I Watched This Game: Tim Schaller the unlikely hero in Canucks win over Stars

Canucks 3 - 2 Stars (SO)

Pass it to Bulis

On a better team, Nikolay Goldobin getting scratched wouldn’t be much of a story. The 23-year-old winger is playing in his first full NHL season and struggling with consistency. He has just two goals and two assists in his last 23 games — a healthy scratch to give another skilled winger a chance to produce would be eminently justifiable.

Goldobin, at least at this stage in his development, is a complementary player that needs to play with other skilled forwards to thrive. In the right situation, he could be a legitimate top-six forward, but ideally, on a better team, Goldobin could slot into an offensive third-line role, with some power play time. You could look to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who use players like Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde, and Adam Erne in a similar way to good effect.

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On the Canucks, skilled forwards that Goldobin might complement are few and far between. If he’s not in a top-six role, Goldobin ends up with Adam Gaudette, who’s still figuring out the NHL in his rookie year, or Markus Granlund, who is the physical embodiment of a flatline on an ECG machine.

Since the Canucks are not a better team, they don’t have better players to put in or move up the lineup. When Goldobin gets scratched, it’s not so another promising young talent can get his minutes. It’s so veterans Loui Eriksson and Tanner Pearson can play in the top six and Tim Schaller can get back in the lineup. Instead of Goldobin being a side story this season, he’s frequently taken centre stage, because the Canucks have so few skilled offensive forwards. As a result, seeing Goldobin get bounced in and out of the lineup and see his offense whither on the vine as his confidence erodes is pretty frustrating, as his talent seems like a resource the Canucks can’t afford to waste.

No offence to Schaller, but he’s been one of the Canucks’ worst players this season. It’s disappointing, considering he had some strong seasons in Boston, where he was a gritty, versatile forward, who could also chip in some points from the fourth line. At the end of the season, when most teams out of the playoffs are giving their youth a chance to prove themselves, it’s hard to get excited about the 28-year-old Schaller. He had just five points, all assists, in 37 games heading into Sunday’s tilt against the Dallas Stars.

So, of course, Schaller had the first two-goal game of his career to help lead the Canucks to a 3-2 shootout win, because the hockey gods have a really weird sense of comic timing. Schaller made Travis Green look really smart when I watched this game.

  • This is all the fault of frenemy-of-the-blog, Wyatt Arndt, who wrote up this game for The Athletic. When the news came down that Schaller was in the lineup and Goldobin was scratched, he joked about Schaller getting a hat trick. Clearly, Wyatt doesn’t know the power he possesses. He’s secretly a reality warper like Anthony Fremont from classic Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life,” but doesn’t realize it. It’s good what you did to Schaller, Wyatt. Really swell.

 

 

  • It didn’t take long for Schaller to strike. After Jay Beagle poked the puck out of a battle along the boards, Schaller lifted Radek Faksa’s stick to steal it. Taking advantage of a passive Roope Hintz, Schaller came out above the goal line and fired a shot short side on Anton Khudobin. It wasn’t a pretty goal, but I’ll credit it to Schaller knowing Khudobin’s weaknesses from playing with him in Boston.
  • Side note: Roope Hintz cannot possibly be a real name. That’s the name of a mumble rapper, not a hockey player.
  • Jacob Markstrom was outrageous in this game, making 44 saves on 46 shots, then stopping all four shots he faced in the shootout, for 48 saves total. Like Garrett Lam, Markstrom was on the ball all night, making double-digit saves in all three periods. His gloved robbery on Joel L’Esperance in the first was one of his best saves.

 

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  • Earlier in the season, it looked like Elias Pettersson was a lock to set, if not shatter, several Canucks rookie records. He was on-pace for 45 goals, 45 assists, and 90 points, but his pace understandably slowed as the season progressed. He’s now unlikely to pass Pavel Bure’s rookie record of 34 goals, nor Dale Tallon’s 42 assists. On Sunday, however, he matched Bure and Ivan Hlinka with 60 points in his rookie season. One more point, and he’ll have sole possession of the Canucks rookie points record. One more flatfish, and he’ll have sole possession as well.
  • Pettersson’s record-tying point was a primary assist on Schaller’s second goal, ten minutes after his first. He lost the puck to John Klingberg in deep, but he and Brock Boeser won it back when Klingberg unwisely tried to cut between them. Pettersson’s pass to Schaller for the one-timer may have appeared to be a no-look pass, but he took one quick glance over his shoulder before retrieving the puck.

 

 

  • You can also see Pettersson’s knack for the glance over the shoulder on his rocking reverse hit on the 6’4”, 240 lb Roman Polak, who no one has ever described as a toothpick or felt the need to add “soaking wet” after saying his weight.

 

 

  • Pettersson ought to have set the Canucks rookie record in the second period: Klingberg grabbed Pettersson’s stick when he burst past him for a breakaway, leading to a penalty shot. Coming in on Khudobin, Pettersson deked to the backhand, but Khudobin poked the puck off his stick. One problem: Khudobin wasn’t holding the stick at the time.
  • If a goaltender throws his stick at the player taking a penalty shot, it’s an automatic goal according to Rule 25.4. If it’s an accident — he loses the stick while attempting to make a legitimate save — well, then we’ve got a grey area. You could argue that Khudobin was just trying to make a pokecheck and the stick slipped out of his hands. My thoughts: intent doesn’t matter at all in this case. It’s Khudobin’s responsibility to control his stick and his stick flying out of his hand prevented Pettersson from taking a shot. That should be an automatic goal.

 

 

  • I’d give Khudobin the benefit of the doubt, but considering he intentionally dislodged his own net earlier in the game after losing his skate blade, I wouldn’t put a shady accidentally-on-purpose stick throw past him. Let's just say he's not against bending the rules. He didn’t get a delay of game penalty for knocking the net off, incidentally.
  • You could argue that Khudobin’s “pokecheck” really didn’t matter, as the Canucks eventually won the game anyway, but it matters for two reasons. One, as mentioned that goal would have set the Canucks’ rookie record for points. And two, a goal would have made it 3-0 and Dallas might not have gotten a point for the overtime loss. The Stars are in the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference playoff picture; that extra point could eventually be the difference between making or missing the playoffs. I’m betting the Minnesota Wild, now three points back of the Stars, have some thoughts on that.
  • Tyler Motte’s two-goal game against the New York Rangers is swiftly fading from memory. He struggled on Sunday, with scoring chances 10-1 for the Stars when he was on the ice 5-on-5. Shot attempts were 23-6, and he was on the ice for both goals against. Instead of a clean and pristine game, his game was...mottled.
  • Motte bears some blame on the first Stars goal. After a long shift and with 30 seconds left in the second period, Motte got the puck out and carried through the neutral zone, but lost the puck to Roman Polak at the Stars blue line instead of getting the puck in deep with his teammates changing behind him. The Stars took advantage of the discombobulated Canucks on the counterattack, with Alex Edler giving Jamie Benn too much time and space to shoot from the right faceoff circle and he beat Markstrom inside the far post.
  • In the third period, like Cranberries fans missing Dolores O’Riordan, the Stars turned up the pressure, out-shooting the Canucks 14-3. If not for Markstrom, this could have been a blowout.
  • Markstrom couldn’t hold the Stars at bay forever, and former Canuck Taylor Fedun ripped a slap shot through traffic that Markstrom could only slow, not stop. We should have seen it coming: Fedun was a point-per-game player when he was with the Canucks. Sure, it was one game and one point, but that counts.
  • Troy Stecher nearly got the game-winning goal in overtime when Benn stopped playing after taking a tripping penalty on Pettersson. Benn just stood there in disbelief while Pettersson kept the puck in at the blue line from his knees and set up Stecher in the slot, provoking a beauty of a glove save by Khudobin. We shouldn’t be surprised: Benn has always been confused by guys going down.

 

 

  • The Canucks couldn’t score on the power play — Pettersson hit his second crossbar of the game — and we went to a shootout. Markstrom was perfect, while Khudobin wasn’t, giving up a blocker side snipe to Josh Leivo in the fourth round. It was a smart move: he shot from far enough away that Khudobin couldn’t throw his stick at him.

 

 

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