Canucks Overcome Avalanche in Snowy Denver, Win 3-2 in Shootout

first_img Colorado has a number of good young forwards.  Rookie Gabriel Landeskog was noticeable today.Broadcast Observation of the Day:  I think I have finally found a rink that apparently plays worse music than Rogers Arena.  I heard that horribly annoying LMFAO song, as well as Maroon 5’s equally brutal “Moves Like Jagger”.  Wow.  This coming from a rink that, along with Dallas, used to play some of the best music in the league (admittedly based on limited sample size).I thought Garrett offered some great insight when he was talking about how some of the league’s best face-off men will intentionally lose a meaningless neutral-zone faceoff early in a game in order to learn what the other guy does, as well as to give him a false sense of security. While this tactic makes a lot of sense, I would never have thought about that.  It’s these kinds of tidbits that can really add quality to a broadcast.Looking ahead: The Canucks continue their road trip on Tuesday in Music City, as they visit the Nashville Predators. I touched on this above, but the power play has been very poor for over 20 games now.  Going back to the game in Columbus on December 13, the power play is only 11 for 70 (15.7%).  If you take out the Boston game in which they went 4 for 11, they have only scored on 7 of their last 59 opportunities (11.9%).  That is positively brutal.  Unbelievably, they still lead the league, however their percentage has come off at least 4 points and is now only 22.3% (Nashville is second at 22.2% – so the gap has narrowed significantly). Byron Bitz made his Canucks debut tonight and was pretty good overall.  Skating on a line with Cody Hodgson and Jannik Hansen, he was able to use his size effectively in the offensive zone, and got into an entertaining bout with Avalanche tough guy Cody McLeod.  Vigneault should be pleased with what he saw. Bieksa’s final shift where he prevented a goal at one end and scored at the other, tying the game, was unbelievable.  The goal bore an uncanny resemblance to his series-winning goal against San Jose in last season’s playoffs.  He was able to atone for his mistake that led to Colorado’s second goal, which occurred on a shift where prior to the puck drop, he was preoccupied by attempting to get Galiardi to fight him (Galiardi has elbowed him in the first period). Leigh Ramsden lives in Vancouver and is an avid Canucks fan, having been a partial season ticket holder for over 10 years. He’s old enough to have witnessed all three Stanley Cup losses, as such, his prime goal is to remove those scars by seeing a Cup brought to Vancouver. Leigh is Fighting For Stanley’s ( west coast correspondent, and will also blog after all Canuck games for The Nelson Daily.The Vancouver Canucks visited the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday afternoon in the Mile High City, exiting with a 3-2 shootout victory.Coming off two substandard performances against Chicago and Detroit, the Canucks came out of the gate strong, taking the game to Colorado for most of the first eight minutes of the game.  Ryan Kesler opened the scoring at 3:31 of the first, wiring a slap shot past Avalanche netminder Jean-Sebastian Giguere. The first took a turn for the worse for the visitors after David Booth took a dubious goaltender interference penalty at 8:46 of the first, as David Jones converted a great pass from Paul Stastny on the ensuing power play to even the score.Shortly after that goal, Colorado went back on the power play, which shifted the momentum solidly in their favour.  While they didn’t score, the Avalanche rode that momentum for the rest of the period, eventually outshooting the Canucks 18-7.The second period was much better for Vancouver.  They were unfortunate to go down 2-1, after a Kevin Bieksa back pass came out awkwardly from the boards behind the net, and Daniel Winnik fed Jay McClement who fired the puck past Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo.  The Canucks played decently through the rest of the middle frame, however, were unlucky to not have any of their chances go in the net.  Meanwhile, the Avalanche were able to generate a number of chances, there were very few Grade A chances.Consistent with recent history, the Canucks were able to mount more of an attack in the third period, drawing a couple of penalties along the way.  However, Giguere was up to the task, and turned the puck back on a number of occasions. The Canucks finally tied the game after a phenomenal shift for Bieksa. With Luongo on the bench for the extra attacker, Avalanche forward T.J. Galiardi flipped a puck from centre that was heading into the net – until Bieksa skated hard from the opposite side of the ice, dove, and kept the puck out.  He then cleared the zone and the puck went in deep.  The Avalanche got to it first, and rung the puck around the boards, where it took a strange bounce off the stanchion, into the slot, onto Bieksa’s stick, from where he got a wrist shot past Giguere with only 35 seconds left.The overtime was relatively uneventful, although, Colorado outshot Vancouver 5-1 in the extra frame.  The game went to the dreaded shootout, but Luongo was up to the task, saving all three Avalanche attempts.  Mason Raymond was the Canucks’ second shooter, and his goal through Giguere’s legs was enough to get the Canucks two points.Statistically, Colorado was the much better team today, in the end outshooting the Canucks 46-29 and outchancing the Canucks 27-18 (as detailed over at Canucks Army). I wasn’t able to watch the game live today, but I was able to listen to portions of it on the radio live – and based on what I heard, I was expected to be horrified when I watched the game tonight.  Shockingly, I wasn’t.  In my mind, today was merely “one of those days”, which I’ll expand on below.Also, again, it must be said that Luongo was extremely good today as he kept Vancouver in the game throughout regulation, and was able to stop all three Avalanche shooters in the shootout.  Without Luongo at the top of his game, the Canucks don’t likely end up leaving Denver with two points. DID THE CANUCKS “DESERVE” THIS WIN?While it’s the only statistic that decides winners and losers, generally I advocate for looking past only goals for and against in order to assess a team’s performance.  Shots on goal can often be a reasonable indicator of the general effectiveness of a team and run of the play, and it’s a relatively well-defined, objective measure. While more subjective, some statisticians (and many NHL teams) are using “scoring chances” as a more meaningful metric (typically the scoring chances must come from certain areas on the ice in order to be counted).As noted above, both measures were slanted heavily in favour of Colorado today.  That said, in watching the game, I really feel like most of their advantage was gained in one 12 minute stretch of the game – basically, the second half of the first period.  During this stretch, the Avalanche were playing well, getting power play opportunities, and giving the Canucks fits in their own end. However, the Canucks had a very good first eight minutes (two early odd-man rushes against notwithstanding), during which they were able to jump out to a lead on Kesler’s goal.  Overall, I felt it was a reasonably even period, even though Colorado significantly outshot the Canucks. Henrik and Daniel continue to struggle immensely.  Like the rest of the team, their stat line was worse than they played, but their lack of production recently is astounding, considering the rate at which they have scored over the past few years.  Hopefully they get their game figured out soon.  They weren’t even afforded first-unit power play time on the team’s final man advantage. Ryan Kesler’s second line continues to be the most dangerous.  Mason Raymond, given a shot on that line in Chris Higgins’ absence, isn’t making much of his opportunity, but his shootout goal was very good. Aaron Rome isn’t doing a lot for me right now.  I’d welcome giving Alberts another turn on the third pairing. The other stretch in the game where they took it to the Canucks statistically was the overtime period, when they outshot Vancouver 5-1.  However, again, this doesn’t tell the entire story. The Canucks controlled the play in the extra period for most of the first three minutes, while Colorado had better run of the play in the final couple of minutes.  That said, it was Vancouver who tallied the only two credited scoring chances in the overtime – so again, I feel it was a pretty even overtime session.The second and third periods were statistically even between the two teams.  However, again, I feel that the stats here are a bit misleading.  Vancouver had some very good stretches in those periods, and were unlucky not to score on a couple (or more) occasions.So what really happened today?  Were the Canucks deserving victors?My take is that while the Canucks were (again) far off their best game, they did enough to legitimately get the win.  For one, the ice was terrible (day game which was preceded by an NBA game the prior night) and this caused a number of strange bounces – Colorado’s second goal and Bieksa’s tying goal being prime examples.  Vancouver is a high-skill team, and today there were a number of instances where pucks just plain bounced over their sticks, or passes weren’t flat on the ice, shots were fanned on, etc.Secondly, while this really sounds like a cop-out, the Canucks were just plain unlucky.  They had a number of shots which were “almost” deflected in front of the net; or where the deflections put the puck straight into Giguere or inches past the post.  They were just a fraction off on a number of other shots or passes – it seemed like they missed the net, albeit only marginally, quite often.  Hodgson wired a slap shot off the post early in the third.Thirdly, the Canucks power play continues to struggle, going 0 for 5 on the day.  One goal would have changed the outcome of this game.  Typically the Canucks are good for one power play goal on approximately every four opportunities, if that had held true today, Bieksa’s heroics wouldn’t have been necessary.Lastly, and most importantly, the goaltending was stellar.  While I question the overall quality of many of Colorado’s shots and scoring chances, Luongo did make a number of very tough saves over course of the contest.  As much as it displeases many in Canucks Nation, Luongo is a part of the team, and therefore, his contributions can’t be ignored in assessing the quality of the win.  He also made three very good saves in the shootout, enabling the Canucks to seize the extra point.The bottom line is that good teams will find ways to get points and wins.  Vancouver is playing some of its worst hockey of the season, however, they are finding ways to get things done. There are worries and warning signs, and by no means should their recent play not be cause for concern.  That said – today, at least – they were deserving of the points they got.  They just were not as bad as the stats would have you believe. OTHER TOP NHL TEAMS STRUGGLING AS WELLIt’s funny, the Canucks are playing poorly at the moment, and yet they are climbing up the standings.  Detroit, Nashville, and Pittsburgh are all playing well and are rolling along. On the flip side, in their last 10 games, Boston is 4-5-1, Philadelphia is 5-3-2, San Jose is 5-4-1, and Chicago is 4-4-2.What this all means is that after the close of play tonight, Vancouver is tied for second in the NHL in points, at 69 (although the team they are tied with, New York, has three games in hand). More importantly, in looking at the most telling number, Vancouver is now in a three-way tie for third in regulation losses with Philadelphia and San Jose (only New York and St. Louis having fewer).  This is an area where the Canucks have been chasing the top teams all season long, and only recently have they caught the top level teams here.This is exactly why these most recent games are very important for the Canucks.  They have found ways to avoid regulation losses this week, even though they definitely deserved them in the Chicago and Detroit games.  As a result, they are increasing their position in the standings even while not playing their best. That, if nothing else, is an impressive feat, and makes me look forward to when the team starts firing on all cylinders again.  Perhaps more importantly, it also keeps the team’s recent woes in perspective. PARTING SHOTSQuick comments:  Vancouver is now 13-0-2 against the Avalanche in their last 15 games against this former arch-nemesis.last_img

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