If you have yet to watch this game, but have it recorded on your PVR, with the intent of watching it later, I have a simple recommendation: watch the first period. Then, stop the recording, delete the game, turn your television off, and then throw your television out the window.
The first period featured some fast-paced action, with both teams ringing shots off the post. You got to see Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser return to the lineup and flash a little magic, creating some great scoring chances.
In the first period, Jacob Markstrom made one of the best saves of the season on Evgeni Malkin, while the Canucks completely shut down the red hot Sidney Crosby. The Penguins’ leading goal-scorer, Phil Kessel, didn’t get a single shot on goal.
If you only watched the first period of this game, then you probably had a good time and would feel pretty good about the Canucks. Alas, I didn’t just watch the first period; I watched this game.
- After the first period, things went south like a monarch butterfly in the winter. So I’m going to make like the Boston Red Sox on June 27th, 2003, and stick around the first for a while.
- It was fantastic to see Pettersson and Boeser return to the lineup. They played together on a line with Nikolay Goldobin, and it was essentially like the Canucks added an entire first line to the lineup. Okay, it wasn’t “like” that, it was that. When they were on the ice together at 5-on-5, the Canucks out-shot the Penguins 7-2.
- Unfortunately, Pettersson couldn’t tally a point in this game, so his point streak to start the season stalled at five games. It wasn’t for lack of trying: he got in alone on his first shift of the gameand deked around Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith, forcing DeSmith to use the unorthodox method of tripping Pettersson to make the “save.” It’s hard to blame DeSmith: not only did it prevent a goal, penalty minutes look badass on the back of a hockey card.
- For the second time this season, the Penguins started DeSmith against the Canucks instead of supposed starter Matt Murray. It’s almost as if Murray is afraid of the Canucks for some reason or the Penguins are afraid of what might happen.
- One of Pettersson’s best traits is his patience with the puck. Pettersson came closest to scoring after he sent a one-timer wide on the power play: Goldobin hit the post on the ricochet, then Pettersson snagged the puck, and held onto it long enough to force Bryan Rust to drop to one knee to block the shot. That’s when Pettersson pulled the puck in and ripped the shot over Rust’s out-stretched leg, only to hit the crossbar.
- While Pettersson had that nice chance in the first, the power play was mostly, to put it crudely, a butt. Largely butt-like. Sorta butt-ish. They clearly miss Alex Edler’s steady presence at the point, which I don’t think anyone thought prior to Edler’s injury.
- I really don’t want to say anything negative about Bob Cole in his 50th and final season calling games for Hockey Night in Canada.
- Derrick Pouliot has had some bad giveaways the last couple games and he kept the streak going with an awful turnover in the neutral zone to the ever-dangerous Evgeni Malkin. Jacob Markstrom bailed Pouliot out like he was a holey rowboat: Malkin cut across the net to his backhand, but Markstrom stretched out his left leg and got the blade of his skate on the shot. I guess Markstrom never heard that blades are for skatin’, not making incredible saves. What a dingus.
- It was a rough game for Pouliot, but it’s hard to blame him too much. He’s at his best on a sheltered third pairing. With Alex Edler and Chris Tanev out, he and partner Troy Stecher have to take on a lot more responsibility. While Ben Hutton and Erik Gudbranson took on the Crosby line, Pouliot and Stecher had to contend with Malkin, who had 15 points in 8 games heading into Vancouver. Malkin exited Vancouver with 18 points in 9 games.
- One more positive thing from the first period before we run through the rest of the game like a chicken with its head cut off, ie. not really paying attention to anything going on around us. Look at this nice play Hutton made at the Canucks’ blue line on Crosby! Neat!
- Crosby was upset at his lack of success in the first period, but he learned from Aerosmith: don’t get mad, get even. He started the evening process by finding a mark, Antoine Roussel, running into him, then taking a hilarious dive when Roussel predictably grabbed him, which drew a quick power play.
Roussel is really making me laugh lately with his ability to make other NHL players go limp in his arms pic.twitter.com/okVw7NI1Q7— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) October 28, 2018
- Poor Roussel. He later got tagged with a high-sticking call on Jake Guentzel, when it was actually Dominik Simon’s stick. Since Guentzel was bleeding, it was a four-minute double minor. Roussel now leads the NHL in penalty minutes per game, but he didn’t really deserve the six he got in this one.
- Meanwhile, this hit in Tyler Motte’s numbers by Jamie Oleksiak wasn’t worth a penalty. I am the first to defend the referees when I feel they unduly criticized, but guys, what are you doing? Colour commentator Louie DeBrusk claimed that Motte turned just before the hit, but all he did was adjust which of the two numbers on his back was closest to Oleksiak.
- To make matter worse, the Penguins opened the scoring immediately after the non-call on Oleksiak. Stecher didn’t stick with Kessel as the sniper went behind the net, so when the puck squeaked through Markstrom into the crease, Kessel was left alone to give it a little tappy into the net.
- Here’s a backhanded compliment: Sidney Crosby has arguably the best backhand in the NHL. He used it to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead, though he was helped by an awful line change by Jake Virtanen. A Canucks’ breakout fizzled in the neutral zone and the Penguins broke the other way. Instead of busting back on defence, Virtanen coasted to the bench, and the player he would have been backchecking, Simon, got the puck. Michael Del Zotto turned to check Simon and left Crosby alone in the slot, which was, I think we all agree, not a great choice, but Virtanen definitely bears a lot of blame here.
- It might only be a coincidence, but Virtanen didn’t play for the rest of the second period after Crosby’s goal and only played two minutes in the third period.
- Virtanen wasn’t the only one who thought a line change would be a good idea while the Penguins were attacking. Brendan Leipsic signalled for a line change while Kessel and Carl Hagelin moved in 2-on-2, only to suddenly realize that Malkin was the trailer on the play and he was F1 — the first forward back. By the time he made that realization, it was far too late. Like a celebrity guest on Oh, Hello has too much tuna, Malkin had too much time with the puck and sniped it for the 4-0 goal.
- Mental mistakes like that showed up in abundance during the third period. The Canucks that outplayed and outshot the Penguins in the first period were long gone. On the third and fifth Penguins goals, Loui Eriksson and Erik Gudbranson left Malkin and Crosby, respectively, wide open at the back door. That’s like leaving a toddler and a baby alone with a jar of peanut butter — that baby’s going to be covered in peanut butter and Malkin and Crosby are going to score goals.