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I Watched This Game: Chiasson continues hot streak to lead Canucks over Sharks

Alex Chiasson has 4 goals and 7 points in his last 5 games.
With another multi-point night, Alex Chiasson gave the Vancouver Canucks the edge they needed to beat the San Jose Sharks and stay in the playoff hunt.

The Vancouver Canucks are not going to go gentle into that good night. They’ll be raging, raging against the dying of the light right up until the end of the season.

It’s almost cruel the way the standings tease the Canucks and their fans. After Saturday night’s win over the San Jose Sharks, the Canucks are a mere four points back of the Dallas Stars for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference and just six points back of the Los Angeles Kings for third in the Pacific Division.

With three straight wins for the first time in a month, the Canucks have kept themselves from falling completely out of the playoff race and as long as there’s even a glimmer of hope, the players will use it to motivate themselves.

You can see it in the way the Canucks have played these last three games. A fire has been lit underneath them, it seems.

Here’s the issue: with the Stars having two games in hand and the Vegas Golden Knights also vying for those same exact spots in the playoffs, the odds are far worse for the Canucks than simply looking at the standings might suggest. It’s not just that the Canucks have to go on a run over the final 9 games of the season; at least two other teams have to falter badly.

But the best part about sports is that sometimes the seemingly impossible happens. Sometimes a team can go from barely avoiding relegation to winning the Premier League. Sometimes a 16 seed in March Madness upsets a 1 seed. Sometimes a team comes back from a 5-0 deficit in the third period to win the game in overtime.  

These types of events are rare but that’s what makes them so special and why it’s so amazing to witness them when they happen. Is it at all likely that the Canucks could make the playoffs in these final 9 games? Not in the slightest.

But that’s what makes it so important to stick it out until the end if you’re a Canucks fan. Because maybe, just maybe, this is one of those special moments when the improbable actually happens and you wouldn’t want to miss that.

My words forked no lightning after I watched this game.  

  • Jason Dickinson has been a disappointment this season but he opened the scoring with a marvelous bit of skill. On a 2-on-1, he took advantage of an over-aggressive Kaapo Kahkonen by pulling the puck around the goaltender and tucking it inside the post like he was mailing a letter. Gorgeous goal.
  • It’s just too bad Dickinson’s goal was overshadowed by the ugly hit that directly preceded it. Kyle Burroughs should have been penalized for his hit to the head of Ryan Merkley, which would have negated the goal entirely.
  • There’s a lot wrong with this hit. Burroughs leaves his feet to deliver the hit and launches his shoulder directly into Merkley’s head. About the only thing that wasn’t wrong with it is that it wasn’t super-late, so that, of course, is what Hockey Night in Canada’s panel latched onto to defend the hit in the first intermission. They repeatedly said it wasn’t late, as if anyone was arguing that the lateness of the hit is what made it bad.
  • The hit seemed to rile up the Sharks like a drop of blood in the water, as they were feisty the rest of the game. Noah Gregor fought William Lockwood after a relatively innocuous hit and the Sharks repeatedly got into post-whistle scrums with the Canucks. Weirdly, no one tried to fight Burroughs.
  • The feistiness — and perhaps a guilty conscience on the part of the officials for not calling a penalty on Burroughs — got the Canucks in penalty trouble and the Sharks tied the game on a 5-on-3 power play. It was a simple shot and a rebound, with Tyler Myers taking a moment too long to rotate to the front of the net to tie up Tomas Hertl’s stick.
  • “We don’t want to play [where it’s] six penalties for them and five penalties for us because we use too many of our better players on special teams,” said Bruce Boudreau. “If you look at the numbers tonight, I think Pettersson was at 25 minutes and Miller at 23 and Horvat at 25 and that’s just too many minutes. I thought we could do it because we don’t have anything for a couple days but you can’t keep that up when we play four games next week and then the last seven in thirteen days. We’ve got to get more rounded and play 5-on-5 so we can roll four lines.”
  • Vasily Podkolzin was once again held off the scoresheet but he was buzzing all game and you can feel a breakout coming. He looked particularly dangerous on the second power play unit, which makes it seem rather strange that he hasn’t been on that unit all season long. 
  • “I have really high standards for Podz,” said Alex Chiasson, who played on his line most of the night. “I think he’s got everything to be a great player in this league. You watch him from when he got here in training camp and didn’t speak a whole lot of English. He’s been put in an environment where he’s the only Russian on the team. You talk to him now, he’s evolved so much as a person — he feels more comfortable and I think that impacts his game on the ice, it gives him confidence.”
  • “I thought he played really good,” said Boudreau of Podkolzin. “He was stickhandling, he was making moves, passing. I think it’s a little bit of bad luck, this stuff next year will be going in the net for him. He’s certainly gaining a lot of confidence and I’m gaining a lot of confidence in him.”
  • Conor Garland ended a 19-game goal drought in the second period with a fantastic short-side shot on a 2-on-1 with J.T. Miller. With the defenceman and a backchecking forward taking away the pass, Kahkonen should have been expecting the shot, but Garland had his eyes on Miller the entire time before suddenly ripping a wicked wrister past Kahkonen’s blocker.
  • Garland’s goal featured a very mature moment from Elias Pettersson, who turned away from Garland instead of celebrating with him. Why? Because Pettersson had just come on for Chiasson, who picked up an assist on the goal with a nice defensive play, and Pettersson wanted Chiasson to have the chance to celebrate with Garland instead.
  • The Sharks tied the game late in the second period thanks to a former Canuck, Nick Bonino. With Luke Schenn and Matt Nieto battling in front of his face, Thatcher Demko never saw Bonino tip Brent Burns’ point shot and the puck slowly fluttered past him like some sort of pigeon. ​​
  • The Canucks struck quickly in the third period to regain the lead. Bo Horvat centred to Chiasson for a chance but he didn’t get all of it. Fortunately, Horvat got the puck right back and his attempted pass to Oliver Ekman-Larsson deflected back to Chiasson. Left alone like Kevin McAllister, Chiasson blowtorched a burglar’s head, which is a brand new euphemism for putting the puck off the post and in. 
  • “There were parts of the first two periods where we played really well for three or four minutes and then the game got away from us for a couple minutes — it kind of went back and forth like that,” said Chiasson. “It seems like the third period always brings the best out of us.”
  • Demko shut the door the rest of the way, finishing with 35 saves on 37 shots. He was really good in this game, which is very easy to take for granted. I saw some people losing their minds over a save by Mikko Koskinen of the Edmonton Oilers tonight and it looked like a pretty routine glove save, but I guess it’s not routine for you if your goaltender isn’t Thatcher Demko. 
  • Just for good measure, Luke Schenn scored an empty net goal with less than one second remaining. Because when you average around two-and-a-half goals per season, you take them any way you can get them.