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IWTG: Stars go supernova on the Canucks in Dallas

Canucks 1 - 6 Stars
IWTG Banner - 2019-20

That was rough. Rougher than a 40-grit sandpaper massage. Rougher than taking a commuter bike down a double black diamond mountain bike trail. Rougher than riding Bushwacker the bull in your birthday suit.

The Canucks have struggled in November and won just one of their last seven games heading into Tuesday’s matchup with the Dallas Stars, but they haven’t actually been playing that poorly. You could argue that they deserved better in several of those losses. Against the Stars, however, they deserved exactly what they got.

This was the worst effort of the season for the Canucks and it comes at a bad time. Not only was the team already in a slump, but this was the first game of a tough six-game road trip, with a lot of travel and little rest between games. If the Canucks wanted a strong start to their road trip, they didn’t get it.

Instead, it was more like starting your road trip by not getting the Antarctic Blue Super Sportswagon with the CB and the optional Rally Fun Pack you ordered and settling for the Metallic Pea Wagon Queen Family Truckster. I’m beginning to think the Canucks will never get to Walley World.

I think I need a vacation after I watched this game.

  • Before getting too negative, let’s touch on some positives. The combination of Sven Baertschi and Adam Gaudette had another strong game, whether with Josh Leivo or Jake Virtanen. That line has potential to provide some depth offence; they didn’t in this game, but hey, we’re looking for positives here.
  • Another positive: the Stars managed just one shot on goal when Chris Tanev was on the ice at 5-on-5, a sign of a strong defensive effort from the veteran. Sure, that one shot went in, but we’re trying to stay positive.
  • Okay, it can’t be all sunshine and rainbows after a game like that. Besides, you need a little rain to make a rainbow. So let’s rain on this parade.
  • The Stars came out firing right from the opening puck drop and the Canucks were lucky to escape the first period only down by one goal. After all, the Stars scored two goals in the first period, the first coming just over a minute in when Tyler Myers and Brock Boeser blew their coverage on a Dallas rush and Justin Dowling was left wide open in front to finish off the passing play. Fortunately, for the Canucks, Tyler Seguin had gone offside and the goal was overturned after a challenge by Travis Green.
  • Green has emphasized the Canucks’ desire to play fast, but they looked sluggish compared to the constant onslaught of the Stars. The Canucks’ puck movement was simply too slow and when they did move the puck up ice with speed, passes clanked off sticks. Like when the DJ queued up K-Ci & JoJo’s “All My Life” at a middle school dance, it was slow and awkward.
  • The Stars opened the score for realsies eight minutes in after a brutal line change by the Canucks. Tanev and Jordie Benn were basically the only Canucks on the ice as five Stars attacked, then Tanev and Benn misplayed the rush, leaving a path to the net you could literally drive a semi-truck through. Jamie Benn, who is significantly thinner than a semi-truck, went to the net and scored at his leisure.
  • Even the usually dominant Lotto Line struggled, particularly on one minute-long shift stuck in the defensive zone midway through the first that concluded with Alex Edler taking his league-leading 15th minor penalty of the season. As a result, Green juggled the top two lines, looking for a spark, but evidently the matches were wet, probably from the rain needed to make that rainbow in an earlier bullet point.
  • Still, the Canucks got their chances in the first, with Tanner Pearson coming closest to scoring. His shot from the side of the net went off the post, then hit Roman Polak and tumbled towards the net, then landed directly on top of the net. Unfortunately, you can’t put the puck through the top of the net like a piggy bank, and the Stars all crashed in and slammed their gloves on top of the puck like they were playing Slapjack.
  • The PITB Transformative Moment™ of the game came in the second period when the Canucks got over a minute with a 5-on-3 power play. They managed two shots on goal, both off the stick of Brock Boeser from far out with minimal traffic. The two-man advantage just never looked dangerous; they never closed in around the three-man penalty kill to create a better chance, but just hammered away from distance.
  • The Canucks seriously need to stop using Josh Leivo on the 5-on-3. I understand he's meant to be a shooting option on the left side as a right-hand shot, with Brock Boeser looking for shots in the middle of the ice, but he's never produced on the power play in his career and barely touches the puck. He may as well not be there at all, limiting the two-man advantage significantly. If Newell Brown is intent on having a right-hand shot in that position, why not someone that racked up power play goals in college: Adam Gaudette?
  • That failed power play felt demoralizing, particularly when the Stars made it 2-0 with a power play goal of their own a few minutes later. Jacob Markstrom kicked out a deflected point shot, but Benn quickly collected the rebound and sent the puck under the bar with a ridiculous shot that Markstrom had no hope of stopping.
  • There was one other big positive from this game for the Canucks: Bo Horvat finally scored a goal at 5-on-5. Horvat hadn’t scored a goal in nine games and hadn’t scored at 5-on-5 in 15 games. Getting off the schneid was a big moment for him, at least, even if it barely affected the final result.
  • Horvat’s goal was an odd one. A breakaway off of a blocked shot isn’t unusual, but the player that blocked the shot was a Star. Radek Faksa’s point shot hit Taylor Fedun and came to Boeser, who swatted the puck to Horvat on the backhand. Horvat settled the bouncing puck, then drove it home like it had one headlight.
  • Earlier I said that Baertschi had a good game, and he did, but there was one lousy moment on a backcheck that will provide fodder for his critics. The Stars broke out in transition and Fedun jumped up in the rush to make it a 4-on-3. He got the puck as the trailer and fired a shot that Markstrom stopped. The only problem was Baertschi stopped moving his feet on the backcheck — it was the end of a long shift — and Fedun collected his own rebound and tucked it in to make it 3-1.
  • The third period was sloppier than the sloppiest of Sloppy Joes. Horvat and Myers were a mess on another 4-on-3 rush, leaving Edler to try to defend a 3-on-1 and the Stars passed circles around him. Or triangles, I guess, considering there were three of them. End result: Miro Heiskanen made it 4-1.
  • The 5-1 goal was a disaster, as the Stars created another chance in transition off a turnover in the neutral zone by the Canucks’ fourth line. Tim Schaller overplayed a hit along the boards, opening up the middle of the ice, and Dowling wound up getting multiple whacks at the puck while Loui Eriksson and Jay Beagle failed to check him. One of the whacks went in the net.
  • Whatever else you might say, you can’t deny that Horvat kept trying. He led the Canucks with six shots on goal and, even down 5-1, he was still driving to the net, trying to create a comeback. Unfortunately, on one drive in the third, he drove right into Ben Bishop, getting a goaltender interference penalty.
  • For some reason, everyone stopped playing for a moment on the delayed penalty, except for Corey Perry, who took off for the Canucks’ zone and got a breakaway, beating Markstrom past his blocker to make it 6-1.
  • That score is significant, because it’s exactly what was predicted by Canucks Twitter mainstay, @tinfoiltuque. It’s possible that Cam is some sort of time traveling wizard, like Merlin or Hermione Granger.
  • I don’t know about a goaltender controversy just yet, though. I’m hard-pressed to blame Markstrom for any one of the six goals the Canucks gave up tonight: the Canucks gave up odd-man rush after odd-man rush, with each goal coming off a Grade A scoring chance, except for the power play goal, which was a perfect shot.
  • Also, Thatcher Demko just gave up five goals on 23 shots in his last outing. Goaltenders have bad games or even bad stretches of games sometimes. No controversies just yet, folks.
  • Ultimately, the Canucks lost this game as a team, in that they didn't play together as a team. Their defensive systems were a mess, their breakout was a mess, their power play was a mess; pinning the blame on any one player would be fruitless. The Canucks just have top hope that they don't get any messier, because we know how much Canucks fans hate messier.