This was a pretty sleepy game compared to the intensity of the last series between the Canucks and Blackhawks, although a lot of that is Nashville's more conservative tactics. Chicago created a lot of scoring chances on both sides of the puck because their defenders - and especially their best defenders - have a penchant for pinching. The men manning the Nashville blueline simply don't have that tendency. They do, however, play a strong game in front of the net, often abandoning the shooter if there's any doubt on the assumption that Pekka Rinne will make the save. They're like a living, breathing coaching hockey proverb: they get the puck deep, they take the man, they finish their checks, and on and on it goes.
But this conservative spirit irked me a bit when Barry Trotz decided not to pull Rinne from the goal with just over three minutes to go. Keith Ballard had just gotten out of the penalty box when the Canucks iced the puck, and Vancouver followed that with a time-out. Even still, you've got to think that the penalty killers are pretty tired, and the Canucks are stuck with three defenders on the ice, so it's hard to believe that you'd get a better chance to tie the game. So what did Trotz do? Not only did he not pull the goalie, he decided that the best forward group for this situation was Jordin Tootoo, Jerred Smithson, and Nick Spaling. Ho. Ly. Crap. Scoring chances and more after the jump.
For those who'd like a definition: a scoring chance is defined as a clear play directed toward the opposing net from a dangerous scoring area - loosely defined as the top of the circle in and inside the faceoff dots, though sometimes slightly more generous than that depending on the amount of immediately-preceding puck movement or screens in front of the net. Blocked shots are generally not included but missed shots are. A player is awarded a scoring chance anytime he is on the ice and someone from either team has a chance to score. He is awarded a "chance for" if someone on his team has a chance to score and a "chance against" if the opposing team has a chance to score. Finally, a big thanks to Vic Ferrari for making the whole damn thing possible with his awesome scripts.
|Period||Nsh / Van||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
The scoring chances are a lot closer than you'd expect given the disparity in shots (and the game's flow), but it should be noted that most of that discrepancy came on special teams. Scoring chances tend to correlate best with Fenwick, and despite their dominance of large swaths of the game, the Canucks ended up at just +2 on that front (+22 -20), so I think these results make good sense (a lot more than the CBC's 20-8 count at some point in the third).
Including the time spent with the net empty, over a third of this game was spent on special teams, and the Canucks were much better in every facet. The Canucks' first unit power play was very good yet again, and their top penalty killing forwards (Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows) prevented Nashville from getting a single scoring chance. The Canucks also prevented Nashville from generating any chances with their goalie pulled, something that they did in three consecutive games against the Blackhawks in the first round. That puts them at over five minutes of five-on-six time in these playoffs without allowing a single chance.
God's Holy People
3. Mike Fisher - He got beat badly by Kevin Bieksa on the lead-up to the only goal of the game, but he was one of the few Predators who actually looked dangerous from time to time on Thursday night, including a short-handed breakaway that he created for himself in the third period that nearly tied the game. Alain Vigneault seemed to think Fisher's group was the one to watch too since he matched his shut-down pairing of Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis against them, and hid the Sedins from them as much as possible.
2. Roberto Luongo - It's not like he was particularly busy, but this was his best game since Game Three of the last series. His positioning was very good, and he wasn't having the same problems with rebounds that he'd been having in the last couple of games. The Predators also had a couple of great chances in the third that Luongo shut down. I mentioned Fisher's breakaway already, and you could certainly add Shea Weber's power play chance with 4:23 to go in the game. Weber seemed to think that he missed the net, but it looked to me like Luongo got his glove on it to send it over the cage and send the crowd home happy.
1. Henrik Sedin - He's the straw that stirs the drink on the first unit power play, which had a great game, but he also played very well at even strength. Daniel led the team in chances, but Henrik wasn't far behind, and was the only Sedin on the ice to close out the game for the Canucks, a task he accomplished with a nice block of Ryan Suter's wrister to get the puck out over the line.
Marked by the Beast
3. Joel Ward - He saw a lot of ice against Vancouver's second and third lines but did nothing with it and was one of the men who got torn up on the PK. One of the sequences that really stands out for him was on the kill in the first period - Ward had two or three chances to get the puck out of the zone, but ended up losing the battle. Those are the kind of "hard work" plays the Predators are going to need to make if they hope to have any chance at winning this series because the good Lord knows that they're not going to do it on talent.
2. Martin Erat - This was his first game back from a concussion, and he wasn't playing on a consistent line, so that may have hampered him, but he spent nearly a third of his ice time away from Ryan Kesler and Henrik Sedin, and didn't get much done. The Predators don't have many weapons up front, so when they get one of the few they have away from top two lines, that man needs to capitalize. Erat didn't. In fact, he posted a team-worst -10 Corsi rating.
1. Patric Hornqvist - He didn't generate much offense, which is his most important job, but it's the three minor penalties (including one after the whistle and another in the offensive zone) that have earned him his place on this list. Barry Trotz benched him for ten minutes after the third one (which was a terrible call and an egregious dive by the always dishonorable Ryan Kesler), which is sort of cutting off your nose to spite your face when you're down by one, but I can understand why it happened. He'll need to be better.