Let's not call this a two-game losing skid, but more of a temporary deceleration of winning momentum.
With their second loss in three nights, the Canucks didn't play their worst hockey but didn't play great against the Seattle Kraken in a loose game. It was like an improv show as opposed to stand-up comedy. The Canucks captain had another way of putting it.
"We didn't play our best hockey," Quinn Hughes told the After Hours hosts after the 4-3 loss.
The I-Fivelry, as John Shorthouse likes to call it (even though the Salish Sea Showdown is right there, or the Rain Cities Rumble), was also a relatively tight game, going into the third tied 2-2, and a game they were in until the last faceoff.
But they've earned a little slack, perhaps, given their standings as a team and as individuals. At the same time, it was their third game in four nights, bouncing back and forth between Calgary in there as well.
That said, as coach Rick Tocchet said after Thursday's loss, you have to learn to play tired when you're in the NHL, and the Kraken had a similar schedule.
After tonight's game, he chalked up fatigue as an issue again, though in a different way.
"Our changes were awful," he said after the game. "Long shifts. That's 500 hockey, you can't win that way."
It wasn't just the long shifts, though, with changes leaving the team vulnerable and on their back foot.
And the Kraken looked like the more energized team, especially while playing defensively, getting sticks and bodies in the way of shots to keep the Canucks to 24 shots on net, well below their average. And they did it while staying out of the penalty box, though that wasn't always for lack of trying.
Now, as you may have noticed, I'm not Daniel "The Watcher" Wagner. Think of me as the Kay Whitmore to Wagner's Kirk McLean. And as Daniel does (nearly) every night the Canucks take to the ice, I watched the game.
- Good news at the beginning of the game came in the form of a bruised but game-ready Andrei Kuzemenko. After taking a puck to the face against the Islanders on Wednesday night, he missed Thursday's game in Calgary, but returned to the ice tonight. Smiling in a media appearance before the game he sported a black and blue chin courtesy JT Miller. That meant Linus Karlsson was back out of the lineup.
- While it was good to see him back on the ice, it was a quiet game for Kuzmenko, who was a rare sight in the second and only on for a few (albeit some long) shifts in the third. Post-game Tocchet suggested more was needed from him.
- "Kuzeys gotta start to play a little harder," he told media.
- Akito Hirose also returned to the team, partnering up with Tyler Myers for the night. The 24-year-old was back in the lineup after starting the first two games of the season. With Carson Soucy out the Canucks are still looking for the right match for Myers, and swapped Mark Friedman out, who'd played the majority of games so far, and kept Noah Juulsen in.
- With a season-high for hits and plenty of back-and-forth ending in broken plays, the game at times looked like a playoff game being played at slightly slow-mo. Or it looked like an informal jazz session, with loose playing and some odd notes. In other words, it wasn't the prettiest game.
- The first period saw a lot of back-and-forth with both teams struggling to gain a foothold in either offensive zone. When the Canucks could sustain some pressure it resulted in one of the closest goals of the season.
- Myers was able to fire a long-range shot on Philipp Grubauer who let it leak through him like the first drop through a dam about to burst, and Miller lept on it like a boy trying to plug it, except he swept it towards the net. Unfortunately, Will Borgen was there to sweep it off the goal line, and the refs called it no goal.
- However, upon review the call on the ice was overturned and Miller was given the game's opening goal and sole position of the league's points race.
- Ian Cole had a strong outing, notably in the first getting a stick in the way at the right moment and following up to be the third man on a rush. He was able to dish the puck through a Kraken to Garland, who had a decent chance on Grubauer.
- One of the changes Tocchet was talking about was happening during the Kraken's first goal, as they outnumbered the Canucks 4-3 in the Canucks zone. Matty Beniers was able to enter the zone, shake Juulsen and slide the puck over to Jamie Oleksiak who had all the time and space to line up a hard shot over Demko's glove.
- The Kraken took the lead just as a power play ended with an odd goal. Oliver Bjorkstrand fired a shot into the crowd at the front of the net around four feet high; it seemed to disappear until it was in the back of the net.
- While called a goal on the ice, it was reviewed to try and figure out if it hit a high stick. The review showed it hit Jordan Eberle's stick a few feet above the ice no one could say exactly how high it was so the goal stood. It wasn't even directly off Eberle's stick and in, as it sort of dribbled off Demko and between his legs.
- Before long, though, the Canucks were able to tie it with a nice clear goal with a classic combination. Pettersson wins a faceoff back to Hughes, Hughes tosses it over to Hronek who sends it back and Hughes was given time to pick his spot, which was just to Grubauer's left (and Ilya Mikheyev's, who was being a better door than a window).
- With the goal the three best friends that anyone could have were once again tied for first in the league. with Hronek potentially restarting his point streak.
- The Canucks fatigue looked more apparent in the third on the Kraken's third goal. Juulsen made a lackluster clearing attempt from the corner which Borgen was able to one-time from the point into Demko who made the save but had Yanni Gourd to contend with. While the puck eventually ended up in the corner, it was the Kraken who were able to collect and set up again.
- The second time Borgen ended up with the puck on his stick again and this time instead of shooting he fired it to Gourde who was able to redirect it in. It all left the Canucks looking lost. To be fair the pass to Borgen was a very pretty thing, leaving a few necks craned.
- The Kraken's fourth goal was fittingly on a four-on-four. Both Boeser and Cole assumed that Myers was going to make it to the puck cleanly on the end board and push it one way or another and so they each took a direction. That didn't happen.
- Unfortunately, Eberle was able to strip Myers of the puck (who then lost an edge and tumbled into the board) and was left to cleanly set up Beniers as the trailer. Again, the trailer was left to pick his spot.
- The Canucks power play never really had a chance to get out of the gate against a Kraken team struggling to kill penalties. Seattle only took two penalty games throughout the game, and one was almost immediately after a Miller slash put the Canucks star in the box.
- The second power play seemed to energize the team even though they were down 4-2. And while the Kraken made sure the Canucks only got one shot on net (several were blocked by bodies or sticks), the energy seemed to stick around with a Mikheyev tip going off the post.
- Because of the strength (and scoring) of this Canucks team, there's still hope for a comeback later in games this year, and it wasn't without its glimmer.
- Hoglander, who'd had a few solid chances earlier in the game was rewarded. Myers on the point was again the start of things, but this time it was more a shot-pass to Hoglander who was able to redirect it from the slot. It also gave Myers a multipoint game.
- It reduced the lead to one, but it was too little way too late, with 10 seconds left in the game. The Canucks did try one more rush, but it was, like the game, pointless (not that it didn't have a purpose, but that it didn't result in any points. Let's not get too cynical yet).
- While Hughes has typically been the ice-time leader, Hronek led the team with 22:40. He also led the team in shots (along with Miller and Hoglander).