It was towards the end of a thoroughly enjoyable 1st period where Shorty and Cheech referenced the "Encyclopdia Brown" series. I missed it, but I think they were referring to the power play in their own wry and entertaining way. I loved those books as a child. They were like critical thinking primers for children, helping you figure out the "case" along the way.
It was a funny throwaway from Shorty, but it did get me thinking. Not just about the power play, that looked perfectly fine again tonight and went 0 for 3 to hover in the bottom five for power plays this early season. I am not worried about the power play, and am certainly not worried about it this early when it has looked so good. Sometimes the guy makes the save, and you just cannot tell me that the Twins will dry up. Garrison and Edler, who is back the next one, are too good to not bury bombs from the point soon. So, no, it was not that.
I was thinking more about how John Tortorella is figuring out his team, and what he can do to get the most out of them ( and be most effective in certain situations he knows will occur down the road ). You saw that tonight when he realized that what was going in the last game was working, but that he could get even more, and did. It was really quite brilliant.
Certainly Torts did not need to blend the lines again because the team was struggling. They came out insanely hot, peppering Ryan Miller ( who looked like he was a bit miffed by the end at the a$$kicking that was occurring ) and used a power play that was a result of the insane pressure to to direct a lot of rubber at the goaltender ( who was, again, ket me say, excellent, and the only reason that the Sabres were even in the game after the first, ) and prevented a laugher. Miller ended up with a save % over .900 ( .912 ) while giving up 3 goals he couldn't have done much more to prevent tonight.
It was the Tort's linup usage, first tentatively, with a couple shifts in the first, and then more and more, until it was the first line..and served notice in a game like this one ( against a clearly not better on this night team ) that there was a helluva first line coming from Torts that you didn't prepare for in practice. AV, he got as far as Kes with the twins on the power play, but never thought to think that it could work 5 on 5. Torts stood all the "punditexperts" ideas up on their edge, and then ignored them about being "thin down the middle" and took his "top 2 centres" and put them together.
You could say the Canucks have another option ( a pretty scary one...can Kes' get the double position nominee like Ovechkin this year , for centre and wing? ) , and that there is both no reason to not do it right now, again and again until a better team makes the "expertpundits" right by overpowering that supposed weakness in the middle. John Tortorella seems the type that will have something for them when that happens anyhow. I mean, he already had a couple new lines for folks to figure out with the Sedin the Edler and Sedin the Younger combos, and gave them an even scarier one to consider at the end.
The "mix and match" throughout the rest of the lineup that that one move made was really not that bad. Coach still had his bottom six, and Mike ( say it with your hands with me ) San-TOR-Elli seemlessly moved into the middle, picked up the tossed off wingers in Hansen and Higgins and was effective. Along the way he discovered a third line that, on this night at least, was awesome, and has the potential to develop even more in Zack Kassian, in his best game of the short season ( for him ) to date with Jordan Schroeder ( maybe ditto!? ) and the pretty good so far David Booth. A fourth line that looked to have more than enough speed to go with the size in Sestito, Richardson ( got his 2nd shortie tonight for the second goal as well ) and Weise.
Yeah, it was an "a$$kicking pure and simple. But without Roberto Luongo on some early chances ( and some late ones, particularly on a 3rd period power play with 6 shots against ) shutting the door for a well deserved shutout, especially when it was ( again, and not picking on them, but it is what the "pundityexpertists" always say about him... ;-) a game where Luongo had to stay sharp through long periods of doing little but stopping pucks behind the net.
He got lucky on a turnover behind the net ( where was the call from the defenseman as to "tail" where that Sabre snuck in there behind him? ) when his guys bailed him out with blocks, and the celebration of the Vanek goal on the Hodgson pass, only to see that, hey, it went off a crossbar, post, and then the goal line before trickling harmlessly away ...was sort of evilly delicious in a way.
No points for you #CodyCodyCody !
But let's see what the numbers tell us tonight. ExtraSkater here and ShiftCart here . ( game not updated to site as of publish )... Did they show us anything we didn't already see by the Sterling Malory Archer Rampage level that unfolded tonight?
- The great start had something to do with it, and a power play with a lot of shots right off the hop helped as well, but look at what kinda shots the first line of Higgins, Kesler, and Sedin the Elder put together in the period they were mostly around. Kesler had 4 of his 6 shots force a Miller save in his 9:00 first period minutes, Henrik Sedin led the team with 9:54 TOI after one period, and had a shot, while first goal scorer Chris Higgins ( on a quick laser shot Miller had no time to get ) had 4 shots in 6:55 TOI.
- When you consider that Henrik, Kesler, Daniel, with Hamhuis and Garrison had 2:49 of power play ice in that period, you realize that Higgy didn't have that lesser ice time for any reason but there are only so many 1st PP spots to go around! Garrison and Hamhuis both generated 2 shots each in that dominant 1st period as well, as the Canucks had a 19-7 edge, while generating 32 ( 7 blocked, 6 misses ), compared to the 14 ( Sabres missed 3 and had 4 blocked ). Yeah, you are going to miss Ryan Miller Buffalo.
- By the time the end of the second stanza, The 22-33-17 line had produced more pressure, zone play dominance and chances once again. Henrik was now up to a, still, team leading 17:53 TOI, and was picking up a few extra shifts on that Superline in addition to Daniel playing some with his beginning linemates. That is the only way that Daniel having almost 3 less even strength minutes by that 2/3rds mark makes any sense without digging through the shift charts! But, anyhow, Daniel was effective, adding to his 2 shots ( 1 miss ) in the 1st with another good chance and a couple misses. Kesler was now up to 6 on and 4 misses through two periods to lead the team. Hansen had 2 shots, and Kassian had 2 of his 3 attempts force shots,while Schroeder had 1 on and 2 off. That is a lot of rubber through two periods, at two to one in shots after two at 28-14, with the attempted shots at 47 ( now 8 Buffalo blocks and 11 misses for the visitors ) to 31 ( with the Canucks now blocking 13, and the Sabres only managing to miss Luongo 1 more time for 4 overall after two periods! ) Those numbers are dominant, and all about the pressure the coach added to by taking his best players and playing them a lot.
- Not to be missed was another shorthanded goal by Brad Richardson. His fourth line may have been it's most effective this early season, and the shorthanded goal was an exercise in concentration to make sure he got it in after Mike Santorelli made yet another good play on a PK rush, Jason Garrison ( 2nd in the NHL with 2 goals and 8 points, behind PK Subann's 2 and 10 ) filled the hole with a perfectly times jump into the play to shoot it, and Richardson used his "nose around the net" skills to make it 2-0. But consider this. The Sabres were ahead 13 -9 on draws after one, and 25 to 14 after two. The Canucks then won almost every damn draw in the 3rd to make it 31 to 28 for the Canucks in that stat. Richardson was 7 of 8 tonight. He did that, though the other guys were all around the .500 mark ( Kess 5 of 11, Hank 8 of 17, Santorelli 5 of 10, while Schroeder had a much better night in the circle tonight from last at 5 of 9. )
- Mike Santorelli. Mr Everything Jr. 2 assists, +2, 2 shots, a team high 4 blocks and a minor while going 50% on 10 draws. Love this guy.
- In that 3rd, the Torts Effect was again visible on the stat sheet, with that 1st line ( until about the 6-7 minute mark, which was after a Buffalo PP where they had 6 shots to balloon their total to 11-6 in the final period ..and after which Coach just played situational hockey to ride the now 3-0 lead to victory ) with Daniel now reaching his stated goal for the year, getting more shots, while finishing with 8 attempts ( 5 on net ) and with his and Brother Hank's relentless pressure while with Kesler leading to the young "entirely been excellent, thank you Hawks for trying to send him down lots and lots...did we say thanks again Scotty Bowman's son?" Ryan Stanton getting a well deserved first goal of his NHL career.
- It has to be said, and he certainly was not the only one on a perfect night for the goaltender, and of course it is a team game and the forwards came back and assisted the breakout like champs all night...but the blue liners were wonderful. Andrew Alberts was very good in his first game in this year. The stat sheet says he had 2 blocks in his 10:22, but that doesn't tell the whole story. He made a wonderful play early on under pressure with a deft kick pass to Henrik, was solid in his own end, and on a neutral zone turnover where it looked like he was toast, he got back and prevented a great chance on Lui. He'll be in the next game ( well, if Torts likes, after tonight, it is going to take a while to start questioning his choices like a typical Canuck fan! ;-) Alberts made good little plays, and was in the right place most of the night.
- The rest that blue line? Christopher Tanev always made the right play for another night, had a +1, 2 shots on, 1 miss, and 2 blocks in 21:21 TOI. Ryan Stanton ; a goal, a +1, 1 shot, and looking way too good for a guy off waivers in 18:47 self assured and confident minutes. The "Big Three" tonight sure looked great without Edler, who should slot right back into a bunch rolling after this game. Kevin Bieksa ; +2, 1 miss ( on a perfect set up where he really should have scored on a done and out Miller, but was blocked by the rookie Ruestielaninin ( sp? goes w/o saying! ) ), 3 blocks, 5 hits, and a "stout" all situations 23:48 TOI. Dan Hamhuis ; maybe his most confident game so far, with 2 shots, an even, 1 hit, and an entirely forgivable "are you really calling that"? penalty for holding in 23:28. #BeardModeBeastMode was once again the best of a bunch with lots of "best" tonight, one Jason Garrison ; 1 assist, a +2, 2 shots and 2 blocks in 22:37 TOI.
So, sorry all you folks that wanted your 10th overall pick in the 2008 to "do something special", as I heard some Johnny fellow mock the TEAM callers with today...and some others then call in to agree with...( he didn't have a horrible night, robbed of an assist by the Puck Gods while going an even on a night a lot of Sabres had at least one "dash" while having 2 of his 3 shots force saves, and in his 20:32 ( team high for forwards ) but at least he was a surprising 11 of 17 draws won! That's way better than here!
It is entirely fine that he didn't want to be here, and we will never know all the actual "facts" of that little drama anyhow. But you have a solid player in Zack Kassian folks ( very noticeable 12:45 TOI where he had 2 of 3 shots on net and a takeaway ), and he is young and improving every day. He sure showed it tonight, in maybe his best game.
Two last things...( and sorry it;s so long, a lot of good things to talk about tonight! ) no better time to go into a "Breakfast Game" against a more successful Eastern team in the Penguins, as the Sidney Crosby team is next up on Satuday at 10 am local time...
...and two, in the tradition of blogs everywhere, and with no idea of how it is an effective stat, I am debuting "Puck +/-"...which is basically taking the good and bad of takeaways and giveaways and getting an aggregate. ( we'll see, I have a suspicion that it is like most stats, somewhat subjective to the stats guy interpretations in each rink ) Tonight, the Canucks forced an edge in giveaways, with Buffalo doing that 9 times to the Canucks 2. On the other side, the Canucks had 5 takeaways and the Sabres 3. So, the Canucks were a Puck +/- was 14 - 5, for a +9 ( with a + 7G and a +2T if you really want to get into it. That is 9 times they got the puck when they didn't have it. It's the essence of Tort's Style, that pressure, so we'll see how accurate it gets on the sheets as the season goes.
On to Pittsburgh!