Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
VIA store 300x100
Join our Newsletter

I Watched This Game: Avalanche further prove that Canucks' penalty kill is really, really bad

Canucks couldn't turn their fans from disgruntled to gruntled in their fifth-straight loss.
newiwtg-via
The Vancouver Canucks' penalty kill let them down again in a 4-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

After one of the worst Vancouver Canucks road trips in recent memory, the pressure was on to turn things around at home.

The Canucks had a couple of days between games, perfect for getting some time to reset both physically and mentally. They had lots of reasons to treat Wednesday’s game like it was a must-win game as well. They needed to halt their losing skid and get their confidence back. They needed to play with pride. And, with the possibility of angry fans in attendance, they needed to keep the crowd on their side.

For the most part, the Canucks did play better. It just didn’t matter. The same problems that have plagued them all season — an inability to kill penalties and a lack of finish from their top line — meant they lost anyway.

The sole comfort for the Canucks is that they played just well enough to keep the fans in attendance from completely booing them off the ice. At this point, the bar is set so low for the Canucks that not getting blown out by the Avalanche almost feels like a win.

There were some scattered boos throughout the game, along with a few short-lived “Fire Benning” and “Sell the Team” chants that weren’t even loud enough to be heard on the television broadcast, as well as a few more in the concourse after the game. Rogers Arena staff also quickly shut down any fans wielding “Fire Benning” signs. 

It was much harder to ignore the fan with the custom “Thank You Jim” jersey in the front row, who put his massive — and massively sarcastic — “Thank You Jim” sign up against the glass at every opportunity. With sharpie in hand, he added to the back of the sign, “Benning or the fans: pick one” near the end of the game.

Yes, there are definitely some disgruntled fans in the fanbase right now, but the bigger problem for the Canucks could be that a lot of fans simply don’t care enough to be disgruntled. On-pace to miss the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons, the Canucks are only inspiring apathy.

But I still care. And I still watched this game. 

  • The Canucks definitely didn’t start this game well. The Avalanche were all over the Canucks early, like some sort of large mass of something falling down a steep slope of some kind to cover them in rapid fashion. The Canucks got their first shot a minute in. They wouldn’t get another for ten minutes.
     
  • During that time, the Avalanche opened the scoring and, naturally, the goal came on the power play. Tyler Myers broke his stick and J.T. Miller handed his off to Myers, so was unable to clear the puck when a pass deflected to him. A few seconds later, Cale Makar hit the post, then Mikko Rantanen took the loose puck and fired it past an attempted Oliver Ekman-Larsson block and inside the far post. As any penalty killer will tell you, it’s the defenceman’s job to take away the far side.
     
  • You just have to laugh at how Myers broke his stick in the first place. He came back to defend after getting beat at the blue line and broke it trying to cross check a player away from the puck. He then tossed his stick behind him and it nearly cleared the glass before rattling down to the ice.
  • After the Avalanche’s initial flurry, the Canucks played quite well at 5-on-5 for the rest of the game. They out-shot the Avalanche 30-to-18 at 5-on-5 and high-danger chances were 14-to-5. The only trouble was that the game didn’t stay at 5-on-5.
     
  • The Canucks played particularly well in the second period with Conor Garland leading the way. He was a menace on the forecheck to create turnovers, a nightmare to contend with on the boards with his quick spins, and a boon to his teammates with smart passes to set up chances. 
     
  • This sequence was particularly delightful. Garland knocked the puck free on the forecheck, then threw a hit in the corner to win the puck, then sent a spinning backhand pass to Travis Hamonic at the point, then threw in another spin move to get free of Alex Newhook before trying to catch Darcy Kuemper off-guard with a quick shot. How appropriate is it that the Energizer Bunny popped up on screen to kick off that sequence?
  • Garland tied the game in the second period off a strong forecheck by Vasily Podkolzin to win the puck. He fed Tucker Poolman, whose shot went wide, but Garland retrieved the puck, curled out front and created a scramble with another blocked shot. In the melee, Jason Dickinson knocked the puck free to Garland at the side of the crease and he greased it in. 
     
  • The third period started well for the Canucks. Poolman snuck a puck through Kuemper with a surprise shot from the side boards and Kuemper reached back to grab the puck behind him but only managed to punch the puck over the goal line with his blocker, giving the Canucks the 2-1 lead. That snapped a 53-game goalless drought for Poolman. Incredibly, his last goal was also against Kuemper, back when Poolman was with the Winnipeg Jets and Kuemper was with the Arizona Coyotes. 
     
  • The lead wouldn’t last long. Nine seconds after the goal, Alex Chiasson got dinged with an elbowing penalty after leaping into Jack Johnson away from the puck. 40 seconds after that, Nazem Kadri banged in a loose puck in a scramble, which means, for the eighth time in their last nine games, the Canucks gave up at least two power play goals. 
     
  • Right after Kadri scored, Miller shoved Kadri head first into the goal post. There’s no getting around it — it was a dirty play. Miller appeared to be angry that he had lost his stick and seemingly felt that Kadri had taken it out of his hands. Watching the play back, Miller was actually lucky he didn’t get called for hooking Kadri on the play where he lost his stick. The shove into the post was cheap and should have been penalized.
  • It didn’t much matter that Miller didn't get a penalty: Hughes put the Avalanche back on the power play with a dumb penalty of his own. He was hit by Sam Girard behind the Avalanche net and appeared to think it was a hit from behind. It wasn’t — it was going to be shoulder-to-shoulder until Hughes turned right as he was hit. Hughes then skated the length of the ice and crosschecked Girard, snapping his stick on the Avalanche defenceman.
     
  • “I don’t think I was planning on doing anything and then he curled up and I just saw him and crosschecked him,” said Hughes after the game. “Not a good penalty for me to take there at that time...It was just a split-second decision. I was obviously upset, didn’t like the hit, but it is what it is — I can’t be doing that.”
     
  • Ten seconds later, the Avalanche scored the game-winning goal. Juho Lammikko lost the faceoff to Gabriel Landeskog and the Avalanche set up a one-timer for Makar from the top of the left faceoff circle. He blasted it past Demko on the short side. 
     
  • The boos were the loudest in the arena just before the Avalanche sealed the game with an empty-net goal, so the boos were quickly drowned out by the cheers from visiting Avalanche fans. Hughes tried to send a long pass from his own zone for a last second attack, but his pass was knocked down by Rantanen and he fed Landeskog to make it 4-2.
     
  • Game over, man, game over. (NSFW) ​​