Saturday night in San Jose, the Canucks faced the Sharks for the second time this week. It went significantly better than the first time, but the end result was the same: two goals for the Canucks and two points for the Sharks.
It feels a lot better, of course, when you lose by just one goal rather than five, particularly to a Cup-contender that is currently battling it out for first place in the Western Conference. The loss stings less when you don’t have the added storyline of a 19-year-old goaltender unexpectedly thrust into action with no healthy backup to bail him out if things went sideways.
Instead, the Canucks kept pace with the Sharks just like Michael Phelps. Also, like in the race with Phelps, the Sharks pulled ahead in the final stretch and retained oceanic supremacy.
It’s a little surprising, since orca are faster than most sharks, with a top speed of 48.3 km/h. They must have Mako Sharks in San Jose, which can reportedly reach 50 km/h, though there’s a surprising amount of controversy over which of the two is faster.
I propose a race: a mako shark alongside an orca. Throw in Michael Phelps too, why not. If the race officials can keep the orca from eating both Phelps and the shark, we should be able to get a definitive answer over which one is fastest. I would watch that race, just like I watched this game.
- The improved result came at the cost of some heavy minutes for the Canucks’ top players. Troy Stecher played 28:13, while his partner Ben Hutton played 26:54. Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, and Josh Leivo all clocked over 20 minutes; Boeser led all forwards with 24:05 in ice time. They had more minutes than a presidential library.
- Heavy minutes for the big guns meant minimal minutes for the lesser lights. Zack MacEwen played just 2:34 in this game and had just one shift at even-strength — the others came on the power play. MacEwen had a fight midway through the second period after a Sharks goal; that was the last time he stepped on the ice. Well, I suppose he had to step on the ice to skate back to the bench from the penalty box after a stoppage.
- Meanwhile, Guillaume Brisebois played just 7 minutes in his second NHL game. He wasn’t terrible. He wasn’t really anything. It’s hard to be noticeable in seven minutes of ice time and Brisebois wasn’t. That’s both good and bad. For a defenceman of his type, invisible is what he should aim for. It means he’s not making many mistakes and quietly keeping the puck in the right end of the ice. But when your coach only gives you 7 minutes of ice time, that suggests he doesn’t quite trust you just yet. Probably should have rethought the joy buzzer in your hand when you first introduced yourself.
- The Sharks dominated early, with their pressure culminating in Derrick Pouliot clearing the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. The Sharks capitalized with their shifty puck movement down low: Evander Kane sent the puck behind the net to Erik Karlsson, who set up Timo Meier in the slot with a one-touch pass. Markstrom couldn’t get square in time and Meier made no mistake for the 1-0 lead.
- It’s getting to be more surprising when Erik Gudbranson isn’t on the ice for a goal against. He was on for two of the three Sharks’ goals, but I honestly thought he had a fine game. He shouldn’t be blamed for the Meier goal, in my opinion, as Meier should have been the responsibility of Jay Beagle, who was a little too slow to recognize the danger.
- To be fair, Michael Phelps would look too slow given how quick the puck movement was from the Sharks. That’s right: you’re getting more than one Michael Phelps reference in this IWTG.
- The Canucks quickly responded, tying the game less than a minute later. Alex Biega made a good read to pick off a pass along the boards, then sprung Antoine Roussel on the breakaway with a great stretch pass. With Sharks bearing down on him, Roussel got his shot off quickly, making like deodorant and going under the armpit of Martin Jones.
- The rest of the game didn’t go so well for the Bulldog, so drink in that stretch pass, Biega fans. Drink it in.
- Troy Stecher is looking more and more comfortable on the power play, but it was two defensive plays that might have cemented his spot on the top unit. With one defenceman on the power play, it’s important to be able to defend against shorthanded chances, and Stecher made a great play on Barclay Goodrow to sweep the puck off his stick on a shorthanded rush, then broke up an Evander Kane breakaway pass right after a penalty expired with a great stick in the neutral zone.
- Speaking of Stecher, Patrick Johnston had a great story in The Province about Stecher’s Canucks fandom as a kid growing up in Richmond, including a great photo of him with two of his friends at a Canucks game back in 2002.
- Nikolay Goldobin has just one goal in his last 21 games. How you view that stat likely depends on whether you’re a Goldy optimist — he’s due — or a Goldy pessimist — he has no finish. Either way, you have to feel for the guy. He had a fantastic backhand shot in the second period, nearly creating a goal off a rebound from a terrible angle. Nearly. The puck hit the crossbar, then the far post, and stayed out. Okay, Goldobin, time to apologize to every person you’ve ever wronged, just in case one of them put a crazy curse on you.
- The second period was wild, full of back-and-forth actions as both teams traded chances, but it was the Sharks who pulled ahead 2-1. Tyler Motte tried to feather a pass through Karlsson on the rush instead of getting the puck in deep for a line change and the Sharks burst back 3-on-2. Brent Burns drove through the middle, subtly tripping Gudbranson on his way through, which gave Logan Couture the time and space to patiently out-wait Markstrom.
- The shots on goal were 19-6 for the Canucks in the second period, but they just couldn’t buy a goal. Roussel led the Canucks with six shots on goal, Boeser had five, and Granlund and Leivo each had four. Pettersson had seven shot attempts, but missed the net with four of them. Sometimes it seems like Pettersson aims for perfection instead of just getting a shot on net, which is pretty understandable considering how perfect his shot can be sometimes.
- The tying goal was far from perfect. Pettersson created the chance with a strong forecheck on a Pouliot dump in that freed up the puck for Boeser to walk out from behind the net. The Sharks gave him a wide berth, anticipating a cross-seam pass back to Pettersson, and Boeser took advantage of the time and space to pick a corner. Only, when he tried to roof the puck, it stood on end as he shot and knuckled under Jones’s blocker. Boeser knew he flubbed the shot, as he had a wry smile on his face as he celebrated. Just call him Russ Tyler.
- Biega’s stretch pass to Roussel in the first was great. His breakout pass to Goldobin in the third was non-existent. With clear possession and plenty of time, he completely whiffed on the pass and was checked by Joe Pavelski. Meier took the puck for a 2-on-1 down low with Couture. Goldobin got back in the play, but so did Pavelski, making it a 3-on-2. Biega, however, took far too long to get back on Pavelski, who had no problem scoring on Meier’s rebound off Markstrom’s mask.
- That was the game. After the goal, the Canucks managed just one more shot on goal in the final seven minutes. The Sharks made like Francis X. Clampazzo and clamped down hard defensively; they didn’t get any shots at all.
- The Canucks may have lost the game, but Elias Pettersson is still magical. Just watch him create a zone exit out of nothing while under heavy pressure from two different Sharks forecheckers. It’s marvelous. He's like the Michael Phelps of hockey.
- Okay, that Phelps reference was a stretch. But it's the rule of three, people! I don't make the comedy rules!