Gallagher: Line combinations still eluding Canucks
Getting the right chemistry, with the right players hasn’t happened yet this season
When Lars Eller found he had been credited with the goal the Vancouver Canucks put into their own goal in the second period, the one question he wanted answered is whether or not he gets a plus for being on the ice when his team scored.
Because after all, he wasn’t in fact, on the ice when it went in.
And while you could thus argue the Canucks scored one more goal than the one they were credited with Saturday night with their three-way passing play in their own zone, we’re finally down to what figures to be this team’s real problem this season.
Their fabled follies aside, they look like they’re going to have all kinds of difficulty scoring enough goals against decent teams. Shots are fine, makes the stat sheet look better, but you need goals.
Coach John Tortorella was again so in search of combinations that looked like they might get a sniff five-on-five that he went back to the old proven dead end of putting Jannik Hansen with the Sedins, something that Alain Vigneault spent five seasons proving was an absolute lost cause.
Yet it seems to be in this organization’s DNA as they go back to it over and over again, like an elephant finds its graveyard. While admittedly the number of options is limited, if you’re going to move Mike Santorelli away from your only scoring threats, you have to put Zack Kassian with the twins in the absence of Alex Burrows. As soon as Hansen gets with the Sedins, he forgets he’s the guy who got to the league and stayed here with hard work and thinks of himself as a playmaker-goal scorer. And that self-delusion is about as laughable as assigning that same description to Chris Higgins, who continues to generate shots — including those to the face of Habs defenceman P.K. Subban in the third period, but no goals. With Kesler showing signs of life but not scoring, unless there’s a ton of offence coming from the back end or the twins are having an exceptional night, offence is going to be a dream.
Brad Richardson is clearly incapable of generating any kind of consistent offence as a centre and ditto for Zac Dalpe. And now the new coach faces the prospect of taking this flawed lineup on the road where the opposing coach will have his choice of when to put out his top two lines.
So while it’s going to be difficult no matter how he formulates his lines, it seems charitable to at least give him some advice on how best to arrange this sorry lot.
For starters, he needs to put Hansen and Higgins with Richardson for this third line. Not much will happen, but at least you’ll bring out the real Hansen who always plays his best when he has to do things himself. For that matter, Higgins is the same way.
You put Kassian with the twins and hope like hell something clicks within that young head and he begins to find his way in this league. If he doesn’t, you’re hooped. Then perhaps some of Santorelli’s energy and magic will rub off on Kesler, who the team has always felt would play well with Booth. By the time the road trip gets too far along, Booth should begin to get into shape after missing training camp and begin to show what the team hopes he has.
If he’s got nothing, you once again snookered, even when Burrows gets back.
Clearly what Torts was using in the third period Saturday night was going nowhere, with the team not generating a shot until the ten-minute mark after the ‘own’ goal knocked the mental stuffing out of them and they shut down.
“A lot of times you feel on the bench that it’s not good, but in the last part of the period and in the third it felt like the bench was still upbeat,” said Henrik Sedin, perhaps a little into denial.
“But it’s a big goal to give up, it’s a 2-1 goal.”
“We didn’t play a good third period, whether it was a result of that, I don’t know,” said Tortorella. “To battle back and then give one up like that on the power play ... it’s a tough one to eat.”
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Montreal Canadiens’ goalie Carey Price’s mask is knocked back by Vancouver Canucks’ Ryan Kesler, centre, as he’s checked by Canadiens’ Andrei Markov, of Russia, during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver on Saturday.
Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, THE CANADIAN PRESS