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I Watched This Game: DiPietro and Canucks get out-goaltended by Husso and the Blues

The Canucks out-shot the Blues 39-to-17 but could only get one puck past the Blues' red-hot netminder.
The Vancouver Canucks outplayed the Blues but were stymied by Ville Husso in the St. Louis Blues' net.

Mikey DiPietro’s first NHL start was a complete trainwreck. 

Thanks to a series of injuries and some poor decision-making by the Canucks’ front office, DiPietro was thrust into NHL action at the tender age of 19, long before he was ready, against one of the most potent offences in the NHL at the time, the San Jose Sharks.

The end result was predictable: a 7-2 blowout in which the Canucks were soundly outplayed in front of their teenaged netminder, giving him little-to-no support. It was a disaster.

DiPietro’s second start, at least, wasn’t that.

The Canucks were very good in front of DiPietro on Sunday night — in fact, they were dominant. They out-shot the St. Louis Blues 39-to-17 and it wasn’t just a bunch of shots from the outside — the Canucks created twice as many high-danger chances as the Blues too.

The only problem is the Canucks couldn’t capitalize on their chances.

“There’s a saying, you’ve got to make hay while the sun shines,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau. “When you get those chances, you’ve got to be able to put them in.”

The Blues made hay, scoring three goals on their 17 shots. 

In a way, the limited shots on DiPietro made things more challenging, as it’s tough to maintain focus. At one point in the first period, the Blues went six-and-half minutes without a shot on goal. Their net shot went in the net. Then they went 13 minutes in the second period with just one shot on goal — it went in as well.

“No matter when the pucks come, you’ve got to be ready for them,” said DiPietro, but conceded, “It makes it harder when they’re sporadic. Especially when you see the guys really taking it to them and generating a lot of O-zone time and trying to stay mentally sharp while the pucks at the other end.

“Things happen quickly here — a quick bang-bang play and it could be a Grade-A [chance]. For myself, I just try to stay mentally engaged throughout the game.”

DiPietro can take some inspiration from the goalie at the other end of the ice, Ville Husso, who DiPietro admitted “outplayed” him. Husso is 26 and challenging to be the Blues’ starter this season — this was his fifth-straight win — but just one year ago, Husso struggled in 17 games with the Blues.

Husso even had a season with a sub-.900 save percentage in the AHL at 23, much like DiPietro this season at 22. Husso’s strong performance with the Blues this season shows that development as a goaltender isn’t always smooth and can take a lot of time. DiPietro’s first two starts in the NHL don’t define him as a goaltender.

I, for one, am very thankful that the first two things I wrote about the Canucks do not define me as a Canucks writer. Otherwise, I would not have this job, and would only be telling my wife and kids about how I watched this game.

  • Honestly, apart from one bad goal, DiPietro played well. It certainly looks bad to give up 3 goals on 17 shots — and it didn’t help his career .771 save percentage — but two of the goals were nigh-unstoppable. He definitely misplayed the third but he also got pretty unlucky as well, which we’ll get into. Like the Department of Player Safety’s go-to decision when a star does something bad, DiPietro was fine. 
  • The Canucks didn’t exactly help DiPietro out early, though they certainly locked things down defensively as the game progressed. DiPietro had to make some big stops in the early minutes, including a glove save on Torey Krug walking right down the middle and kicking the puck off Jordan Kyrou’s stick point blank on a wild scramble after the Canucks couldn’t escape the zone.
  • “I thought Mikey played really well,” said Quinn Hughes. “He made a couple really big saves in the first there and a couple in the third. I thought he did his job and made a save when he needed to. We’ve just got to find a way to put the puck in the net.”
  • A big reason why the Canucks’ shot advantage didn’t lead to more goals is the Canucks were missing their three top goal-scorers: Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller, and Conor Garland. A lot of their best chances came off the sticks of players who, frankly, are not good finishers. Case in point, Jason Dickinson had two breakaways and — shockingly! — the guy with 3 goals in 37 games this season did not score on either of them.
  • The Canucks got a golden opportunity in the first period thanks to some under-the-skinnery from Matthew Highmore. He got in on a forecheck and tangled with Ivan Barbashev, who grabbed Highmore’s stick and hauled him to the ice, then threw an extra two-handed punch to his back. Then Torey Krug took a brutally undisciplined penalty, pushing Highmore’s helmet off, then grabbing him by the face and shoving him to the ice. The end result: a two-minute long five-on-three power play for the Canucks.
  • I love how chill Highmore was after being mugged by Torey Krug. Not only did his composure lead to a two-man advantage, it’s always funny when hockey players just sit on the ice with their legs sticking out like that.
  • The Canucks almost didn’t capitalize on the golden opportunity, going the full two minutes without scoring. But just after the power play expired, Elias Pettersson centred for Alex Chiasson, whose tip on goal was stopped by Husso, sending the rebound to Tanner Pearson at the side of the net. Pearson made like Thor flying to Asgard and hammered it home.
  • Before the end of the first, the Blues replied with a goal off the rush. It was an impressive between-the-legs deflection into the top corner by Justin Faulk, who had jumped up in the play and was right in front of the net. The defenceman leading the rush seemed to throw off Quinn Hughes, who seemed more worried about forward Brandon Saad in the middle, who was already being watched by Pettersson.
  • Nils Höglander has been getting a ton of shots recently but, like a zoomer on social media, he couldn’t seem to capitalize. He had another five shots on goal in this game but the one time he acttually scored, the play had already been blown dead for a too many players on the ice penalty. Unlike a NAPA AutoPro technician, Höglander can’t catch a break.
  • “The one time we do score, two guys jump on the ice,” lamented Boudreau after the game. 
  • Perhaps the too many players penalty was a result of the Canucks being shorthanded behind the bench with Scott Walker in COVID protocol. Of course, the Canucks haven’t exactly avoided those penalties even with a full coterie of coaches, so maybe not. 
  • The Blues made it 2-1 on the power play when Tucker Poolman was caught napping and didn’t take the wide-open Brayden Schenn in front of the net. Vladimir Tarasenko put the puck on Schenn’s tape for the tap-in. 
  • With three top forwards out of the lineup, Pettersson needed to step up but he was fed a steady diet of Blues shutdown tandem Colton Parayko and Niko Mikkolla and struggled to create anything against their size aand reach. For the first time since December 8, Pettersson didn’t register a single shot on goal.
  • “I think Pettersson had chances to shoot and then he didn't and I think when you're a scorer and a shooter, you've got to shoot pucks,” said Boudreau. “I mean that's what I thought about the first two minutes on the powerplay — we scored at the end but we were playing around with the puck too much…We were trying to be too pretty and when you're trying to be too pretty usually bad things happen to you.”
  • The line of Tyler Motte, Juho Lammikko, and Matthew Highmore had kind of the opposite game that they’ve been having recently. They dominated puck possession — no mean feat against the Blues — but one of the few shots they gave up while on the ice went in. They arguably played better in this game than in many of the previous games when they scored, but that’s hockey for you.
  • It was actually Dickinson with Motte and Highmore for the goal after a partial line change. After an extended cycle in the Canucks’ zone, the Blues settled for a Jordan Kyrou shot from the point. With layers of screens in front of him, DiPietro picked up the puck late, reached for it with the blocker, and had the puck instead go off the shaft of his stick and in. It’s a shot that shouldn’t go in but that’s also some dreadful luck.
  • I don’t think this pass by Oliver Ekman-Larsson was intentional — I think he expected Tanner Pearson to be jumping up the right wing with more speed and missed him — but if it was intentional, it was brilliant. That’s a bank shot that a billiards trick shot artist would be proud of, peerfectly weighted to evade Marco Scandella and send Dickinson in on a breakaway.
  • Quinn Hughes facilitates zone exits so routinely that it’s sometimes easy to forget that what he does isn’t easy. This play is subtly brilliant. Poolman’s drop pass stalls but Hughes accelerates to pick up the puck — with an assist from a timely Lammikko stick lift — then makes a really nifty move with quick hands to evade the stick of Oskar Sundqvist and make a pass to Highmore. There’s some nice patience by Motte at tthe end to find Highmore for the zone entry at the other end to boot.
  • This season is coming up with all-new ways to mess with Elias Pettersson. At one point in the third period, his stick got caught in the glass, which I’ve never seen before. Sure, sticks get caught in gaps in the boards where the doors open sometimes but getting one caught where the glass meets a stanchion? Ridiculous. Could only happen to 2021-22 Pettersson.
  • All-in-all, this was a pretty fantastic effort for the Canucks. Out-shooting the Blues by a 2:1 margin while missing three of their best forwards is legitimately impressive and they deserved a better result than a 3-1 loss. The issue is that Husso really, really deserved to win.