the team has played better in front of Schneider. Sportsnet analyst and former Canuck Gary Valk has been stating this as well. The team need a jolt. And the Kings have not faced Cory. And as our pre - series strategy suggested,waiting to down 2 home games is to late to make the move. it's time to start Cory.

Quick had the easier game, was easily distracted on the first goal. Kevin Woodley of ingoalmag.com pointed this tendency out on team 1040. Quick also quite reasonably could have stopped the second. Remarkably, he was chosen third star of the game by CBC...oops..sorry by King cheerleader K Hrudey? (As we called it - got to keep building the myth).

{My three stars : 1. M. Richards, 2. R. Kelser 3. A. Kopitar}

Problem 1:

Team Defence:

Like we said, the failure to replace C. Ehrhoff was in full view last night and the main difference . Ehrhoff was a horse last year logging big minutes. He also sure looked to make A. Edler better. Last night, Alex Edler was atrocious again. He appears to have lost his confidence in the defensive none and on the power play. Edler and most of the defence looked tired and overworked. The Canucks used to generate energy, flow and chances from defencemen pushing forward - where has it gone? Have they played too many tough minutes? I suggested this earlier, and that the Canucks appear to be two defencmen short - and are trying to win the cup with only three legitimate Top 4 defencemen. We love Sami but he has been overplayed this year but as we pointed out here was only brought back to fill in not to play top 4 minutes At 36, this is unrealistic. He's fine as a 5th or 6th guy. And Rome, as we said is a 7th defencemen, but is a Coach favorite. And Tanev shows a lot of promise but ought to have been with the team earlier in the year, if the Canucks intended on using him this much.

The fix: Most importantly, if Vancouver can possess the puck more this will take the pressure of the D. (See fix for Problem 2 below) The other thing is to use our main advantage - team speed. Play K,. Ballard? He has speed and can carry the puck out of our zone. He has NHL experience. And the advanced stats seem to show, he helps generate more chances than A. Rome. He can also play the second power play to take the pressure off our other defencemen.

Bieksa with Hamhuis.

Edler and Salo,

(against top lines)

Tanev and Ballard.

(They played quite well together in some games last year. At least getting the puck out of our zone quickly. Play against third or forth line as much as possible).

Problem 2 :

Team Strategy

The responsibility falls on the coach and his new strategies.The Canuck line of S. Pahlsson, C. Higgins and J. Hansen could not handle the Kopitar line.They were on the ice for a combined 16 chances against.

The problem is coaching philosophy. We are playing a 'passive' game. We are no longer moving the puck quickly. It's defence first! This is playing against their strength. The best way to shut down an opponent is to have the puck. The best way to put pressure on the other team is to be assertive.The major problem is that this year's team is not as good as last year's in Puck Possession.(check here) Without major injuries,(Daniel only missed 9 regular season games) it ought to be much better and the graph shows the possession fall took place prior to the loss of Sedin The three apparent reasons are 1. A coaching strategy change, and 2. The loss of Ehrhoff. 3. A tired undermanned defence

So, Why play S. Pauhlsson,an older and poor a possession player against a an elite forward? We have evidence now that he is not up to the task of facing Selke candidate A. Kopitar. This match up is a coaching mistake. Vigneault's vision is not working. The key in the playoffs is to make adjustments quickly. This must start in Game 2. The Kings strength is their top two lines (Kopitar and Richards) They are two-way players.

Fix: The Canucks need to generate more quality scoring chances. It is time to match best against best!

1.Use Kesler Booth and Higgins straight up against Kopitar. They can match the puck possession, and control the puck as I showed. And, there speed would be difficult for the Kings to deal with. A few dominate shifts by the All American line could also generate energy in other players and arena.Use Sedin, Burrows, Hansen straight against Richards line. Again strength versus strength.Use Pahlsson, Raymond, Ebbett against the Kings third line. The Kings third and forth line are not offensively dangerous.Use Lapierre, Maholtra, and Weise as a forth line.

One more thing..Daniel Sedin is still out. And, it has not been mentioned is the Keith cheap shot happened after the trade deadline as a result the Canucks had no opportunity to get cap relief and/or make a trade to replace him. For this reason the infraction ought to be treated as if it happened in a playoff series Keith ought to have been suspended indefinitely until the playoffs started. Then, since Daniel is missing playoff games the suspension ought to continue for the as long as he is out. (Like the reasoning in suspending A. Rome vs Horton, in last years finals. The Canucks have suffered a clear competitive disadvantage. Sedin is such a huge factor and as we mentioned he cannot be replaced, that, strictly by the numbers, the series prediction switches from Canucks in 7 to L.A. in 6 if he is out the whole way. Ouch! that elbow still hurts!

What do you think? What changes would you like to see? Is the sky falling?

And, it is time for you to vote!

More stats:

Corsi/Fenwick Shift Charts,h2h icetime Faceoffs boxscore

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