The Canucks have had a bit of bad luck this season, most of it self inflicted. They play hard, they do most of the right things, but a lapse, a mistake, or an outright screw up always seems to find it's way into the back of the net this season.
So was it on this night. The Vancouver hockey club had plenty of power plays, ( five of them, one was only 16 seconds, on a night where they actually had a power play that looked dangerous ) , and plenty of opportunities against a young and talented Avs team that gave away chances in their own end more than a few times, and still couldn't pull out the two points.
The single point might come in handy if they go on a miracle run still ( and pay attention to regulation wins down the stretch. Both the Coyotes and regressing Wild have 30 ROW wins to the Canucks' 29 ), but there were two to be had tonight.
Don't get me wrong folks. This Denver team is for reals, and has plenty of speed, talent, and were maybe even the better team on the night. They certainly were in the second, even though the shots were only 11-10 in their favour in that period.
But they make mistakes that can be taken advantage of. They do exactly that too, and, in the end, that was probably the difference, their ability to cash in on Canuck errors.
The power play was able to get the Canucks off to a good start in this one, as pressure in front by Niklas Jensen ( I go back and forth on whether that was a great pass that Valk and Garrett called it. I ended up going with calling it more of a puck rolling off his stick to a wide open Yannick Weber ) led to the pinching defenseman whipping one into the empty net to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
The Avs responded with pressure of their own about five minutes later, and Matt Duchene, as they say "Johnny on the spot" on a puck that fell to him off of a Lack save on Benoit. The fact is though, for a goalie, it was a tough one, as he was set for a Cody MacLoed shot, which deflected to Benoit. So, I'll give the young goaltender a pass for that one, even though it was a juicy rebound. Daniel Sedin and Hamhuis could have done better on the Avs' star anyhow, in particular, Daniel, who's stick was not strong enough on Duchene's, even though he was there in plenty of time. We might as well spread the blame around a bit on this one as well. Jordan Schroeder got beaten on the boards with a chance to get it out as well, and another opportunity early in the shift.
More to the point though, the Canucks had two more power plays in the period after scoring on their first one, and one after the tying goal. In years past, this game would have been 2 or 3 -1 after twenty minutes. Even though the power play was decent on the night, it simply was not ruthlessly effective as it once was in years gone by.
1st period numbers :
- 10 shifts for Edler, who had 7:19 of ice time, and 2 shots.
- the ice time was pretty even throughout the lineup with the forwards. Shawn Matthias was the second line centre on this night, and had 4:20 TOI, exactly 11 seconds less than the fourth line winger tonight, Niklas Jensen. In fact, anyone not named Tom Sestito had over 4 minutes but for Brad Richardson, who clocked in at 3:50 TOI. Rolling four lines when you are playing at elevation is obviously what the coaches had in mind.
In the second period, the fact that the Avs are used to this geographical fact ( and are young and talented ) seemed to be a factor. Like I always say, the second period is where, with the long change, the differences in teams can become more apparent. It is not like the Canucks were horrible, but of all the times in this game, it was the second period where the home team imposed their will on the game.
That zone time also showed that, for all the talent, and strong offensive play Mr Jensen has had since he was called up, there are still some rough edges to his game. He was on for the go ahead second goal for the Avs ( left Landeskog all alone at the side of the net, standing there in no mans land watching instead of reacting ), was credited with 2 giveaways in the 2nd period alone ( and maybe had another as well ), and seemed to be watching and thinking instead of just playing. He wasn't the only one. Eddie Lack was looking the wrong way when the pass from behind the net came out, and deserves some blame too. Rookies sometimes make mistakes folks !
Such is the way it is with young players ( Rant here ...please ignore this entirely selfish paragraph if you want to, I won't take it personally : Seriously TEAM1040, and Tony Gallagher and Blake Price in particular. Shut up with the couch coaching. Tony was blathering on about his playing on the fourth line as a mistake, instead of the obvious need to even out the lines to roll all four in a game played above a mile high on a back to back night, and Blake Price was at his passive aggressive best on twitter all night. You guys act like you know more about the game than the guys paid to coach the ****ing team. You don't Tony. Even though you know more than Price, just because some fool calling in agrees with your negativity, does not make you an "expert". At least try to be productive, instead of trolling. If you did know more, both of you, you'd be making a million or two a year coaching, instead of the relentlessly negative crying about the team that seems to give you both some weird kind of pleasure. Maybe the callers on TEAM dig it. But it is pretty well established that most of those guys are putzes anyhow ! No doubt the bitching tonight, egged on by Blake, and with callers repeating Tony, will be all about how things would have been different with Jensen up the lineup, and how Torts is "wrecking his development", or some such bullshit... the kid had a tough period, and saw less ice in a close game. Torts is hardly the first NHL coach to cut back to three lines in that situation. Get over yourself guys...), and I had zero problem with him seeing less ice time in the third as a result.
Sorry for the tangent. The Canucks were able to overcome the power play not producing not long after the go ahead goal, and tie up the game before the third on a play that was Zack Kassian at his best. It was another "power forward" play, doing the "Bertuzzi", and pushing off the defender just enough to get clear for a puck off of a Hamhuis ( hopeful ) shot. The skill was pretty good too, as he settled it with his skate before poking it into the empty net.
2nd period digits :
- One reason the game was still close, after two ? Well, the Avs had some great chances all night, and open nets were missed ad infinitum, but credit the visitors too. The Avs gave away the puck 3-1 after 20, and 8-4 after two, while the Canucks ballooned a slight 7-5 takeaway advantage to 18-8 after 40 minutes.
- Alexander Edler's team leading ice time was deserved. He was up to 15:10 after two, and had 5 shots, 2 blocks, and 2 takeaways in that time.
- Jensen's 9:18 ( 3:29 on the PP ) TOI after two did include the mistakes, and giveaways. He also had 2 shots in that time.
The Vancouver Canucks recovered from the second period with a very strong final frame. They did it with three lines ( Jensen did not see the ice in the third, and Schroeder and Sestito had one shift of 28 seconds in the third ), on a back to back night. Kassian was a beast, too strong for the Avs along the boards. His line with Booth doing yeoman's work, and Richardson playing well, was one reason the team had a great period.
The line of Hansen, Daniel Sedin, and Shawn Matthias ( another beast along the boards, I am liking that deal more every game he plays ) worked hard and created chances. The Higgins, Kesler, Burrows line deserved better than they produced.
Credit the home team as well. Varlamov made the saves he had to. The defense played better in the final period. The fact that they outhit the Canucks every period ( 32-21 on the night ) was indicative of their finishing their checks, and playing well. The Avs play a quasi "man to man" type zone in their own end. It leaves open areas that can be taken advantage of, but is all about being strong on your man. They made the plays they had to, when they had to.
It was a bit of a shame that the O/T goal happened so early, as the teams would have probably went back and forth, considering their relative positions.
Credit the Avs on this one. Their speed backed off the defenders, and Tyson Barrie made a nifty play to get his stick on the puck, on a play Weber actually seemed to have him checked on. A bang bang play that took the final point.
A huge shout out to Kevin Bieksa, who was injured on a hit by Landeskog, and looked in considerable pain. He was only able to go one shift after that, but just coming out for the final frame was something, considering how bad he was limping. The Canucks played the final period with only 5 defenseman as a result.
Numbers to notice :
- Brad Richardson went 11 of 16 as the face off ace, after going 2 for 4 after the first period. He lost 3 draws in the final 40 minutes.
- Ryan Kesler had 4 shot attempts, and only hit the net twice. The two misses were both solid chances.
- Daniel Sedin may have been a -2, but had 3 takeaways, 1 hit, and an assist in his 18:00 TOI. His game seems to be almost back. Hopefully Hank can return for some late season Sedinery ?
Next up is the Ducks at home on Saturday. It doesn't get any easier, huh ?