On the ice, it was a tough, grinding game with a disappointing result. Off the ice, on the other hand, it was a very special night.
Just barely off the ice, in fact. Sitting right behind the skaters on the Canucks bench was goaltender Arturs Silovs, who dressed for his very first NHL game.
Silovs was only in the lineup because Thatcher Demko suffered an injury on Monday morning and Michael DiPietro wasn’t available: he was sent down to the Utica Comets on Sunday. That left Silovs as the only other goaltender available.
Selected in the sixth round of the 2019 draft, Silovs is a good-natured and quirky guy with some impressive size and athleticism. When he was drafted, he said that he patterns his game after Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Even if it wasn’t the ideal circumstances for suiting up for the first time with the Canucks, it still had to be a special moment.
“It’s always exciting to be part of it,” said Holtby about Silovs dressing as his backup. “It would be nicer if it was regular circumstances, you can hear the atmosphere and all that, that’s kind of the exciting part too. But it’s good for him, it’s been a tough year for those guys. If you get a little taste of it, it’s always good.”
The Canucks’ prospect goaltenders definitely haven’t had an ideal year. DiPietro hasn’t played a game since March 11, 2020, well over 13 months without a start, which is why it was so important to get him down to Utica.
Silovs, at least, has started a few games this season, playing two games internationally with Latvia in the Deutschland Cup and a handful of games in the Latvian league. On assignment with the Manitoba Moose in the AHL, he played just one game, making 23 saves on 25 shots. That’s not ideal development for a 20-year-old goaltender.
On the plus side, he’s been getting a chance to work with goaltending coach Ian Clark since getting called up from the Moose earlier this month. That has to be valuable for a guy with a lot of raw talent that needs to be refined.
Then there’s the experience of pulling on your Canucks jersey for a game. It’s too bad his name was misspelled.
Shades of the time Alex Auld’s name was misspelled “ALUD” on the back of his jersey.
Of course, if we’re going to complain about getting Silovs’ name wrong, we really ought to be getting it actually right, complete with the diacritics. Much like Höglander deserves to have his dots, Artūrs Šilovs deserves his diacritics too.
To be fair to the poor Canucks equipment managers, they had to get Šilovs’ jersey ready for him in a hurry! Mistakes were made.
Speaking of making mistakes, much like Šilovs, I watched this game.
- To make things even more awkward, the Canucks Twitter account made the same misspelling of Šilovs’ name when they tweeted out the lineup. At least he wasn’t alone. They also misspelled Jayce Hawryluk’s name as “Hawrlyuk.”
- Fortunately, Šilovs didn’t need to play with his misspelled jersey, as Braden Holtby was once again fantastic in the Canucks net. He made 25 saves on 27 shots but that undersells his workload because there were multiple stretches where the Senators hemmed the Canucks in the defensive zone for long stretches and Holtby had to be alert on every single shot attempt.
- The Senators seemed to open the scoring midway through the first after Thomas Chabot walked around a flat-footed Jake Virtanen and cut around Travis Hamonic for a fantastic chance, with Colin White cleaning up the rebound. The goal was quickly waved off, however, as Chabot clipped Holtby.
- Moments later, Alex Formenton hit the goal post and then Shane Pinto fanned on the open net on the rebound. The Canucks were getting a new life. Would they make the most of it like Scott Pilgrim? No. No they would not.
- The Senators actual opening goal came, like so many other goals against the Canucks this season, on a terrible giveaway at the top of the offensive zone. Nate Schmidt tried to force a pass cross-ice to J.T. Miller at the same time as Alex Edler jumped up in the offensive zone. It was picked off by Brady Tkachuk to create a 2-on-1 and Josh Norris patiently out-waited a sliding Schmidt to beat Holtby under the blocker.
- The Canucks tied the game off a strong forecheck by Tyler Motte. Brandon Sutter jumped on the loose puck, and swung it around to Tyler Myers at the right point, who sent it across to Olli Juolevi. With Hawryluk screening in front, Juolevi slung a wrist shot to the top shelf, where everyone should store their dairy.
- Höglander had two great chances to give the Canucks the lead early in the second period, hitting the post on one 2-on-1, then just missing the net on another. I guess odd-man rushes just aren’t his thing. Probably prefers ödd-man rushes.
- The Canucks got in trouble in the second period with long shifts stuck in the defensive zone. “I think the second period cost us the game,” said Juolevi. “We didn’t skate well enough and we didn’t move the puck well.”
- “Every shift matters, especially with our team and at this time of the year, every turnover, every puck battle matters,” said head coach Travis Green. “Thought we let our foot off the gas, defended a little bit slow in the second, made a couple soft plays on the wall, and we lost some momentum for about seven to ten minutes.”
- On one of those shifts, Holtby had a chance to cover the puck but kept the play alive with a pass to Schmidt, thinking they could maintain possession. Instead, the tired Canucks couldn’t get the puck out. With Jimmy Vesey far too slow to recognize the dangerous situation developing, Drake Batherson got open and sent a bullet into the top corner.
- “That would be the mental error I'm talking about. It was one of those where at the start of the shift, it's the right play,” said Holtby about failing to cover the puck. “Right after I did it, I realized how tired we were in and it’s one of the things that came back to bite us.”
- After the goal, Vesey was benched for the rest of the second period and had just two more shifts in the third period. It was pretty clear what Green thought of his effort on that play.
- “We talk about holding the middle, we didn’t get to the middle of the ice,” said Green. “We had a breakdown.”
- Holtby kept the Canucks in it for the rest of the game. He robbed Tim Stützle at one point like a master pickpocket — Stützle didn’t even know he’d been robbed, raising his hands in the air as if he’d scored. By the time he figured it out, Holtby was five blocks away, rifling through his wallet.
- His best save came late in the third period as the team was still down 2-1. Connor Brown picked off a Myers pass to create a 2-on-1 with Nick Paul, then flicked his own pass by Myers to Paul. Unlike most people who rob Peter to pay Paul, Holtby just robbed Paul directly.
- Bo Horvat had the Canucks’ best chance to tie the game, sneaking a shot past Marcus Högberg as the second period ended, but Högberg managed to sweep the puck off the goal line with his stick to keep it a tie game. It was so close, but close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and bocce ball.
- This was the first time since they returned from their COVID-19 outbreak where the Canucks really looked fatigued. That’s not necessarily because of COVID — they’ve had a very difficult schedule — but it’s hard to dismiss that idea entirely. Down by one entering the third, the Canucks didn’t have a single shot on goal until 7:37 of the period and it took over three more minutes to get their second. They had a strong push to end the period but it just wasn’t enough.
- On the out-of-town scoreboard watch, the Montreal Canadiens beat the Calgary Flames tonight thanks to a game-winning goal by Tyler Toffoli, his 25th of the season. That puts the Canadiens back up by 10 points over the Canucks, who have five games in hand. The long odds got a little bit longer.