Canucks SixPack - McCann, Virtanen benched; Linden told you so

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sixpack-higgins

Tough to know what to expect from the Canucks who were winless at home before the game.

But this isn’t about home vs. away. What matters is how the Canucks played to get that early 3-0-1 record.

They were outplayed by the Flames in their second game and the Ducks in their third, but because of Ryan Miller, they had those sparkling numbers.

That’s not a sustainable recipe for winning.

The Canucks had a 2-1 lead going into the third period, but with the league’s best goalscorer on the other team, that lead was as promising as Stephen Harper’s lead in the advanced polls.

Ovie finally got to Miller in the third period, scoring the game winning 3-2 goal for the Capitals.

 

1. Miller did his part

Trevor Linden was on TSN radio Tuesday, and asked about the season thus far, here’s the first name he mentioned:

“I was very confident in our goaltending. Ryan Miller’s out to prove something and he’s been our best player up to this point.”

Miller was good against the Capitals. He had this gem on Ovechkin near the end of the first period. (not the best angle, but it was an amazing save on a 2-on-1)

oviecapssave

Miller did it again to Ovie with the Caps on the power play at the start of the third, but before the period ended #8 took a one-timer from his spot at the top of the circle and this time he scored.

 

2. Why spread the scorers?

Coach Willie finally decided to play Radim Vrbata with the Sedins and he did it to get Vrbata going. Last year’s top goal scorer hadn’t put up a point before Thursday’s game against the Capitals.

Would it work?

It did.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnGLfrY9GyM

Good luck? Going to the net when the Sedins have the puck is good luck? Is it good luck when your hair stays dry after using an umbrella in the rain?

It’s not good luck, it’s smart.

The line had more chances than that, though. Daniel, Henrik and Vrbata finished the night at the top of the corsi chart for Canucks forwards at plus-6, 5 and 4 respectively. The next highest Canucks forward was Hansen at plus-2.

Hank later scored the team’s second goal on the power play from Daniel and Vrbata.

Here’s why it worked: the Sedins have been dominating the ice on most of their shifts as far back as last year’s playoffs, but they haven’t been finishing.

Vrbata, meanwhile, hasn’t scored many goals over the stretch, while leading the team in shots. That tells me a) he has bad luck, but b) the chances he’s getting are likely not as high quality.

Incidentally, Vrbata hadn’t played on the Sedins’ line since before the playoffs last year. (It’s not at all incedentally, by the way.)

Give the Sedins that finisher, and give Vrbata better quality scoring chances… you get goals.

Most people don’t need this kind of analysis to know that they’d score. We saw it work last year, after all.

So here’s a question: if all these brilliant Twitter minds saw goals coming from the new high-octane top line, why would the Canucks not play them together? Why bother with spreading your scorers over two or three lines if it waters the scoring down?

What I’m saying is as long as the top line scores and the others don’t mess things up, the team wins.

Obviously there is a need for balanced scoring sometimes. If you’re playing a team with an amazing shutdown defenceman like Zdeno Chara or Duncan Keith – one who makes it hard for the Sedins to dominate the zone like they’re used to – you need a second line to step up and score on the guys who aren’t shutting the Sedins down.

That’s when you move Vrbata and make the other team choose which line to shut down.

But if the Sedins dominate the other team’s top defensive unit anyway, not putting a finisher on that line is simply a missed opportunity to score goals.

 

3. Linden’s “told you so”

More on what Linden said Tuesday: with the Canucks going 3-1-2 before playing the Capitals, he sounded pleased about the way things were going. His response when asked about the start:

“The bottom line for me was that, you know, people want to pick you apart in the summer and everything, but I knew with the leadership we have – Daniel, Henrik, Burr, Radim, Higgy, Hamhuis, Chris Tanev’s been excellent – we’ve got a core group, and obviously having some younger players integrate in and understand from these guys has been positive.

“The bottom line is we have to take some risks. We realized that 18 months ago when we took over – we can’t just sit here and manage this group, we have to take some risks, we have to push, we have to try some things… we have to get younger, we have to get faster, we have to transition.

“I give credit to Jim. He’s made some decisions throughout the summer that have been unpopular, and that’s fair, but he’s made them because he feels it’s the right thing to do, not because they’re what’s popular with people. I think some of those have turned out to be the right ones early on.”

No doubt the team is playing faster and transitioning better, but he may be getting ahead of himself with the “we showed you” talk.

 

4. Benching the kids

As Linden said above, the younger players are the ones who have changed many fans’ outlooks. They’re providing an offensive spark and some speed, which was what many people were lamenting the lack of this summer.

So where was that spark and speed in the third period?

Bo Horvat was taken from his spot between Virtanen and Baertschi to replace McCann between Prust and Dorsett. Horvat’s new line played, while McCann, Baertshi and Virtanen did not.

The Canucks went with three lines for most of the third – something coach Willie wouldn’t even do with playoff games on the line last year (he stuck with four lines when he should’ve shortened the bench).

Tied 2-2 in the third and you need a goal? Let the kids play, Willie. They might screw up, but they might also score. Dorsett and Prust will probably do neither – they’re safe, but they kill the clock.

Jared McCann was asked earlier Thursday if he’d keep being a playmaker despite playing on a line with two grinders.

“No. I’ve practiced with those guys enough to know they’re two really skilled guys, believe it or not,” he said. “I have all the faith in them, and I’m going to make that pass.”

He did:

dorsetmisscaps

Did to Prust later too. It didn’t work out that well.

(:-O at the stretch pass from Hutton to McCann)

 

5. Linden on Sbisa

Linden had a funny answer when asked what he says to those who ask why the team keeps Sbisa around:

“Well a perfect example would be the other night on the first goal (Yakupov from McDavid) – everyone looks at Luca. I would say when you look at that play, you’re killing a penalty, you want him to stand.

“What you want is that forward to come back and cover underneath, and he didn’t get that, so everyone looks at him and says ‘oh, he made the mistake,’ and I think it was Jannik, so if they were looking at that again (they’d see) the forward’s gotta come underneath and help him.”

It was Hansen’s fault for not covering Sbisa… who lost his check.

So whose fault was it here?

sbisacapsmistake

That’s Sbisa giving the puck away on the far boards, standing up his player (meaning getting beaten), and then trying to chase him down from behind.

Again, no one covered him.

 

6. Torts is back, but was he expecting it?

I know, aside from scoring the Canucks a second round draft pick, Torts has nothing to do with the Canucks anymore. Still, we will all be more entertained with him back in the NHL.

James Duthie on TSN 1040 Thursday morning was asked what he thought of John Tortorella being hired as the Blue Jackets’ head coach.

“I actually think if John was to be honest with you, he’d tell you he was shocked, and here’s why. I was writing that book last year and I wrote word-for-word, ‘Of all the analysts I’ve had, the last guy I’ll expect to see on television again is John Tortorella,’ because he really hated it. When he said he hated it, he really really hated it.

He was a great guy, wonderful to us, but I just never thought he liked it. So I wrote that in my book, and it was two weeks away from being due, and my phone rings.

It was the end of March. I pick it up and it’s Torts. He said, ‘I don’t think the phone’s going to ring anymore.’ He was very realistic, he said, ‘I’ve had two chances here in the last couple of years, and I don’t think I’m going to get a head coaching job. Maybe in a few years as time goes by, but not now, and I’d like to try broadcasting full time.’…

He really wanted to stay in the game, and he felt the best way to do that was to do some broadcasting. I really think he’d convinced himself, as confident as he was in his coaching abilities, that the phone was not going to ring again.

So for it to ring seven games into the next season, I think it had to be an absolute shocker to him.”

On behalf of all Vancouverites who witnessed the Torts nightmare first hand, it was a shocker to us too, Duthie.

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Omar A has worked for 24 hours, the Canadian Press and TSN. He graduated from the Journalism program at the University of King's College
@omarcanuck

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