The outcome of this game ceased mattering to a lot of Canucks fans five minutes into the third period. That’s when Elias Pettersson left the game after a dirty play by the Panthers’ Michael Matheson. He didn’t return.
It’s hard to overstate just how important Pettersson is to the Canucks, even after just five games in the NHL. If the Canucks want to retain any hope of making the playoffs this season, as unlikely as that may be, they need Pettersson to stay healthy.
Pettersson is already the Canucks’ biggest offensive threat and is arguably supplanted Bo Horvat as the first-line centre. Pettersson leads the Canucks in goals and points. He’s the quarterback on the power play. He’s been the catalyst for the Canucks in their last two comeback victories, scoring the team’s first goal in each of them.
More than that, he’s frequently been the only reason the Canucks have even been remotely watchable. I worried that this might be the last watchable game for a while when I watched this game.
- Pettersson’s injury will dominate the discussion of this game for good reason: as much as the two points in the standings mean something to Travis Green and the players, the general assumption about the team is that they’re not going anywhere in the standings and that every two points actually just takes them further away from a high draft pick. Pettersson, on the other hand, represents the future and has easily been the biggest bright spot of the Canucks’ start to the season. A “history of concussions” starts with just one.
- A lot of the talk among fans on social media surrounded the lack of pushback from the Canucks after Matheson’s dirty takedown of Pettersson. I completely understand the sentiment. Part of my brain was imagining ways the Canucks could go after Matheson and somehow “make him pay.” There’s a desire for some sort of frontier justice baked into hockey fans that have grown up with fighting as an accepted part of the game. We expect the players to somehow police the game, especially when there’s so little faith in the NHL to do so. Case in point: the referee 10 feet from the play didn’t call a penalty on Matheson.
- Every time my brain starts going down that road, however, it ends up picturing Marty McSorley slashing Donald Brashear in the head or Todd Bertuzzi sucker punching Steve Moore. Fans will be quick to say, “I don’t want that, I just want a little pushback. Get in his face after a whistle, hit him legally during play. Do something!” But those opportunities to do something within the rules don’t always present themselves. Then what? You chase him around the ice, challenging him to a fight? And if he says no? What do you do?
- The NHL is reportedly reviewing the play, so we’ll see if the league suspends Matheson, as they should. For now, let’s look at the rest of the game.
- There was a wonderful little ceremony prior to puck drop honouring Roberto Luongo for playing 1000 games in the NHL. He’s only the third goaltender to reach that milestone and is 27 games behind Patrick Roy for second all-time. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to add to that total in this game, as he’s currently injured, but it was still a great touch to honour him with the Canucks in town.
Celebrating a Legacy that will last a lifetime.— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) October 13, 2018
Congrats, Lu. pic.twitter.com/4oA9maei6V
- For the second game in a row, Anders Nilsson shut the door and gave the Canucks a chance to win. He wasn’t as busy, because the Canucks did a better job of limiting the Panthers’ chances and blocked a whopping 23 shots, but he still made 24 saves on 26 shots, including a couple doozies. He even drew a penalty in the first period to give the power play a chance to score. He did a little bit of everything; the only way he could have done more is if he skated down the ice and tackled Matheson.
- Chris Tanev and Alex Edler led the way for the Canucks in blocked shots, with 8 and 5, respectively. You’d think that pairing was put together by Dave Chappelle and directed by Michel Gondry, because it’s a block party.
- Usually that many blocks is a bad sign — if you’re blocking a shot, it’s because the other team has the puck in the offensive zone — and that was the case for the top pairing once again. Possession-wise, Edler and Tanev have been getting crushed this season, much like their shin bones. They’re taking on extremely difficult shifts, however, starting primarily in the defensive zone, in order to shelter the other two pairings. The underlying numbers suggest this is an untenable plan long-term, but we’ll see.
- One of those blocked shots ended up turning into a goal. Edler managed to block Jonathan Huberdeau’s first shot off the rush, but Huberdeau spotted and swatted the puck past Nilsson before he could reset.
- The Canucks struck back two minutes later on the power play. Under pressure, Brock Boeser moved the puck down the boards, then Sven Baertschi fired the puck across to Pettersson. He had room to step up and fling the puck top shelf where Mama keeps the microfiche. In this scenario, Mama is secretly a spy.
Mike Smith claims he somehow got a piece of this EP shot as well pic.twitter.com/iNDuJhavgE— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) October 14, 2018
- With that fantastic shot, Pettersson now has a point in all five games he’s played in the NHL and is up to five goals and eight points. It’s actually the same number of goals and points as another great Swedish Canuck had in his first five games: Thomas Gradin.
- Antoine Roussel made his Canucks debut and promptly took two penalties in his first five shifts. I mean, I know he takes a lot of penalties, but slow down, son. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
- After the Panthers took a 2-1 lead on a one-time cannonball by Vincent Trocheck, however, Roussel made up for his earlier penalties by earning a penalty shot. Jake Virtanen sent Roussel in alone and Bogdan Kiselevich gave him the hook like he was Dustin Hoffman.
- On the penalty shot, Roussel serpentined like Peter Falk and Alan Arkin, which got Reimer moving side to side. That gave Roussel just enough space to beat him under the glove. He celebrated hard, mocking Trocheck’s earlier knee-sliding celebration.
Duelling celly time in Florida. Trochek's form was very very solid and in control, whereas Roussel's was not nearly as controlled BUT he added some knee kick flair. Tough to call which was better. pic.twitter.com/JFwj05WQPA— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) October 14, 2018
- The Canucks may not have had any physical response to Matheson, but they responded on the scoreboard. On Matheson’s next shift, Baertschi blew past him in the neutral zone to pick up Horvat’s chip off the boards. Baertschi then sent a perfectly weight pass to the back door, where Horvat redirected it home.
- For the first time all season, the Horvat line didn’t get outplayed at even-strength. Baertschi was reunited with Horvat and Boeser, and the trio out-chanced the Panthers, with each of them picking up a point. Baertschi led the way with two assists and is quietly second on the team in scoring behind Pettersson.
- Pettersson wasn’t the only player who left the game with an injury. Late in the game, Jay Beagle blocked a shot off his right wrist and never tried to grab his stick with that hand afterwards. That’s often a bad sign. Beagle has been healthy the last couple seasons, playing 81 and 79 games, but before that his career high was 62 games. Based on that shot block, the odds are low that he’ll play a full 82-game season for the first time in his career.