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I Watched This Game: Canucks miss the mark and the net vs Coyotes

Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet was "pissed off" by how much his team missed the net in an overtime loss to the Coyotes.
The Vancouver Canucks fell 4-3 in overtime to the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday night.

For the most part, the Vancouver Canucks outplayed the likely Utah-bound Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday. They controlled puck possession all night and fired a ton of shots towards the net.

The problem is, very few of them actually made it to the net to force a save by goaltender Connor Ingram.

The Canucks had 75 shot attempts in all situations to just 37 for the Coyotes. On most nights, that kind of territorial advantage would lead to an easy win. Unfortunately, 20 of those shot attempts were blocked. Another 29 missed the net. That left just 26 actual shots on goal.

Rick Tocchet’s disappointment was palpable after the game, radiating from him as he took the podium for his postgame presser. 

“It’s just too many missed shots,” said Tocchet. “I don’t think we went to the net the first two periods…A lot of attempts at the net but, for whatever reason, a lot of missed shots.”

The more Tocchet talked, the more he seemed to be in disbelief.

“You’ve gotta hit the net!” he said. “Keep it low. Millsy scored when somebody shot it low, it hit a skate, and he gets the rebound. It’s very simple. You can’t shoot high from the blue line and you’ve got to hit the net.”

Even when asked about a completely different topic — his former team potentially relocating to Salt Lake City, Utah — Tocchet managed to bring it back to the issue of missed shots.

“I know the trainers very well — really close friends of mine — and they’re kind of devastated, to be honest with you,” said Tocchet. “It’s a tough one for that franchise or the players, I feel for them, but that’s got nothing to do with the game for us, other than the fact that, like I said — [75] attempts and we only have 26 shots. I mean, that’s not a good ratio.

“We have to figure a way to get shots on net or create shots — be a little bit mobile to go around a guy and get the puck to the net. I think that’s what we’ve got to start to do. I guess that’s what I’m more pissed off [about] is having all those attempts and only having 26 shots on net.”

It wasn’t just the missed nets but the missed opportunities, as the Canucks failed to capitalize on out-shooting the Coyotes 8-2 in the first period and their first three power plays, allowing the Coyotes to score first and then build a two-goal lead. That forced the Canucks into a comeback situation against a basement-dwelling team on the second half of back-to-back games.

“I don’t think that’s really a team that’s better than us,” said Quinn Hughes, “so we probably shouldn’t be in that position.”

While the Canucks did mount a comeback to force overtime, it was still a letdown after such an emotional win over a contender on Monday night. 

“Obviously, the way we played today wasn’t playoff hockey and wasn’t good enough,” said Elias Lindholm, who made his return to the lineup from a wrist injury. “We have three more games here to put ourselves in a good spot and feel good about our game and get some confidence.”

Honestly, it would have been nice for the Canucks to put themselves in a good spot, feel good about their game, and get some confidence when I watched this game.

  • Part of me actually feels good for the Coyotes for rallying around each other as a team to win in some pretty trying circumstances for the organization. It’s not the players’ fault that the NHL has so badly mishandled this boondoggle of a situation in Arizona and it had to be odd to have to play a game the same day that news broke that your team was relocating. That would be like if Warner Bros. forced the actors for Coyote vs Acme to do a presstour for the movie after announcing they were shelving it.
  • Dylan Guenther was the story of the game. The winger drafted with the pick the Canucks sent to the Coyotes in the Oliver Ekman-Larsson trade had a four-point night in the 4-3 win and even drew the penalty in overtime that eventually led to the game-winning goal. Regrettably, we have no idea how he felt about that accomplishment because the Coyotes refused to open their room to the media and didn’t bring Guenther out of the room when he was requested, in violation of NHL rules. But what’s the NHL going to do, fine them?
  • Arturs Silovs got his second straight start over Casey DeSmith, which is a vote of confidence for the young rookie. Regrettably, he wasn’t very good, giving up four goals on just 18 shots. As much as the Canucks weren’t happy with their performance, they probably still handily win this game with Thatcher Demko in net. 
  • After a very quiet first period, the Canucks had a flurry of chances early in the second after killing off a Tyler Myers penalty. It seemed like they had flipped the switch in the intermission and were about to take over the game but then the Coyotes scored against the flow of play and took all the starch out of the Canucks. 
  • Silovs gave up a massive rebound on a shot from the sideboards, which was the first problem. The second problem is that Silovs was far too slow to react to the rebound, like a sloth that just heard a good joke. He never even saw where the puck went so Josh Brown had an open net to open the scoring.
  • At least Elias Pettersson had a really nice reverse hit in the second period. He backed his badonkadonk right into Dylan Guenther, bonking him flat onto his own badonkadonk. To reiterate, it was a big, bad badonkadonk bonk. 
  • Quinn Hughes was doing his darnedest to keep this game from slipping away in the second period. He had a dazzling keep-in at the blue line — the kind that ought to be mindblowing but has just become routine for Hughes — then a thrilling rush up the left wing where he lost an edge but still managed to centre the puck for a scoring chance with one hand while falling to the ice. You could say he was impossible to ig-Norris out there. You shouldn’t, but you could.
  • Then the digital board ads undermined Hughes’ rush up the ice by adding a sarcastic punch line: “Niiiiiiiice stop.” It’s the first time that the ads have actually added to the experience of watching the game instead of distracting from it.
  • The Canucks finally responded late in the second period with a simple play. J.T. Miller won the faceoff, then rotated to the front of the net to post up like Wilt Chamberlain. Meanwhile, Hughes moved the puck to Tyler Myers for a shot, which hit a skate and came to Miller for the putback jam. 
  • Unfortunately, the Coyotes immediately regained the lead before the end of the second period. Silovs never picked up that a shot was coming through multiple layers of traffic, so was still standing straight up and down when the puck went past him into the net. The Canucks took a long look at the goal, as the entry was agonizingly close to offside but ultimately decided not to challenge.
  • “Yeah, but it was inconclusive,” said Tocchet about the possibility of challenging that goal, along with the overtime game-winner, which was similarly a close call at the blue line. “They have better frames than what we see.”
  • A rare error by Hughes led to the 3-1 goal early in the third period. In his defence, Hughes had been on the ice for nearly two full minutes by the time he whiffed on a backhand pass and turned the puck over to Logan Cooley. Every other Canuck on the ice seemed to have trouble understanding what they were seeing — “Quinn…turn puck over? But Quinn never turn puck over” — because no one reacted to cover a wide-open Guenther in front until far too late.
  • Nikita Zadorov was not a fan of the tripping penalty he received, as he dove out to break up a drive to the net, but it was the right call. It used to be that if you made contact with the puck first, there would be no penalty but the NHL changed that rule back in 2014. so that even if you get the puck, you still get a penalty if you also take out the player. Zadorov seemed to disagree with the call, saying, “Turducken kitten meat!” if my amateur lip-reading is accurate.
  • That penalty was compounded by a pretty soft crosschecking penalty on Tyler Myers (though the penalty was really because it was his third crosscheck in a row) to give the Coyotes a 5-on-3. Fortunately, the penalty kill came up huge, led by some excellent work by Teddy Blueger and Elias Lindholm, who each got shorthanded scoring chances to go with their aggressive work to pressure the puck.
  • The successful kill gave the Canucks the chance for a comeback and Conor Garland kicked it off. Quinn Hughes threw the puck down low to Nils Höglander, who quickly relayed it to Garland, who was open at the side of the net. With a quick catch-and-release, Garland sent the puck top shelf where my wife keeps the supplies for all the craft projects she swears she’s going to get to someday.
  • Hughes spent most of the game with his usual defence partner, Filip Hronek, but he also skated a couple of shifts with Tyler Myers and, in those shifts, shot attempts were 9-to-1 for the Canucks and they scored both of their 5-on-5 goals. Like I pointed out earlier in the day, Hughes and Myers have been pretty dang good together this season. I’m just saying.
  • After three fruitless power plays, the Canucks finally struck with the man advantage to tie the game. It was a simple, direct play. Elias Pettersson took a pass from Hughes on the boards, curled into the right faceoff circle, and just plain beat Ingram with a shot. That’s it. No fancy play, no messing around, just getting the puck on net for Pettersson’s first goal in ten games. Funny how that works.
  • The game never would have gotten to overtime without a clutch defensive play by Brock Boeser. He tied up Sean Durzi’s stick to prevent a backdoor tap-in with a minute and a half left that would have deflated Rogers Arena like it was BC Place in 2007.   ​​
  • The Canucks nearly completed the comeback in the most unlikely way possible: a shorthanded penalty shot by a defenceman. Filip Hronek made a great read on the penalty kill to pick off a pass and break away, only to be hauled down from behind by Nick Schmaltz. Hronek, who is 0-for-2 in his career in the shootout, faked a slap shot from between the hashmarks but might have done better if he followed through, as Ingram had no problem tracking his move to the forehand to make the save.
  • To be fair, if Hronek had scored the game-winning goal on a shorthanded penalty shot in overtime, he definitely would have had to talk to the media after the game and you know for a fact he didn't want to do that. 
  • While Boeser made a game-saving play at the end of regulation, the Coyotes scored while he was still trying to get back in the play after coming out of the penalty box in overtime. And yes, it was a penalty. Unlike Boeser, Teddy Blueger wasn’t able to get back to prevent a backdoor tap-in, as Logan Cooley finished off a Guenther pass under Ian Cole. 
  • As much as it’s frustrating for the Canucks to lose to the Coyotes, let’s keep in mind that the Coyotes have beaten some other top teams in the West this season: the Colorado Avalanche twice, the Vegas Golden Knights twice, and the Nashville Predators three times, to name a few. This was the Canucks one and only loss to the Coyotes this season. So, unflip those pools, keep calm, and carry on.