I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Nashville Predators, March 19, 2014

The Canucks’ chances of making the NHL playoffs are slim. Fatboy slim. They’re not mathematically eliminated, but the fans in this city have never put their faith in math, and dammit, they aren’t about to start now. Glimmer of hope or no, I think we all know the Canucks are playing out the string.

That in mind, the games we’re watching now aren’t really games anymore. They’re game-length commercials for next year’s club. And as advertisements go, this one was pretty effective, showcasing two of next year’s stars in Eddie Lack, who busted out of his funk like Rick James busting out on the funk, and Nicklas Jensen, who continues to score like Hans Zimmer. I was effectively marketed to when I watched this game.

Canucks 2 – 0 Predators

  • You had to feel good for Eddie Lack, who stopped all 30 shots he faced for the shutout. He’s endured a difficult trial by fire since the Sochi Olympics, starting 12 straight amidst all sorts of drama, and he’s looked both rattled and exhausted of late, posting a save percentage above .900 just once in his last five games. Fortunately, he looked a great deal more settled versus Nashville. It was easy to tell he was settled, because he was covered in tiny, winding, wooden roads, tiny wooden houses, and even a few tiny wooden cities.
  • Lack didn’t have to make a lot of great saves, which probably had something to do with the opponents — when it comes to putting on the red light, Nashville isn’t exactly Roxanne — but the Canucks also had better defensive posture in this game than they have lately. One assumes they improved their posture by replacing their desk chairs with aerobic fitness balls.
  • It took until the 46th minute of this game for us to get a goal: it came from the stick of Nicklas Jensen, who continued the impressive run he’s been on since the Canucks called him up a few weeks ago. After Henrik Sedin had the puck knocked off his stick while attempting to make a pass to Jensen, the puck came to Jensen anyway, and he lasered it like a problematic bikini zone.
  • Thanks to another gloriously incendiary column from Tony Gallagher, people have been talking about whether the opportunities Jensen’s been given are fair, in light of Zack Kassian’s slow rise up the depth chart. But Kassian has looked shaky, risky, and inconsistent with big minutes. Jensen looks like he belongs where he is. It’s tough to argue with that deployment decision from John Tortorella. Granted, it’s tough to argue them anyway: when Alex Burrows left the game after taking a slash to the wrist from Shea Weber, Tom Sestito skated with the top line in his absence, so these decisions really aren’t based on reason.
  • Kassian looked excellent in this one. He was making crisp passes, throwing his body around, and his 66.7% corsi was the second-highest on the team, just below David Booth. The optimist in me actually thinks the arrival of Jensen could be a good thing. It’s easy to think Kassian’s not getting icetime just because he’s a prospect. But Jensen is proof that the secret to breaking that glass ceiling is simple. Play the way Salt n’ Pepa pushes it: real good.
  • Henrik Sedin assisted on both goals. He was a treat to watch. For much of the season, he hasn’t looked himself. But he did in this game, controlling the possession with aplomb and doing positively Henrikian stuff with the puck. It was enough to make you wish he had a twin brother. Imagine two Sedins. Oh man. Imagine.
  • I loved the way Henrik ran down the clock during his shifts in the third period. When the Predators backed off the blueline rather than pressuring him, he’d stop up and turn the play back, maintaining control of the puck and killing valuable time. Who does that? Only Henrik, who’s thinking pass so exclusively, he even passes on zone entries.
  • It was nice to see Brad Richardson back in the lineup. One wouldn’t go so far as to call him an impact player, but he was centering a pretty decent line with Kassian and Booth before he went down with injury, and John Tortorella went right back to it in his return. It’s a strong trio. To get a good handle on what they can do, watch the incredible shift they put together in the first. They don’t score, but they quietly control the action, like the witch’s prophecies in Macbeth.
  • Poor Paul Gaustad. After being trapped out on the ice for most of that third line shift, he brought the puck the other way, then he was taken down by Alex Edler and ridden like a sled. Granted, Edler scored later, so maybe this makeshift sled ride energized him? Maybe sled rides make Edler feel like a new man. Maybe his childhoos sled means as much to him as Rosebud meant to Charles Foster Kane.
  • This was a boring game. Seriously, as one point Garrett and Shorty started talking about some thing that happened on a plane. They never let us in on it, and it didn’t really sound all that interesting. Yet it was still the most compelling moment of second period.

27 comments

  1. ikillchicken
    March 20, 2014

    I wonder if Eddy has struggled lately because he couldn’t get any f#@&ing bricks. That’s what usually happens to me. He probably tried to trade with Gillis for some but Gillis was all like, nah man. And Lack was like, oh come on, I’ll give you three wheat! Four even! But Gillis was all, too bad dude, ain’t happening. And then he turned around and traded it to Dale Tallon for a sheep and a rock. Wait. What were we talking about again?

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    • Chris the Curmudgeon
      March 20, 2014

      Harrison you really do seem to be a fan of Catan, and clearly you have some company. Personally, I’m totally over that game, Pandemic is the way to go.

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      • Rituro
        March 20, 2014

        Fool! The correct answer is Munchkin. Always, always Munchkin.

        (Or, if you want something more Catan-themed, The Goods is a great pickup.)

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  2. PD
    March 20, 2014

    I know it was against Nashville and all, but that third line shift was bonkers. I continue to very excited about Kassian and I think shipping him out would be a big mistake. Honestly I’m not soured on Booth yet either but that’s another discussion altogether.

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  3. akidd
    March 20, 2014

    that booth and his corsi. just amazing. and that drop pass he received in the high slot(from hamhuis?) with time and space. and the wrister he took? 6 feet high and wide? 10 feet? hard to tell. boy, there’s a guy who certainly won’t handicap the canucks next year. and it’s a contract year too. he should really get a nice bounce there.

    uh…comment section, testing, one, two, testing…i got nothing….bring on the sabres!

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    • Harrison Mooney
      March 20, 2014

      You drive me insane, akidd.

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    • Chris the Curmudgeon
      March 20, 2014

      I think it makes more sense to keep Booth next year than to buy him out. As long as we’re not counting on him to actually put the puck in the net, it’s pretty clear that in every other dimension he’s actually an excellent hockey player. As has been mentioned in these parts, the Canucks will have some cap space to work with, and I think next year might actually be the time to see some young players make the team (ie: won’t need to spend to the cap). 2/3 of the money still has to be spent in a compliance buyout, even if it’s not against the cap, and then you have to pay a replacement to play the same position, so economically there’s little to no advantage to getting rid of him. I suppose one could argue that his roster spot is needed for someone else, but I say baloney as long as Tom Sestito is in the lineup.

      The team really has a lot of decision to make going into next year. The coaching and management situations and the future of Ryan Kesler are obvious ones, but there’s also the fact that Jensen, Corrado and probably Horvat should all make the team. Being that the Sedins, Burrows, Higgins, Hansen, Richardson, Matthias, Sestito and possibly Kesler and Booth are all under contract and Kassian will probably be re-signed, that doesn’t leave a lot of space for the young guys plus whatever they do with Schroeder, Santorelli and Dalpe. Same thing on D, with Bieksa, Edler, Garrison and Hamhuis all signed and holding NTCs, Stanton also definitely returning and Tanev likely to get a raise and a longer term deal. Something’s gotta give.

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      • Harrison Mooney
        March 20, 2014

        I’m in full support of a Booth buyout this year IF necessary. He’s very clearly not worth his deal at all. But who cares? I’m not paying it. The Canucks have cap space. The only way they should buy out Booth is if they need the money for something else. Otherwise he’s a fine third-line forward.

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      • akidd
        March 20, 2014

        I’m surprised hear you say that, chris. in a lot of ways booth epitomizes the corsi-rich, skill-deficient guys that you criticized gillis for loading the team with. 1/3 of 4.25 mil is still around 1.4 million in real money(plus 4.25 in cap space.) i think you could easily get a guy who does what booth does for less than that. but no one gets a roster spot because sestito has a roster spot? really? you wouldn’t like to see a young guy with potential get that roster spot. or if the owners decide to spend to mend fences with the paying public, use that 4.2 mil of cap for a veteran scorer in a trade or as a free-agent?

        there’s very little reason to keep booth which is why there’s very few people not wanting him to get bought out.

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        • Chris the Curmudgeon
          March 20, 2014

          I criticized Gillis for thinking Booth was a top 6 guy, and for fetishizing his possession statistics and ignoring the fact that he can’t score. He’s clearly overpaid. However, if the team is not going to spend to the cap next year (which I believe they should not, as I don’t believe there’s much to be had in free agency right now), then there is no sense in making these decisions from a financial standpoint. As such, the team could pay David Booth 4.25 million to play hockey, or 2.8 million to do nothing. Most owners are loath to pay guys just to go away, and I don’t blame them. Or, put another way, when evaluating the buyout decision, David Booth’s real cost next year is 1.4 million, in that one way or the other he’s getting that 2.8 million. For 1.4 million, he’s a steal, there’s no way you can find someone as good as him for that money. He cannot score, sure, but he’s also 3rd best on the Canucks at preventing the other team from scoring (GA20 = .591) while he’s on the ice 5 on 5 (after both Sedins, GA20 = .525 – Daniel and .577 – Henrik). The other “3rd liners” on the team are all much higher than that, Hansen has .708, Higgins and Richardson are above .8, and Kassian is .903, better only than Sestito on the team. In other words, he’s a pretty damned good 3rd liner in my view.

          I think acquiring Booth was a mistake, but I also think the way he’s been deployed has been criminally bad. His best skills are skating, getting the puck from the other team, battling in the corners, etc, in other words, possession-y stuff. Why not use him on special teams? He’d be a good guy to park in front of the net on the power play, a role that requires more spade work and toughness than skill. He’d also probably excel at frustrating the other team on the PK. He tends to work pretty hard. If we just accept that he’s on the team and should play in such a way as to maximize outcome, and forget what he’s getting paid, he’s a clear asset.

          I think the team should come back with the Sedins and Burrows as the top line next year. This year, that line has been hampered by injuries (all 3 have been seriously injured at some point this season), but we’re seeing recently that Henrik and Burrows are still very good players and perhaps an off-season of hard work will show the same about Daniel. It seems likely that Kesler will be moved, and to me the smart move there would be to drop the demand of a roster player, but stipulate that a 1st rounder (and a 2nd, if the team is late to pick) are required as well as a TOP prospect, not just a good one. That way, the second line could be Jensen with Higgins/Hansen and whichever center of Matthias and Horvat, or Schroeder or Santorelli (if they keep either) impresses most in camp. Third line is Kassian/Higgins/Hansen, Richardson and Booth again, and the 4th line would be whoever is leftover. (I’m of the opinion that there’s not that much point in having a true 4th line, I think it should be in-name-only and be made up of guys who play on special teams, fill in for injury, get juggled into lines occasionally and 7th defencemen.) That’s actually a decent roster, despite all of the doom and gloom surrounding this team, and it includes a couple of prospects with growth potential too.

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          • akidd
            March 20, 2014

            that’s an interesting take. personally, i don’t think booth is worth 1.4 million and i think that working towards the future would mean giving young guys with an upside a roster spot so that while they may make a few mistakes next year, the following year they would be much better. i don’t think booth has an upside. it would be more of a static decline, more of the same, keeping him in the lineup.

            you mention these stats again. while booth may be good at disrupting play, he’s not very good at making plays. can’t shoot, take or receive a pass. and doesn’t see the ice well. when i look at canuck success in the past even the third line managed to hang onto the puck quite a bit, and occasionally score. that fell off almost immediately with booth’s arrival. all of his linemates basically stopped scoring. and when they did manage to get a goal booth would rarely be in on the assists. even a good defensive forward needs to play with the puck and chip in offensively occasionally. there’s more to it than not being caught out of position and keeping your legs moving. you actually have to make plays too.

            now av’s puck possession game is gone and it’s not certain who will be the coach next year but even under tortorella’s system, which should be suited for a disruptor like booth, he was not successful so i can’t imagine how he would do under another coach.

            long and the short though, speaking of stats, is booth has 5 goals and 8 assists in 56 games. that’s not good enough for a 4th-liner imo, let alone a 3rd liner. his shooting % is 5.5 and that’s when he hits the net. and he’s yet to score in 2014. he’s not tough nor durable, nor a leader.

            not worth 1.4 mil, not worth taking up a young guy’s spot, definitely not worth the 4.2 mil in cap. even if they don’t spend to the cap this summer having that cap space available during the season for contingency purposes and possible mid-season trades is pretty important.

            it’s fun to play ‘hockey debate’ but really? you want more of the same?

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            • Chris the Curmudgeon
              March 21, 2014

              akidd I usually like your posts but I disagree with you here. The team can’t and won’t just wash out a season to try and develop guys in the NHL that aren’t ready for it. Booth almost never hurts the team, and that’s something you need out of your bottom 6, along with being constantly hard to play against, which he is. The same can’t be said for a few of the other guys. The bottom line for me is that teams don’t like to buy players out unless they have to, because it’s basically money flushed down the drain. Hoping to get 1.4 million of value out of Booth next year is certainly not a stretch.

              Frankly, I don’t know why you don’t think he’s tough or a leader. Booth has underachieved but like I said, I don’t think he’s been used properly either. This is a guy with a considerable skill set (albeit not much in the goal department), who’ll be playing for a contract, and who will have an entire off-season to prepare while healthy. I have no idea why his shooting percentage is so low but I think he would be a very effective player if deployed in such a way to minimize that. People whine that Kassian etc never get to play with the right players for them to be most effective, whereas no one says that about Booth even though it’s even more true, probably because they don’t like his religion or his hunting or whatever. If you forget all of that and his contract, you can see that given the right linemates, he could be bringing a lot more to the table. Instead of abandoning the guy, the team needs to basically say that they expect big things out of him next year, like leadership, hard work, strong situational play, and see how he responds to the challenge.

              The prospects who belong in the NHL next year will be there, but a lot of the guys people are talking about “learning in the NHL” would be better suited by learning in the AHL for a year, eg: Gaunce, Fox, Cassels and some of the college guys. The team needs to “reload” but they are also going to be a very veteran team for the next few years with the contracts they have, and they might as well make the best of it.

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              • Harrison Mooney
                March 21, 2014

                Oh man, Chris vs. akidd. This is a heavyweight bout right here.

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              • akidd
                March 21, 2014

                i usually agree with you too, chris, but i couldn’t disagree with you more on this topic. i’ve watched a lot of booth. he can’t shoot, can’t pass, no vision, no creativity, drags his linemates down, is not difficult to play against, and most of his teammates can’t seem to keep a straight face when talking about him. it’s not from stats i conclude this but by watching him. and i expect him to be bought out. lots of people do.

                we’re so far apart on this that i guess it’s just agree to disagree time. cheers.

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    • akidd
      March 20, 2014

      i wasn’t very clear there. meant to say “i got nothing” but a reheated comment about booth, such is the keenness of my canuck enthusiasm these days. not clear at all. late, late night post with the sensation of typing into the void(hence the ‘comment section’ reference.)

      i am still frankly bewildered that you guys remain booth boosters. but it came off meaner than i intended. sorry to infuriate.

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      • Harrison Mooney
        March 20, 2014

        All good, akidd. We still love you.

        Definitely not a Booth boosters. His Corsi is what it is, and it’s interesting to me. Frankly, Booth himself is interesting to me. He’s been a seriously underwhelming acquisition, sure, but it’s not like the Canucks gave up anything to get him, and he hasn’t hamstrung them, cap-wise. People want a buyout because they don’t like him. I only want a buyout if he prevents them from improving.

        (I would also like to point out that I was effectively right about Booth being the key to the season. He didn’t deliver.)

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        • akidd
          March 20, 2014

          (I would also like to point out that I was effectively right about Booth being the key to the season. He didn’t deliver.)

          you got me there:)

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        • Brian
          March 21, 2014

          Well said. There are some people who want to buyout Booth because they don’t like him personally (e.g., his hunting, religion, politics, weirdness, etc.). That’s not a valid reason to buy him out. Yes, he’s overpaid, but that really doesn’t matter. Judge him on his performance and value to the team vs. the realistic alternatives. If it truly makes sense from a hockey perspectvive, buy him out. But, like others have pointed out, given the room next year, it may or may not be the sensible thing to do.

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  4. Zach Morris
    March 20, 2014

    Wow, those stands look really empty. Do we still have the sellout streak going?

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    • Chris the Curmudgeon
      March 20, 2014

      I don’t understand how people can be surprised that the team is announcing sellouts. Most of the seats are held by season ticket holders, who paid for them long before this season went into the tank, and there are no refunds. The single tickets tend to sell very early in the season, and the only ones really available on game days are tickets put back on sale from being held for other purposes (for opposing players’ families, promotions, etc), and so it’s not really that hard to move that small number even when the team is bad. Because the attendance number is for tickets sold, rather than butts in seats, it’s no stretch to think they’re on the level about the attendance. For a team in the position of the Canucks, it takes some time for underperformance to translate into an attendance hit.

      Here’s how we’ll know that they’re fudging it: teams tend to sell tickets on a fairly systematic basis, section by section, row by row. When the stadium has empty seats mixed in with full ones, those are likely bought but unused, whereas seats that haven’t been purchased will likely be in larger blocs. It’s only a matter of time before the streak ends, especially as I’m guessing season ticket renewals will take a major hit after this year, but I’m not surprised it hasn’t happened already.

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      • Zach Morris
        March 21, 2014

        Fair enough. I’d like to point out that this year I’ve seen a lot more advertising for the Canucks, when in years past they’ve been a guaranteed sell…

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  5. jenny wren
    March 20, 2014

    it’s not the gm or the coach
    though neither one’s beyond reproach
    but bottom line the fans know who
    must play like they are paid to do

    throughout the first they were “okay”
    though lack was “good” carlyle might say
    every game from here on in
    is simply one they have to win

    after forty a scoreless tie
    steady eddie the reason why
    while david booth was only “fair”
    dependable dan was everywhere

    into the third and something “great”
    vancouver made it worth the wait
    nicklas jensen was first to score
    then edler with us five on four

    so that’s one down with ten to go
    come sunday we beat buffalo

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  6. J21
    March 20, 2014

    “That in mind, the games we’re watching now aren’t really games anymore. They’re game-length commercials for next year’s club.”

    That’s a really intelligent way of putting it. I tuned in to (parts of) this game entirely to see some of the micro-level stuff, such as Jensen. Since the North American sports structure perversely makes me want the Canucks to lose the game for better draft position, it’s not like I was really hoping for a win (although it’s totally impossible on an emotional level not to still be happy with one while it’s happening).

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  7. Fraser
    March 20, 2014

    I gotta say, I was pretty sad when the fitness ball link didn’t go straight to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ut-_M1Tib2s

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  8. DJ
    March 20, 2014

    I said to myself, “That’s not a Settlers of Catan reference, is it?” And it was. Kudos.

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  9. Bluetouque
    March 20, 2014

    Any one else notice that Torts changed glasses between the 1st and 2nd period? A subtle add for Trevor’s glasses company perhaps?

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  10. Canuckjeet
    March 20, 2014

    Citizen Kane and Macbeth reference in the same post … nice.

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