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Ageless Wonder Twins, McCann Power Good Week

We all saw that 5-1 trouncing of the Habitants de Montreal, eh ? Mon dieu !

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

That was fun.  It is always fun, no matter the result.  The Habs game, and the Leafs one as well, are always my favorites for crowd participation, with the dueling chants changing as the result of the game progresses my favorite part.  It makes the result even more special. It is always nice when you stop a record, and sending home the "visitors" that are also your neighbours is always entertaining.

Unfortunately, what wasn't so great was the Dallas Stars getting the points they did out of another game where it probably shouldn't have gotten to three on three.  Derek Dorsett was still pissed about it the next day, and the money quote of "I'd just blocked the guys last two shots, what did the ref think was going to happen..." ( except for the Benn interference ) pretty much summed it up.  It is easy to put a tough loss in the rear view when you are on the bad end of a call.  They tell me they all even out though, so...happy thoughts !

I'm not going to bust on that new wrinkle in how to decide a hockey game either, just because it would be easy to.  I read a variety of the twitterati on the subject, and honestly, I think some of that is the fact that the team has yet to get the win ( four times out of the seven times they have went into the third with the lead, they have gone on to lose in O / T ) fuels some of that, at least.  It is better than the shootout, even if it is chaotic and a bit more random.  Those blocks and saves that result in chances the other way are still "hockey plays", right ?  It's still better than the breakaway skills competition.

With the team playing a young line up, some of that record can be attributed to "growing pains" as well.  Even if that narrative is not really fair, considering the "vets" have been on the ice and responsible for just as many, if not more, decisive third period goals against recently.  Not to be divisive however.  Win and lose as a team, right ?  It's just the losing points in games that you should have won gets a bit frustrating.  It has to even out, and, for now, just bask in the #StandingsShadenfreude that comes from seeing the Ducks where we were supposed to be, and visa versa.

Perhaps the trick is to run away with the game like the Montreal win.  That win reaffirmed, to the team, and fans, that this is a pretty good team that can roll four lines after all. (  and that "the kids" can play ! )  Imagine the record and "maybe even positive calls on 1040" hysteria if they were at all like they used to be at third period leads ( get last years stat here ) .  They got it done in the second half of a back to back on the suburbs of Phoenix.  Mostly.  That third period was pretty good, except at the end.  Baby steps boys, baby steps.

That all seems a bit nit picky, when you think about it.  The doom and gloomers had this team swimming around in the shallow end of the Western Conference.  So far, they have exceeded the rather meager expectations placed upon them.  Since my last post, they beat the Top team in the NHL, had another third period breakdown, albeit against a very good offensive team that had a couple of textbook "get traffic and screen the goalie, and find a hole from the point or get a tip" goals and the pick Dorsett groused about, and finally bent and did not break in preventing a Pacific Division foe from getting any points at all, on the second half of a back to back where they got in past midnight.  That is pretty good.

Bringers of "IT"

Jared McCann - The time is upon us.  I get that the media has a thing to build dram around, and I guess the coach speak from Willie could make it seem like there is a question, but how do you send your leading goal scorer back to junior ?  Most of his goals have been "goal scorer" goals as well, on proven NHL goalies. His 5 goals ties him for the rookie scoring lead, with Connor McJesus and others, and that kind of production on 16 shots gives a pretty impressive 31.3% shooting percentage.  His 200' foot game is why I think he stays.  That shot is certainly NHL good though.  The second goal on the best goalie in the NHL showed that.  ( The toe drag in close on Mike Smith was good too ).  Never mind that with the injured players, he is still needed at this time numbers wise.  The guy has flat out earned the right to be here with his play.

Alexander Edler - While I don't think it is quite time to start the "Edler for Norris" campaign. He is producing well enough to warrant special mention ( 2 G 3A), he is eating up the minutes at over 24:58 a game, in all situations, and he is blocking shots and getting hits at a rate of 2.2 and 1.6 a game.  Just a very good start to the season for the Canucks best overall defenseman.

Ben Hutton - He's no Ben Hutton, of course.  He just keeps making plays while performing in the best hockey league on the planet like it is no big thing.  He does have that same confidence in making the "right" play like Tanev, and his offensive instincts are way better than the Iceman, whose talents there are growing and underrated.  You can tell Big Ben has confidence with the puck, and the way he makes those laser passes probably has every forward on the team nodding with a smile at Willie when it is their turn to play with the young defender.  One rookie Jared McCann, has to stay, and another ( Virtanen ) will reach his 9 game limit the next time he plays.  Hutton's situation as a 22 year old out of NCAA hockey is different, but it is like everyone has forgotten he is a rookie already.  There is no question here when it comes to roster spots.  Amazing when you consider where he was on the "experts" depth charts before they started camp.

Jake Virtanen - If there is a guy that might end up going down, a case could be made for Jake.  Chris Higgins will have to play somewhere sometime when he returns,   Although with the way the injury bug hit the Canucks in the Arizona game, with a couple others in addition to the Abbotsford native picking up "knocks", to borrow the EPL term, who knows ?  He has been a big part of making that second line fast and physical, with 29 hits in 8 games working out to just under 4 hits a game.  Needs to get that good shot off a bit more.  Will he continue to get the chance to work on that in the NHL ?

Twins of Wonder - Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin.  We are so damn  spoiled in this city to watch these two play the game.  To match their magical chemistry has always been the challenge for linemates, with Alexandre Burrows the most successful.  The best since then might be Radim Vrbata, at least right now.  That line is looking consistently dangerous, as first lines are supposed to. 8 goals and 20 points, Daniel leads the team in points, and the power play sometimes looks powerful.

Alexandre Burrows and Brandon Sutter - The third player on a resurgent second line had been rookie Jake Virtanen, but when he sat out the third vs the 'Yotes, Cracknell fit in there, as did Hansen. Come to think of it, I think I saw Gaunce there for a shift.  And I would imagine that is a place Chris Higgins would land off of the LTIR.  But right now, Mr. Everything has 3 goals and 8 points ( the TSN stat sheet is my new fave, I love the clickable headers to get the leaders in every category...just click on the team first from the link ) and Brandon Sutter is right behind him at 3 goals and 7 points.  The second line shoehorned between the Twins at the top of team scoring is a very good thing.

Other Numbers

The More You Know - The Canucks are 5th in face off percentage in the NHL, at 52.1%.  They feature Henrik Sedin, on the first page of the league leader board at 57.2 %. Sutter is at 53.6, and Bo Horvat clocks in over 50% at 52.3%.  If Jared McCann ( a rookie gets better as he gets to know the other guys on draws ), at 41.3, or Adam Cracknell, at 46.8, can go on a bit of a run, the Canucks could make a run at the top of teh NHL in a stat they flat out sucked at last year. ( faceoff,net stats here )

Sniper Gotta Snipe - I think one of the three goals Radim Vrbata has so far was off a foot, but I do not worry about this guy and scoring.  He is starting to get locked in, and once he starts picking the corners off of Sedin dishes, the fact he is #2 in the NHL in shots at 46 ( only Tarasenko has more at 48 ) makes me feel good inside.  Almost as much as the fact that Daniel Sedin is #7 in the league at 41 shots so far.  I think the goal that made me smile the most in the last game was that Daniel Snipe Show for the fourth final, game winning goal.

Goaltenders and Their Numbers - This last one, strictly speaking, is not about the numbers.  The 2.16 GAA and .923 save % Ryan Miller has posted in 10 games are decent, in the top fifteen or so.  But I could not let a post go by without remarking on how it is not always the stats with goaltenders.  "Millsy" has made so many big saves at the big times so far this year.  I love his compete level this year.  It bodes well for the future.

"It Was Top Cheese, I Ripped It..." - At least that is what Brendan Gaunce can tell his grandkids.  Scored his first goal by going to the net and having a puck go off him, and played a thoroughly entertaining and "eyebrow raising by his overall game" first one in the NHL.  I hear it is now a "thing" to turn centres into wingers.  The Canucks were ahead of the curve again !

Yes, your Canucks have lost a few points that would have placed them in the conversation at the very top of the NHL, but we are talking about a team with two regulation losses.  If they were not rolling four lines, and doing it well, forcing the tempo, getting chances and pushing the play, then fine, be concerned.  But while I would imagine the coaches have them learning as much as they can glean from the the lessons that come from losses, and while I would hope they get better as a result of that coaching and introspection, I simply am impressed with the overall compete level of the team I cheer for.  I tried to go in with a totally clear mind to what they could do this year.  Canuck Zen, if you will.

Maybe I was infected by the various narratives that were telling me they would suck, and I am simply giddy with the alternative right now.  But I'd like to think it is because they are playing entertaining hockey, and playing hard.  They play the Flyers and then the Penguins this week, before beginning a two week odyssey road trip in Buffalo, so, there are some points to be had this week.

Agree or no below, as always....