That is what a tired team looks like. No other team in the NHL has played as many games as the Canucks so far this season and they’ve also had two six-game road trips through the east coast. It’s been an exhausting schedule and it’s no surprise the team is looking a little haggard and run down.
It was a tough situation for Richard Bachman to get his first start of the season: the final game of the Canucks’ latest six-game road trip, with the team still missing defenceman Alex Edler, shutdown centres Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle, and top-six forwards Sven Baertschi and Brock Boeser. The only reason he even got the start was because both Anders Nilsson and Thatcher Demko are dealing with their own injuries.
That’s not to say the tired team in front of him was the only reason Bachman got lit up for six goals against, though it certainly didn’t help. Bachman is the Canucks’ fourth-string goaltender for good reason and seemed to be scrambling wildly throughout the entire game. He didn’t help his own cause with one of the worst giveaways of the season.
All that is to say, there’s no need to rage about the outcome of this game. The season isn’t a sprint for a running man, it’s a long walk. Even if there’s road work ahead for the Canucks and even if the roster is a little bit thinner than it was at the start of the season, there’s really no need to panic. If you’re getting too upset about this game, your emotions might need a regulator.
Even if the end of this road trip is a sign of things to come for the rest of the season, the Canucks at least have enough talented young players to go out in a blaze of glory, instead of a soggy damp dullness of shame. Admittedly, the Canucks were a little soggy and damp when I watched this game.
- At four games now without a point, I think it’s fair to say that Elias Pettersson is in a bit of a slump. That’s nothing to be too concerned about — every young player goes through slumps, even the best rookies. What’s great about Pettersson’s slump is that he still looks great. He’s still averaging 2.5 shots on goal per game in the last four games, he still dazzles with dumbfounding dekes, and still does little things like drawing penalties, as he did in the first period of this game. I don’t think anyone is panicking about Pettersson, but if you’re tempted to do so, dude, chill.
- Honestly, it just seems like Pettersson is a bit tired. He just turned 20 and isn’t used to the breakneck pacing of the NHL schedule. In terms of underlying stats, this was his worst game of the season: the Canucks were out-shot 11-4 with Pettersson on the ice at 5-on-5 and out-attempted 19-8. That’s not normal for Pettersson and it practically screams, “I need a day off to sit around a play Fortnite!”
- Here, have some tasty Pettersson dekes from this game to make you feel better:
weeeeeeeeepp and again pic.twitter.com/vRPlBBn2at— Vanessa Jang (@vanessajang) November 16, 2018
aaaannndddd again pic.twitter.com/C9Uy7Sfehu— Vanessa Jang (@vanessajang) November 16, 2018
- I can’t quite explain what Michael Del Zotto was doing on the Minnesota Wild’s opening goal — rather, I can explain “what” but I’m struggling with the “why.” With the Wild in clear possession of the puck in their own zone, Del Zotto needed to drop back into the neutral zone and leave any pinching to his partner, Troy Stecher. Instead, he cut across the Wild blue line leaving him susceptible to Jonas Brodin’s loft pass to Charlie Coyle for a breakaway.
- That goal came after the Canucks’ best sustained pressure of the game: they were carrying the run of play for the first five minutes and Coyle’s goal was like the “one of a kind” guy in a 2012 Dr. Pepper commercial, going against the crowd. And, like that guy, the goal was quickly joined by a crowd of look-a-likes, completely undoing the “one of a kind” premise of the commercial. Er, the game.
- A 1-0 deficit wouldn’t have been too bad, but a brutal pass by Bachman took any remaining wind out of the Canucks’ sails a couple minutes later. During a Wild power play, Bachman cut off a dump-in behind the net. Unsure of where to move the puck, he made the worst possible choice, throwing it up the middle where Koivu intercepted it. Off the Bachman giveaway, Koivu drove the puck into the net. You might call it a Bachman Turnover Drive.
- Immediately after Koivu’s goal, Matt Hendricks nearly scored another, as his shot from the right wing snuck through Bachman. Fortunately, Stecher took care of business and cleared the puck out of the crease.
- Honestly, the Canucks were lucky to get out of the first period only down 2-0. Bachman had to make a great save on Coyle as he was in alone again after a Derrick Pouliot giveaway, he got a quick whistle on a bad rebound, and he had to make a quick kick save after a centring pass hit Ben Hutton’s skate and nearly went in. After the first five minutes, the Canucks may as well have just left the ice rolled on down the highway.
- After the Wild made it 3-0 on a Nino Niederreiter redirect in front, Del Zotto nearly got one back. He picked up a drop pass from Pettersson and ripped the puck off the post with a solid “donk” sound. You could tell it didn’t go in because goals off the post have a much more pleasant “ping” sound. Never donk when you can ping.
- Bo Horvat finally got the Canucks on the board with a power play goal, the first 5-on-4 goal from the first power play unit in quite some time. Off a broken up zone entry, Adam Gaudette whacked the puck free to Horvat, who walked into the left faceoff circle and rifled a wrist shot under Devan Dubnyk’s right arm.
- That was it for the power play, however, which got six opportunities and struggled to get set up in the offensive zone on all six. To be fair, the Wild have one of the best penalty kills in the league and did a great job breaking up attempted entries at the blue line. To be really, really unfair, YOU’RE NO GOOD, POWER PLAY. IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT THE CANUCKS LOST THIS GAME. YOU’RE JUST LIKE YOUR FATHER.
- Last game against the Islanders, Nikolay Goldobin got benched for the entire second period after he coasted on a backcheck that led to a goal. You had to think that was in his head when he skated back hard to prevent a 2-on-1 chance for Jason Zucker. Unfortunately, he skated back too hard and ran into Bachman, preventing him from getting across to prevent an Eric Staal wraparound that banked in for the 4-1 goal. Somewhere in-between on the next backcheck, Goldy.
- Despite that moment, Goldobin did some good things in this game, like draw two penalties. On one of them, a blatant holding/interference call, the perpetrator Jordan Greenway couldn’t believe it, complaining the whole way to the box. Hockey culture needs to switch the reactions to goals and penalties. Make as big a deal about goals as you want, but when you get called for a penalty, act like you’ve been there before.
- You had to feel for Bachman on the Wild’s fifth goal. The poor guy was already getting ventilated, then when Matt Dumba blasted a slap shot from the point, Del Zotto skated in front of him, accidentally screening him and punching him in the chin at the same time. It was the best screen-punch since Mongo knocked out a horse.
- Erik Gudbranson and Ben Hutton have had a great run of games together, but they had some major struggles against the Wild, getting out-shot 13-5 at 5-on-5 and out-attempted 22-8. Maybe the minutes are starting to wear on them: Hutton certainly looked more tired than the Michelin Man when he lost track of Zucker on a dump-in and Staal found him with a cross-ice pass for the 6-1 goal.
- Markus Granlund, at least, got something out of this game: he scored a goal and his brother, Mikael, didn’t. He made a great play to score the Canucks’ second goal of the game. Dubnyk couldn’t glove a Troy Stecher point shot and Granlund kicked the rebound out of the crowd to his stick and popped it into the net. He worked his tail off for that goal. Don’t believe me? Take a look at his butt: do you see a tail? I didn’t think so. QED.
- Canucks don’t know the meaning of the word “quit,” which makes me really question the education that some of the players get in the NCAA while they’re student-athletes. Despite the four-goal deficit, the Canucks kept pushing in the third period, aided by some hungry depth players getting a little more ice time. Adam Gaudette, for instance, played 7:25 in the third period, leading to a career-high 16:05 in ice time.
- Late in the game, Sportsnet colour commentator John Garrett went on a bizarre rabbit trail about fancy stats. It made next-to-no sense, but it was delightful, so I needed to transcribe it for you:
Garrett: “Now the fancy stats people, I know they like open-ice dekes and things that I just can’t figure out how they keep track. That highlight we showed with Elias Pettersson, how many open-ice dekes would he be credited with on that one? Four?”
Shorthouse: “I legitimately don’t know."
Garrett: “I don’t know either. There’s a few fancy stats that I don’t get.”
Shorthouse: “But you get ketchup in your macaroni and cheese.”
Garrett: “Every time.”
- For the record, “open-ice dekes” is not a stat that anyone is keeping track of, at least, as far as I know. If you are, please tell me, because now I desperately want to know Pettersson’s open-ice dekes per 60 minutes and how it compares to the rest of the league.