Nashville Predators 3 at Vancouver Canucks 4 (SO) – 2023-03-06 recap

Until these teams can prove they can play each other without the game going 65 minutes, it’s probably best not to schedule their games for 7:30.

I had a real tough time tracking this one. No idea what’s going wrong on Sportsnet’s end, but their app crashes about every ten minutes now if you rewind frequently. There’s no other option to watch games on demand in HD up here (I’ve tried a VPN and ESPN+, but the stream quality is not good enough) which is the real upsetting thing about this whole SN Now mess. Sportsnet has basically found a way to prevent enterprising young minds from accessing games conveniently, thus ensuring no young up-and-coming people in their early 20s will do what we used to do in the early 2010s, which was stay up all night, watching the Canucks and counting things. I’m not sure if this is designed to ensure the dominance of a few idiots on the Sportsnet payroll discussing hockey (not all of them: some of my best friends work for Sportsnet), but if Mark Spector tells me once again to “watch the games, you nerd”, I’ll have no choice but to concede, since I don’t go to games in the pressbox and thus not able to access them.

Still, I press on. I’ve considered dropping the Canucks from my tracking because of how difficult it’s gotten with that app, but that’s a non-starter. Right now, the Canucks are a fascinating team from an analytical perspective. They look a lot more structured with the influence of the new coaching staff. Whether it’s Rick Tocchet, Adam Foote, or Sergei Gonchar, these AHL defencemen they’ve called up to replace their injured defencemen are looking dangerously competent, to the point where fans seem worried about the state of the tank.

I don’t know that all three of Christian Wolanin, Guillaume Brisebois, and Noah Juulsen are better than all of Ethan Bear, but the three of them are better than Bear, Travis Dermott, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the aggregate. Wolanin might be the best of those six mentioned above. He isn’t just moving the puck well out of his own end, but his gap control in the neutral zone is improving and he’s playing with the confidence of a 5-year pro that isn’t afraid to make mistakes.

So, despite my issues with the app, the point is that I have to keep doing this. Even in a lost season, we’re going to learn a lot about team-building from this Vancouver roster, at least until everybody get healthy and ruin the magic. An early point is that this team was so focused on spending to get depth NHLers (both under Jim Benning and Patrik Allvin), while missing that the cheap, fringe guys will out-produce those players making million-plus contracts in your bottom six. Would you rather have Dakota Joshua at $0.8m or Tanner Pearson at $3.2m? Brisebois or trading a second round pick for Stillman? When you wind up with the former players, you wind up with players that are still playing for their next NHL contract and, at the very least, continue to put the effort in, even when we’re 60 games into a season that won’t end with a playoff game.

It’s also important to track the tangible on-ice improvements with the club. How much of this strong play is due to score effects and a weak schedule, versus how much of it is a tangible improvement in how the Canucks move the puck or support it? I’d rather not leave that to guesswork. The problem is that watching the games and tracking them is the harder task than sitting down to analyze, and I haven’t had much time to properly go over all the data from the Tocchet era.

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