On Thursday, the Canucks gave up 49 shots to the Chicago Blackhawks but, thanks to a brilliant goaltending performance by Jacob Markstrom, came away with the 3-0 win.
That kind of team performance ought to be a wake-up call — a clear message that what they’re doing simply isn’t good enough for a playoff-caliber team. That kind of performance against a bottom-five team in the Western Conference can’t be acceptable and you can’t expect your goaltender to swoop in and save the day every single game.
How would the Canucks respond?
It turns out, they’d respond by losing 5-1 to another bottom-five team in the Western Conference.
This was only the second time in the last 10 games that the Canucks have outshot their opponent, but it was simultaneously one of their most lacklustre efforts of the season. They looked sloppy, they struggled to create clear scoring chances and gave Thatcher Demko little chance on the goals from the Anaheim Ducks. Not even the garish orange jerseys of the Ducks could wake the Canucks up.
Just like that, the Canucks have lost five of their last seven games, with three of those losses coming by four goals. They’ve been overtaken for first in the Pacific Division by the Edmonton Oilers and are just four points ahead of the ninth-place Nashville Predators, who have a game in hand. You can’t afford to get too comfortable in the race for the playoffs.
I also couldn’t afford to get too comfortable on Sunday afternoon, as I nearly had an afternoon nap while I watched this game.
- The game started off with one final tribute to Daniel and Henrik Sedin, this one from some of the kids they’ve impacted via gifts of their money and time over the years. There were kids from Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, Canucks Autism Network, B.C. Hockey, Canucks Family Education Centre and B.C. Children’s Hospital, all thanking the Sedins for the impact they’ve made in their lives. It was a fitting way to end Sedin Week given the tremendous contributions the Sedins have made to Vancouver as well as the rest of B.C.
- Once the puck dropped, the game was marked by defensive breakdowns that left the Canucks floundering defensively. It wasn’t just the fault of the defencemen either: the Canucks’ team defence was a mess.
- Take the first goal for example. Some will slag Troy Stecher for the poor angle on his stick as attempted to disrupt a cross-crease pass, instead deflecting the puck into his own net. The bigger issue is how a three on five for the Ducks turned into a two on one down low: Antoine Roussel got caught puck-watching as Adam Henrique skated in on the left wing, where Nick Ritchie found him with a cross-ice saucer pass. But the focus of every replay was the bad-luck deflection, not the avoidable error.
- Perhaps Stecher was frustrated by the own goal, because he gave the referee an earful after he was on the receiving end of a high hit from Ritchie. Stecher’s language was evidently enough to offend the referee’s freakin’ ears, and he gave Stecher an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. “Well, I expect that type of language at Denny's, but not here!” referee Chris Lee probably said.
- More likely, Stecher was frustrated because he had just been blatantly held by Ritchie a moment earlier in the shift. Stecher clearly felt the ref had missed two obvious calls, in his eyes, and his mouth took off running like Andre De Grasse.
- The Ducks took a 2-0 lead on the power play, making it a costly penalty for Stecher. Ryan Getzlaf made a superb backhand pass from behind the net, catching Demko looking the wrong way, but Alex Edler left goal scorer Derek Grant wide open at the side of the net. Instead of checking him, Edler made like Christopher McCandless and went where there was no one.
- The Canucks did manage to create some shots from in tight in this game, but too often they were contested shots: shots with sticks and skates and bodies in the way or battling for the puck, making it tough to get a clean look at the net. They also didn’t get John Gibson moving much in the Ducks’ net, and Gibson is far too good a goaltender to not challenge with more side-to-side puck movement.
- To be fair, the Canucks also hit a couple posts. Elias Pettersson tipped a Jordie Benn point shot past Gibson, but it clunked off the post, while Quinn Hughes sent a blast off the crossbar. The trouble is that even if those two attempts had gone in, the Canucks still would have lost by two.
- Zach MacEwen, at least, had a good game. His line with Tanner Pearson and Bo Horvat was the Canucks’ best, and it had a lot to do with MacEwen’s work along the boards and in front of the net. The Canucks’ out-shot the Ducks 12-3 when MacEwen was on the ice at five on five, and he had a game-high five hits. He even flashed some fancy hands with this Bulisian move off the boards.
- The Ducks made it 3-0 in the second period on the power play, with Troy Terry sending a pass directly through the slot to Adam Henrique for the wide open net. The Canucks’ penalty kill has to clog those lanes like Granville Street during rush hour.
- Elias Pettersson responded with the Canucks’ lone goal of the game. All season, opposing penalty kills have cheated towards Pettersson, not allowing him clear one-timers, but Pettersson and Hughes created some space with a couple quick passes and Pettersson sent the puck flying over Gibson’s shoulder like Yngwie Malmsteen’s guitar.
- There was a big kerfuffle at the end of the second period after Max Jones hit Pettersson hard into the boards — cleanly, I might add. Tyler Myers took exception and delivered a couple of crosschecks to Jones, then dropped the gloves when Jakob Silfverberg stepped in. Silfverberg was uninterested in catching his hands, so Josh Manson came flying in like Hawlucha to wrestle Myers to the ice.
- That resulted in coincidental double minors, which was probably the right call. Myers started the confrontation and Manson wasn’t exactly the third man in because Silfverberg wasn’t really in. At first it looked like a wild overreaction by Manson, but Myers already had his gloves off with an unwilling opponent.
- MacEwen wasn’t the only Canuck with a strong game; Quinn Hughes was the Canucks’ best player, leading the way with a whopping 26:56 in ice time, with the Canucks out-shooting the Ducks 20-7 at five on five when he was on the ice. At one point early in the third period, Hughes seemed to suddenly realize he was way better than anyone else on the ice and utterly dominated an entire shift.
- Unfortunately, that dominance wasn’t enough to put the puck in the net and the Ducks responded not long after with the 4-1 goal. Adam Gaudette and Chris Tanev got their wires crossed and drove Rakell into Demko, knocking him over and making it easy for the wide-open Sam Steel to score. The noir-named Steel had four shots in him: a wrist, snap, slap and a bourbon. He went with the snap shot.
- Finally, the Ducks finished off the dead horse that was this game with a fifth goal. Jordie Benn got caught too high in the neutral zone, then had trouble turning to catch Grant, leaving Tanev with little option other than to Bieksa-slide to try to block the pass across. He didn’t succeed and Brenden Ghule tipped the puck past Demko.
- Demko allowed five goals on 28 shots, but “allowed” makes it seem like he had a choice. He was hung out to dry like a spandex jumpsuit. For instance, if anyone wants to tell me what in the world Tyler Myers was doing on this play, I would love to know. Jones was so open that he didn’t even know what to do with himself and just kind of passed the puck to Demko as if he felt sorry for him.
- · Demko wasn’t bad; he just wasn’t ludicrous, like Markstrom has been lately. The problem for the Canucks is that if their goaltender doesn’t stick his proverbial finger in the dike — or really, an entire bloody boat — the Canucks leak goals like crazy.