Travis Green doesn’t normally shake up the lineup after a win, but he did so for Tuesday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings out of necessity. Chris Tanev was ready to play and Brock Boeser was not, so it was time for some ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.
Green looked at Bowie Horvat and let him know, “There’s gonna have to be a different man,” and promoted Jake Virtanen to his line to start the game. The first line was told, “Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older,” as Loui Eriksson was reunited with Elias Pettersson and Nikolay Goldobin.
Brendan Leipsic and Darren Archibald came into the lineup, while Brendan Gaunce never left “the stream of warm impermanence” and found himself back in the press box despite three points in two games.
Meanwhile, Derrick Pouliot may not have wanted to “be a richer man,” but he got the prize of playing with the returning Tanev. Alex Biega returned to his familiar press box haunts, “quite aware of what [he’s] goin’ through,” and Troy Stecher was “up to [his] neck in it” with Michael Del Zotto.
“Still the days seem the same” for Ben Hutton and Erik Gudbranson, who stayed together through all the ch-ch-changes.
I turned and faced the strange when I watched this game.
- The Hutton/Gudbranson pairing and Pouliot/Tanev pairing both got a steady diet of the Red Wings’ top-six, splitting the primary shutdown duties. That seemed to suit Hutton and Gudbranson just fine, as they had their best game in recent times, moving the puck effectively out of their zone. They even combined on the Canucks’ second goal.
- It is so great seeing Tanev back in the lineup. He was immediately up to his usual tricks, casually shutting down opposition chances. I’m not sold on pairing him with Pouliot, but the Canucks seem set on using Pouliot on the power play and he’s been struggling at 5-on-5, so matching him with their steadiest defender makes a certain amount of sense.
Nice to have Tanev back doing Tanev things! A well timed stick-check breaks up this rush followed by a stiff arm take down - remains poised in the pocket as an option for Pouliot, beats the forecheck and completes a quick pass for one of his 12 controlled zone exits. #Canucks pic.twitter.com/XUShd5nAkL— Darryl Keeping (@dkeeping) November 7, 2018
- Loui Eriksson did everything but score in this game, which is unfortunate, because he was given a lot of opportunities to do so. He created a breakaway off a blocked shot in the first, but couldn’t create any separation with his (lack of) speed and was stopped. A rebound chance was stymied, he couldn’t convert a feed from Pettersson, and had the puck bounce off his stick from a gorgeous pass by Goldobin. Subtle Loui did a lot of subtle things to get in those scoring positions, but he may as well have been Ratchet’s sidekick with the way the puck kept clanking off his stick.
- Already struggling without Alex Edler and Sven Baertschi, the first power play unit took another blow with Brock Boeser missing this game. With Leipsic stepping in, the power play went 0-for-3 and managed just two shots on goal. That’s not to put it all on Leipsic, of course, and there’s no shame in not being Brock Boeser — the vast majority of the world isn’t Brock Boeser — but it was an obvious step down in quality.
- Poor Leipsic got mauled by Jimmy Howard in the second period. Leipsic got shoved into the net by Wade “Actually” Megan and Howard took exception to the net invasion, dropping the People’s Elbow on Leipsic, then started throwing haymakers, as Leipsic tried to escape with all his limbs intact.
- It’s understandable that Howard was a little uptight; he had to face Elias Pettersson all night.
- Pettersson scored yet another highlight reel goal, maintaining his goal-per-game pace. Subtle Loui subtly stole the puck from Justin Abdelkader in the neutral zone and sent Pettersson in alone on the left wing. Pettersson wound up like Popeye’s Twister Punch and drilled an unstoppable slap shot top corner past Howard.
- That goal looked like it was straight out of the 80’s, back when goaltenders were 5’6”, wore less equipment than a skater does today, and the average save percentage was .875. Specifically, it looked similar to the goals that Wayne Gretzky used to score. Scarily similar.
Shades of Gretzky? You decide. 🤔 pic.twitter.com/VMEOs8GZzJ— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) November 7, 2018
- Obviously it’s ludicrous to actually compare Pettersson to Gretzky after just 10 NHL games. But when the spindly, playmaking, slap-shot-scoring shoe fits...
- At the end of the first period, Pettersson had a similar chance to score, skating down the left wing and taking a peak at the jumbotron to see how much time he had left. He decided against another slap shot, and we're all poorer for it. The world needs more slap shot goals off the rush. Let's bring back the 80's, complete with rolled up sleeves on our suit jackets, giant shoulder pads, and neon leg warmers.
- Martin Frk tried to match Pettersson’s slap shot goal and actually succeeded, beating Jacob Markstrom short side with a shot just over the pad. Travis Green challenged the goal for offside, however, and got the decision: Frk was frking offside. Perhaps if he had a vowel or too on the back of his jersey, it would have weighed him down a little bit and kept him from stepping over the blue line so quickly.
- The best part about the no-goal call was Wes McCauley’s typically dramatic rendering of the verdict. He so charismatically delivered the “no goal!” call that Frk couldn’t even be mad: you could see him laughing at the bench on the US broadcast. Wes McCauley is a treasure.
- The Canucks’ 2-0 goal was also challenged for being offside and, honestly, I thought they had a case. In real time, I thought Loui Eriksson was offside on the zone entry, but the replay was about as inconclusive as it gets. Subtle Loui’s skate was maybe, ever-so-subtly, on the blue line as he passed the puck into the zone, but it was awfully close. Honestly, the goal was scored so long after the zone entry that it barely matter: there ought to be a statute of limitations on that kind of thing.
- The goal itself was Hutton’s third of the season. He took Gudbranson’s pass off the boards and smartly took a stutter-step to the outside to open up the shooting lane before throwing the puck on goal. Danny DeKeyser tried to block the puck, but only ended up screening Howard: the puck snuck under DeKeyser and went into DeNetser.
- With Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle out, there’s just one centre that Travis Green trusts on defensive zone faceoffs: Bo Horvat. Of the 24 defensive zone faceoffs for the Canucks, Horvat took 20 of them, going 9-for-20. The rest of the Canucks went 0-for-4, suggesting that Green’s distrust was warranted. When it comes to the draw, Green disagrees with Mister Rogers: “I’m not very good at it, but it doesn’t matter.” Oh, it matters, Mister Rogers. It matters.
- Here’s how unwilling Green is to let anyone else take a faceoff in the defensive zone: two of the four non-Horvat faceoffs were after icings, so Green literally could not put Horvat on the ice. Another was on the penalty kill, where Tyler Motte and Antoine Roussel were the penalty killers. Green intentionally sent out a centre other than Horvat for a defensive zone faceoff just once and it was only because Horvat had just double-shifted to cover a previous defensive zone faceoff.
- Jacob Markstrom bounced back after giving up six goals on Friday with a strong performance against the Red Wings. He couldn’t be faulted on either Detroit goal — one was a power play goal after a deflected pass forced him out of position and the other banked in off Troy Stecher’s leg — and he made more sterling saves than a savvy British banker. He had two stunning saves in the first period after a rusty Tanev turnover, turning aside Wade "Fudge Stripes" Megan with his left pad.
- Markstrom's best save came in overtime when he robbed Gustav Nyquist with his glove off a backdoor pass by Dylan Larkin. Nyquist got in behind Pouliot and Markus Granlund, but Markstrom somehow stretched across to snag the puck. It was an unreal save that might have gotten more attention if the Canucks had gone on to win in the shootout.
- The Canucks carried the play for most of overtime, as Horvat nearly scored on an early break, then Pettersson rang the crossbar on a 2-on-1. Like The Treachery of Images, the Canucks were close, but no cigar.
- Dylan Larkin was the lone shooter to score in the shootout, giving Detroit the win, after a nifty stutter-step move gave him room on the blocker side. You can’t fault the goaltender in a shootout loss when none of the shooters score, but, to be fair to the Canucks, Jimmy Howard has the best shootout save percentage in the NHL over the last three seasons.
- Pettersson took his first shootout attempt and went with an old faithful that he describes as his “usual move.” Unfortunately, old faithful turned traitor, as he lost the handle on his deke to the forehand and sent the puck skittering into the corner. I’ve seen him score so many times with that move in Sweden that I was legitimately stunned to see him lose the puck.
- Even with the loss, that’s still points in four straight games and another delightful Pettersson goal to ooh and aah about for the next week. Pretty successful night, all around.