Wasn’t the way the Panthers game ended supposed to galvanize the Canucks?
If you listened to everyone talking about the team since Monday, you heard they were coming together as a team and they were ready to take on the world.
Pratt and Jake were debating how far they’d go in the playoffs, Pratt saying two rounds, Jake saying one.
And everyone was talking about the credit due to Willie Desjardins.
It’s funny how a couple of good games can turn a fanbase’s perceptions completely around. We should keep in mind the opposite happens too, when talking about the Canucks 4-1 loss to the Capitals Thursday.
Vancouver did well hanging with the Capitals through one period. Even strength corsi was 45-36 after two, despite the score being 2-0. They didn’t play well in the third, though, with a 11-19 corsi effort.
It was semi-respectable, considering the opponent.
Just check out how Canucks fans felt going into it.
@omarcanuck 7-3 caps
— wayne (@starIiege) January 14, 2016
@omarcanuck I think anytime that you start Dorsett on your 1st line, you decrease your chances of winning
— O for effs sake (@lancet5400) January 14, 2016
The sad thing is you have to think they could have done better with a couple lineup changes. Dorsett on the first line? I’ll get to that.
1. Dorsett on the first line makes heads spin
Everyone thought Vancouver had one of their best efforts of the season Monday against Florida. They had chemistry, they looked fast, they played a full sixty minutes. It was everything you’d wanted from the team all season long.
Look, I’m no supporter of keeping the lineup the same when a team wins. You look at how a team is playing, examine how each line is doing, evaluate them and go from there.
Thing is they all played well Monday. Burrows did his part with the Sedins, and when Vrbata was put with them for a few shifts, he did even better.
The second line was jumping and even the Vey-Virtanen combo was dangerous.
So when these lines showed up in practice Wednesday morning, it was just a little confusing.
My first thought – Dorsett’s a placeholder for Hansen on the top line. No way he’d actually play there.
When we found out Hansen wasn’t ready later Wednesday, I realized Dorsett on the top line was a real thing.
Tony Gallagher’s reaction was by far the best: “The idea of Dorsett playing with the Sedins has my head spinning as if I was on the Exorcist.”
Many other media members speculated the combination was a reward for the way Dorsett stuck up for the Twins on Monday. Even Sportsnet went with that theory during the first intermission of the game, with Doug MacLean sending a “kudos” Willie’s way for the ballsy move.
You know you’re in trouble when someone’s giving you kudos.
@omarcanuck Also I doubt vrbata is looking at that going “way to go coach way to reward the team-first guy!”
— Bobak (@bobakm) January 15, 2016
The defenders also said Dorsett-Sedins would last a couple shifts max.
Willie changing the way he coaches overnight? He’s no line juggler. He puts lines together and gives them a long leash.
The Sedin line was around plus-1 corsi, the Vey line at around minus-2, and the Cracknell line hovered around a lofty plus-3 (even strength numbers – from hockeystats.ca).
So they were all pretty much nullified, and McCann would’ve likely helped (he was scratched).
Maybe the biggest difference from Monday to Thursday was the Horvat line, who went from Vancouver’s best line two games in a row to putting up corsi numbers around minus-20.
Late in the game, Willie finally switched it up… swapping Vrbata and Virtanen. Nothing else.
@omarcanuck it’s like wanting a government change and electing the Bloc Quebecois
— Harjan Padda (@SulliReporter) January 15, 2016
Reviews on Dorsett+Sedins?
— Seana (@tuppee07) January 15, 2016
@taj1944 I think he’s broken up the cycle more than the Caps have.
— Mitch (@MitchEmDee) January 15, 2016
@omarcanuck didn’t you watch the panel ? We are giving him a cookie !!
— sarah (@mihajloween) January 15, 2016
You guys seem happy!
2. Turnovers will kill you
Washington has the best record in the NHL for a few reasons. They’re fast and they’re opportunistic – those are a couple.
Early in the game, while the Canucks were hanging around, the Capitals had a couple of odd-man rushes turned grade A scoring chances because of turnovers by Vancouver. Miller did well keeping the team in it through one on those chances, btw.
But it was only a matter of time until someone screwed up and the puck went in Vancouver’s net. So who wore the goat-medal this time?
Alex Edler, coming out of the penalty box, had a semi-breakaway, and he did this.
That giveaway led to Washington’s 1-0 goal, and they never looked back.
3. Don’t get stuck
Washington’s second goal was frustrating and not completely fair to the Canucks. It was also the kind of goal a good team scores against one that’s not as good.
There should’ve been a penalty against the Caps for this hit on Baertschi away from the puck.
But an elite team has players that help clear the puck instead of falling down.
The second goal came seconds later. Miller’s reaction:
“They can’t do that to my boy Sven!” yelled Miller. Or something not even close to that.
4. Burrows is invisible
One crazy thing happened during Thursday’s game – Burrows drew a penalty.
A minute later things were back to normal, as the refs watched and continued to watch as this happen in front of their eyes.
The only thing we do know is this made Damien Cox smile like the Cheshire Cat.
Seriously though, that hit to the lower back is the type that shortens playing careers.
5. Should Willie get credit for Virtanen?
Hope you won’t blame me for going a bit off topic here but I’m done with this game.
Willie D’s received a lot of praise for putting Virtanen with the Sedins for his first shift back from the World Juniors. It was a smart move that made the kid feel wanted and appreciated.
Virtanen’s been playing regular minutes since he returned and he looks like he belongs. It’s impressive when you consider how many fans/media members were ready to ship him back to Junior just one week ago.
But Willie’s answer when asked by TSN 1040 about the thought process behind keeping Virtanen in the NHL and letting him play with the Sedins was unexpected:
“Jim Benning is a real big supporter of Jake, and so is John Weisbrod, and it was kind of a conversation we had as a group.
“What we wanted to do both with Jake and Jared is we wanted to do what’s best for their development. That’s the most important thing. We just felt that we could control his environment a little better up here.”
Makes you wonder where Virtanen would be if it was up to Willie.
6. Let’s not forget Higgins yet
I’m sure some of you are already tired of hearing about Chris Higgins and are ready to move on, but for what he’s done for the Canucks, he deserves the run he gets. He was a key member of the team that went to the 2011 Finals – not irreplaceable, but he did his job and he did it well.
Willie talked about how the conversation with Higgins went down:
“It’s just a matter of us trying to get a bit younger and get youth in our lineup, so whenever you have to bring that kind of conversation to a player, it’s tough.”
“I had talked to him a bit before that and told him we had to get going as a group, so I think he knew a little bit where he was at, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
“It never happens until it happens. When the news did come to him, he was outstanding. He was a pro. He made the best of a bad situation.”
Rough. Higgins has had a bad year, but is he really done as a hockey player? Keep in mind he had an injury to start off the year. Keep in mind he was always a streaky player, and the injury made this bad streak worse.
I’m not saying this was a bad move for the Canucks. It wasn’t. They need to make room for younger players. But if a team’s looking for a depth winger for a playoff run, Higgins could be a useful player. That contract, though.
Tired of reading? Catch the debut of Netflix’s new series “Making a Highlight Pack” below.
Note: Big thanks to Ryan “the Biechball” Biech, for his stellar giffing skills in this post