When one team gets more shots in one period than the other team gets in the entire game, you know something has gone horribly awry.
The Canucks didn’t look like they belonged on the same ice as the Golden Knights. It was like Apollo Creed versus Ivan Drago and no one would throw the damn towel. Also, just like Creed and Drago, the Canucks barely had any defence. And it was in Vegas. Lots of parallels, here.
While the Golden Knights looked down without pity and said, “If they die, they die,” just one thing kept the Canucks from kicking the bucket: Jacob Markstrom.
Markstrom faced 89 shot attempts from the Golden Knights, 48 of them on net; the Canucks had just 47 shot attempts total. The Golden Knights weren’t just throwing little jabs from a distance. The bulk of their shots were from in tight: massive, devastating hooks and uppercuts that Markstrom somehow kept parrying away.
It was the fourth time this season that Markstrom has faced 45+ shots and the third time this month. The goaltender finished with 45 saves, the most saves he’s made all season.
In retrospect, the Canucks might have had more energy if they hadn’t participated in the 20-minute dance number with James Brown before I watched this game.
- Very few Canucks seemed ready for the early afternoon start time, but Nikolay Goldobin was one of them. Ever since he wasn’t sent packing at the trade deadline, Goldobin seems to be playing with renewed confidence. It was like the constant worry of potentially having to uproot his entire life at a moment’s notice was weighing on him or something.
- Goldobin started playing a complete game right from his first shift, when he stole a puck on the forecheck and set up Elias Pettersson for one of the Canucks’ only scoring chances. On the same shift, he was just as diligent on the backcheck, picking a pocket and sending the Canucks the other way once again. He was the only player that didn’t see the Canucks get out-shot when he was on the ice at 5-on-5 and the Canucks actually out-chanced the Golden Knights 8-5 with Goldobin on the ice.
- There was a scary moment for Goldobin late in the second period, however, when he took a hit to the head from Mark Stone. It looked unintentional — Goldobin turned and reached for a puck at the same moment Stone was reaching for it — but it still took Goldobin out of the game for the remainder of the second period. He returned for the third period, which hopefully means he won’t suffer any further issues from the hit.
- Generally speaking, you don’t want your fourth-line centre playing more than your leading scorer, particularly when you’re trailing for most of the game and need offence. Jay Beagle played 17:18, Elias Pettersson played 16:40. Beagle wasn’t even in a matchup role — that responsibility fell to Bo Horvat and his linemates. Scoring chances were 13-3 for the Golden Knights when Beagle was on the ice at 5-on-5 — he and his linemates got hemmed in the defensive zone like a pair of jeans.
- Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher have been fantastic over the last month or so, filling in as top-pairing defencemen in the absence of Alex Edler and Chris Tanev. This, however, was not their best game. The Golden Knights’ relentless attack kept them constantly on their back foot, struggling to move the puck up ice, but Travis Green had little option but to keep throwing them back on the ice. They both finished with over 26 minutes in ice time.
- Markstrom was remarkable, particularly down low on the ice, as he made some fantastic pad saves on redirections. He closed off a Paul Stastny backdoor chance early in the first, kicked aside a Ryan Reaves tip and a Jon Merrill 3-on-2 chance in the second, and hung his left leg to rob Stastny again on a rebound in the third. He was producing pads out of nowhere like “Period. End of Sentence.”
- Markstrom stopped all 16 shots he faced in the first period to keep the game knotted at zero, but the Golden Knights finally got to him in the second. A Max Pacioretty one-timer beat him over the glove, mainly because he couldn’t see the shot off the stick through Brock Boeser. That’s the main flaw to Boeser’s game: his overall opacity.
- The Golden Knights struck again a couple minutes later after some scrambly play in the defensive zone off a faceoff won by Jay Beagle. Markstrom made the initial save, but his stick got caught up in Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s hyphen (or possibly his skates), and he couldn’t get across to stop Ryan Carpenter on the rebound.
- I said “some scrambly play in the defensive zone” as if that wasn’t the constant state of the Canucks in this game. The defence was all out of sorts. Fresh out. They used to have sorts, but they lost them at some point. Maybe their sorts were in their luggage and the airline accidentally sent them to Newark by mistake. Hopefully they’ll get their sorts back before their next game.
- As befitting a game in Vegas, there was some luck involved on the third goal. Brayden McNabb’s keep-in at the blue line took a weird hop off the glass at the same time that Markstrom left his net to play the puck. As a result, Markstrom never really got set and was left helpless when William Karlsson set up Reilly Smith at the back door.
- That was it for the scoring: three goals in the second period for a 3-0 shutout. Down by three after the second intermission, the Canucks managed just one shot on goal through the first 15 minutes of the third period. It was a wrist shot by Alex Edler from 64 feet. As LL Cool J would say, “Don’t call it a comeback,” except in this case it’s because the Canucks never even got turned around. They were like Austin Powers trying to execute a three-point turn.
- I don’t want to talk about this game anymore. I’m going to stop talking about this game now.