I’ve witnessed many different flavours of shutout this season. There’s been the “Barack Obama not bad" variety, where despite the score the team clearly played well. In those instances a strong goaltending performance is usually the determining factor. Alternatively, there’s the “this is fine” kind, where everything is so awful that my brain enters a Zen meditative state as a self-preservation strategy. Fortunately for me, Vancouver’s tilt against Los Angeles was the former.
They didn’t score, which was pretty frustrating, but they easily could have. Not to say this was a perfect game, but the Canucks significantly outshot the Kings by a margin of 35-26, and young rookie Brock Boeser had five of them. Additionally, we got a first look at Griffen Molino, and his 9:33 of ice time was fairly impressive.
Or maybe my brain is lying to me. Am I in self-preservation mode again? Was I actually in a Zen meditative state when I watched this game?
- The game started with a ceremony celebrating the upcoming pre-season games in China against none other than the LA Kings. It’s a brilliant strategy: grow the sport by sending over two high-scoring clubs to duke it out! Oh alright, I’ll cut out the cynicism; it should be fun.
- Griffen Molino played his first career NHL game after signing out of the NCAA. Willie Desjardins, determined to follow his directive to play the kids, gave Molino 14 minutes of ice time in his debut, allowing the rookie to showcase what he brings to the game. Haha, I lie! He played limited minutes on the fourth line. But when he did see ice, he played fast and hard.
Molino had a golden opportunity for his first NHL goal late in the first, skating on net and tipping a Drew Shore pass right into Quick. Moments later he skated back and neutralized a Nick Shore opportunity. There were no glasses of water or crop circles or tinfoil hats, but all the Signs were pretty positive that this was a decent signing.
- Alex Biega is 28 years old, yet he has the spirit (and the sparse facial hair) of a young boy. Sprinkling a bit of fairy dust on himself, he burst out in song: “I can fly, I can fly, I can flyyyyy!” and launched himself into Tanner Pearson with an airborne check. The undersized defenceman-cum-forward may not have much in the way of scoring power, but from an acrobatic gymnastics point of view I give him a 9.5 for both artistry and execution.
I’m actually really liking Biega on the fourth line, he’s got energy to burn, knows the fundamentals and he has a great attitude. It's just a bonus that he's got hops.
- Vancouver, by merit of an early power play and a good start, had loads of momentum in the first ten minutes, but consistently tilting the ice proved difficult. The refs evidently received a shiny new set of whistles before the game that they were just dying to try out. Play was truncated by whistle after whistle.
- For a historically stay-at-home type of defender, Nikita Tryamkin shows an awful lot like an offensive weapon. He pinched beautifully near the end of the first and set up a dangerous play for the Swarm of Angry Bs: Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi and Brock Boeser. It was the kind of chance that would’ve been a goal if it wasn’t for Jonathan Quick being all Quick-esque (Quick-ish? Quick-like?) It just got better: moments later Tryamkin absolutely leveled Kings forward and human-shaped-turd-wearing-skates, Dustin Brown. This is why I enjoy watching Nikita play, you just never know who Hulk smash next.
- The Canucks started the second period with a power play, and Brock Boeser had a near goal on a gorgeous one-timer. Boeser planted on the right side is a revelation for these special teams, his shot and vision are so lethal that he seems capable of singlehandedly clawing Vancouver’s PP ranking out of their perpetual camping spot in the basement. Who knew that reinvigorating a drooping PP just requires a little blue chip prospect?
- Fun fact: Brock Boeser has the only Canucks goal in the last eight periods of play.
- Alex Edler is a hands-on guy. Hands-on in the defensive zone, in his pottery class, when giving awkward shoulder rubs, you name it. So it comes as no surprise that he was hands-on with an errant puck.
Edler was called for covering the puck and LA set up. Vancouver was doing a pretty great job of aggressively killing the penalty until they weren’t. Alec Martinez sent a slap shot on net, which was deflected down by Jarome Iginla and through Ryan Miller. That goal tied him with Joe Sakic for 15th all-time in goal scoring. Glad to do our part, Iggy. It also gave him 1299 career points, of which approximately 1287 were scored against Vancouver.
- A bit later on an odd-man rush, Tyler Toffoli was deprived of a lane by a sprawling Luca Sbisa. “Should I pass?” he asked himself? “Nah… pass pass!” Toffoli’s laser shot went high just under the bar and doubled Los Angeles’ lead.
- You know what sentence I’d gladly not write ever again? “[player X shoots puck] but it just can’t squeak past Jonathan Quick.” With a tight-checking team like LA, Vancouver saw the writing on the wall and decided to get a lot more aggressive.
Horvat’s line, like a cold, blended ice cream treat, was all a Flurry, their best moment coming when Alex Edler fed a tasty spoonful to a hungry Brock Boeser for a near goal. Later in the third period the Sedins carried the play into the Kings end and Daniel nearly faked out Quick with a crazy little dipsy-doodle.
Dipsy, doodle and Quick 😡 pic.twitter.com/slIPyJUy8X— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) April 1, 2017
Point is there were plenty of great chances. But that goalie though. Knowing that a trip to China is imminent, an excited Quick spent the entire game performing a flawless Great Wall impersonation.
- Five minutes into the third period, Daniel and Henrik Sedin gained the Kings’ zone and found Luca Sbisa trailing. The defender had a clean shot with no screen and placed it just a hair too low. It was easily the most fabulous chance of the period to that point, mainly because it was the only chance of the period to that point. During the third period the Kings made like Francis X. Clampazzo and clamped down hard, clogging up passing lanes and routinely taking the man with confidence.
- Miller preserved the 2-0 score at the 11-minute mark of the third when Trevor Lewis and Adrian Kempe had a two-on-none. Miller flashed across the ice and made a spectacular leg pad stop. Horvat will probably win Canucks MVP this year, but I believe Miller is equally deserving. He may not re-sign with Vancouver next season. If that’s the case, here’s a preview of what entering the 2017-18 season will feel like.
- Coach Willie Desjardins aggressively decided to pull Miller with around three minutes remaining in the game, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about this team this season, it’s that having an extra skater leads to goals goals goals. With few joys remaining this season, I was hoping to see some young players score and perhaps witness the team play the role of spoiler. I saw neither, so if you don’t mind I’m off to binge eat a McFlurry and cry myself to sleep.