Through three games this season, the Canucks have been one of the highest-scoring teams in the NHL. After three goals against the Hurricanes on Tuesday, they’re up to 12 goals, averaging 4 goals per game. It took them five games last season to reach 12 goals.
It’s a surprising burst of offence considering they struggled to score in the preseason and it has some fans blissfully accepting the results of the game. It’s understandable: if the Canucks are going to lose, they might as well lose while scoring some fun, entertaining goals and giving the fans a flicker of hope for the future.
I’m curious to see just how long the rope will get, however. If the Canucks have a dreadful record 20 games into the season — say 4-12-4 — but are still scoring 3 or 4 goals every game, will fans still say “This is fine,” while ignoring the surrounding flames?
I’m not trying to be negative about the Canucks; I’m legitimately curious to see how fans respond to this season, particularly if it continues in a similar vein to these first three games.
I still enjoyed it when I watched this game.
- The top line struggled in the first two games, so Travis Green shook things up by replacing Sven Baertschi with Brendan Leipsic. The top line still struggled, but Baertschi scored two goals and added an assist. So, maybe Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser were holding Baertschi back? That’s like if Michelle Williams had gone on to the best solo career after Destiny’s Child broke up.
- I don’t want to be alarmist about Brock Boeser, but it’s not just that he’s not scoring: he’s not doing much of anything right. Unlike last season, when fans were practically begging for the puck to land on his stick, now plays are dying on that same stick. Again, it’s still early and this could just be some rust from a late start to off-season training, lingering effects from one of his injuries, a side effect of the muscle he added over the summer, or just plain bad luck. There are all sorts of theories, but fans just have to hope that he returns to his normal, flowing self before too long.
- I was optimistic about Jacob Markstrom after the season opener. He looked dialed in and seemed to be tracking the puck better than ever. Now he’s given up a goal on the first shot of the game twice in a row. At least in Saturday’s game the puck was tipped. On this one he had no excuse. Jordan Staal’s lofted wrist shot had less mustard than a Lou Costello hot dog, but Markstrom still completely whiffed on it, sliding the wrong way for no discernible reason.
- The Canucks had trouble breaking out of their zone all game, but you wouldn’t know that from Alex Edler’s fantastic stretch pass to Sven Baertschi that sprung the Swiss winger on a breakaway. It was the best sauce since honey mustard, sailing over everyone’s sticks in the neutral zone and landing right on Baertschi’s.
- Baertschi did a great job staying onside while receiving Edler’s pass, then broke in alone. Facing Curtis McElhinney, Baertschi faked the shot in a way that almost looked accidental, then patiently dragged the puck around McElhinney to tuck it home. At the very least, the Canucks are going to give the guys who make Canucks highlight reels plenty to work with.
- The Hurricanes regained the lead five minutes later with another long shot, but this one was less Markstrom’s fault and more the fault of Edler’s road hockey goalie instincts. Brett “Joe” Pesce’s slap shot had some pace on it, but Markstrom was tracking it until Edler shot out his leg hoping to make a kick save and a beauty. Instead, it was kick own goal and a frump.
- Generally speaking, when both defencemen are behind the net when a goal is scored, something has gone horribly wrong. First, Derrick Pouliot pressured Micheal Ferland, then came to a complete stop behind the net as Ferland’s initial shot rebounded to the side. Then Eric Gudbranson followed Teuvo Teravainen behind the net as his shot rebounded out to a waiting Ferland, who slipped the puck to Sebastian Aho for the goal. I don’t have any advice for how to avoid doing that other than don’t. Don’t do that.
This defensive coverage seems less than ideal pic.twitter.com/ycKWwwgoJU— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) October 9, 2018
- You can point to the defensive coverage of the forwards on that goal as well, particularly Boeser, who was late to recognize where the rebound was going and had Aho skate right past him, but at the same time, both defencemen were literally standing directly behind the net.
- Gudbranson had a rough game overall. He was on the ice for three of the Hurricanes’ five goals and struggled with the speed of the Carolina forecheckers. Even when he had time with the puck, however, he couldn’t move the puck out of the zone with possession and iced the puck like it was a bro and he had a case of Smirnoff Ice that wasn’t going to drink itself.
- Already up 3-1, the Hurricanes started dominating the shot counter in the second period. Fortunately, the Canucks still have a good power play. The 3-2 goal came off a slick zone entry by Baertschi, who danced around Pesce like Spider in Goodfellas (NSFW), then dropped the puck for Bo Horvat. His shot deflected off Jaccob Slavin’s stick and went back against the grain on McElhinney.
- Markstrom had some serious rebound troubles against the Hurricanes, kicking out pucks like Big Brother kicks out houseguests. One of those turned into the 4-2 goal, as he kicked a puck directly into the slot, where Pettersson couldn’t tie up Andrei Svechnikov.
- Pettersson made up for his defensive miscue with a terrific zone entry on the Canucks’ next zone entry. He held the puck out along the boards, suckering in Calvin De Haan, then pulling it out of reach. He passed the puck to Alex Edler, who sent the puck backdoor to Baertschi, whose tip deflected in off Justin Faulk’s skate.
- Edler had two primary assists in this game, both of them on fantastic passes. Just like that he’s up to four points in three games. It seems like Edler himself was surprised at what his hands could do.
- Nikolay Goldobin didn’t factor into the scoring in this game, but his skill and chemistry with Pettersson was still one of the highlights of the game. English may be the second language for both of them, but they speak the same language on the ice. Their offensive creativity shares a vocabulary, grammar and syntax. When Green shuffled the lines, Pettersson and Goldobin stayed together.
- One of Goldobin’s highlights was unexpectedly a great defensive play, when he cleared a rebound away from an open net before Teravainen could tap it in. That play will be eclipsed by the time he juggled the puck into the neutral zone seemingly for the hell of it. Juggling is another thing he and Pettersson have in common, though no word on if Goldobin can ride a unicycle.
- As mentioned earlier, Gudbranson had a penchant for icing in this game. One of them was particularly inexplicable, as he shot the puck into the zone while just a stride away from the red line and with passing options all through the neutral zone. It turned into a goal against off the subsequent faceoff after a Boeser turnover.
We're finally seeing what a healthy Erik Gudbranson can do. pic.twitter.com/aaMHoXrRz7— Darryl Keeping (@dkeeping) October 10, 2018
- The Canucks are going to need Elias Pettersson to do a little bit of everything this season: score goals, make his linemates better, and defend down low. The one thing they won’t ask him to do, however, is play goalie, as much as the Sportsnet chyron might want him to.
- Of course, Pettersson did end up playing goalie. As the game came to a close with the Canucks’ net empty, Pettersson ended up in his own crease to prevent a goal. On the final shot of the game from outside the blue line, Pettersson literally went down into a butterfly to kick the puck aside, even though it was an offside play and the goal wouldn’t have counted. If you don’t believe Pettersson is a competitor, keep that play in mind and remember that the Canucks were down by two goals and there were mere seconds left in the game.
- The Canucks’ final shot of the game came with 7:47 left in the third period. As Michael Scott once quoted Wayne Gretzky as saying, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” That, strictly speaking, isn’t true. You miss an indeterminate number of the shots you don’t take, because that’s what happens when you divide zero by zero. Because the Canucks had an indeterminate chance of scoring, they had no chance of winning this game.