Last week in this space I talked about how the Canucks' insane on-ice save percentage numbers had been inflated by their recent schedule of mostly awful offensive teams, and that the goaltending was due for a regression. The team was on the road all of last week playing 4 games in 6 nights against some stiff competition, so I figured that was as good a time as any for the regression to hit.
Well, it did, as the Canucks allowed 14 goals in those 4 games — and one was a shutout win! It all came to a head on Sunday, when Roberto Luongo surrendered 8 goals to the Detroit Red Wings (albeit with very little help from the guys in front of him).
No matter what you think of stats, they're clearly useful in depicting when a team is on a hot streak, when they're due for a break, or when they're just undeniably dominant. No team is as good as their best game or as bad as their worst. The Canucks aren't as good as the team that only allowed 6 goals in 6 games at one point and they're not as bad as the one that surrendered 8 to the Red Wings. We still don't really know what we have with this team yet this season.
On Hockey Night in Canada Saturday night, Elliotte Friedman revealed the NHL's current realignment plan. It has the league split into four conferences, and Vancouver ends up in a much more time zone-friendly group with SJ, PHX, LA, ANA, CAL, and EDM. Despite the travel benefits, this puts the Canucks in the toughest of the four conferences. Yup, no more tap-in division titles. San Jose, Los Angeles, and Anaheim are gruelling opponents to face regularly. At least we can celebrate the absence of Minnesota.
FINDING A GROOVE
As I talked about above, this team was on a roll only a short while ago, but a few things have changed recently: Ryan Kesler came back, David Booth came back, and Manny Malhotra was shut down. The forward lines need to find their comfort zone all over again, and that's not easy when you have two guys coming off injuries and no training camp. Throw a tough 4-in-6 road trip into the mix and it's hard to get the practice time necessary to see what you have. A three day break this week at home should give the players a chance to regroup.
Funny that when the goaltending is simply average, what's going on in front of the net really comes into focus. For most of the week the Canucks were a total mess in their own zone. I kind of think the defence has been like this for a while now, they're just usually bailed out by elite goaltending. The Canucks have been allowing more quality chances so far this season than I think a contending team should.
Through four games, the team save percentage when Ryan Kesler is on the ice is 0.778. It's a very small sample size, but that's ridiculously low. Hard to find your game when you can't buy a save.
Before missing yesterday's game with the flu, in two games back David Booth looked pretty much like the player he was most of last season: an effective possession player who can't get a bounce. I'm looking forward to his inevitable reunion with Kesler.
The Sedins have been dominant lately. That bank-pass goal they scored yesterday was something to behold. Sedinery lives!
Zack Kassian looks like a prospect again, making prospect plays and prospect mistakes. I hate to use the word "swagger", but the sort of loose confidence Kassian seemed to have early in the year has dissipated. I hope AV has the sense to let him work through it, but if it continues too long a healthy scratch wouldn't be the worst thing for him.
Firsts of the week: first goal for Dale Weise against the Predators on Friday, and first game for Andrew Alberts yesterday. Since Alberts was the variable in that game, I think we can safely blame all 8 goals against on him. Fair?
A lighter schedule this week with the Coyotes and Kings at home followed by Calgary on the road. Here's hoping the Canucks can use the days off to regroup and fix the issues that plagued them in their own zone this past week.