Willes: Shot-happy Canucks make it look simple
Putting the puck on net, as espoused by coach Tortorella, pays dividends in win over Oilers
You looked at the sheet at the end of the game and you weren’t sure if it was from an NHL game or an NBA game.
Ryan Kesler: Nine shots. Jason Garrison and Daniel Sedin: Six each. The Canucks as a team: 44 shots. And they actually hit a dry spell in the second period.
This could be because the Edmonton Oilers were mounting a comeback. It could also be the Canucks were arm weary after the first 35 minutes when they produced some 30 shots on Devan Dubnyk and directed another 25 at the beleaguered Oilers’ keeper.
“We shot a lot tonight and it was good to see,” Kesler said in the aftermath of the Canucks 6-2 win in their home-opener on Saturday night.
“When you shoot that much you’re going to get six goals. It’s tough on the goalies. I think they ran out of steam in the third. When you shoot that much, when you’re playing that much with the puck, you’re going to tire out the other team.”
And the stats man.
“I don’t think it’s a difficult instruction to grasp,” said Kevin Bieksa said of the shoot-first mentality preached by coach John Tortorella.
“Shoot the puck on net. It kind of dumbs down the game a bit and makes it easier. If you know you’re winger is going to throw the puck on the net, you go to the net.”
Yes, sometimes it is a simple game. And the Canucks made it look simple on Saturday night. Two games in and it’s now apparent the way of Torts isn’t especially complicated or ambiguous.
At one end, the object is to get as many pucks as humanly possible on the opposition’s net.
At the other, it’s to collapse around goalie Roberto Luongo and shut down every shooting angle between the puck and the Canucks’ goalie.
Now the latter strategy — as witnessed by Alex Burrows’ walking cast — will be the source of a continuing conversation around the Canucks this season. But Saturday night offered a graphic representation of the efficacy of the latter ploy and it seems the Orcans have become true believers in shoot first, ask questions later.
Seldom, in fact, have you seen a Canucks’ team that was so obsessed with shooting the puck on the net.
And it wasn’t just the volume of actual shots. It’s the 11 more which they missed the net. It’s the 19 shots which were blocked by the Oilers.
Add it up and the Canucks directed 74 shots at Dubnyk.
This, we remind, is the Canucks. The team of passing fancy. The team of which a generation of fans has shouted themselves hoarse, pleading: “Shoot the frickin’ puck. Please, for the love of god, shoot the puck.”
Apparently, that’s no longer a problem. In the first period alone, the Canucks had 22 shots on Dubnyk and for most of that frame, it seemed like an exercise in over-indulgence.
Then Dan Hamhuis’s long-range slapper caught a hometown bounce off Oilers defenceman Jeff Petry for the Canucks’ second goal and the blood was in the water.
Jannik Hansen scored 18 seconds later. Daniel and Kesler scored in the second. And there could have been more. Midway through the second period, the Canucks had recorded 30 shots on goal and while their execution wasn’t as crisp over the game’s final 25 minutes, they kept up the pressure.
“There are a lot of shots you put on net and nothing happens,” said Bieksa. “But you keep throwing it on net and eventually you get rebounds and you get a bounce.”
And it wasn’t just the big guns who were shooting. Fourth-liner Tom Sestito had a couple of shots and a couple more that went wide.
The defence as a group had 15 shots. And Garrison’s diligence finally paid off late in the game when he launched a clearing attempt from behind his own goal-line which travelled the length of the ice before rolling in the empty net.
“Actually, he called that,” said Bieksa. “He came to the bench and said, ‘Kiss of the glass, roll it on one end.’ ”
See, Torts is right.
Good things happen when you shot the puck on the net.
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