A "You Make Your Own Luck" Game Recap ( 3-1 L )

Harry How

Roberto Luongo faced a season high 48 shots in his first game back from injury, and the Canucks matched the Kings' intensity throughout a hard fought and entertaining game. Jonathan Quick was great when he had to be, stopping all but one of 28 shots on his way to an ending of 5 game losing streak.

When they talk about luck in the game of hockey, it usually translates to when you had a great chance to score, but a puck fluttered over your stick because of a rut in the ice.  Often it is mentioned by the shooters that somehow ended up shooting the puck right into the chest of a perfectly placed goalie all night.

So, often it is not luck at all, but just a way to feel better about failing.  It is a part of a game where mistakes and forcing the other team to make them is how you win the game.  Like baseball players who can make many millions by failing to hit a ball seven times out of ten, hockey players have to just keep skating, and have short memories.

And all of that doesn't matter when the goalie is as hot as Roberto Luongo was tonight. He didn't really have a chance on either goal to get by him, and was the only reason it was, incredibly, a game where the Canucks had an opportunity to win going into the third.  You played a helluva game tonight Mr. Luongo.

ESPN

EXTRASKATER.COM ( that is some ugly Corsi there boys! 60 / 40 against never looks good...)

SHIFTCHART.COM

All the talk about "rivals" is real about these two teams.  And it sure makes for entertaining games, Even if it's Lee instead of Ball on the call, and CBC does their best to push their storylines, instead of calling the game, like the poor play by play guy did tonight ( seriously, I know I have made my feelings known on Mark Lee before, but he was farther behind the play than Bob Cole can be these days. And you are DEFINITELY no Bob Cole, Mr. Lee )  Saturday night games usually are fun to watch. ( the Boston game was a Sat., for instance )

Before this game, I was checking stats on various aspects for the teams. One of my fave tabs at NHL.com is the "real time stats" function.  Teams like the Canucks and Kings have leads in various categories, and you can zone in on a team's strengths by checking who is Top 10 in this or that category. So, I get where they get the narrative. The Kings are 2nd in the NHL ( to Toronto with 1463 collisions ) with 1396 hits.  But, that is also misleading if you look at the list ( here, click around the different headings, it's fun! ). Shoot, Buffalo is 9th overall, and the bottom five are Chicago, Minnesota, San Jose, Vancouver, and Detroit.

Puck possession teams tend to get hit more. That's one of the reasons why Torts talked of taking a hit to finish a play today.  Still, there is no denying the Kings play BigBoyHockey . But what I like to call TortsStyle is not for shrinking violets either.

For the record, the Canucks were outhit tonight, 14-11 in the first, 29-17 after two, and 30-21 at the end.  But the aspect of "taking a hit to make a play" was on display throughout this entertaining game.  Give it to the Kings though. While Bieksa and Hansen led their team with 4 hits, guys like Weise only had 1, Sestito 2 ( actually 3, one discounted on a bad call, I think. Tommy hit a guy while being a big man himself, with the puck closer than it was on the hit CBC showed from the playoffs of Brown on Hank, and it was shoulder to shoulder. Shouldn't have been a call, to me  ) while Kassian and Kesler were amongst five guys with only 1 hit. By contrast, Doughty led the Kings with 5, while King, Williams, and Regehr a had 4. Brown had 3.

So, it depends on who is doing the hitting,  ( and sometimes who is doing the counting...arena bias can be real ). But the Canucks hung in well in that regard. Consider in a second period where the home team came in waves, being outshot 35 - 19 after two ( 17-13 in the 1st, and tripling the Canucks 18-6 in the second.  Hell, the Kings missed 8 more, and had 6 blocked in that period.

Some stats are straightforward. I knew, for instance, that the Kings are a very good face off team ( #2 in the NHL at 53.4 %, behind Nashville ), and they were the better team tonight there, going 36 of 61.  I mean, late in the third, Brad Richardson was out with the Twins with the net empty, because he was the only Canuck winning draws, going 11 of 17. So, sometimes stats matter, especially the cut and dried ones.

Those stats are a lot less subjective than giveaways, for instance. ( a great glossary from Hockey Prospectus on hockey terms, I agree with what they say on them here )  But the Kings' stats guy might have just saw what I did in the first period, where after the Kings came out strong, the Canucks had an extended period of sustained momentum.  It might have been reflected in the 11 - 1 giveaways stat. ( they finished with 21 giveaways to 6 tonight. In the 2nd period, even under all that pressure, the Canucks only committed 3 giveaways, according to the stats counter guy... butressing what I was saying about them playing hard under pressure tonight )

Certainly it helped the visitors early when the Kings took back to back penalties, and the Canucks scored on the first of them in the opening period, when the Sedins did their thing to get Ryan Kesler a shot at a wide open net.  And while the Kings had a ton of shots on the night, it should be noted that the Canucks did have chances too. Quick was good in his return from a wonky groin.  But he had the "puck luck" himself too. A big rebound that bounced right over Richardson's stick with an open net, and led to a 3 on1 the other way ( Luongo stoned Richards ) in the second was a perfect example of that.  Without that "flutter" of the puck, this game is much more interesting. There was another one in the first where he was way out of position and flung himself across to just get a long shot from ( Dalpe or Weise? Definitely the 4th line ) the point that almost beat him.

2-0, the sticks get gripped tighter, the heads shaken more urgently at every Luongo save, and the thoughts of a 5 game losing streak becoming a 6 gamer creep in.  Opportunity lost.  Too bad. That performance for the ages type play from Lui, it would have been nice to complete the miracle and get a win for him.

Put it another way, however.  Even if it is Quick starting at the other end at the end of Febuary, Team Canada is probably going to score more than one for a goaltender that makes 35 saves after forty minutes.  Even with only 19 shots !  Anyhow, even though he sounded a bit down on himself here ( that's Iain McIntyre with the "3rd period leads against this team question" Thanks bud...not trying to lead it there at all!  ), and I rather enjoyed the "accidentally on purpose" inference on the Brown run after the goal, though I thought it was more Mike Santorelli getting back late to the guy he let go at the blue line, and making things worse after the goal was already in.

Brown is good at finding the contact and burying the goalie, of course. Lui was right to put it down to the game though.  He made the first save on the chance, but credit Justin Williams for that goal, as much as Brown for driving the net. That shot was one of those "shoot for the pad to make it come in front" quasi passes, and Santorelli was late to the guy that he should have stayed with from the blue line.

I'll disagree with the big guy on the second one. I know he wants to get that, but, again, it was a mistake by a player in front of him, and just a great hockey play. Dwight King made a very solid play, outskating Jason Garrison to the puck, and feeding one of the better shooters in the NHL through Garrison. Jeff Carter got all of it top shelf before Daniel Sedin could get to him on the back check, and that was that.  A game of inches, and seconds. Both #22 and #5 could have done more on that one.

Quick had to make some saves to seal the deal in the final 7:55, most notably on Daniel Sedin, to no avail.  I thought about the same about this game as Torts did here.  He was frank about this division, and maybe overstated his points a bit for effect, as coaches are wont to do.  But bang on otherwise. The first, the Canucks could have done maybe even a bit more on the scoresheet, and answered back.  That power play that he pointed to as the turning point ( after Dustin Brown went off for slashing :55 into the second, and the revamped power play looked awful on both units ) sure was, and the Kings owned the momentum for most of the rest of the game.  It would have been way worse without the Sochi 2014 Team Canada goaltender stoning the home team at every turn.

He was a .958 save % tonight, compared to the winning goaltender having a .964, and only letting in 1 on 28 shots.  A lot of those shots were definitely scoring chances ( my faves were the get across on Matt Frattin alone in front in the second, and the glove with extra "around the world" showmanship on the fourth line the next shift. ) He was fantastic against sustained pressure tonight, and even after getting contacted hard in the third, he played hard. Get 'em next time Lui.  If Stevie Yzerman was watching that game tonight, he had to be impressed.

The thing is, in this division, the same thing happens tomorrow, as another team that likes to control the puck down low, collapses to their goalie ( maybe not to the point the Kings do ), and counter is waiting.  Jeff Paterson had a great stat on twitter today.  Of the 19 home ice wins for the Ducks ( and no regulation losses ), 10 of those were the exact circumstance as as tomorrow's game, as the Ducks end up getting a team on the second game of a back to back.  But they are a formidable opponent, and challenging for the lead of the West.

Call me a cockeyed optimist, but this reminds me a bit of that long seven game road trip in October. The Canucks are a better team than the Devils ( who aren't the Kings ), so they were able to win the game 3-2. No one gave them a snowball's chance in St Louis the next night, and Eddie Lack stepped in and won a hard fought game against a Western power 3-2.  If they play as hard as they did in the first, and can stand with their opponent without losing the momentum ( and a power play that looks more like the first one and not like the rest tonight ), I see no reason at all why all those fans that were so prominent tonight ( we heard the "LUUUUUUUUUUUUU's" people ! )  don't have at least a chance of seeing a win tomorrow night.

The margins are that tight.  Far be it from me to argue with the coach. But I don't think the Canuck play was that far off. Sometimes in this game, a team just grabs the momentum and you are chasing. The Canucks had every opportunity in the first, and even in the second on the Richardson bad luck miss, to change their destiny tonight.

The effort was there.  Mistakes just ended up being costly.  You don't play against that kind of zone time in the second period, even with a world class goaltender like Luongo, and come out of it without a goal against very often. A big part of that is the goalie, but the Canucks ( with 3 young defensemen, even though Christopher Tanev plays like he's old as Gandalf ) should be given credit for how they played under intense pressure as well.  They battled. They played a very good team and came up a bit short. They'll do the same thing in less than 24 hours, against another really good team. Damn Pacific Division!

Better luck tomorrow.

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