I Watched This Game: Horvat and Markstrom star in gutsy win over the Golden Knights

Canucks 3 - 2 Golden Knights (SO)

Pass it to Bulis

Pretend for a moment that you don’t know the outcome of this game. Imagine you only had the following information: the Canucks were missing both Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser to start the game. They lost Alex Edler to an injury halfway through the first period, Sven Baertschi halfway through the second period, and Chris Tanev halfway through the third period. They were facing last season’s Western Conference Champions, who out-shot them 35-to-26.

What outcome would you expect?

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It is shocking that the Canucks managed to pull out a victory in Vegas, given the two significant injuries already on the docket heading into the game and the three significant players they lost during the game itself. In the pantheon of hockey gods, the god of ill-timed injuries seems to particularly have it in for the Canucks, stacking up injury after injury until you almost wonder who could possibly be left on the ice.

A lot of people called it a “gutsy” win, as opposed to other wins that depend more on other organs. The Canucks’ win against Tampa Bay a couple weeks ago was more of a lungsy win, while Saturday’s victory over Boston was definitely a skinsy win. Yes, skin is an organ.

This game, however? Definitely gutsy. It had a certain aroma of entrails to it and you could just kind of feel it in your gut, like when the bass drops at a rave. Also, seeing Edler, Baertschi, and Tanev all leave with injuries made a lot of fans sick to their stomachs. Gutsy, for sure.

My gut reaction to the Canucks gutting this one out was to go with my gut and spill my guts after I watched this game.

  • The Canucks’ dads were on-hand for this game, as part of their annual Dads’ Trip. Bo Horvat’s dad, Tim, was the clear winner for Best Dad thanks to his exuberance throughout the game, though he had an advantage given how well his son played. An honourable mention has to go to Brent Sutter, however, if only for the sheer surreality of seeing the former New York Islander and Chicago Blackhawk wearing a Canucks jersey.

 

 

  • Erik Gudbranson had a fantastic first period for the Canucks. He twice jumped up in the rush and set up backdoor scoring chances. Unfortunately, perhaps because of the bad ice, both Tyler Motte and Jake Virtanen whiffed on the passes, leaving Gudbranson pointless on the night. The less said about his second and third periods — by the end of the game the Canucks were out-chanced 12-to-3 when he was on the ice at 5-on-5 — the better.
  • Edler evidently suffered a lower-body injury on a hit from Max Pacioretty. He tested out his, well, lower body for one more shift, but lasted just 10 seconds before heading back to the bench and then to the dressing room. That’s a tough break for Edler, who has played a full 82-game season just once in his career.

 

 

  • In Edler’s absence, Nolan Baumgartner threw the Canucks’ defence pairings into the Line Blender 4000™ and pressed “liquify.” Left-side defencemen Ben Hutton and Derrick Pouliot took on Edler’s minutes, with Hutton playing just short of 30 minutes, including big minutes against the Golden Knights first line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Reilly Smith. He also took on Edler’s shot-blocking duties, with a team-high six blocked shots.

 

 

  • Pouliot has been sheltered on the third pairing this season and, with Edler out, that wasn’t possible against the Golden Knights. He got exposed a bit on the opening goal, as Erik Haula stripped him of the puck behind the net, and centred for Max Pacioretty. Jacob Markstrom wasn’t expecting the turnover, never got properly set, and, when he tried to push off the post to make the save, discovered that his skate wasn’t actually against the post, and flopped to the ice like a clumsy penguin.
  • The Canucks quickly responded thanks to Subtle Loui Eriksson, who did the little things, like cover the point for an aggressive Hutton and get a shot through traffic. Meanwhile, Bo Horvat went to the front of the net where he made like a high roller in Vegas and tipped well, deflecting the puck down past Marc-Andre Fleury.

 

 

  • 63 seconds later, Horvat gave the Canucks the lead. On the ice for a defensive zone faceoff in place of Markus Granlund, Horvat busted up the ice and caught an aerial pass from Tim Schaller, then sent an aerial shot top shelf where Dad keeps the good kush.

 

 

  • That’s seven goals in just 10 games for Horvat. We talk a lot about his drive to constantly improve, but we still don’t talk about it nearly enough. Like computer technology, he’s continually getting better. Pretty soon, we’ll have a quantum Horvat that exists in both a state of defending and scoring simultaneously until he is observed.
  • Subtle Loui nearly made it 3-1 a few minutes later. The oft-criticized-by-Green Nikolay Goldobin sprung the oft-lauded-by-Green Eriksson on a breakaway, but he was stymied by Fleury. Obviously scoring on a breakaway is way too obvious for Subtle Loui. He prefers to fly under the radar.
  • Sven Baertschi really didn’t like the hit that knocked him out of the game and it’s not hard to see why. It was a blindside hit to the back of Baertschi’s head. Even the scorekeepers didn’t know what to do with it, as they didn’t even give Tomas Hyka a hit on the stat sheet. They probably thought it should have been a penalty too.

 

 

  • Horvat had an absolutely fantastic game and was clearly the Canucks’ best player...except on one play. On the Golden Knights’ second goal, Horvat completely botched the backcheck. While some fans were quick to blame Subtle Loui, as he ended up the closest to the goalscorer, Ryan Reaves, he was definitely Horvat’s man. Instead, Horvat double-teamed Troy Stecher’s check, leaving Reaves wide open on a 3-on-3 rush. The fourth-liner played against type and sniped the puck off the post and in.
  • This was Alex Tuch’s first game of the season and it showed, as he apparently forgot how to skate. Carrying the puck on a 3-on-2 rush, he went full-on Bambi: he lost his edges, his skates slipped out from under him, and he unceremoniously took a seat on the ice. That’s one of the 700 best hockey players in the world, right there.

 

 

  • Midway through the third period, the Canucks lost two defencemen in short succession. Erik Gudbranson lost a skate blade, while Chris Tanev blocked a shot off his ankle and hobbled to the bench. With Edler already injured, the Canucks were left briefly like Wolfenstein: 3 D.
  • When Gudbranson lost his skate blade, his trip back to the bench may have been some of the finest skating of his career. While most players that lose a blade end up awkwardly hopping or even crawling back to the bench, Gudbranson twirled and spun like Tammy Duncan, somehow never falling to the ice. Nowe that’s some fancy edgework.

 

 

  • Overtime was thrilling, with great scoring chances at both ends of the ice. The most exciting moment, however, was a defensive play, when Horvat made up for his previous bogus backcheck with a most excellent backcheck on a Marchessault breakaway. The Golden Knights’ leading scorer had a good 15 foot head start on Horvat, but Bowie put him under pressure and swatted the puck away before he could get a shot.
  • Jacob Markstrom was fantastic all game, apart from the slight gaffe on the Golden Knights’ first goal. He made 33 saves on 35 shots, then was perfect in the shootout, turning aside Haula, Pacioretty, Marchessault, and Karlsson in succession. He was particularly good with his glove in this game, snagging pucks like they were loose-knit sweaters.
  • The unexpected hero in the shootout was Markus Granlund, who saw the three previous Canucks shooters all get stopped on dekes and beat Fleury instead with a quick snap shot. Just as Fleury shifted his grip on his stick to go for a poke check, Granlund whipped the puck past him. Like a Jimmy Carr punchline, his shot was perfectly-timed.


 

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