I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Nashville Predators, January 23, 2014

I don’t want to be the guy that blames Roberto Luongo for this loss, but let’s be honest: all he had to do to win this game was stop literally every shot he faced. Do that, and the Canucks win. I mean, they gave him a goal. What more does he want? Two goals? Three? Don’t be ridiculous. The Canucks aren’t a basketball team. You get one goal.

Unfortunately, the Predators got two. Thanks for nothing, Luongo. Way to be a passenger. I watched this game.

Canucks 1 – 2 Predators

  • Rough night for the Canucks’ powerplay. In fact, it’s probably a misnomer to call it a “power” play at this point, since it doesn’t provide or demonstrate power at all. It’s more of a regular play. Something by Eugene O’Neill, maybe. What we need to do is stop expecting it to produce goals and start examining what it’s trying to tell us about American life, and the ruinous nature of slow-growing disillusionment.
  • The Canucks went 0-for-5 with the man advantage in this game, and at the most basic of level, it’s the reason they lost. You have to go at least 1-for-5, like Lou Pearlman did when he founded N*Sync. The Canucks needed just one Justin Timberlake. Instead, they gave us three Chris Kirkpatricks and two Joey Fatones.
  • This was probably the game where Dan Hamhuis’s presence on the first-unit powerplay sent fans over the edge from curious to furious. It was impossible to miss Hamhuis’s seven — seven! — opportunities to bury the puck on the back-door play… unless you were Hamhuis.
  • Some will say it’s time to take him off that top unit. After all, the Community Man has just two powerplay points all year, which is crazy, since plum powerplay time like that usually means points, unless you’re ill-suited for it. But here’s a theory: maybe it’s not Hamhuis. Maybe it’s the four other guys. After all, Hamhuis is way more comfortable working alongside the less fortunate, not those already teeming with ability. Put him on the ice with less-talented teammates and I’ll bet he thrives.
  • Chris Higgins opening the scoring in this one, outbattling Ryan Ellis at the side of the Predators’ net to tip a Dale Weise pass up and over the shoulder of Carter Hutton. Hutton had no chance. Pucks aren’t supposed to jump like that — not even Mexican jumping pucks, because those aren’t a real thing.
  • Sadly, that was just about it for anything even resembling Canuck offence in this game. They outshot Nashville 34-26, but they were hardly threatening shots. Seriously, a few of the shots were wearing white socks and sandals. One was wearing a fanny pack and a fleece vest. They were the dads of shots.
  • On the bright side, Ryan Stanton came back from injury, and he still looks about as good as he did when the Canucks lost him. Granted, he was on the ice for the Predators’ game-tying goal, but it wasn’t his fault. The goal came after Kevin Bieksa lost an edge in the corner trying battling with Nick Spaling, leaving the area behind the net as conspicuously lacking in D as the last name “Spaling” itself. Unchecked, Spaling hit Craig Smith with a pass, and Smith did not hit Roberto Luongo with a shot.
  • And then, to rub it in, the Predators scored the game-winner on a powerplay goal. You could hear the Canuck bench oohing and aahing.
  • Another bright side: with Henrik Sedin and Mike Santorelli out of the lineup, there exists, at the very least, a reason why the Canucks might be struggling to score. Granted, they’ve been struggling offensively all year, but until Henrik returns, we can say it’s because of that. It’s like how Community got really contrived and lame once Dan Harmon left. Sure, season 3, before Harmon left, was pretty seriously hit-and-miss too, but ssssssshhhhhhh. Dan Harmon is back so everything is perfect now.
  • Zack Kassian loses his helmet about once a game. One wonders if he knows the chinstrap is there to keep it fastened firmly to your head and not so the helmet can double as a bucket for Halloween candy.
  • Alex Burrows will never score again. How bad is his luck? On the way home from the game, he stopped by Dairy Queen and ordered a Skor blizzard and they said, “Sorry, we’re all out of Skor. JUST LIKE YOU.” It was pretty rude, actually.

20 comments

  1. mac 'n cheese
    January 24, 2014

    “from curious to furious” couldn’t be a more apt description. We were howling with each swing and a miss.
    Great recap! I’ll never get the image of Kassian trick or treating out of my head :)

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    • Chinook
      January 24, 2014

      Another image for you: Kassian using an orange plastic jack-o-lantern for a helmet.

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  2. Chinstrap Joe
    January 24, 2014

    If only the league would do another realignment and make BC and Alberta one division. Then we could return to the glory days.

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    • Pavo
      January 24, 2014

      Throw in Manitoba too.

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  3. whisky jack
    January 24, 2014

    Only this and nothing more:
    it’s simply a stupendous bore
    when it’s but one that they can score,
    as we have seen so oft before.

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  4. Aaron
    January 24, 2014

    I am finding the lack of scoring from the Canucks extremly frusterating! We can dominate play all we want but something has to be done to address the lack of finish. It’s time for MG to make a move or two. Any ideas on who they should try for and what we should give up. I would say Booth needs to be moved or bought out next year. Edler should get us decent returns if he would waive the no trade claus. We aslo have a couple yong D-men we could look at moving though I definatly want to see Tanev stay a canuck. Just curious what others think. I just believe the right move or two can make us contenders.

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  5. Naturalmystic
    January 24, 2014

    I was dissappointed the Just Like You reference wasn’t a link to a song by Ministry – Just Like You from their album Twitch.

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  6. J21
    January 24, 2014

    The Hamhuis PP sequence was hilarious, but in truth none of those were gimmes — he’s a left-shooting defenseman in an area where a right-shooting forward would have been perfect. Short of trying to backhand the puck on a one-timer, all he could do was shoot from a pretty sharp angle each time. Or perhaps position himself slightly differently, but then I doubt he gets as open as he was.

    A more skilled left-handed defender might have been able to bury some of those, but that’s basically just calling out Hamhuis for not being a finisher, which is hardly his main occupation.

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  7. cathylu
    January 24, 2014

    And I flew 1200 miles to go to this game…yikes! I feel bad for Hamhuis, and both Kesler and Burr seemed to really be trying. Don’t get me wrong, I still love our team, but I’m hoping for better outcomes. At least I still get to enjoy 2 more days in Vancouver with beautiful weather.

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  8. Noodle
    January 24, 2014

    /stares wistfully at SCF 2011 Playoff towel
    /weeps

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  9. Baboons
    January 24, 2014

    Isn’t it time to let the power play coach find a new job with the Canucks?
    The small elephant in the room is wether anyone at the ownership level us having serious second thoughts about their coaching hire decision.

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  10. Chris the Curmudgeon
    January 24, 2014

    I’ve always thought that talk about championship “windows” is generally fairly naive, because it assumes that all teams are similarly constructed and will age in a predictable pattern, and that once one window has been passed you need to move on to the next one. This hasn’t really been a universal pattern, consider as an example that the Red Wings’ championship “window” lasted almost 20 years with a rotating cast of players because the team understood how to keep their chances alive every year. Or that the Blackhawks shuffled out a huge chunk of their “core” after their first win and then won it again 3 years later. So the window metaphor is a poor one, because it implies that you go from one to the next in a predictable pattern, whereas a team’s chances can really change from bad to good (or vice versa) really quickly with smart personnel moves, especially being that the maturation time for young players can be very short if they’re chosen well. I think a door is a better comparison, and the door can be wide open, or closed (or in the case of the Oilers, locked). The Canucks championship door is not closed, but it’s definitely not very open either and the angular momentum appears to be in the closing direction.

    I think to discuss ways of moving the championship door you could come up with a 3 R’s for roster maintenance, Refresh, Retool, Rebuild. This team needed refreshing two seasons ago, by which I mean an infusion of youth, and some minor player shuffling. It needed retooling last year and it still does, which means trying to move medium roster players to strong contenders in exchange for younger players, and trying to build a contender in the next season or two. A full rebuild, which would mean moving top of the roster guys for draft picks and tanking to start from the bottom, isn’t yet warranted but could be on the horizon without some action.

    For fun I just took a look at the Canucks roster to see what in the World could be done to right this ship without the dreaded rebuild. I mean, the team has no scoring, at all really, and it’s pretty clear that it’s the key problem with the team. Daniel Sedin seems to have dried up as an elite goal scorer, his 20 goal pace simply not sufficient for a top-line winger, and only Kesler is on a better goal scoring pace this year, and even he will be lucky to hit 30. Unfortunately, with Gillis’ incompetence, the first two R’s, both of which help to open the door without first closing it, are soon going to be out of reach. Catastrophic drafting is only the beginning, and as much as Kassian has looked a little better lately that acquisition is still a trade down, so the team isn’t going to be “refreshed” from within. But where Gillis’ stupidity really shows its head is in the contracts he’s handed out that are now going to hamper a retool. Higgins was re-upped for 10 million over 4. Instead of being a great deadline piece, he’s a Canuck until his mid-30′s. Hansen would have been another valuable commodity for a contender, but he’s also no longer tradeable. Edler could’ve been moved by now, but instead is going to be drop-passing to no one for the next 5 years with a no-trade clause. The only pieces that are tradeable are either essential for the future (Tanev, raw prospects, Kassian?), low in trade value (Booth, Richardson, Weise, Dalpe) or injured (Santorelli, Schroeder). Hopefully, Santorelli can come back enough before the deadline that he can be sold high, though Gillis is probably going to try and re-sign him instead.

    This is a mess, plain and simple. Maybe Gillis needs some other team to hire Mike Milbury to dig him out of years of bad moves.

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    • Snepsts
      January 24, 2014

      It isn’t about trades, it is about a healthy team playing well and a power play that has sucked for a f***ing eternity and is beyond nauseating to watch.

      A first line with no injuries would allow a second line centered by Kesler to potentially thrive, as well as options like Kesler with the Sedins to exist once in a while to mess with regular opponents. With that and an actual power play unit (no clue how to fix that, why is it even broken, was it built on a Friday afternoon) the coaches could focus properly on tooling 3rd and 4th lines that actually pose a danger to the opposition.

      That said Kassian is finally showing promise and if Torts shows patience and keeps him up front with Kes and Huggins maybe there is a glimmer of hope. I didn’t watch the game last night so I don’t know to what extent line combos were shaken up.

      But yeah, trade this, trade that – no thanks. Where is Hansen, Higgins, Booth, even Weise? Where is the secondary scoring? What is wrong with Dank? No one drops that fast in offensive output. Fix the players we have. If that means a shake-up, then make it happen at the coaching level, not the player level.

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      • Chris the Curmudgeon
        January 24, 2014

        The coaching shake up already happened, remember? We shipped out the old Jack Adams winner and brought in a different Jack Adams winner. The power play problems are inexplicable, but I don’t think playing musical coaches is the answer.

        The fix is a roster shakeup. For whatever reason, this group just doesn’t have enough in it to win. There were always too few scorers, and none that are really elite ones in 2014. I don’t think a complete rebuild is necessary or even possible, but no amount of coaching can make this group into a serious Cup contender this year, and trying to bring in young players with scoring upside (and actually trying to bring along youth in the system, for a change) would be the best way to get back to contending status next year. People get attached to the players in the lineup, and it’s hard to say goodbye, but action beyond superficial tinkering and dithering is needed soon to get back to the top, especially while the aging core (Sedins, Kesler, Burrows, Luongo, Garrison, Hamhuis and Bieksa) still has enough life to be part of another run.

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        • akidd
          January 24, 2014

          well, chris, it’s a sad state of affairs isn’t it? i think that gillis is aware of the situation and started making moves last year to shift gears with the team. that the sedins dropped off so quickly after such a promising start to the season is pretty surprising though.( there’s gotta be health issues there somewhere. ) i doubt anyone predicted that.

          anyway help is on the way, to some extent but the next couple of years could be tough. the sedins gotta get healthy. they should be good solid 2nd-liners and pp champs imo. it’s crazy that they’re sucking on the pp so much. say what you will about hamhuis and gully and whoever, the sedins run that show. but it’s not just physical. they make bad decisions with the puck all the time now. i dunno… bring back the mind room?

          if mg can get e. kane that would be super. otherwise i doubt he’ll do that much. it’s not looking like a buying year.

          but there could be a window maybe in a couple of years when the horvat crew gets a couple of years under their belts, the sedins hopefully figuring things out a bit better in a secondary role, a solid d corps, a still youngish kesler, a tortsier toughness, and potentially good to great goaltending. could be a window…maybe…lots has to go right.

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          • Chris the Curmudgeon
            January 24, 2014

            I think the Sedin twins still have a lot of good hockey left in them. The ineptitude of the power play is really puzzling to me, though I do think the deployment on the blueline is partly to blame. Finding some other players to rely upon offensively would also help to get them away from the toughest matchups more often too. Certainly Henrik has been playing hurt for a while, and that has undoubtedly hindered his effectiveness.

            I think you should avoid thinking about “buying” and avoid thinking about “windows”. Unless a trade is a salary dump or grossly one-sided, both teams are trying to address needs. This isn’t a “buying year” in the sense of trying to add that final key piece to put us over the top, but if you re-frame buying as “acquiring draft picks and young players for veterans with expiring contracts” then it is a buying year. The point is that the term is a bit of a misnomer, and the Canucks should seriously consider, for a change, trying to use the deadline to get assets that will appreciate in value rather than “buying” high on rental players. Also, like I said, “windows” are a poor metaphor for the NHL. Gillis needs to try to swing the “door” in the open direction. He has the advantages of having money to work with (cap increasing) as well as a decent prospect pool, particularly at forward where we’re particularly deficient. The team needs some changes, but there needn’t necessarily be a period of complete non-contention to get the team back up to where it could be.

            There are plenty of examples of teams whose fans were clamoring for wholesale changes because of a closing “window”, who then turned it around really quickly thanks to smart management. The Ducks finished last in their division in 2012, with a core of Getzlaf, Perry, Selanne, Ryan, Koivu, Cogliano, Fowler, Hiller etc. Fast forward a couple of years, subtract Ryan and the same core has them at the top of the league. People will surely point out that “the Sedins are older than Getzlaf and Perry”, blah blah blah, and those people are correct but they’re missing the point. The point is that where some would have said “the Ducks’ 2007 Cup winning team’s Championship window was closed by 2012 and the remaining players should be shipped out for picks and prospects”, I’d say that the window concept is nonsense and the team just needed to make the right personnel and coaching changes to swing the “door” back open again. Because it had a good foundation, one year later they were back in contention again. I believe the same to be true about the Canucks, but that admitting that some changes are necessary and making them is the first step to getting back. What’s a sad state of affairs is not the team, it’s the obvious lack of direction by Gillis in letting it stagnate when he should have been pro-active in improving it after 2 premature playoff exits.

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            • shoes
              January 25, 2014

              I can agree some changes are necessary. I am also very certain that both Hank and Dank are playing through injuries. They take this ‘soft’ label way too far, in proving otherwise. We know Hank has been playing with a broken pinky since Dec ended. Danny looks like he is suffering some type of lower body hip thing. Kesler is trying but needs some line mates. We have missed both Santo and Burrows at different times.

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  11. akidd
    January 24, 2014

    “if you re-frame buying as “acquiring draft picks and young players for veterans with expiring contracts” then it is a buying year. ”

    i believe that’s called “selling.”

    “The team needs some changes, but there needn’t necessarily be a period of complete non-contention to get the team back up to where it could be.”

    i believe that’s what we’re seeing now. gillis doesn’t expect much this year, which is why sent shinkaruk down for next year when it was plain that the team really need some more goal-scoring skill up front. not that shinkaruk would’ve been a difference-maker. so we get a season where the canucks show flashes of competitiveness but aren’t really seriously ‘in it’. and why gillis isn’t going to make any big moves this year. gillis is in a postion that requires patience. it’s not ‘letting the team stagnate”. with horvat, shinkaruk, cassels, fox, lain, subban, etc gillis seems to be doing all he can to rejuventate this team. not sure what else he can do.

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    • Chris the Curmudgeon
      January 25, 2014

      Yeah, I told you that I think using the term “buying” to describe a trade is not accurate. You’re selling veteran players, but buying talent for the near future. That’s why it’s a trade, and it can often pay quick dividends for both teams, even the “seller”.

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  12. Mr Lewis
    January 25, 2014

    Dang Chris, that is a fine way to look at things. A couple of years down the road with the Sedins ending up 2nd liners and youngsters taking the big minutes then Hanson, Higgin types taking over the bottom 6 would be a show I would love to watch.

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