There are two ways to look at the Canucks 4-2 win over the Flames on Friday night.
One is to be cynical, and look at the fact the Canucks should never want to play like this ever again if they want to win more hockey games.
It was an ugly win. They sat back, relied on Ryan Miller turning into Hockey Jesus, dying for their defensive sins, and prayed they would get some goals on their few chances. Coach Willie’s moustache was twitching 48.3 times a minute, which is up from his season average of 28.4.
But oddly enough, they did score on their few chances, and a game in which they were outshot 46-13, they actually won.
The other way to look at it is enjoy it for what it was. A sixth win in a row, and the Canucks back into playoff contention, despite all odds. If Columbus can be a powerhouse team, hell, why can’t the Canucks enjoy a mini run of success too?
Yes, most fans realize this Canucks team most likely won’t make very much noise this year, but sometimes it’s nice just to sit back and enjoy a victory or two.
In the old days we would have simply said Ryan Miller was a brick wall in net, that he earned his contract on the night. That the Canucks gutted out a victory despite players getting injured. We would have ignored Corsi and high fived each other for escaping with a victory.
So let’s do a blend of both views and break this game down, shall we?
1. Sitting back!
This was one of the goals the Canucks scored. Yes, luck was a bit on their side tonight.
In fact, looking at Corsi, the Canucks flatlined so hard halfway through the first period you honestly wondered if they had simply stopped playing and went home.
It’s like watching InGen’s stock before and after Dr. Grant visited Isla Nublar.
So yes, the Canucks had a very passive game. They were outshot. They were outhit. This Canucks team, they aren’t very good at the physical game. At one point Sbisa threw the lone big hit for Vancouver and it was like Black Friday at Walmart as Calgary began throwing revenge hits left and right, to no response from Vancouver.
But the Canucks didn’t break. They withstood the barrage. Maybe score effects plays into it. Maybe the Canucks tried to protect their lead a little too hard. Maybe in a game that’s closer they play a bit more offensively oriented. You can’t imagine Vancouver is thinking to themselves “We found the secret! Play like garbage and assume your shooting percentage will be super high!”
However, the Canucks did find a way to win, as ugly as it was. Miller played probably the best game of his season, despite many people questioning his ability to still handle a large workload. Tryamkin…
Well, we’ll get to him in a moment.
2. Fourth line heroes!
Yes, Jack Skille, a man once left for dead on an island, has somehow resurrected his career this season.
Honestly, the first part of the season, Skille was invisible. He didn’t hit, he wasn’t physical, he wasn’t producing chances. He felt like a completely interchangeable part, to the point where you were just waiting for some young kid to take his place in the lineup and never give it back.
But then Skille started having one noticeable shift a game. He wouldn’t score, but he’d have one big rush to the net.
Then occasionally he would score on his big shift.
Then he would get a few more points here and there.
It’s gotten to the point where it’s hard not to cheer the guy on, as he continues to pursue his NHL career, gutting out a spot on the fourth line, despite getting very little ice time.
And it’s not just him. Gaunce, another member of the Invisible Squad early in the season, has slowly been getting better. Nothing flashy, mind you, but just making sure that when he went on the ice, the other team wouldn’t get many chances.
Chaput, he’s been a bit streakier than his linemates, but even he has found his groove lately.
Tonight, they were the best line in regards to Corsi, Chaput and Gaunce the only two making it above 50% in this train wreck of an analytical stats game.
3. Broken Tanev!
There was a time when Chris Tanev was indestructible.
He would take some of the most unreal punishment you’ve seen, and he’d bounce right back up.
Sometimes he might leave for a bit, but he’d come back later in the period, and the jokes about having Tanev clones would erupt.
But lately, Tanev has lost some of that durability. To the point where some people called him “The New Salo” tonight. (Protect your balls, Tanev!)
And it’s true. He gets injured more now. Whether it’s due to age, luck, or whatever, he is not staying in the lineup as much as he used to.
For a team that is 9-2-1 when both Edler and Tanev are in the lineup this year, when something like this happens:
Tanev injury – somewhere in the neck/shoulder/upper back region pic.twitter.com/nmuQGtJ2du
— Vanessa Jang (@vanessajang) January 7, 2017
It becomes very worrisome for the Canucks.
And there will be no changing Tanev. The guy gets hit so much because he will take any abuse to make the play he wants. He’s like the condom on the Canucks, the guy just doesn’t know how to do anything without making the safe play.
You won’t often see him ducking out of the way to avoid a hit, the guy just takes it for the greater good.
The greater good.
Which makes him a top four defenceman and a number one teammate. But which now might make him injury prone. Which then leads you to ponder if trading high on him might be a viable option, especially if the Canucks are dead-set on making Gudbranson a part of the core.
Or you keep him because he’s Chris god damn Tanev, and the man would take a bullet for you.
4. Sedinery fading?
I don't hold the Sedins or Megna responsible for that first goal, however, they're the worst Canucks line by every underlying metric. pic.twitter.com/sh6DSKApZJ
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) January 7, 2017
It's not that the Sedins are bad. It's that you can't just expect them to perform like a first line unit with an AHL'er on their wing.
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) January 7, 2017
There have been several major Sedin linemate experiments this season, with Sutter and Megna being the most controversial of the bunch.
They just don’t play very well together. Sutter, probably because of a play-style issue. Megna, because he’s an NHL bubble player.
And maybe in the old days, the Sedins would have carried them easier. But now? Maybe it’s a sign of age that they can’t elevate guys the same way. Maybe the supporting cast of the team makes it harder.
It’s not a shot against the Sedins. Everyone gets old. And hey, maybe you can argue that the Sedins taking first line match-ups with Sutter doing defensive work, frees up Horvat and Bae Bae to do their thing.
But you also wonder what would it would be like to have the Sedins scoring again, playing with someone who has a higher skill ceiling. Maybe grind out Eriksson in that spot. Hell, maybe throw the new guy Reid Boucher and see what his shot can do with them.
Either way, Megna has not looked good with the Sedins, and you wonder how long they will run with it. “Being fast!” can only get Megna so far.
5. Shiny new things!
With my word count hitting dangerous highs (Rob will be so mad at me) let’s cut to the chase. In a few years of depressing hockey, not many things have stood out. But you know what is starting to stand out?
Bo Dangles Horvat. He’s been great for a couple of seasons now.
Look at Horvat almost deke his way to the goal.
Watch as he chases the puck down, finds Granlund in the slot, and gets the assist on the goal. This is becoming normal for him, to the point where people are wondering what the actual first line of the team is.
Speaking of Granlund, he is well on his way to proving that Benning made a good trade by dealing away Shinkaruk. Benning took a lot of grief over that deal (I fully admit I was all over him like The Moj at a buffet table) but it is looking like Granlund is a very serviceable NHL player.
Also, can we talk about Tryamkin?
Is he not the best god damn thing ever?
Look at him diving to get that shot off!
What, not good enough for you?
What about him Saving Private Ryan-ing an injured Brandon Sutter??
Brings a god damn tear to the eye!
Tryamking, yes, king, has been one of the most entertaining players to watch this season. Seeing him grow and develop and get better every game has been a lot of fun.
It also brings to the forefront that sometimes stats guys need to relax. When Tryamkin was drafted, they shit all over the pick. Honestly, they got their batons out and started wailing on Benning’s metaphorical corpse. Predictions were trotted out that drafting Tryamkin was possibly worse than getting the bubonic plague. It was vicious.
Now, the point isn’t to call them out for getting it wrong (and hey, the jury is still out, maybe Tryamkin regresses and this is his peak). There are many many times they get things right.
The point is, sometimes it’s ok to let people have a dream of a giant Russian bear playing defence for their team. Because that was the reaction from a lot of people when he was drafted. “We drafted a giant? Wicked. Let’s see what happens.” Especially for a team that was knee deep in drafting Jordan Schroeders.
Yes, maybe the odds of him making it this far were a long-shot. But hey, half of the fun in sports is believing in the impossible sometimes.
My word count is atrocious, I better include a tweet from the boss to placate him:
— Rob Williams (@RobTheHockeyGuy) January 7, 2017
Yes, Hotdog Horvat was a thing from the Canucks, but it was awesome, because it gave all the profits to charity.
Also, it gave us this gift:
God bless you hot dog based Gods for giving us that.
Also, we got a fun commercial where Henrik looked like Garth in Wayne’s World, talking about the evils of advertising.
OK, I better stop before Rob writes me an e-mail.
Shoot, Rodin played, we need to talk-