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I Watched This Game: Canucks 0, Oilers 2

Vancouver at Edmonton, March 18th, 2016
I Watched This Game
I Watched This Game

It was a good day for Team Tank. The Sabres won, of course the Oilers won, and the Flames pushed the Avalanche past regulation, picking up a point. The Jets were the only team that didn’t help the Canucks push for the bottom of the standings, losing 4-0 to the Blackhawks.

Not long ago, the Canucks won 3-of-4 games and looked poised to go on a quasi-tear, taking them further and further from a top-5 draft pick. Now, they’ve lost three straight, starting with a demoralizing 5-2 loss to the Jets.

They’re currently tied for fifth last with the Flames, with the Oilers just one point behind, and the Canucks have a tough schedule down the stretch. The Canucks could easily end up below them in the standings, with their last three games of the season—two against the Oilers and one against the Flames—determining their lottery odds.

None of this makes losing to the Oilers any more palatable. It sucked. I wasn't happy when I watched this game.

  • What a lousy game. It started in the first period, which was more dull than Dull, Scotland, more boring than Boring, Oregon, and sucked more toads than Toad Suck, Arkansas. The Canucks got better as the game progressed and dominated in shots on goal 40-25, but so many of their shots were from the outside that they got kicked out of the arena for bringing in alcohol.
  • Perhaps I’m being too harsh. When shots are this lopsided, that’s usually a sign that the puck has spent most of the game in one end of the rink. The Canucks had offensive zone pressure, created a few chances, and hit a post or two, but at no point in this game did I expect them to actually score. Maybe that’s more a reflection of me and my lack of faith in the Canucks right now, but they seemed less dangerous than a marshmallow wrapped in bubble wrap.
  • Need a sign for how highlightless this game was? The Canucks highlight video on YouTube starts with a decent move from Jared McCann that resulted in a shot from 30 feet that was deflected out of play. They were that desperate for highlights that a shot that missed the net by 20 feet was deemed must-see.
  • Meanwhile, poor Jacob Markstrom had a solid game, making 23 saves on 25 shots and holding the Oilers scoreless for half the game, but he was helpless to do anything about the hapless offence in front of him. It likely would have been more effective to, instead of pulling him for the extra attacker in the third period, just hand him a stick and tee him up for a knuckle puck.
  • On the plus side, Nikita Tryamkin had an impressive game, demonstrating the effectiveness of his insanely long reach by pokechecking everyone on the ice and several people in the stands. It was like Willie Mitchell’s novelty stick that he used in warm-up once, but for real. He also demonstrated a lot of poise in avoiding the forecheck to make outlet passes. He played a no muss, no fuss 17 minutes. He was mussless and fussless.
  • Brendan Gaunce also impressed, which is good, because the impression he’s made thus far this season is about as good as the impressions of Horatio Sanz. Instead, he was eminently noticeable and not because he was the worst player in a talented ensemble, like Horatio Sanz.
  • Gaunce provided the Canucks’ lone true highlight of the game. He stripped Jordan Eberle of the puck at one end of the ice, then chipped the puck past two defenders before out-battling Darnell Nurse for the puck, then whipping a shot on goal. As Gaunce was knocked to the ice, the puck caromed off him and into the net, but the ref waved it off for an unknown reason.
  • After a long review, the ref said it was no goal, still for an unknown reason.
  • Seriously, the referee provided no explanation for why it wasn’t a goal. If you were following along on Twitter, the NHL’s PR account released the official explanation (it was no goal for incidental contact with the goaltender, which is still nonsense because Gaunce was knocked down by Nurse), but if you weren’t, tough. I’m not really mad about the no-goal call itself, I’m just mad that Gaunce’s amazing play wasn’t rewarded. You’ve got to have positive reinforcement for the kids or they’ll act out to get attention.
  • I’m not excusing Dan Hamhuis’s giveaway to Connor McDavid that led to the opening goal, but when I watch that play I can only wonder just what the heck Matt Bartkowski is doing. He has two choices: go hard to the puck-carrier, Eberle, and force a quick shot or pass; or he could make the correct play and stick with his man at the backdoor, preventing a pass and allowing Markstrom to focus on the shooter. Instead, he slowly wanders across the ice, getting to Eberle just in time to have no chance at blocking or deflecting the shot and leaving Hamhuis spinning in front of the net, wondering who the heck his man is now that Bartkowski has completely abandoned his side of the ice. He took a bad situation and made it way worse.
  • When Matt Hendricks scores on you, something has gone horribly wrong. In this case, it was Linden Vey watching the puck and losing position on Hendricks, giving him a free path to the net where he took home the rebound like a desperate divorcee.
  • Add another to the injured list: Radim Vrbata left the game after tweaking his right knee. That likely means the Canucks will call up another one of their young prospects in Utica to see what he can do in the NHL. Here’s your chance, Chris Higgins!
  • Finally, Jared McCann had one of his better games of late, aided by a strong performance by Alex Burrows on his wing, but he likely cemented himself in Jim Benning’s good graces when he whacked Ben Maroon in the back of the head in a post-whistle melee in the third period. Now he’s not just a potential top-six forward; he’s good in scrums.