It’s a monumental disaster and everyone should immediately panic: the Vancouver Canucks have lost two games in a row.
Sure, it’s the first time the Canucks have lost back-to-back games since November 18, only the third time all season the Canucks have lost two games in a row, and they have yet to have a losing “streak” longer than two games, but still — panic. Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria.
Of course, this isn’t a disaster at all, but it says something about how good this Canucks season has been — and how fragile the psyche of Canucks fans is after the last decade of futility — that it feels like a disaster.
After the Canucks folded against the Boston Bruins, fans wanted to see them bounce back in a big way against the Detroit Red Wings. In some ways, they did, with Elias Pettersson coming through with a big game and Filip Hronek putting up three points against his former team.
In other ways, they didn’t bounce back. Up 3-1 going into the third period, the Canucks made like Tim Robinson with a steak and slopped it up, making key mistakes at key times, which allowed the Red Wings to score key goals. What should have been a win in regulation turned into an overtime loss because of those mistakes.
When it was suggested the Canucks didn’t respond after the loss to the Bruins, head coach Rick Tocchet quickly pushed back.
“I thought we got [a response]. We were up three-to-one,” said Tocchet. “They had a bunch of power plays, we were in the game, we made two turnovers. I thought we played a pretty good game other than a couple of guys with turnovers and we didn’t box out on one of the goals. You can’t throw the whole game [out] because of that. No, I disagree, I thought it was a good response, I just think we made about four plays that you shouldn’t make when you’re up three-to-one.”
It’s important to keep in mind that the Red Wings are a strong team this season, with a track record of coming from behind when trailing after two periods. While the Red Wings have missed the playoffs in seven straight seasons, they’re currently in a playoff position in the Eastern Conference, right on the edge of passing the Toronto Maple Leafs to get into the top three of the Atlantic Division.
Should the Canucks have been able to close out a two-goal lead in the third period? Of course. But the fact that they didn’t isn’t entirely surprising and it’s not the end of the world.
This is just another opportunity to learn an important lesson and move on. We’ll revisit the panic if the Canucks actually lose three-straight games for the first time all season. If that happens, I’ll watch that game just like I watched this game.
- While there’s no need to panic just yet, it is a little bit concerning that the Canucks have given up the opening goal in five straight games, including a goal in the opening minute in back-to-back games. It sets a bad tone for viewers and casts everything that happens afterwards in a negative light, which probably plays a role in the doom and gloom some Canucks fans are feeling right now.
- Lucas Raymond opened the scoring by driving wide around Tyler Myers like he was a hologram with no physical substance before cutting to the net and tucking the puck around Casey DeSmith. Myers defended like he just fell out of a coconut tree and did not exist in the context of all in which he lives and what came before him.
- To be fair to Myers, this doesn’t seem like ideal goaltending from DeSmith, who dropped down into his butterfly with his right shoulder — and everything to the right of it — outside the post with no anchor point for him to push across if Raymond did anything other than immediately shoot the puck. He was essentially inviting Raymond to cut across the top of the crease for a wide-open net.
- The Canucks rolled out three new lines in this game. Elias Lindholm moved to centre between J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser, Nils Höglander jumped into the top-six alongside Elias Pettersson and Pius Suter, and Phil Di Giuseppe returned from injury on a fourth line with Nils Åman and Ilya Mikheyev. The only line that remained the same was The Good Job Boys: Conor Garland, Dakota Joshua, and Teddy Blueger.
- “We just needed some more lines driving some play,” said Tocchet. “Some lines were getting nothing, so I just wanted to try it.”
- The Pettersson line got the Canucks even early in the second period with a fantastic shift, with help from the defence pair of Quinn Hughes and Filip Hronek. They hemmed in the Red Wings for around 45 seconds, then Höglander slapped his stick down in the slot and Hronek slapped the puck directly into said stick. The deflection beat a sprawling Alex Lyon, as he was knocked down by his own defenceman, Jake Walman.
- I have to admit to being somewhat concerned about Nikita Zadorov’s defensive awareness. At one point in the first period, Zadorov got completely lost in the defensive zone, with Myers having to yell, “Zee, Zee, Zee! Hey! Hey!” to get his attention and direct him to the right man. Not that Myers is the poster boy for defensive awareness but Great Big Zee’s wandering ways are alarming sometimes.
- Of course, Zadorov might not even be in the Canucks’ lineup for a few games. He’ll have a meeting with NHL Player Safety after this hit to the head on Lucas Raymond. Zadorov got a match penalty for the hit, which always includes a five-minute major. Raymond returned to the game, so we'll if Zadorov gets any supplemental discipline.
- That penalty — along with an undisciplined Hronek high stick at the end of it — forced the Canucks into nearly seven minutes of penalty killing. It was a crucial moment of the game and the penalty skill stepped up in a major way, killing off both penalties, with Dakota Joshua and Noah Juulsen playing a major role.
- Juulsen played 3:06 of that 6:52 penalty kill and saved a goal by picking off a backdoor pass by Patrick Kane, while Joshua was instrumental in breaking up Red Wings zone entries multiple times. Neither player picked up a point in this game but they were crucial in the Canucks getting a point.
- The power plays could have completely shifted the momentum in the Red Wings’ favour; instead, the Canucks took the lead when Ilya Mikheyev sprung Hronek on a breakaway out of the penalty box. Hronek sold shot with a great pump fake with a Keslerian leg kick, then deked to the forehand and slid the puck in. It was gorgeous.
- At one point during the penalty kill, a hot mic on the ice caught one of the players using some salty language, yelling, “You ****ing idiot,” at another player. John Shorthouse waited a beat before saying, “I thought someone was talking to me for a minute.”
- The Pettersson line scored again to extend the lead. Höglander shook free of his check down low with some shifty moves, then moved the puck to the point. Hronek passed to Suter for a shot from the high slot that missed the net but caromed off the boards to Pettersson at the side of the crease. He made like Tom Watson and chipped it in.
- “I thought we had a good first, my line, just didn’t get any goals,” said Pettersson. “And then the second, we just kept on working. Both Sutes and Högs made plays and worked hard.”
- Things got feisty at the end of the first period, as a collision between Juulsen and Raymond turned into a massive scrum, likely because the Red Wings were sensitive to Raymond getting hit after he took the hit to the head earlier in the period. What didn’t make sense was 5’8” Alex DeBrincat dropping the gloves with the much larger Ian Cole, a decision he quickly regretted when Cole proved he could capably uppercut with both hands before showing mercy at the very end.
- The Red Wings started the comeback a couple minutes into the third period with a power play goal. Both Myers and Hronek chased below the goal line and Elias Lindholm — perhaps because he’s still new to the Canucks’ penalty kill scheme — didn’t cover Daniel Sprong in front of the net in time to stop him from one-timing the puck past DeSmith.
- While Höglander looked great on Pettersson’s wing, it was his penalty that led to the Red Wings’ second goal, then he was the one who failed to box out Michael Rasmussen on the game-tying goal. It wasn’t just that Höglander let Rasmussen get inside position after their board battle but that Höglander didn’t engage with Rasmussen at all to prevent him from tipping a point shot into the net. That’s the type of thing that agitates a head coach.
- “Offensively, I thought Petey’s line were getting some things, but they were on for a couple of goals, so it’s a wash,” said Tocchet.
- Things got heated again at the end of regulation as the Red Wings inexplicably took exception to Blueger not shooting the puck after a whistle. That led to another scrum, where Moritz Seider ended up on top of Dakota Joshua with his elbow on Joshua’s face. Joshua understandably wasn’t a big fan of this and had plenty to say to Seider on the way to the penalty box. The only audible words on the broadcast: “Be ready.”
- Notably, the Canucks play the Red Wings again in five days.
- The game ended in overtime on a penalty shot, as Quinn Hughes shoved Jake Walman from behind and was called for a crosscheck. Should it have been a penalty shot? I mean, yeah, probably by the letter of the law, as infractions from behind on a breakaway that take away a scoring chance should be penalty shots, but that type of shove by Hughes is so rarely called to begin with that it’s understandable Canucks fans were a little up in arms.
- The bigger issue is that Walman got in behind Hughes for a breakaway in the first place. That simply can’t happen. Some might point to Pettersson losing a battle with Raymond up ice, but the worst that should happen in that situation is a 3-on-2, but Hughes got caught napping. To be fair, it was an afternoon game that likely forced the Canucks to skip their usual midday nap and Hughes had already played nearly 27 minutes, so maybe it’s understandable if he was a little sleepy.
- Walman scored on the penalty shot, game over. Nothing else to talk about.
- Okay, there's one other thing to talk about: Walman's goal celebration. After snapping the puck past DeSmith's blocker, Walman dropped the Griddy on the Canucks — the viral dance that first came to notoriety as a touchdown celebration in football and has grown to popularity among kids via Fortnite. It's not the first time Walman's done the Griddy either.
- So, was it disrespectful of Walman to do the Griddy or just an expression of joy? Old school hockey men have typically looked askance at unusual goal celebrations and the Canucks probably weren't huge fans of it but maybe that's something the NHL needs to help attract younger fans. It was even Kids Day in Detroit, so the Griddy seems kind of fitting. But again, the Canucks face the Red Wings in Vancouver in five days. If the Canucks did feel disrespected, they might inform Walman then.