IWTG: Canucks dominate Rangers early and cling to one-goal lead late

Canucks 3 - 2 Rangers

Pass it to Bulis

The Canucks have had a fairly easy schedule to start the season, with long breaks between games to ensure they’ve been well-rested every single game. That changed on this road trip, with one of the toughest turnarounds for a Western Conference team: back-to-back afternoon games on the east coast.

If the Canucks were feeling the fatigue of jetlag, travel, and the odd start time, they didn’t show it to start the game. They dominated the first two periods, out-shooting the Rangers 37-to-23.

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For 40 minutes, the Rangers looked like they didn’t even belong in the same league as the Canucks, who poured on the pressure like syrup on the waffles they’d normally be eating for brunch at that time on the west coast. Then, when the Rangers turned the tables in the third and dominated the Canucks just as thoroughly, Jacob Markstrom was magnificent.

The Canucks’ starting goaltender was absent from the team for a week due to a personal matter, but showed no rust in his return. The Rangers woke him up with some great chances in the opening minute and he stayed woke like Meek Mill, making 16 saves in the third period so the Canucks could hold on for the one-goal win. In total, Markstrom made 38 saves on 40 shots, an incredible performance.

In a way, the entire game was a microcosm of this Canucks team as a whole: capable of controlling a game with puck possession and skill, while also capable of collapsing and getting completely outplayed. There’s a certain amount of excitement in that — you never know what could happen while watching a Canucks game — but it’s also a bit of a terrifying roller coaster.

I wasn’t ready for that much excitement on a Sunday morning when I watched this game.

  • It’s hard to overemphasize just how different the third period was from the rest of the game, but the numbers help. At 5-on-5, shot attempts were 18-9 for the Canucks in the first period and 30-9 in the second. In the third period, that completely reversed: shot attempts were 31-12 for the Rangers. They so completely hemmed them in that they should have charged for tailoring.
  • The first period, however, was dominant for the Canucks, with 20 shots on goal. The freshly-Quinn’d first power play unit was particularly beastly — they had 17 shot attempts in 5:19 on the power play in the first two periods, barely leaving the ice while the Canucks had the man advantage. It wasn’t just the addition of Quinn Hughes to the top unit that made such a big difference.
  • Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser also switched sides on the first unit. While that removes the threat of a one-timer, it’s a little easier to make quick passes, as you’re moving the puck across your body instead of pushing the puck away. The extra zip in their passing was noticeable, as was the extra motion from Pettersson and Boeser, who were no longer just standing around, waiting for a one-timer like it was a rainbow bagel in Brooklyn.
  • The new-look power play struck for a goal six minutes into the game. With J.T. Miller screening in front, Pettersson walked in and forced the penalty killers to respect the threat of his shot, before feeding the puck to Horvat in the slot. Horvat kicked the puck to his stick and went short side on Henrik Lundqvist, who never picked up the puck off the pass. Poor Lundqvist; the eyes are the first thing to go.
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  • That’s 100 career goals for Horvat, fourth in the 2013 draft class behind Sean Monahan, Nathan MacKinnon, and Aleksander Barkov. Neat!
  • The line of Miller, Pettersson, and Boeser was feeling it in this game and the Rangers couldn’t afford to make a mistake when they were on the ice. Unfortunately for them, they did. Brendan Smith fanned on an outlet pass and Pettersson lept to the attack, deflecting the puck to Boeser in the middle of the ice. With enough time to brew a pot of tea, Boeser instead decided to shoot the puck, overpowering Lundqvist with a rocket of a wrist shot.
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  • With a power play goal and an even-strength goal, all that was remaining was a shorthanded goal. Jay Beagle delivered. After a nice play down low by Chris Tanev to fight off a stick check and chip the puck up the boards, Beagle raced away 2-on-1 with Tim Schaller. Beagle cut in like he was adding butter to his pastry, protected the puck from Mika Zibanejad, fought off a stick check, and beat Lundqvist glove side with a quick shot.
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  • The Canucks were just as good in the second period as they were in the first, but just couldn’t buy a goal, probably because they were as overpriced as the beer.
  • Marc Staal did not like this hit by Jake Virtanen, to the point that he went back at Virtanen and broke his stick on his back with a cross-check. Is it just me, or did Staal help things along with the way he threw himself against the boards? That’s not a great place to shove someone from behind, but I feel like Staal should have cross-checked himself too.
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  • The Rangers got a goal against the flow of play in the second: Jesper Fast won the puck on the forecheck from Hughes and Tyler Myers, then got to the front of the net to tip in Jacob Trouba’s point shot. The puck went through four different skaters before reaching the net; Markstrom didn’t have a hope of seeing it.
  • The third period was a hectic, edge-of-your-seat affair, even if it was far from ideal for Canucks fans, as all the pressure came from the Rangers. As long as you don’t mind heart palpitations, it was a thrilling 20 minutes.
  • The Rangers pulled within one after a rough shift from Sutter, who turned the puck over twice in a 15-second span. The latter turnover quickly ended up in the back of the net when Fast centred for Artemi Panarin, who one-timed the bun into the oven. While Sutter’s turnovers were the primary problem on that goal, Virtanen bears some responsibility too, as he recognized that Panarin was his check, but was too slow moving towards him and didn’t tie up his stick.
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  • It’s too bad, as it wasted a really good puck battle win by Hughes, who stayed right with Zibanejad and forced the turnover to Sutter in the first place. Hughes ended up minus-2 in this game, and didn’t really deserve to be.
  • Things got wild after the 3-2 goal, with the Canucks getting some luck to come away with the win. A mad scrum in front of the net saw the puck slide under Markstrom but just wide of the post. The refs missed a tripping call when Pavel Buchnevich cut to the net. A tip-in attempt by Ryan Strome hit his own player’s skate, as Brendan Lemieux got in the way. As Bob Cole would say, “Everything is happening!”
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  • To top it off, in the final seconds, a golden opportunity for the Rangers was squandered when a pass to Panarin hit the ref’s skate. Keep the missed call on Buchnevich and the pass hitting the skate in mind for next time it feels like the refs rob the Canucks of a win. These kinds of things tend to even out.
  • What stands out about the third period is that Pettersson and Boeser didn’t get another shift with nine minutes remaining. For pretty much half a period, the Canucks’ two best forwards didn’t play. I understand the team was defending a one-goal lead from a hard-pressing Rangers team, but it felt like the Canucks were killing a penalty for pretty much that entire time, with no pushback into the other end of the ice. Clinging to the edge of a cliff is thrilling and you might survive, but sometimes it’s nice to score another goal or two and pull yourself up to the top of the mountain.

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