This Canucks season would have been an unwatchable without Elias Pettersson. That’s not a revolutionary statement, by any means, but it’s still true.
When the Sedins retired, it was tough to see where the offence would come from, apart from the general offensiveness of the Canucks’ defence corps. The only way the Canucks could possibly avoid their goal totals plummeting this season was if Pettersson immediately became a first-line centre in the NHL. What was the backup plan at centre? Brandon Sutter? Markus Granlund? Sam Gagner?
Thankfully, Pettersson was up to the task, silencing all doubters right from the opening game of the season. He’s been magnificent and now he holds the franchise record for most points by a rookie, breaking the record of 60 points set by Ivan Hlinka and matched by Pavel Bure. Pettersson is so good, that he tied and broke the Canucks’ rookie record with assists on goals by Tim Schaller and Markus Granlund. He’s like the White Queen from Through the Looking-Glass, only, instead of believing six impossible things before breakfast, he tries to accomplish six impossible things per game.
Next step, as so astutely pointed out by some guy on Twitter, is passing the combined totals of Daniel and Henrik Sedin in their rookie years. They combined for 29 goals and 63 points back in the 2000-01 season, which is well within Pettersson’s reach. He’s up to 27 goals and 61 points, just two goals and two points back.
It turns out, the Canucks only needed one player to replace both Sedins. I, for one, am looking forward to him winning back-to-back Art Ross Trophies in nine years with 197 and 198 points.
It was a distinct pleasure to see Pettersson break another rookie record when I watched this game.
- The Canucks are in trouble. They’ve picked up points in four-straight games, winning three of them. This little streak hasn’t really brought them any closer to making the playoffs, which is still a mathematical possibility, but it has brought them closer to what colleague Patrick Johnston has termed the Realm of Sadness: the area of the NHL standings where you are out of the playoffs, but also outside the top-10 picks at the NHL draft.
- Whether you’re #TeamTank or #TeamPlayoffs, you want to avoid the Realm of Sadness. Micah Blake McCurdy, the mathematical thaumaturge that runs HockeyViz.com, has “Sadness” ratings, which measure the chances of missing the playoffs and not picking in the top five. Before this game, the Canucks had a 78% chance of that result. Not as bad as the Ottawa Senators, who have a 100% chance of that result since they don’t own their 2019 first-round pick; the Colorado Avalanche do, thanks to the Matt Duchene trade.
- Thatcher Demko got the start on the second half of back-to-back games and was superb. Really, he should start as many games as possible down the stretch. He needs to see more NHL action, the Canucks need to get a better look at him at the NHL level, and nothing matters anymore anyway. Why not? Eat Arby’s.
- Demko didn’t look great on the opening power play goal by Jonathan Toews, which slid underneath him like Indiana Jones escaping a doomed temple. The puck even had time to reach back and grab its hat before Demko got all the way down to the ice in his butterfly. Like when I saw The Smiths’ guitarist perform with Modest Mouse, it was the only mar on a perfect night.
- It was, admittedly, a weird goal. Demko had lost his stick earlier in the net and retrieved it just before the goal, so might have been a little off balance or holding his stick in an awkward manner. There was also a lot of traffic in front and Toews’ tip navigated through that traffic like a dabbawala in Mumbai.
- The Canucks have had some power play struggles in the back half of the season, but it was incredibly efficient on Monday. They needed just four seconds to score on their lone power play of the game. Bo Horvat won the faceoff against Toews, then Alex Edler threw a quick shot on net, with both Horvat and Josh Leivo in the shooting lane looking for tips like a hustling street performer. According to the official scorer’s, however, neither of them touched the puck. Edler got credit for the goal, which appeared to deflect off Slater Koekkoek in front.
- Bo Horvat wears number 53, that assist was his 53rd point of the season, and it came 53 seconds into the second period. And, get this, the Joker is the 53rd card in a traditional deck. That has nothing to do with Horvat, but there are a limited number of facts about the number 53, though it is a prime number, which also has nothing to do with Horvat, but is pretty neat.
- The Canucks dominated the second period overall, out-shooting the Blackhawks 11-4. Keep in mind, the Blackhawks were supposed to still be in the playoff hunt, even if their chances are barely better than the Canucks. They had won five-straight games, with Corey Crawford playing out of his mind. And this desperate team still holding out hope managed just four shots on goal in a period against a team that played the night before. I’m sorry, Chicago, but I just don’t think they’re going to make it.
- The Canucks took the lead off a lovely play by Pettersson, first making a nifty move through his legs to escape the defensive zone, then, after an initial foray into the offensive zone failed, sneaking a pass through to Boeser off a neutral zone regroup. Boeser carried into the slot while Troy Stecher drove the net, then sent a shot low off Corey Crawford’s left pad, creating a rebound for Granlund to chip in.
- At one point a referee got hit with a puck and John Shorthouse said, “You could hear him grimace,” before taking a moment to ponder, “Is grimace a sound?” No, it is not, explained John Garrett, to which Short replied, “Grimace is your favourite character from a certain restaurant,” which seems a cruel thing to bring up when Garrett is fasting from ketchup for Lent. Incidentally, there is no consensus whatsoever on what Grimace actually is.
- Loui Eriksson has one goal in his last 23 games. It’s hard to believe that he was once known for his finish around the net, as he had three great chances in this game and just couldn’t score. On one in the third period, he literally had the entire net to shoot at, as Crawford had slid right out of his crease and was beside the net. Eriksson still somehow found a way to shoot it directly at Crawford. Sure, Gustav Forsling got his stick in the way, but my goodness, you’ve got to put more moxie behind that puck so a guy with one hand on his stick can’t block it.
- If the Blackhawks’ second period was pathetic, they made up for it with 17 shots in the third period. Demko, however, was fantastic, particularly on a late penalty kill. His puck tracking was locked in and he made difficult saves look simple with great positioning and control.
- It took a baffling play by Edler to beat Demko. Erik Gustafsson sent a long point shot towards the net, which was a can of corn for Demko. Unfortunately, Edler is seemingly a fan of corn and tried to make the save instead, accidentally knocking it into his own net in the process. Look, Edler, if you’re going to be a road hockey goalie, you need a baseball glove or at least a baseball hat, so you can actually catch the puck.
- That goal got the game to overtime, but clearly the Canucks didn’t want to spend any more time in Chicago than they had to. They needed just 16 seconds to end overtime. Edler made up for his earlier blunder by weaving his way into the Blackhawks’ zone, then playing a give-and-give-and-go with Horvat. As Horvat finished off the passing play, Jonathan “Perennial Selke Candidate” Toews half-heartedly tapped his stick as he skated by.
- The assist gave Edler a two-point night — three points, if you count the own goal — in just over 26 minutes of action, with the majority of those minutes coming against the Blackhawks’ top line of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Dylan Sikura. Apart from the mistake on the tying goal, Edler was fantastic.