A few days ago, the Canucks broke an eight-game losing streak with a win over the Los Angeles Kings. Now the Canucks have to hope that their loss to the Kings in their rematch on Tuesday won’t start another one.
Keep in mind, these aren’t the powerhouse Kings of previous seasons. These are the last-place-in-the-NHL Kings. These are the Kings with the worst goal differential in the entire NHL. These are the Kings whose leading scorer hadn’t scored in nine games heading into Tuesday and was skating on the fourth line.
That last bit is because Willie Desjardins is the new interim coach of the Kings and he’s brought the same philosophies to the Kings that didn’t work with the Canucks. He has Ilya Kovalchuk on the fourth line playing under 10 minutes per game, while Kyle Clifford, who has career highs of seven goals and 15 points in a season, is skating on the second line.
Now, we here at Pass it to Bulis have long held the belief that the LA Kings are bad. We have been consistent in that belief despite all evidence to the contrary, such as their two Stanley Cups. Now, however, that tongue-in-cheek belief has become cruel-reminder-that-death-comes-to-us-all reality.
Because the truth is that the main reason the Kings are bad is simply the inexorable march of time. They’re old and getting older.
All that is to say, the Canucks shouldn’t lose to these Kings, unless the secret truth is that the Canucks are also bad, albeit with more hope for the future given their youth. The Kings may be old and getting older, but the Canucks are young and, well, also getting older. That part is unavoidable, as was watching this game.
- The big news heading into this game was the return of Brock Boeser to the lineup after missing nearly a month with a groin injury. “Hips down, I feel really confident within myself,” he said, with my brain filling in the parenthetical “Ladies” immediately after.
- Like a pegasus at the Kentucky Derby, Boeser came flying out of the gate, with a game-high 10 shot attempts and a team-leading +8 corsi. Sure, only three of his shots actually made it on net, the Canucks didn’t score when he was on the ice, and he bore significant responsibility on the Kings’ game-winning goal, but it was still encouraging to see him so comfortable on the ice and making things happen offensively.
- Boeser even hit the post off an Elias Pettersson pass in the second period. If that had gone in, it would have been bedlam in Rogers Arena. Instead, it was more of a bed-lamb situation: like lying in bed, counting lambs. Yes, this is a good joke, self. Definitely keep it in the article.
- According to Travis Green, Erik Gudbranson tweaked his neck during Monday’s practice, so Troy Stecher drew back into the lineup alongside Ben Hutton. The pairing was the Canucks’ best, combining for 12 shot attempts and six shots on goal, while keeping some of the Kings’ most dangerous forwards out of the most dangerous areas of the ice: the Kings had just one high-danger shot attempt with Hutton and Stecher on the ice, according to Natural Stat Trick.
- So, uh, don’t scratch Stecher. Please and thank you.
- If Hutton and Stecher had the best night on the Canucks’ blue line, Alex Biega had the most eventful. With Alex Edler as his stay-at-home partner, Biega repeatedly went flying up the ice to create scoring chances. He might have legitimately been the Canucks’ best player in the first period, but then he followed it up with a disastrous second period, before settling in for the third, when he assisted on the Canucks’ only goal. When he was on the ice, stuff happened: good, bad, he’s the guy with the gun.
- In a just world, where each of us got what we deserved, it would probably be terrible. But at least in that world Biega would have had two assists after the first period. He gave Antoine Roussel half the net to shoot at with a great back door pass and Roussel shot it back into Kings’ netminder Cal Petersen. Then Biega made an Orrsian end-to-end rush, embarrassing Jake Muzzin along the way, and gifted Loui Eriksson a wide open net. Eriksson’s shot would have missed the net, but it hit Alec Martinez’s stick and went into Petersen’s glove on the goalline instead.
- Alex Iafallo opened the scoring for the Kings in the second period after Tyler Motte and Alex Biega lost a board battle with Dustin Brown down low. Brown kicked the puck up to his stick and fed the wide open Iafallo for the one-timer goal. Adam Gaudette was standing in the slot, checking no one. Sam Gagner was standing at the point, also checking no one, as the Kings’ defence had started a line change. Double-teaming no one seems like a bad plan; no one hasn’t scored much for the Kings this season.
- Biega then gave the Kings a couple power plays, but it didn’t matter much: the Kings’ power play is weirdly inept on the road. The Kings haven’t scored a single power play goal on the road, but are a solid 11-for-49 at home. It wasn’t just bad luck, either. The Kings didn’t have a single shot attempt on their three power plays in this game; the Canucks out-shot the Kings 2-0 on their own power play.
- Despite the loss, Jacob Markstrom was outstanding in this game, making multiple big stops off the rush, like his third period old-school kick save on Tyler Toffoli. This game doesn’t get to overtime without him, though why the Canucks would play without a goaltender is beyond me. Where do you get such silly ideas?
- The Canucks apparently set a new record for a 50/50 draw in this game, with a total pot of over $1.4 million, meaning the winner will take home over $700,000. I bought some tickets online — because why not? — even though it wasn’t easy. The Canucks’ online system seemed overwhelmed and I eventually had to switch from my computer to my phone and still didn’t get the email with my 50/50 numbers until after the draw in the third period. When they did come, they confirmed what probability had already suggested: I didn’t win.
- After the 50/50 draw, the new DJ at Rogers Arena committed the cardinal sin of playing “Chelsea Dagger.” Canucks fans will always connect that song to the Chicago Blackhawks knocking the Canucks out of the playoffs two seasons in a row, as it’s the Blackhawks’ goal song. It should never be played in Rogers Arena. It’s not that it’s the music’s fault the Canucks lost — you’d have to be crazy to think that — but it certainly didn’t help the fan experience.
- In spite of Chelsea Dagger plunging a metaphorical dagger in the hearts of Canucks fans, the players on the ice still managed to tie the game late in the third period. Markus Granlund and Jake Virtanen won a puck battle down low, then Virtanen moved the puck to the point. Alex Edler went across to Biega, who threw the puck on net, where Granlund made like a generous restaurant-goer and tipped handsomely.
- Boeser probably wants a do-over on the Kings’ game-winning goal in overtime. Off a faceoff win by Anze Kopitar, the Kings did a simple rotation that set up a shot for Martinez, Markstrom could only kick the puck out into the slot, where Brown was waiting for the easy finish. The reason he was open? Boeser seemingly forgot that overtime is 3-on-3 and he was on man-to-man defence. He let Brown go by him like he was expecting one of his teammates would pick him up, but he’s a hockey player, not a delivery by UPS. You can’t have someone else sign for Brown, he’s your responsibility, Boeser.