In a season as tightly-compacted as this one, injuries were an inevitability. In true Vancouver Canucks fashion, the team’s current injuries are compounding each other, with several hitting one specific position: centre.
Elias Pettersson, the team’s first-line centre, has been out since March 2, with still no firm timeline on his return. Their fourth-line centre, Jay Beagle, didn’t travel with the team on their road trip and only just returned to practice on Monday in a non-contact jersey. Then, ahead of the Canucks game against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday, Tyler Graovac took the ice for warm-up instead of their third-line centre, Brandon Sutter.
That left just Bo Horvat, the team’s second-line centre, in the lineup for the Canucks from their usual four centres.
Maybe that’s why the Canucks owner, Francesco Aquilini, celebrated the acquisition of a player off the waiver wire, not something an owner usually takes the time to address. Apparently Aquilini is very excited about Travis Boyd and also about injuries, based on his exuberant exclamation point.
On the other hand, perhaps Aquilini was predicting the future. Honestly, every Canucks fan should have seen it coming: if Horvat was the only healthy centre on the team, how likely was he to stay healthy?
A minute into the third period, Alex Edler blasted a slapshot towards the net. The puck never made it, instead colliding heavily with Horvat’s ankle. Horvat couldn’t put any weight on his left leg, practically crawling to the bench. Jets players reached out with their sticks from their bench to help push him the last few feet.
Horvat didn’t go straight down the tunnel but only because he couldn’t make it. He collapsed a couple of steps in down to his hands and knees. That can’t be a good sign for Horvat, who obviously didn’t return.
That’s a major problem for a Canucks team that already faced a nigh-impossible uphill climb to try to make the playoffs. As much as the team has preached a “next man up” mentality when it comes to injuries, the Canucks are running out of centres.
Like too many Canucks centres at this point, I watched this game.
- It was Pride Night for the Canucks, which they mostly handled well. They set up a partnership with TD Bank to donate funds to QMUNITY, a local LGBTQ organization, and firmly shut down homophobic comments on their social media. The problems only started during the game when the Canucks DJ, Barron S, made some questionable music choices.
- Clearly attempting to fit the Pride Night theme, Barron S played several songs that could be termed “gay anthems,” but also played songs like Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” a song that has been used to attack transgender women, and Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” which even Perry has admitted is problematic. It almost seemed like Barron S googled LGBTQ-related songs, landed on Wikipedia, and ended her search.
- It’s not the first time Barron S has made questionable song choices. Her use of “Chelsea Dagger,” a song famously used as a goal song by the Chicago Blackhawks at the height of their rivalry with the Canucks, was a faux pas, but her song choices during Hockey Talks Night in 2019 were far worse. On a night all about mental health, Barron S queued up “Where is My Mind?” by The Pixies for the ceremonial faceoff.
- Unlike Barron S, the Canucks weren’t very offensive in this game, getting shut out by Connor Hellebuyck. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, however, as they hit four posts and crossbars.
- “They got the bounces tonight, obviously,” said Jordie Benn. “I think we hit three posts in the third, it could have been a different game if those go in.”
- “I thought our team played their asses off tonight,” said Travis Green. “It wasn’t a mistake-free game, it’s one-nothing going into the third period...We talked to our team about it being a tight game and expect a tight-checking game — it’s going to come down to little details, a little bounce here, a little bounce there — and that’s exactly what we had. It was a tighter game than a four-nothing game, it felt like.”
- Green isn’t wrong. The Canucks didn’t exactly play poorly — the line of Brock Boeser, Horvat, and Nils Höglander had some particularly dangerous shifts — and the Jets did get some fortunate bounces. Overall, though, the Jets were the better team, bounces or no bounces.
- The Jets opened the scoring on a bad pinch by Edler, resulting in a 2-on-1. As Nate Schmidt slid to the ice to take the pass away, Blake Wheeler surprised Thatcher Demko with a quick shot, catching the goaltender still anticipating the pass. “Good play by him,” admitted Demko after the game.
- The score would stay 1-0 until the third period thanks to some sharp saves by both Demko and Hellebuyck. Demko’s best save came on a 2-on-1 where he read the passing more effectively than on the opening goal. He showed more flexibility than graphene to stretch back while keeping his right pad flat on the ice to prevent Wheeler from sliding the puck under after a return pass from Paul Stastny.
- Zack MacEwen had two of the Canucks’ best scoring chances of the game in the second period, but just couldn’t find the back of the net. He got his first chance after coming out of the penalty box. He made an amazing drag move around a sprawling Neal Pionk and then fired the puck with tremendous force right into the logo on Hellebuyck’s jersey.
- Perhaps that moment was in MacEwen’s head for his second great chance. Antoine Roussel made a lovely drop pass to MacEwen and he ripped the shot high and wide from the right faceoff circle. Honestly, this isn’t meant as criticism. If MacEwen can keep getting chances like this, the puck should start going in for him: he had five goals in just 17 games last season.
- I really liked this nifty little move J.T. Miller pulled on Mark Scheifele, flipping the puck between the centre’s legs before setting up a chance for Tyler Motte. I don’t have anything profound to say about it; I just like it, is all.
- After Horvat left the game, everything went higgledy-piggledy in a hurry. The Jets made it 2-0 on a goofy goober of a goal. Adam Lowry came down the right wing and tried to pass it across to Andrew Copp, but the puck hit Travis Hamonic’s stick, then his leg, causing it to somersault over Demko’s head and into the net.
- Copp and Lowry combined more intentionally on the 3-0 goal. Josh Morrissey clearly doesn't hate it when his friends become successful, assisting on the goal with a pass to Copp down low, who tipped the puck across to Lowry at the back door, who was left open by Graovac to tuck the puck in the open net.
- With three minutes left, the Canucks tried to pull Demko for a last-ditch effort at the comeback, but it backfired when Tyler Myers made an ill-advised pass at centre instead of getting the puck deep. The pass handcuffed Höglander, forcing Demko had to scramble back into his crease as the Jets countered, but he couldn’t get set before Stastny beat him on the blocker side.