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Mask Musings and Pre Camp Thoughts

Why, yes, Roberto Luongo is the #1 goaltender in Vancouver and defending 2010 Gold Medal Olympic Champion. Why, did you hear something different? Just making sure...there's a lot of that going around!


By this time next week, we'll all be hip deep in articles and stats of this invitee and that prospect.  There will be a surfeit of articles on Torts and the "new way of doing things around here", and more than a couple "in depth" chats with Roberto Luongo to stifle the whining about how he had the audacity to have his initial interview of the summer with a reporter that he is comfortable with.

Because we haven't bitched about literally everything to do with the man.

This is not going to be some long screed about Roberto Luongo.  We have other things to muse on here.  But I do want to just throw a couple things out there on the gregarious and supremely talented puck humorist who will definitely for sure patrol the crease for the home team.

1 / There has been a plethora of divergent voices on the Vancouver Canucks goaltending over the last couple years, and you sort of get it.  We live in a hockey mad market, in a hockey mad country, where a consistently high performing team has somehow avoided the big prize.  It is also the most decisive position in the sport, so there's that.

Anyway, since your GM took over the management of the "great team" that Burkey and Nonis assembled ( and somehow never had close to his success with..sure that's just some weird "fate" thing... ) in those 5 seasons, the team is 225 - 111 - 40. I'll leave it to the #mathers here to do the winning percentage on that, but I'll wager it is every bit as good as the one Boston media were crowing about as they recounted how the ( albeit more successful in the playoffs damnit! ) Bruins had played under Peter Chiarelli.  Roberto Luongo was the starting goaltender there for a lot more of that time than not.  We get why Torts was brought in, and the playoffs are ALWAYS the thing.  But all you folks not on #TeamDiva should be excited by the season to come, I think.

Yes, mistakes were made, and we can gossip about them in the same way that whole Brad, Angelina and Jennifer thing went, for instance.  Always fun... but Roberto knows he is coming back to a pretty excellent team, and one in which the coach is the type that goalies seemingly thrive under ( more on that in a minute... ) He can look at the team success for that, across and all around the locker room for players he has bled for and with already, and look forward, not back.  That sure sounds like it could be ( sighs as he looks wistfully out the window at the clouds that hit the sky all of the sudden in Lotusland )  Let's try a bit of that !

2 / This is not to pick on the Sportsnet talking heads, or Doug Maclean in particular. Some opinions are sincere and profound no matter the content, some are just tired old discounted and disparaging narratives.  Everyone has an opinion when it comes to hockey, and Olympic National Teams? We're all experts!

The fact that he "went there" though, again this week,  with the old "Luongo didn't have to be THAT good in 2010 to win Gold" chestnut is as much about the calendar date and stoking the fires than reality anyhow.  There will be more from him, and others.  Check out these last two tweets of Stan Fischler for a master class on #ProTrolling however. I doubt Stan has seen much of Lui since...well, since the fact that there is a three hour time difference and staying up these days is HARD, but...damn. This is some grade A "stuff"...

A hundred times more has been written about than he really deserves. Yet I get the sense that he may be out of B.C. soon.

and then this today after he had probably gotten some "feedback" #lol

Anyone who believes that will retired hasn't figured out how much $ he makes for a few hours work per night.

Damn that's some good stuff. The utter dismissiveness, while twice scoring the "double" of taking a shot at them dumbass plebe fans reading his pronouncements. Just amazing...

When the strangers, #OtherCoasters like P.E.I's own Dougie, and virtually every radio station in T.O that isn't talking about how good or bad their " shortened season playoff qualifier from the first time since HD TV came around " team can be ( again, look at those numbers above you guys! #sheesh . Some perspective if you can T.O ! ) ...bashing both the GM and the #1 goaltender for the Westest Coast team became everyones' favorite cottage game.  Something like Stan et al is to be expected.  But I just don't get it.

I mean, I know it is part of only one question, but when the Head Coach of said National team says the phase "winner" and "knows how to win" while answering questions about his goaltending and Roberto specifically., I just don't get how everyone that wanted to keep the narrative going decided to flat out ignore what Mike Babcock had to say.

I mean, it's not like Head Coaches have much say on who starts or anything. But then I am from out here, so of course all my feelings on the subject are hopelessly biased, of course. I forgot. Sorry 'bout that...

On to the main musing before a few rapid fires at the end.  After reading this fantastic article from our friend Daniel Wagner, ( the "pretty one" of the Pass It To Bulis blog, no matter how puffy that coat of Harrison's is ) it got me thinking of the same thing, and how it relates to the team that Torts is coming to, and how his "block shots and play hard" coaching style will have an effect on what is already a team that knows how to play defense..

One of Daniel's points that your very own Daniel agrees with is the "timely" big hit or block that changes a game, etc.  His article layers that onto Corsi and Fenwick, and I am not going to do that here, although I also agree with my namesake that to really understand the relationship blocking shots has with the game and success, it is important to remember that higher puck possession teams are simply not going to block as many shots.  Whether that is also because they are taking tons of shots from everywhere, or great shots from great spots...well, shit, just read his article.

I just raise the puck possession point because that is the proscribed by the boss style our team has played for years. Sometimes it was supplemented by #UberDefense, ( though, in the early days of Luongo here, and Torts there, when you think about it , both circumstances were dictated by the line up.  You do what you can with what you have to give yourself the best chance to win. That's Job Security 101 for coaches in the NHL. ), but Vancouver plays a puck possession attacking style that is probably more a spiritual brother to the Cup winning Tampa team that Torts had as the Ranger one.

Regardless.  In the full seasons John Tortorella had in New York, starting with the 2009/10 season the GAA for Ranger goaltenders was #10 in the NHL at 2.61.  The Canucks were pretty similar, coming in at #12 and 2.66. Let's look at that as the 1st year for the coach, figuring out his players and how he would have to play. In the next 3 years, the Rangers went #5 at 2.38 in '11, #3 in '12 at 2.22, and once again in the Top 5 in GAA at #4 and a 2.25.

Now, the Canucks? Well, let's just say that John Tortorella might just have a pretty stingy team he is coming into.

Dismissing the season that got shortened to 48 games, something that is not for convenience here, but more because I firmly believe that reading too much into the stats of last year's truncated season is perilous ( think about all those other 82 game seasons and remember teams that "had a great second half". I would imagine those teams were sometimes up in some stats and way down in others at the midway point of those full seasons ), anyhow...dismissing that one, the Canucks followed up that #12 in 2010 with the #1 GAA in the NHL in '11 at 2.20, and were just behind the Rangers in '12 at #4 and 2.33 GAA, before slipping to 11th with a 2.40 GAA.

So, in goaltenders' relative performance, both teams were somewhat similar.  It is just how they got there that was a bit different.  The idea that a "timely block or hit" can change things, ( as Dan mentions in his article ), is that the only real way to get those "timely" events is to encourage your players to do those things all the time.  As I have alluded to in the past with "Big Boy Hockey" and what that style entails ( doing that same thing, encouraging the players to do those things ALL the time! ) sometimes that will go right up against the "puck possession" style.  It is simple, really. One is holding onto the puck and getting quality shots if you can, while the other is all about getting the damn thing back.  So, taking that into mind, let's look at the two different teams and their blocking of shots.  ( the hitting will improve on this team with encouragement as well, I believe. But shot blocking is all about pain, and thus, sacrificing for your teammates )  It's not perfect. But perhaps we can glean a few hints as to how the team style will change, and how that might have a positive effect on the overall success.

In those same Torts years in New York, Compare the number of shots blocked between the two teams.  In 2010 : NY was 11th with 1176 blocks, while the somewhat more puck possession-ish West Coast team got in front of 991 pucks for #24 in the NHL that year.  Once Torts got it figured out with his personnel, well, his team went #4 with 1301 blocks in '11, #4 with 1338 in '12, and was at #6 with 773 blocks by the time the last regular season ended. Compare those heights with the puck possession team again. 2011 - their 1071 blocks was 25th, 2012 - 1019 was 27th, while we were definitely on pace with 556 blocks ( 27th ) in the lockout year.

Now, it's imperfect...but the way that blocked shots has an effect on goaltending should be fairly obvious.  Henrik Lundqvist et al would have faced 185 less shots than the Canuck tenders in '10, 230 in '11, 319 in '12. and a whopping 217 shot difference between the two in the lockout year.  Just dividing those individual numbers will tell you that is anywhere from 2-ish to 4-ish shots a game. How many of those are going to be ones where the goalie might have been late across the crease otherwise?  How many where there was no way the goalie would have seen it anyhow? ( and yes, they'll figure out a way to co-exist with the long held Luongo Maxim of "if you are going to block it, block it, or get out of the way". Less shots is less shots )

Now, like I said, there are the puck possession factors, style of play, etc. But what I am going to call the Relative Pain Index between the two should not only inform us going forward as to what the new coach means when he talks about "bite" and "playing harder", but also to the fact that Lui might be given every chance to have a great statistical year the season.  That is a lot less shots he will potentially have to deal with in a year where he is already motivated by everything from the "contract" to whatever else the #GoalieGossip says I should worry about.  The trick will be maintaining something of the puck possession team while doing all the rest.  Honestly, it is the "thing" I am most interested in seeing as our new coach and players get to know one another. I suspect you'll hear the phrase "we want the puck, and when we don't have it, we're going to work our asses off to get it" or some variation on it to describe the style once Torts hits that phalanx of microphones and cameras.

Some quickies :

- If Eddie Lack and Joacim Eriksson battle it out and both show well, as they very well could, and if Joe Cannata can turn even a couple heads in Penticton before having a solid year in Utica, is it too early to start bragging about all the depth the Canucks have in net again? Bonus question...will Joacim get on twitter and step into it with the aplomb our goalies seem to all display for social media?

- Im going to start you off here at 2009 / 10, with the highlighted column being "goal differential", just because it pleases me. Well, also because it always seems the really good teams those years usually ( but not always ) are higher up the list. Why 09/10? Look who's behind the Hawks and Canucks that year.  Sure, the Canucks led the West in 2010/11 ( OK...the entire NHL! ) and were #3 overall while leading the West in 11/12, before falling to ( for them ) a sucky level of 7th in the truncated year.  When you click around there, notice how many times new division mates are in the upper levels of goal diff' compared to the weaker sisters, or the teams that we lost ( Wild and Avs ) as easier marks. Scoring is going to be more competitive inter-divisionally. Yet another thing that makes this season one to look forward to. Even closer divisional matchups.

- Loved this article about Eddie Lack, twitter, and his sense of humour. Win the back up job Stork. You know how we love our "backups" here in Vancity! Especially the funny ones.

- Lastly. I love the mothership, so don't get me wrong I get that the website might have a few funky names on the roster right now. But Derek Joslin still on the list? Didn't he sign in the end of July for AIK in the SEL?

Andrew Alberts. Best bargain in the NHL at 600K once Torts is done with him, or in the press box while sharing a line up spot with Frank Corrado?

We could go on and on. But 2500 words is enough for you today...