I Watched This Game: Canucks head into All-Star break on sour note with loss to Hurricanes

Canucks 2 - 5 Hurricanes

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The last time the Carolina Hurricanes won in Vancouver, Paul Coffey played over 20 minutes.

That should give you an idea of just how long ago it was — nearly 20 years. Coffey was 38 years old and in the twilight of his career. The 1999-2000 season was the last full season of his career, but he still had a little life left in his too-tight skates, tallying 40 points in 69 games.

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Coffey’s career would come to a close the following season when he was waived by the Boston Bruins, the ninth team of his NHL career. It was an oddball end to a Hall of Fame career for one of the greatest offensive defencemen of all time. He was the type of player that would perhaps be even more appreciated now in the fancy stats era, where defencemen that can transition the puck up ice get less criticism for their defensive deficiencies than in past eras.

In any case, you could say the Hurricanes were due for a win in Vancouver, considering they hadn’t managed one since Coffey retired. To be fair, it might have been nearly 20 years, but the Hurricanes only played 10 games in Vancouver in that time. Remember, for a while there each NHL team only played each other once per season, so the Hurricanes would only visit Vancouver every other season. There were even a couple season where they didn’t play each other at all, not to mention a couple lockouts along the way.

In that 1999 game, the Canucks were led in ice time by a 23-year-old Ed Jovanovski, while a 26-year-old Markus Naslund led the forwards in ice time. That season was the end of a pretty lousy era in Vancouver — Mark Messier’s last with the Canucks — and the beginnings of a pretty bright future.

The Sedins made their debut the following season and, since they retired last year, they managed to go their entire careers without allowing the Hurricanes to win in Vancouver. I added a random factoid to my “Amazing Sedins” memory bank when I watched this game.

  • If it seemed like the Canucks were too eagerly anticipating the All-Star Break and the bye week that follows it, don’t be fooled: they’ve been playing like this for a while now. The difference was giveaways in the defensive zone, less puck luck in the offensive zone, and Jacob Markstrom ran out of rabbits in his hat.
  • The Canucks had just four shots in the first period. At a bar, four shots in twenty minutes is a lot; on the ice, not so much.
  • That’s been a trend for the Canucks recently: they had just four shots in the first period against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday, but scored on two of them. The Canucks have been starting slower than a bicycle sprint race of late and it was bound to come back to bite them at some point.
  • The Hurricanes, meanwhile, have had horrendous shooting luck — they’re one of the best puck possession teams in the NHL, but also one of the lowest scoring — so you could argue that would bounce back the other way as well. So, in a way, it was a perfect storm (hurricane puns!): the Canucks were due for a wakeup call and the Hurricanes were due for some goalscoring.
  • Derrick Pouliot had himself a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. It started when Sebastian Aho slipped behind him for a breakaway early in the first period and continued all game, as he and his defence partner, Erik Gudbranson, struggled to get the puck out of the defensive zone. Pouliot was a turnover machine in this game, which is great when you’re trying to mechanize the pastry-making process, but less great when you’re a puck-moving defenceman.
  • It took until the second period for the Hurricanes to open the scoring, getting one of the bounces they’ve been denied for most of the season. Teuvo Teravainen tore into a one-timer, but it was blocked by Alex Edler. Unfortunately, it bounced right onto the stick of newly-minted Hurricane Nino Niederreiter, who was able to direct the puck in the open net in spite of Chris Tanev tying up his stick.
  • It feels like the Hurricanes overcompensate for the shortness of Aho’s name with the length of some of their other names: Niederreiter; Teravainen; Maenalanen; Nedeljkovic. It’s a wonder they haven’t given up on horizontal name bars and just spelt the names of their players in a Hurricane-esque spiral on the backs of their jerseys.
  • The Canucks quickly responded a minute later. Ben Hutton pinched down the boards to keep the puck in, then Bo Horvat, covering for Hutton at the point, sent the puck across to Troy Stecher. He delivered a hard pass to Josh Leivo in the slot for the deflection past rookie goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic to end his nine-game goal drought.

 

 

  • Nedeljkovic was taken with the pick immediately following the Canucks selecting Thatcher Demko at the 2014 draft. While Demko has been groomed for an eventual starting role in Vancouver, Nedeljkovic took a rockier road, with underwhelming numbers in the OHL and AHL after he was drafted. He looked like a legitimate NHL goaltender against the Canucks, at least, though they only managed 26 shots on goal.
  • Sven Baertschi joined Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser on the top line and looked more like Svalex Baerrows when he benefited from a Sedin-like passing play. It was classic Sedinery: Pettersson made a nifty drop pass behind his back to Boeser, who drew two defenders to himself, then sent the puck back to Pettersson. The Swedish underbarn made like Henrik and didn’t even think about shooting, sending a one-touch pass to Baertschi at the back door for the tap-in.

 

 

  • What an odd game for Ben Hutton. He made a great play on the first goal to keep the puck in and was instrumental on the second goal as well, winning the puck in the neutral zone and feeding Pettersson for the counter-attack. And yet, he got an assist on neither goal and otherwise struggled to move the puck up ice, with a few ugly turnovers in the defensive zone.
  • None of Hutton’s turnovers turned into goals against; two of Pouliot’s did. On the 2-2 goal, Pouliot banked the puck up the boards to no one, where it was cut off by Dougie Hamilton. That was exacerbated by Markus Granlund not getting back in time to take Greg McKegg (with a leg for an arm and an arm for a leg) when he got Hamilton’s deflected pass and fired it past Markstrom.
  • Edler had a giveaway of his own in the defensive zone that led to the 3-2 goal for the Hurricanes. He couldn’t get the puck past Niederreiter along the boards, then left him for Tyler Motte to cover while he moved to check Aho behind the net. Unfortunately, instead of covering Niederreiter, Motte skated directly away from him, leaving him more wide open than Alex DeLarge’s eyes, and Aho found him for the quick shot.
  • Pouliot was benched after the 4-2 goal. First he got beat on the zone entry, then when he had a chance to clear the puck, he gave it away to Teravainen behind the net, who quickly centred for Hamilton, who was not going to throw away his shot.
  • That was it for Pouliot in the second period, as Travis Green and Nolan Baumgartner ran with five defencemen and mashed up the defence partners. Pouliot only played five shifts in the third period and finished with just 9:29 in ice time. Edler, covering his shifts, played a whopping 28:29.
  • Some Canucks fans will complain about the reffing in this game — the Hurricanes’ fifth goal was scored after two seemingly missed calls — but the refs can’t be blamed for the Canucks losing this one. The refs didn’t constantly give the puck away in the Canucks’ zone; the Canucks managed that all on their own.


 

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