Let’s be blunt: this was a bad hockey game.
Keep in mind that these are two teams battling for the playoffs: the Coyotes and Canucks finished the game one and two points out of the final Wild Card spot, with the same number of games played as the incumbent Minnesota Wild. These are two teams that should be dialed in and playing their best hockey of the season.
Instead, it was a sloppy game with the bulk of the shots coming from distance and few real scoring chances.
It’s a shame, because the highlights were legitimately high, particularly in comparison to the lows of the rest of the game. Both Canucks goals involved some serious skill and the overtime game-winner from Alex Galchenyuk evoked the most famous goal of Doug Gilmour’s career.
It’s like a sandwich with a couple amazing ingredients, but slathered with light mayonnaise in between two slices of bread so stale it may as well be cardboard. It was like a waste of good roast beef when I watched this game.
- One of the issues in this game is that there wasn’t much in the way of back-and-forth action. The best games feature teams trading chances, with exciting rushes up the ice that bring the crowd to the edge of their seats until they can explode out of them when the puck hits the back of the net (or is prevented from doing so by a marvelous save). Instead, this game had long stretches of one team dominating the shot clock, then passing the baton to the opposition for their turn to dominate the shot clock.
- To whit, the Coyotes out-shot the Canucks 8-1 in the first seven minutes. Then the Canucks out-shot the Coyotes 12-0 over the next nine minutes. That kind of territorial dominance can be exciting at times, but most of the shots were just players throwing the puck towards the net from the point or the boards.
- This was Ryan Spooner’s first game with the Canucks and he acquitted himself well alongside Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser. He showed a little speed, nifty stickhandling, and led all Canucks forwards with four shots on goal. As debuts go, it was definitely better than that of Delgo, which grossed $511,920 on 2000+ screens on its opening weekend. Sure, that's a pretty low bar, but I think if we measured most things in life against Delgo, everyone would feel a whole lot better.
- The Canucks opened the scoring thanks to a lovely pass by Markus Granlund, making that his second even-strength assist in his last 41 games. You wouldn’t know he was struggling to set up goals, however, given his nifty between-the-legs pass off the boards to Antoine Roussel, who also made a great backhand feed to a streaking Bo Horvat for the finish.
- Much was made of Tyler Motte playing with Horvat and Josh Leivo heading into the game, but Motte still only received third-line ice time. Horvat ended up frequently double-shifting with Roussel and Granlund as well, taking several of Adam Gaudette’s shifts. Gaudette ended up with just 9:40 in ice time.
- Travis Green said that a “gut feeling” made him put Tim Schaller back into the lineup after a string of scratches. I’m not sure whether it was his gut or some other internal organ that gave Schaller just 8:08 in ice time, but perhaps he had just been listening to some Kanye West and made sure to land right on 8:08 as a tribute. To further the tribute, Schaller was quite possibly heartbroken.
- Elias Pettersson was held off the scoresheet, but he still provided a highlight in the second period when he erased a shorthanded rush for the Coyotes with a strong backcheck, then unceremoniously threw the 6’4”, 220 lbs Lawson Crouse to the ice. He’s like Bootie Cothran from American Ninja Warrior — skinny and lightweight, but full of wiry strength that catches people off guard.
- The Coyotes dominated the third period, out-shooting the Canucks 20-5 as the Canucks tried to hold onto their one-goal lead. There was a game earlier this season when the Canucks didn’t even manage 20 shots over an entire game, and they gave up that many in just one period. As Pete Campbell once said, “Not great, Bob.”
- Despite Jacob Markstrom’s best efforts, the Coyotes tied the game on a third period power play caused by an awful turnover and penalty by Derrick Pouliot. Jakob “Chicken Run” Chychrun’s point shot deflected off Jay Beagle’s stick and went flying into the top corner like a stop-motion chicken in a makeshift airplane, a simile that only makes sense if you’ve seen Chicken Run.
- The Coyotes took the lead thanks to a couple Canucks being second to the puck and one not taking his man. Derek Stepan beat Erik Gudbranson to a dump-in, then chipped the puck behind the net, where Josh Archibald beat Ashton Sautner to the puck and centred for Crouse. Adam Gaudette got caught puck-watching and Crouse found a soft spot behind him for the quick finish past Markstrom.
- Gaudette quickly made up for his miscue with a ridiculous wrist shot. Boeser sent a pretty cross-ice pass to Roussel to enter the zone and Gaudette snuck in behind an over-aggressive Jordan Oesterle to take Roussel’s pass and rip the puck bardown. It doesn’t count unless you go bardownski.
- Apart from some early over-aggressiveness that gave Mario Kempe a great scoring chance and the one goal against, I thought Erik Gudbranson and Ashton Sautner had a solid game for the Canucks. They made some nice defensive plays, played a tough physical game, and kept the puck moving in the right direction all night. It helped that they only played a little over 12 minutes each and were largely sheltered from top competition, but maybe they can be a decent third pairing while Alex Edler and Chris Tanev are out.
- Troy Stecher was the big minute man in this game, logging over 30 minutes for the second time this season. It seems crazy now that Stecher was on the third pairing to start the season and was even a healthy scratch in November, as he’s proven himself to be one of the Canucks’ best defencemen. That sounds like a backhanded compliment, but it’s not intended as one.
- The Canucks earned a point for pushing the game to overtime, but the Coyotes took home two points thanks to Galchenyuk’s overtime game-winner. Galchenyuk was fresh off the bench, while Pettersson and Boeser were tired from a long shift. Galchenyuk drove behind the net, then quickly cut back as Markstrom slid across to the other post, tucking the puck in before either Markstrom or Boeser could get back.