Vancouverites woke up this morning, turned on the radio, and heard all about how Canucks coach Willie Desjardins got out-coached in last night’s 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames.
Many listeners did not disagree.
In particular, people wanted to know — why did Daniel Sedin, a top-10 scorer in the NHL during the regular season, only play 16:14 while forwards like Nick Bonino (16:24) and Chris Higgins (16:53) played more? The former was the best Canuck, Corsi-wise, in the game; the latter two were the worst. So it’s not like the coach could say he was just rewarding the guys who were playing well.
Desjardins was asked about it following this morning’s practice.
“We play our best when we’re fresh,” he said. “Maybe [the Sedins] should have had a couple more minutes, probably wouldn’t have hurt. But … there’s no sense burning them out one game. They’re going to be fresh for the next game, and maybe in the end that’ll pay off.”
This storyline is, of course, an extension from last year when then-coach John Tortorella was accused of overplaying the Sedins. Ever since taking over, Desjardins has preached a four-line mantra, a philosophy that paid off in a return to form for the twins and a playoff berth for the team.
Still, just 16:14 for Daniel? And only 4:45 in the third period when the game was on the line? That’s going to get people talking.
Desjardins is apparently taking the long view here. The most any Canuck played in Game 1 was 22:11, logged by defenseman Alex Edler. Radim Vrbata led the forwards at 17:50; Henrik Sedin played just 17:29.
In stark contrast, Flames coach Bob Hartley rode his top players, with three d-men — Dennis Wideman (30:03), Kris Russell (29:07), and T.J. Brodie (26:05) — playing big minutes. Sean Monahan led the forwards with 20:09.
We’ll see how it pays off for each coach. Desjardins will be hoping it’s a long series and that his rested players can eventually take over from the theoretically fatigued Flames. Hartley will be hoping for a short one, with time to rest up for the second round.
Game 2 goes tomorrow in Vancouver.