December 22 2013 10:23PM
I went public with my criticisms of Chris Tanev earlier today, and even reveled on the twitter when he was caught in no-man's land on the Jets powerplay goal. Well, Tanev's third period clapper was the difference in a 2-1 loss that could have gone either way after the Jets survived a slanted 1st period.
Point taken, Chris.
In reality, the score flattered the Jets a little after near misses in the early going by Kassian on a Bogosian turnover, Kesler on a low-slot powerplay shot, and Kesler again on a similar play at even strength. The Jets escaped the first period down just 1-0 and fans for both sides knew it could have been a wider gap.
The second and third periods showed a somewhat different Jets team, though, following the pattern of Chris Thorburn's ice time. He was second to Scheifele in ice time by a forward in the first period with 5:31 at evens. That included a two minute shift starting at 14:06 of the period. He was pinned in his own end for almost all of that time, however, and was the only Jets forward not on for a scoring chance in the first. At the 15:30 mark of the second, Thorburn has played 7:20, but would play just 5:45 the rest of the way, as Eric O'Dell was given intermittent third line shifts in his place.
It made perfect sense for Claude Noel to spread out his bench with a back-to-back ahead of the team, but over 9 minutes for Wright, who failed to get the puck over a sprawling Luongo in the first, and 13 minutes for Thorburn, who failed to get Luongo/Lack sprawling at any point may have been the difference in this one.
Part way through the first, Luongo was clipped by Wheeler, and again by Byfuglien. At some point he tweeked a groin and Eddie Lack came in to finish out the game. He made a number of excellent stops, including on the Ladd and then Byfuglien on the PP, and later a firm leg-extension save on Kane. He earned third star despite facing just 16 of the Jets' underwhelming 22 shots.
Interestingly, the winning goal came on the stretch transition play I mentioned in the pre-game. Garrison fired a long pass to a stationary Booth, who stepped over the line as Kassian and Richardson entered with speed. Booth put it down the wall to a streaking Kassian, who had a shot, collected the rebound, and passed it to a wide open Tanev in the high slot. The play is designed to collapse the defenders by creating a high to low play, and it did just that. The Jets' defenders backed down and the forwards tracked the Canuck streakers deep. Voila, the trailer is left alone.
Meanwhile, the Jets made clear that they don't have a plan to break out or in. Their 6-on-5 play was a mess, and throughout the game they relied on individual efforts to get it across either blue line. It's a problem, and it led to Bogosian's face-palm turnover to Kassian, and the usual collection of hopeful short passes and delusional stretch plays. Thankfully, the team has a number of very good players who can make that individual effort, including their top 4 defenders (Buf, Trouba, Enstrom, Bogo) and top 9 forwards. Still, it's like mistakes by design out there sometimes.
As well, the Canucks stretch transition meant the Jets' forwards were skating constantly tonight. Neither team had many shots, but I can't imagine how tiring it must have been for the Jets, who typically put all three forwards deep. The Canucks had the puck doing the work, while the Jets will be icing their quads.
Ondrej Pavelec only faced 25 shots, and only made 23 saves, but his two stops on Kesler were game changers, and he didn't give up as much in the way of rebounds as we're used to. After a medium quality game against the Panthers and a strong game against the Canucks, it seems Pav is putting things back together. In the past he's been consistent about his poor play, and these ups and downs in 5-7 game blocks is hard to get a read on. The fits and starts of personal progress? (He asked, choosing to slant the narrative)
Eric O'Dell might have been the best Jets forward tonight. He was buzzing, and while playing with Wright and Peluso, dragged that line into a team leading corsi rate for the first time all year. They mostly faced the Sestito / Dalpe / Weiss line, and I'm not saying it's time to trade Bryan Little. But it was an impressive game by the young man and he earned his way up the roster in the third. Hard to imagine he doesn't start in a better position tomorrow night.
The LLW line had fewer minutes than normal, but generated a couple chances and didn't look out of place against a Western opponent. They played the Kesler line for the most part, and it looked much less dangerous when they did.
Jacob Trouba dragged Mark Stuart out of the red tonight. Stuart was hurt chasing down a breakaway he caused (the second one - he was fine on the first), was screening Pavelec in a useless spot when Richardson tipped the Hamhuis shot for the Canucks' first goal, and made several mistakes in handing-off in the cycle. He was on for both goals against, actually, and his gap was the reason that high-low play worked for the Canucks. BUT! He made a great diving stick poke to save a goal by Kassian when Bogo made a blunder, and he and Trouba were positive in the shot attempt total. This started as a paragraph about how Trouba did well, but it ended up about how Stuart wasn't the worst ever this game. I think Trouba could put that on a resume. "I made Mark Stuart not the worst ever."
In fairness to Trouba, he also drove some offence and had three personal shots. Also, he played three of his 16 minutes shorthanded and didn't get a sniff at the powerplay. Ah, Claude Noel. What a leader.
Byfuglien played big minutes in this one, particularly after Stuart went down. He continues to be among the most important contributors on defence. Buf had three shots, and created some zone entries that no one else on the team can make.
Finally, I put this group near the bad section, but not in it. Kane had a goal, another near goal on a similar play from the slot, and generally created some offence. He didn't have the game he had against the Panthers, as it was much more difficult to get a body on any Canuck defender. They move the puck so quickly. Claude Noel let the Canucks put the Sedin line against the Scheifele line, and while we can be proud that Scheifele's point streak is at 6 games, the line also took two bad penalties in the first and looked out matched. It's hardly a criticism that the rookie centre struggled against the Sedins. Noel has a tough minutes line, but on this night (and most nights) let the other coach choose the matchups. That can't be a criticism of Kane/Scheifele/Frolik. Still, they were also the line on when the Canucks' third line of Richardson/Kassian/Booth scored. And that IS a line they need to contain and beat.
The Tanev Goal before Tanev gets there. Stuart's blown assignment draws Trouba over, Frolik down to cover Trouba's man, and a gap opens up high. Defensive stalwart, that Mark Stuart.
When the Thorburn experiment began, the good that came out of it was the play of Jokinen and Setoguchi. Increased responsibility and a bit of a gamble on their left side had invigorated their play and created some previously unseen chemistry in the duo. Thorburn created a bit of space with his crashing, and the two generated offence, even if they remained minus players. That has disappeared, and their breakouts are atrocious. They can't move the puck more than one pass, and it means carrying out of the zone in the NHL where that's mostly not done.
The turnovers were constant, the disorganization noticeable, and the results poor. They were the team's worst possession group again on this night, and Thorburn was on for 5 shot attempts for and 14 against. Just miserable. We have to think Noel saw it, and the O'Dell move will get another chance tomorrow.
Best Play by Play Quote
During play of a 1-1 hockey game, the Sportsnet Pacific broadcasters had a conversation about how Eddie Lack is: a) a chef (no, it's not just the Swedish chef on his helmet - he has recipes!); and b) can't tie a necktie.
"I told him to go on YouTube. Watch an instructional video." - John Shorthouse