Christmas can be a wonderful time of year, when you gather with friends and family to give gifts, eat food, and share stories. It can also be an incredibly stressful time of year, full of passive-aggressive gifts that highlight a personal flaw, food you can barely taste because of an awful cold, and family members that only want to tell you about the latest conspiracy theory they read on Facebook.
I don’t know what kind of Christmas was had by Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen, but he didn’t look particularly well-rested on Thursday night against the Canucks.
The Canucks did all their scoring in the first period of this game, tallying four goals on just six shots on Koskinen. It was all the scoring they needed, as Jacob Markstrom picked up right where he left off heading into the Christmas break, limiting the Oilers to just two goals for the 4-2 win.
How about you? Restful Christmas? Stressful Christmas? Some combination of both? An entirely different religious or non-religious holiday that has been exaggerated in importance due to its proximity to Christmas?
I had a little rest and a little stress in the days before I watched this game.
- Ken Hitchcock did his best to get Connor McDavid away from the shutdown pairing of Alex Edler and Chris Tanev, and the line of Loui Eriksson, Bo Horvat, and Jake Virtanen, even sending out the third line for the opening faceoff instead of McDavid. Travis Green was still able to get the Shutdown Five out against McDavid for around half of his 22+ minutes at 5-on-5; they were effective in that time, out-shooting the Oilers when head-to-head with McDavid.
- McDavid got his points, of course, as the Oilers ended the Canucks’ penalty-killing streak at 22, going 2-for-3 with the man advantage. McDavid had the primary assist on both goals in similar ways: the penalty kill got fixated on McDavid, he asked, “Why are you so obsessed with me?” then he hit a wide open teammate with a pass for a great scoring chance and goal.
- The Canucks scored on their first shot of the game. Milan Lucic was too slow to move the puck out of his own zone and Tyler Motte knocked it off his stick. Then Antoine “Rooster” Roussel made a great backhand pass off the boards back to Motte, who was able to walk straight up the slot thanks to Jay Beagle running some subtle interference. Motte’s wrist shot was a laser into the top corner, but fortunately it was also a puck, as an intense beam of light entering the net doesn’t count as a goal.
1️⃣ shot fired— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) December 28, 2018
1️⃣ goal scored
1️⃣ efficient start pic.twitter.com/gwIJod6Z1U
- Motte played a hard-nosed, physical game to go with his goal, though the hard nose is just a metaphor given how he went slowly back to the bench in the third period after going nose first into the boards. Motte had four hits, including a couple noticeably big ones, and played some significant minutes against the McDavid line, as Hitchcock did his best to get his top player out against the Canucks’ fourth line.
- The Canucks made it 2-0 on their second shot of the game. Ben Hutton had his pocket picked in the neutral zone, but Nikolay Goldobin scooped up the puck, gained the zone, and sent a pass to Elias Pettersson through Matt Benning’s legs. Pettersson, while singing “Anything You Can Do” from Annie Get Your Gun, outdid Goldobin’s nifty pass with a slick hook pass back to Brock Boeser for the easy finish.
- Roussel had two points in this game, but he also got caught puck-watching on the Oilers’ first goal. He lost sight of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins sneaking in behind him and had his stick in the wrong passing lane when McDavid found the hyphenated one at the back door.
- Overall, it was a tough game for the pairing of Derrick Pouliot and Alex Biega: the Canucks didn’t get a single shot on goal with either of those two players on the ice at 5-on-5, while giving up a dozen shots against. They spent the vast majority of their time on the ice in the defensive zone, which is a little like spending your entire time at a buffet at the salad bar.
- To be fair, the Canucks got one shot on goal as a result of a great zone exit by Pouliot: he sent a great stretch pass up Goldobin, who flipped it to Pettersson, but by the time Pettersson ripped a wrist shot top corner past Koskinen on the short side, Pouliot had already stepped onto the bench for a line change.
Best player in the world scores again pic.twitter.com/aOexQ6dm3L— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) December 28, 2018
- In a move that is sure to provoke no reaction whatsoever from Oilers fans, Sportsnet compared Elias Pettersson’s first 34 games in the NHL to Connor McDavid’s first 34 games. It’s a comparison that shines pretty favourably on Pettersson, who has scored more goals and points to this point in his rookie season than McDavid did in his own NHL debut.
- Something to keep in mind is that McDavid was 18, while Pettersson was 19 to start the season and has already turned 20. Of course, the other thing to keep in mind is that Pettersson is scoring at a similar pace at this point as McDavid did last season when he won the Art Ross. McDavid had 12 goals and 40 points in his first 34 games last season, when he was 20 on opening night and turned 21 in January. Pettersson is scoring at a fantastic rate for any player at any age.
- A minute after Pettersson made it 3-1, the Canucks added one more, scoring their fourth goal on six shots with just 11 seconds left in the period. Roussel took advantage of some chaos created by Bo Horvat on the forecheck, quickly beating Koskinen five-hole after the puck bounced to him off Adam Larsson’s stick. It’s not Koskinen’s fault: normally you hear the distinct sounds of Alice in Chains letting you know the Rooster is coming before he takes a shot.
- That was it for Koskinen, who was pulled in favour of Cam Talbot before the second period. Koskinen finished with a .333 save percentage. I mean, it wasn’t Andrew Hammonds 36 seconds of action against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the AHL, when he allowed three goals on three shots, giving him a save percentage of .000 and a goals against average of 300.00, but it still wasn’t good.
- At one point in the second period, John Shorthouse made the point that it had been a long time since an Oilers goaltender had made a save. Koskinen stopped a Jake Virtanen shot with 10:32 left in the first period, the Canucks scored on their next two shots, then the Canucks didn’t have another shot until 8:43 into the second period. That’s 19 minutes and 15 seconds without a save, just short of a full period of action.
- The Oilers made it 4-2 with another power play goal, as Markus Granlund was a little over-aggressive while marking Nugent-Hopkins, leaving Leon Draisaitl behind him with too much time and space to walk in and pick a corner. Edler tried to get out to block the shot, even trying to make a road hockey glove save, but he couldn’t come up with the puck.
- The Pettersson line got little ice time as the game progressed, particularly in the third period. Either Travis Green was resting Goldobin, Pettersson, and Boeser or he wanted more of the fourth line on the ice to defend the two-goal lead. Jay Beagle ended up second among Canucks forwards in ice time with just over 20 minutes, while Goldobin played just 10:20.
- While Jacob Markstrom had a strong game, making 30 saves on 32 shots, he also got some help. The Oilers hit two posts and a crossbar, which had the Edmonton crowd buzzing more than when an opposing player dares to lightly touch McDavid without the referees immediately calling a five-minute major.
- The Oilers pulled out all the stops (Cam Talbot’s nickname is “All the Stops”) to try to tie the game late. McDavid had a great chance, busting through the neutral zone with speed, then flying around a flat-footed Edler to cut to the net, but Erik Gudbranson foiled his scoring chance with a well-timed stick lift.