The Canucks held a 2-1 lead going into the third period, but found a way to ruin it like a room temperature pumpkin latte, eventually losing 3-2 in regulation. Things looked so good early on, with Vrbata and the Sedins re-uniting in a way that ABBA never will, but in the end, Ovechkin’s three hundredth one timer (rough guesstimate) did them in.
So who will win the awards in a losing effort? Read on to find out!
The Ace: Radim Vrbata
Yes, Radim the Dream, The Radimer, Vrbata the Frittata, whatever you want to call him, he came into this game with a monkey on his back of no goals on the season. How bad was it? It got so bad that his young son was chastising him for not scoring goals. Imagine that, his own son throwing shade at him!
Pointless so far, Radim Vrbata is hearing it from everyone, including his son.
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) October 20, 2015
“Son, could you pass the salt.”
“I could, but I doubt you’d do anything with it.”
That being said, Vrbata still had the most shots on the team on the season coming into last night’s game, and he was getting good looks at the net. Conventional wisdom suggested Willie D put him with the Twins to get him to bump the slump, and lo and behold, it worked!
Yes, Vrbata had a goal and an assist on the night, and no longer looked like he wanted to strangle his linemates. This is a line that worked well very last year, so it was hard to see why Coach Willie was so reluctant to go back to it.
WD on why it took so long for Vrbata to be reunited with twins "I didn't think it was the best match"
— Blake Price (@BlakePriceTSN) October 23, 2015
Cue the jokes.
@BlakePriceTSN 30 goals last year and it wasn't the best fit? Did they swap out anything else besides the hip? Something in the head area?
— Chris Marganelli (@Hockeycustoms) October 23, 2015
Advanced stats guys love the look of Hansen with the Twins (especially at even strength), but Vrbata has a skillset that works with the Sedins. Yes, he doesn’t do the puck retrieval thing as well as Burrows or Hansen, but he has a better shot, he shoots right, and he understands the philosophy of “just pass it to Henrik in the corner” when things get rough.
The Sedins are no longer the young players with rosy cheeks that fall over when they “hear a swear”. The Sedins are the guys who make room for the linemates, and Vrbata knows how to work with that system.
It was odd to hear the Canucks talk about wanting Vrbata to have the puck on his stick more, ie. be more of a playmaker type player that could platoon their second line. Vrbata is like a T-Rex, he wants to hunt. He shoots the puck at a high rate, so why not put him with the Twins for a bit and see if you can find something that works on your other lines?
The Brace: Ben Hutton
Benjamin “Button” Hutton once again had himself quite a game. As Ryan Biech talked about, Hutton is just plain fun to watch. He rarely makes the wrong decision, and in many cases, will make a couple of moves to put himself in a position to make an even BETTER decision.
It’s like if you went to the car lot and decided to buy a Mazda, but then Ben Hutton came out and said “Wait, why not buy a FERRARI!” and balloons fell from the sky.
It may sound tired, but Hutton really does do a lot of small things very very well. His ability to pass the puck to his linemates while under pressure is perhaps his greatest strength, and one that allows him to bail his team out of potential trouble spots.
Tonight he had the second most ice time for a d-man (almost 20 minutes) which is shocking considering how Willie D usually views his young players as untrustworthy rapscallions. He also was involved in the best scoring chance for the Canucks when the goalie was pulled.
Plus, he knows how to do a mean wink. Seriously, the guy is always winking.
How do you NOT trust that guy if he tells you to put him in the game?
The Cross-Check to the Face: Willie D
Now let me make a caveat for this award. I know, I just know, some of you were reading the Ace award and were like “But Vrbata screwed up on the tying goal!”. And you’re right, so lets publicly shame him for that:
That is an awful play by a veteran hockey player. That is the kind of play you keep rookies stapled to the bench for.
Speaking of rookies…
Why not let them play a little bit? Now I know when a team loses, the easiest thing is to watch the game and go “Do the opposite of whatever you did tonight.” But it really feels like the young kids could be given some more ice time.
It’s very easy to look at a game where the coach is throwing Prust and Dorsett out on the ice over the young kids and wonder why. One would assume Coach Desjardins has more trust in his veteran guys in a tight game. But if you’re in a tight conference, where most games will probably be close, does that mean you’re always going to have the short leash on Virtanen/Baertschi and McCann? Will they only ever get ice time in a blowout?
Those three guys all played under 8 minutes tonight. Dorsett and Prust? 16 minutes and 15 minutes.
Now, on it’s own, not playing young guys isn’t unique to Coach Desjardins. Take a look around the league and you’ll probably find half the fanbase complaining about young guys not getting enough ice time.
What is concerning is that Coach Willie has made other decisions in the past that kind of stumped us. His reluctance to ride the Sedins in the playoffs last year became such an issue that management even talked to him about it. Now this year you have his reluctance to play Vrbata with the Twins.
Then you have his reluctance to play Yannick Weber, which could be an entire column on its own. A hard shooting threat from the point, a right handed shot that the Sedins have claimed in the past is “super important” to their power play success. A guy management worked hard to re-sign in the off-season and fit under the cap, yet is now sitting on the shelf.
Again, armchair quarterbacking is a national pastime in Canada, so none of us can sit back and say for sure “Coach, you done screwed up.” It is also very early on into the season, so nobody should be panicking. But you can look at his track record and certainly wonder if the Canucks might end up regretting some of his decisions down the road.
If anything, the sentiment in the city seems wide open to the idea of letting the young kids “learn on the job” now more than ever. Maybe roll the dice on it and see what you’ve got.