I much prefer the getting-into-a-shootout Canucks to the playing-for-a-shootout Canucks. That’s simply an aesthetic judgement: firewagon hockey is a lot more fun to watch than a tight-checking, low-event hunker.
The Canucks had no choice, really: a terrible mistake by Jacob Markstrom meant they were down early, then the overall dominance of the Cup-contender Jets meant they were down for the rest of the game too. When you’re chasing the lead, you can’t afford to sit back: you have to push the pace.
So the Canucks pushed, keeping this game far closer than it had any right to be. By some miracle, it was a one-goal game heading into the third period, despite the Jets out-shooting the Canucks 33-to-16 at that point. The Canucks have had 33 or more shots in an entire game just five times this season.
The Jets, however, are just too skilled, too fast, too strong, and too deep. At this point in the NHL, they’re the best example of patient rebuilding and you can see the results: they have talented depth at every position. The Canucks, who are not only not as deep but also suffering from far more injuries, just couldn’t keep up.
I watched this game.
- Sam Gagner made his return to Vancouver and started the game on a line with Elias Pettersson and Nikolay Goldobin before shifting to the Bo Horvat line. He was one of the best Canucks on the ice: the Canucks had the best shot differential at 5-on-5 with him on the ice and he was a welcome addition to the first power play unit. He ended up a minus-1, but only because of an empty net goal against, which should be one of many nails in the coffin of plus/minus. It counts empty net goals! What tomfoolery is this?
- Evidently feeling for his fellow goaltender Richard Bachman after his boner against the Wild, Jacob “The Joker” Markstrom pulled the boner of the year, giving the puck away to Bryan Little for an easy goal. What made Markstrom’s error arguably worse is that there was no need for him to play the puck at all: the puck was in a dangerous area of the ice for a goaltender and Erik Gudbranson had a good angle on Patrik Laine heading to it.
- Markstrom’s malfeasance on the opening goal was part of a mercurial first frame for the netminder. He faced a whopping 23 shots on goal as the Jets made like a kid with maple syrup and pancakes and poured it all on. He made some outrageous saves, like his glove stop on Mark Scheifele, but he also gave up a bad rebound on the second goal and made himself small on the third. He’s capable of both greatness and meanness; as such, he is an apt metaphor for the human condition.
- Nikolay Goldobin was golden in this game, creating multiple chances for his teammates, as well as scoring a goal himself. Like The Cheesecake Factory he was serving up sweet dishes all night. He set up Adam Gaudette on the rush early in the first period, forcing Dustin Byfuglien to take a penalty to break up the scoring chance.
- So much of Elias Pettersson’s goal on the subsequent power play relied on Nikolay Goldobin’s play on the opposite side. Because he was facing the net, the Jets’ penalty kill had to expect a shot and, after drawing in the penalty killer, he made a slick between-the-legs pass back to Hutton. That’s what opened up space for Pettersson. Hutton put the puck in Pettersson’s wheelhouse and he drilled it like Dr. Josh Keyes, though he sent it top corner instead of to the Earth’s core.
- Goldobin now leads the Canucks with 10 assists and has 10 points in his last 11 games. It’s almost as if he is good at hockey.
- There were two major issues on the Jets’ second goal: first, Markstrom gave up a rebound to his left, but pushed to his right, essentially getting out of the way of Scheifele on the rebound. The second is that neither Horvat nor Gudbranson took Scheifele’s stick. It seemed like they each expected the other to do it. They played the 3-on-2 poorly, somehow both ending up in Scheifele’s vicinity.
- Less than a minute later, the Jets took a 3-1 lead and it seemed like the floodgates were about to open. Kyle Connor got a step on the defence on the left wing while on the power play, then lifted the puck over Markstrom’s shoulder on the short side. “Short side” seems apt, actually, as the 6’6” Markstrom definitely looked on the shorter side, leaving far too much room between his shoulders and the crossbar.
- Horvat thought he had a goal shortly after: he played a nice give-and-go with Gagner, then celebrated after beating Connor Hellebuyck under his blocker. Unfortunately, the puck hit the post, then spun crazily along the goal line all the way to the other post. It walked the line like a hybrid of John Klingberg and Johnny Cash.
Metaphor for Canucks fans hopes and dreams since 1970 pic.twitter.com/wKqqV9XQE3— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) November 20, 2018
- The Canucks went into slapstick mode on the Jets’ fourth goal, to the point that it needed Yakety Sax behind it. Cue up the song and watch the goal again: it’ll make it feel a lot better. First Gudbranson couldn’t get the puck out of the zone, then Pettersson got a hold of the puck and ran directly into Hutton, giving the puck away to Connor, who set up Laine. BHutt could only watch Laine score, while Pettersson did the same from his bhutt.
- Antoine Roussel got into a fight with Brandon Tanev, which could make for some awkward conversations with Chris Tanev in the future. I wasn’t a fan at all of Roussel continuing to rain punches down on Tanev while he was on the ice. Ground and pound shouldn’t be in the NHL, partly because there’s no ground, just ice, and “ice and slice” would get you in some serious trouble.
- He hasn’t had it all season, but in this game Tyler Motte had a little of the spice he showed in the preseason that earned him a spotte over the called-up Gagner. He even scored a shorthanded goal after blocking a shotte at one end, then racing up ice for a breakaway. He picked his spotte, then hitte the back of the nette.
- Goldobin then scored a marvelous goal to make it 4-3. After so many Canucks turnovers, Tyler Myers returned the favour. Under pressure from Pettersson, Myers put the puck right on Goldobin’s stick, and he drove to the net before deking Hellebuyck so hard that he lost the extraneous letters from his name. Helebuk couldn’t quite stretch his left leg far enough to keep Goldobin from tucking the puck just inside the post.
- The third period was arguably the Canucks’ best period of the game, featuring a lot of extended pressure in the Jets’ zone, even if they couldn’t buy a goal. The 5-3 goal was scored after both the Horvat and Pettersson lines hemmed the Jets in their end, creating several chances before the Jets went the other way and Laine scored on a one-timer. It was a little ironic, like rain on your wedding day, if you were marrying a weatherman and he set the date.
- This wasn’t Ben Hutton’s best game — after all, he led the Canucks’ defence in ice time, so he was on the ice for most of the Jets being better than the Canucks — but he did have one heroic moment. With Markstrom pulled for the extra attacker, the Jets got some extended time in the offensive zone, which isn’t really ideal when you have an empty net. Hutton dove out to save one goal, then set up shop in the crease, clearing away what seemed to be another sure goal a moment later.
Everyone loves the back up back up, but we can't discount a career's worth of amazing work from Alex Edler just because of one hot game from Ben Hutton pic.twitter.com/HfhDy8DouP— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) November 20, 2018
- Of course, Laine scored into the empty net to complete his hat trick not long after. But still, nice work by Hutton.
- Finally, I feel the need to share this marvelous gif of Pettersson’s astonishment at being called for a slashing penalty. It’s the same expression I had on my face when I found out American Vandal was cancelled.