Did Desjardins outcoach AV or was he lucky to beat New York?

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Image: Vancouver Canucks / Twitter

Henrik and Daniel Sedin had four points between them in Vancouver’s 2-1 win over New York Wednesday, yet it was far from a vintage night for the twins.

Through two periods, they were completely stifled by defencemen Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh. The numbers were so bad in the first 40 minutes – the two defencemen around plus-5 corsi (even strength) while the Sedins were at minus-5 – that I tweeted the following.

It was a rhetorical question. Of course Willie Desjardins wouldn’t make any changes. He’d his roll four lines in order like he always did: one… two… three… four… repeat, repeat, repeat.

While rolling lines helps players get in a rhythm, it also makes it easy for the visiting coach to get the matchups he wants.

But after this Jeff Paterson tweet in the third, it appeared the coach was deviating.

When Daniel scored the go-ahead goal immediately after New York tied the game 1-1, many remarked at the genius in playing the Sedins at that critical moment. They hailed it as a mark of astuteness from Desjardins.

But while the coach should be given credit for the more disciplined game his team played to secure the victory, that critical shift was not as much of a coup as people think.

The Sedins were in fact on for a shift that lasted a dizzying 4:20, a massive number, to be blunt. Looking at that, you might think the coach finally decided to go all in – putting everything on the line to secure the power play goal three minutes into the period, and even continuing with a the full-court press by playing them after it.

(I say finally because even during last year’s playoffs, Desjardins was loathe to play the twins out of turn.)

What you wouldn’t see was that play was stopped three times during the four minute shift.

All three stoppages were lengthy – the first being Jarret Stoll’s delay of game penalty argued fiercly by Alain Vigneault; the second, Edler’s goal immediately followed by another Rangers penalty to Alain Vigneault.

If you read AV’s lips, you’ll see why the refs had to punish him.

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The third stoppage was Marc Staal’s penalty for cross-checking Alex Burrows in the face – also time consuming.

With the choice of keeping a fresh and much more potent Sedin-led power play out there or the clock-killing second unit, Desjardins had a no brainer on his hands.

After the power plays, Vancouver went back to their regular rotation, and a few minutes later New York scored on the penalty shot. That’s when the Sedins hopped over the boards to immediately tie the game with one of their best goals of the season so far.

They scored the game winner and the coaching move looked brilliant.

Sorry to rain on the party, but Adam Cracknell and his fourth line were out there for the shift prior. There was no deviation from the script – Willie rolled four, and this time he got lucky.

One change did become more evident as the game wore on: Vancouver appeared to be playing smarter hockey than they had in recent games. Yes, they were dominated in shots and possession stats, but you wouldn’t expect much else when playing New York. Still, they were clearly supporting each other better at the defensive end, clearing pucks quickly, not dawdling at their blue line or in the neutral zone.

They dumped the puck quickly too.

Both these changes – the dumps and clears – are ones Desjardins and Henrik Sedin have been harping on lately. They weren’t doing them well, and for them to be successful they had to.

On Wednesday, they did. They played the system better. Now if Willie could add some flexibility to his deployment, the Canucks might nab some more wins at key moments.

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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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