When a hockey player goes down with an injury, I find myself looking at the feet. There are two bad signs: when the player is kicking their feet frantically and when they are completely still.
Alex Edler’s feet were completely still.
While defending a Philadelphia Flyers’ rush, Edler’s stick got caught on Voracek’s skate, yanking him violently to the ice with no chance to brace himself. He smashed the left side of his face against the ice, then slid into the post before coming to a stop beside the Canucks’ net.
Philadelphia Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom was the first to recognize the severity of the situation, immediately shooting his hand up and yelling for the stoppage in play. Jacob Markstrom rushed to his friend’s side, bending down to see if he was okay: that’s when Edler finally moved and you could see the blood on the ice.
Head athletic therapist Jon Sanderson came running down the ice, holding Tyler Motte’s arm to keep from falling, to assess the injury and a medical team with a stretcher quickly joined him. Edler was taken off the ice on the stretcher, but was at least sitting up and alert, holding a compress to his face to stanch the bleeding.
There’s no one to blame for the injury. Canucks fans couldn’t distract themselves from the reality of the situation by calling for retribution or a suspension. Instead, they could only let that reality sink in.
In some good news, Edler was seen in street clothes after the game walking under his own strength. He will head to the hospital to undergo more tests — Travis Green said facial x-rays, while Jim Benning said a CT scan — and won’t travel with the team to Washington.
Here’s the bad news: Edler was pretty clearly knocked unconscious when he hit the ice. He may also have a facial fracture that could take significant time to heal. Best case scenario, he only suffered a broken nose and maybe some lost teeth. No matter what, you can expect Edler to miss some significant time, for the concussion at the very least.
Edler’s loss will be a tough blow to take for the Canucks, as he’s a leader on and off the ice. He leads the Canucks in average ice time, leads their defence in scoring, and is the longest-tenured Canuck on the roster. I found it hard to care about anything other than his injury when I watched this game.
- I had a visceral reaction to seeing Edler’s injury, likely because it’s one of the few hockey-related injuries with which I can directly relate. I won’t go into too much detail, but when I was 16 I similarly fell face first onto concrete, essentially curb-stomping myself. I didn’t get knocked unconscious and avoided any facial fractures, but badly injured my mouth and four of my teeth had to be capped. That entire incident came flooding back when I saw Edler go down and it made me shudder.
- As for the game itself, the Canucks played well, but ran into one of the hottest goaltenders in the NHL: 20-year-old Carter Hart, who has made a convincing argument that teams should give their young goaltending prospects a shot at the NHL at a younger age than you might think.
- Hart was unreal. The Canucks unleashed 42 shots on goal, but couldn’t beat him once. The only goal they managed to score came when Hart was out of his net. When he was between the pipes, he made save after save. He was like a Chaotic Neutral Rogue: endless robbery.
- That’s a niche joke, but if you’ve ever played Dungeons and Dragons, you recognize the type: “As you enter the town, you see a crowd of people gather around an old man in blood red robes, who is chanting some sort of eldritch spell while holding an ancient-looking dagger aloft…” “I pick their pockets.” “What, who?” “The crowd of people. You said there was a crowd: I pick their pockets.” “But...he’s casting...he's about to...the dagger is...fine, roll for sleight of hand.” “I got a 20!”
- Early in the game, there was another serious injury scare when Elias Pettersson, backchecking on the power play, got tangled up with Edler and went hard into the end boards. Pettersson was slow to get up, then went directly to the bench and down the hall to the locker room. Fortunately for the Canucks and the heart palpitations of their fans, Pettersson returned a few minutes later, none the worse for wear.
- To top it all off, the Canucks have another injury issue on their hands: Thatcher Demko tweaked something during the pre-game warm-up, necessitating an emergency recall of Michael DiPietro from the Ottawa 67’s in case Demko can’t play in Washington on Tuesday. The Canucks don’t have any other healthy goaltenders under contract, since Richard Bachman is out for the season and Mike McKenna was claimed off waivers by the Flyers and spent the game sitting on the opposing team’s bench.
- While Hart was unbeatable at one end of the ice, Jacob Markstrom was nigh-unbeatable at the other. He made 28 saves on 30 shots to give his team a chance to win, a chance they just couldn’t take because Hart is like if a brick wall was bitten by a radioactive spider and developed enhanced strength, agility, and reflexes.
- It’s not like Hart made a bunch of saves on the Canucks’ more mediocre players: Brock Boeser had a team-high 11 shot attempts and 7 shots on goal. Boeser had two of the Canucks’ best chances: a toe-drag wrist shot from below the hash marks in the first period and a bomb of a one-timer from the high slot in the second. On both, Hart aggressively came out above the blue paint to make the save, giving Boeser very little net at which to shoot.
- The Flyers opened up the scoring on the power play directly off a zone entry by Nolan Patrick. The third-best player from the 2017 draft passed the puck to Travis Konecny, then cut down low, distracting Ben Hutton and keeping him from taking away Konecny’s passing lane to Sean Couturier on the opposite side. Erik Gudbranson inexplicably spun away from the puck, giving Couturier all kinds of time to beat Markstrom against the grain.
The vaunted 360 helicopter stick swing defense isn't taught in many places nowadays pic.twitter.com/gi7vx1gaX3— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) February 5, 2019
- Chris Tanev is going to be staring at his stick trying to find a hole in the blade for a while after the Flyers’ second goal. He completely fanned on a shot from the point, allowing Phil Varone to jump on the loose puck and spring Jakub Voracek on a breakaway. He ignored Edler’s slashes and beat Markstrom with a quick deke to the forehand.
- The Canucks got their lone goal in bizarre fashion. Off a brutal Canucks line change, the Flyers got a 3-on-0, but Gudbranson managed to get back in time to dive out and get his stick on Konecny’s centring pass. Then Konecny tried to centre again, but Nikolay Goldobin was there, defending the front of his net, to intercept the puck. A 3-on-0, a great defensive play by Gudbranson, and Goldobin in perfect position in the defensive zone: this play was already a unique unicorn.
- Goldobin spotted Brandon Sutter breaking up the ice and lofted the puck ahead for a potential breakaway. Hart came charging out to intercept the puck, but his chip off the boards was picked off by Brock Boeser, who made no mistake with the vacated net, firing the puck home from the blue line. It was a great read by Boeser and a fine finish, even if was into an empty net.
- Overall, I thought Goldobin had a great game. You can tell he’s put in the work on improving his play away from the puck. He was engaged away from the puck and fun to watch with it, as he snaked around Flyers’ defenders with his fantastic stickhandlingand it was reflected in his possession statistics: he had the second-best corsi among Canucks forwards behind Bo Horvat, with the Canucks out-attempting the Flyers 18-7 when he was on the ice at 5-on-5.
- Goldobin was held off the scoresheet, however, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. Hart’s giveaway nullified a potential assist on Boeser’s goal, then the Flyers netminder absolutely robbed him with an incredible diving save in the third period. Ivan Provorov blocked Pettersson’s power play one-timer, and the puck kicked out to Goldobin at the back door with an open net, but Hart came diving across to get his right arm on the shot.
WHAT. A. SAVE. CARTER. HART. 🧡 pic.twitter.com/I1bVwf9K2c— Brandon Murphy (@2Murphy8) February 5, 2019
- Goldobin’s shot was perfect for beating a goaltender above the pad: if Hart had stretched across with his right pad, that puck was in the net. Instead, Hart was in desperation mode and was likely thrilled that Goldobin elevated the puck instead of sliding it along the ice.
- It seemed impossible to beat Hart in this game, so of course the one time they actually did, the goal was disallowed. Jake Virtanen banged away at a loose puck that eventually ended up in the net, but the ref had already blown his whistle. While Canucks fans were upset at the quick whistle, that was the kind of goal that likely would have been disallowed anyway, as Virtanen seemed to push Hart’s pad across the goal line to force the puck in.
- Bo Horvat was a force in this game. He was matched up against the Flyers’ top line all night, but the Canucks out-attempted the Flyers 26-8 when he was on the ice at 5-on-5 and out-chanced them 9-1 according to Natural Stat Trick. He had four shots on goal and went 15-for-24 in the faceoff circle and played 22:22, second only behind Boeser’s 23:47 in ice time among Canucks forwards.