It all started out so promising for Canuck fans watching this one from the Whatever They Call It Now Centre. After killing off a Dale Weise penalty early on, the Canucks got a power play of their own, and the promotion of Jason Garrison to the first power play unit paid early dividends, as he beat the first of many goaltenders this year with that huge shot of his.
Give the Sharks credit though, they were definitely up for their home opener, and were it not for Roberto Luongo, and the shot block brigade ( they won that stat 22 to 18 on the night ), the early lead may have been quickly negated. You could see the beginnings of the Torts System at work when you watched the game tonight. One thing they definitely have to work on is neutral zone turnovers, as, even in a good first period that was their best ( in spots, there were periods in the second and third where they were the better team too. A work in progress. They just need to put it together for the full sixty... ) on the night, they gave the home team way to many great chances on odd manned rushes. Roberto Luongo was really wonderful on those.
The down low pressure in the other end, the compact way in which you pressure in your own end, it all is, of course, not perfection as of the very first time out. But you can see the effectiveness of it. The shot blocking, to me, is not as big a deal as has been promoted by our hyperbolic, have to name EVERYTHING something media. I put the shot block numbers in there to just show it, but it really seems to be more a case of, if you can get in front of it ( and that is the thing about the system. It is going to put you in places where blocking the shot is what you will have to do ), you will. It reminds me a bit of what the Bruins were doing in the 2011 Finals, to such great success.
FTR - Neither Sedin was credited with a blocked shot, while the defense, led by Chris Tanev with 5, stopped 14 shots from reaching their intended destination. Alex Burrows led the forwards with 3. It has to be said though, you'll block a lot of shots when you are on the penalty kill. The Canucks certainly got a lot of practice at that tonight, with a perfect 8 for 8 night on the PK, that included a full, two minute 5 on 3.
Now, were all eight of those penalties? Of course not. Not by my eye anyhow. But in today's NHL, who the hell knows? Here's the thing that did annoy me about the penalties tonight. There were plenty of "fouls" that were not called the other way as they were on the Canucks. Ryan Kesler had a goaltender interference where it sure looked like he got rode in there. By that same token, of the 6 penalties the Sharks took, I didn't agree with a couple of them( the power play the Canucks scored on, the penalty on Burns just was not a penalty! ) , either. One only has to look at that third period non call, where Brad Richardson had his stick slashed out of his hands, leading to a San Jose scoring chance, with nary a raised eyebrow from the striped shirts, to see that no one is perfect in that profession, to say the least! The game was still in the balance at that point. For what it is worth.
You have to give the home team their due though. After a strong 2nd period gave them the 2-1 lead, they overcame some pretty decent effort by the visitors to take advantage of a Chris Higgins mistake to get the third, and the need to press late in a game to come back to bag the 4th and final goal. Both were outmanned situations on the goaltender, where he was basically "hung out to dry", for those worried about their goaltender and his "October swoons".
We get sensitive about refs in these parts, and most of that is bull**** anyhow. Refs do the best job they can most nights, and I am certainly not saying that they cost the game to the visitors tonight, or gave the home team the win. All we want, NHL, is consistency. I am sure if you ask John Tortorella, that is all he wants to. Perhaps if the team just lets folks like me bitch a little, and keeps their mouths shut. like they tried to do tonight, maybe the new coach's pronouncement of "not noticing that" as it goes to the bias, imagined or otherwise, will turn the other way.
For all you stats geeks and number mavens, here is the link for all your number based needs. ExtraSkater.com is a great resource. I am giving you the link to start from, and you can click away to your decimal point loving heart's content...
Now, the Good, the Bad, and the Meh :
The Good :
I like John Tortorella, as I see him as a breath of fresh air. He certainly will demand the best out of his players. The part I am most enthused about is the pressure in the offensive end. You can see that there will be breakouts that will get by the team when they play that way, but pressure, and not being passive in the neutral zone are great with me. You'll get the calls like what Dale Weise did when those split second decisions happen, for example. A cheap holding call was obviously not how Torts wants it to go. The mavens and "experts" will of course complain about the downfalls in every occurrence, and demand an 82-0-0 season, as is their wont. Part of that will be "let's get Torts to blow so we have a new clip to play besides that cel phone one". On this night, anyhow, the canucks played hard for their new coach. regardless of the result.
A couple examples of that were Kevin Bieksa, who, on a night where the stats guy was giving out hits with a discerning eye ( hots were 18-17 Canucks, Juice had 5 of them, ( 3 blocks ) and looks to have that edge that was hit or miss under AV. And you'll have to ask Torts what he thought of Alexander Edler, but he was the high minutes ( 25:01 ) and shifts ( 34 ) guy on the blue line tonight. His 2 giveaways , sucked...but he was only a -1 for all that ice time, and had 3 blocks of his own.
The Sedins - The set up on the power play was sweet, and what we have come to expect from the Twins, though Daniel does need to get the sights on his sticks fixed ( 3 missed shots ). They worked hard on the PK too, and kept out of the "Meh" category as a result ( kill me, I am a fan of the Sedin Twins ).
Ryan Kesler - He is going to be fine if he plays like he did tonight, but a bit more control Kes! Yes, that stat line was impressive, with 3 shots of his 5 on net, 11 of 22 draws won, a blocked shot, and almost 4 minutes on the superlative PK. But those two stupid penalties were NOT good ( even if he drew one too ). A bit more control please sir.
It would be too easy to pick on the new kid, and Zac Dalpe did manage 2 shots in his 3:19 of ice time. His linemate, the new father ( congrats man! ), Dale Weise earned it from me tonight. Perhaps it is because he hasn't slept much lately, but to play Tort's pressure style, you have to be able to get there on the pressure in the offensive end. Tom Sestito was actually more noticeable in that regard tonight!
How can you give Chris Higgins a "bad" Dan, he had a strong night! ( 5 of 7 shots on net, a block, and 3 hits, while going -2 ) His 1 credited giveaway was a very bad one. You have to be more aware there Higgy. In a game where it was 2-1 before that, a mistake that big earns a slot in the "bad" category.
The Meh :
Brad Richardson is a player I am not too worried about yet, but he only had a hit in 12:37, while going -2. The 7 out of 10 wins on the draw definitely gets you out of the bad slot tonight boss.
Ryan Stanton may just be OK, but he wasn't as noticeable and effective as his wingman "The Iceman" tonight. I'm not going to come down too hard on him though. It is good for a defenseman to not be "noticeable" sometimes!
The newly signed Jannik Hansen was just not the engine of destruction that gets noticed tonight. The Honey Badger will be better, I have no doubt, but tonight, he was just not his awesome self.
The San Jose Sharks are a good team, of that there is little doubt. They will be a strong opponent in the Pacific this year. They definitely earned their win tonight, as outshooting the Canucks 35 - 22 and controlling a bunch of the play will attest. Roberto Luongo certainly did his job, regardless of the scoresheet. But I liked the bite, the push back, and the general willingness to play hard tonight. The Canucks were clearly pushing them on their heels before Burns got his first goal, for instance. The line between winning and losing has always been a thin one in the NHL. It looks like that line is even thinner in the Pacific this year.
Sure, Niemi made some great saves, and the Canuck chances, if one or two goes in, it could have been different. But I liked what I saw of the new coach's new system, and I do honestly think that, even in the Pacific division, that if they play like they did tonight, as far as effort and willingness to get in there and compete, they will be just fine.
Sure, the Sharks made it look better in the third. If Burrows scores instead of hitting the post in the second, would you still feel down on them? It really was that close...Let's not go nuts on just one loss, if we can manage that.